Biodiesel – ecological and responsible
At gbf we have compiled some facts in order to give you an overview of the often controversial arguments raised in the public debate:
B7 causes harm to engines
There have been reports in the media warning against increasing the blending ratio of biodiesel to mineral diesel from 5% to 7% because this could cause damage to engines.
On April 20th, 2008 the Technical Inspection Agency, TÜV Süd, published the following official statement: TÜV Süd sees no problems with biodiesel B7 in Munich. The newspaper Bild am Sonntag had quoted a TÜV Süd expert in an article about problems with the new diesel type B7 under the headline: "TÜV warns about the neu diesel". TÜV Süd has responded as follows: Bild am Sonntag inquired about the compatibility of biodiesel and the possible risks involved in further increasing the percentage of biodiesel. With its expertise the TÜV Süd responded to these topics and named possible risk factors. All concerns regarding biodiesel use that have been expressed concern a biodiesel blending ratio of 30%. A blending ratio of 7%, as envisaged as of 2009, is considered to be unproblematic by TÜV Süd. Furthermore, such concerns have only been raised by TÜV Süd regarding the potential impact on the fuel supply system to the engine but not on the engine as such. German motor clubs ADAC and VDA have no concerns whatsoever regarding the use of biodiesel B7. In France diesel fuel has changed over to B7 since the beginning of 2008.
German automobile and mineral oil manufacturers claim that 7% is the maximum blending ratio.
- Chrysler is in favour of introducing a 20% blending ratio in the USA.
- Peugeot and Citroen favour a 30% blending ratio in Europe.
- French particulate filter manufacturer Rhodia has confirmed the successful testing of B100 – proving that there are particulate filters that function without problems even with pure biodiesel.
Biodiesel by hydration
Biodiesel produced by hydrating vegetable oils is better than biodiesel produced by esterification.
According to VDB the mineral oil industry uses palm tree oil for hydration. In Europe palm tree oil accounts for less than 5% of biodiesel production through esterification. Because of this VDB has raised concerns regarding the sustainability of this hydration procedure. In addtion, this procedure requires high temperatures and hydrogen, the production of which requires the use of fossil fuels. This, in turn, has a highly negative impact on the ecological balance sheet of the entire process. There are no reliable studies on this available at this time.
BTL – second generation biofuels
Second generation biofuels (BTL = biomass to liquid) have a clear advantage over biodiesel. It is better to wait until these new biofuels are available than to produce biodiesel now.
Studies show that a BTL production unit with a capacity of 100,000 tons per annum requires investments of 200 – 300 million euros. In comparison, a biodiesel plant of the same production capacity costs approximately one tenth that at 20 – 30 million euros. BTL technology is far too insecure to bank on, especially given the enormous production costs. Biodiesel works here and now!
Reduction in CO2 emissions
Biodiesel does not reduce CO2 emissions compared to mineral oil diesel use.
Compared to diesel made from mineral oil, biodiesel produced in the EU from from rapeseed has a better CO2 efficiency of up to 65%. This means that for each liter of fuel a reduction of 2.5 kilograms in CO2 emissions is achieved (International Energy Agency). This balance sheet can be further improved if biodiesel is used as a fuel during the cultivation of rapeseed. If the entire annual production capacities of all biodiesel plants in Germany, amounting to nearly 5 million tons per year, were used to capacity, we could reduce the CO2 emissions by 12.5 million tons. With the biodiesel produced by our predecessor company, nearly 220,000 fewer tons of CO2 were released into the atmosphere in 2010.
Biofuels compete with food production and the use of arable land
Using plants for the production of fuel means that these plants are not available for food production, which will cause famines.
- The reasons for an increase in the prices of agricultural products are varied:
- Demand is increasing worldwide, notably in Asia (especially in China and India).
- Consumption of meat is rising globally, increasing the demand for feedstuff in turn.
- Brokers and commodity funds have discovered the agricultural market.
- Harvests have been below average during the past couple of years.
- Export bans and increased export customs (for instance in China and Argentina).
- Mismanagement and corruption (eviction of farmers in Zimbabwe).
- Increase in production costs caused by an increase in the price of mineral oil and fertilizers.
- In the production of biodiesel and bioethanol by-products are obtained. Rapeseed oil production produces rapeseed cake (two thirds of the original input) and in soy oil production soy cake and soy flour (four fifths of the original input) are obtained, the majority of which is used as feedstuff but also as meat and milk substitutes.
- According to independent research only between one and two percent of the world’s arable land is used for growing plants for fuel.
- Sustainable production which does not cause damage to valuable ecosystems, such as the rainforest, makes it possible to cultivate enough resources both for for food and for fuel.
- Unused lands, particularly throughout eastern Europe, offer an enormous potential for additional agricultural use. Rapeseed, which is a cruciferous plant, is crucial for crop rotation.
According to the VDB (German Association of the Biofuel Industry) there is enough arable land to fill both plates and fuel tanks. Research shows that some 100 million hectares worldwide are potentially available for cultivation, without having to use land required for food production, or causing damage to precious eco-systems. The higher prices of agricultural products create opportunities for the agricultural industry in Germany and in developing countries to be profitable once again. This could lead to the cultivation of previously unprofitable land and could help make agricultural production worldwide more efficient. Many developing countries have realized that biofuel production offers them an opportunity to reduce their dependence on mineral oil imports and, at the same time, to promote their own agricultural industry. In this way biofuels are a real development aid.
Rainforest deforestation for palm oil production
Biodiesel produced from palm oil is detrimental to rainforests because the area required for cultivating palm trees is obtained by clearing rainforests.
Since January 1st, 2011 only sustainable resources are allowed to be used for biodiesel production in Germany. The status quo of the rainforest in 2008 is to be kept, in order to stop the further destruction of the rainforest.