British Biofuels Limited by Biodiversity

The Guardian of 12 September characterizes the tradeoff with this headline: "Wildlife at risk in farm land grab for fuel alternatives". The way the arguement boils down ..."The European Conference on Climate Change Biodiversity, organised by English Nature, concluded that a rush to meet the EU target of 5.75% of bio-fuels for transport by 2010, would damage wildlife"..."In compiling a report to European environment and agricultural ministers they concluded: "You can either feed humans or cars but not both."" Projected losses would include the remainder of England's hedgrows, home of the hedgehog and setting of many a childhood tale, depletion of surface waters through willow culture, and so on. The punchline, for us, is this: "The German [segment of the] report concluded that in the UK, Belgium and Germany far more gains for the environment would be made by reducing the size of car engines than by producing fuels from crops. Average fuel consumption could be reduced by 40% per vehicle, a far greater gain in reducing carbon dioxide emissions than substituting bio-fuels for coal or diesel."Hedgerows even have an official definition: "Ancient hedgerows are defined as those being present before the Enclosure Acts (1720-1840), and which often support the greatest variety of plants and animals. Species-rich hedgerows contain on average five or more native woody species in a 30 m length".

Though we in the U.S. lack hedgerows, we do have large expanses of land in conservancy or "soil bank". As long as soil and water conservation "best practices" can be arrived at for these lands, the biodiversity tradeoffs against biodiesel do not look to be so threatening. Nonetheless, we fully agree with the German report. Simply by cutting the engine horsepower in half, to levels commonly offered in early 1990 auto models, massive fuel savings will result. This would be to the benefit of wildlife habitat and rural beauty, regardless of whether gasoline or biodiesel are being burned.


BioDiesel Bear Sez: "UnPimp My Ride" and save a tree.