This is a hoax.
Damn. It could have made a good video.
Browsing through the Green Party website, I came across their policy section on energy. It makes for an interesting read. The central theme is that a country’s energy can be produced entirely from renewables. Personally, I doubt this, but that’s something for another blog entry.
What provoked my interest was the sixth of their ten key policies: “Lets spend our oil money in Carlow not Kuwait”. It’s a catchy title. Let’s read on (Green policy writers should note my apostrophe…):
Rather than closing down the Irish
sugar industry we would have
transformed the business into a new
bioethanol business. The
Government’s duty exemption limits
were so small that they only allowed
test rather than commercial projects
be established. We would waive
duty on all biofuels crops in the
knowledge that it would provide a
real future for Irish farming. It would
also provide a secure source of
supplies should a future oil shock
really restrict supplies.
Fairly simple, seemingly practical stuff. The government exempts the usual fuel duty on fuels to encourage the growth of biofuel business. The plan would appear to encourage clean (-ish) fuels while restoring agricultural industry to Carlow.
A huge problem of this is, of course, the limited amount of land (specifically arable land) availiable in Carlow (I’ll drop the Carlow references now) or even the Republic. Ireland is estimated to have close to 17% arable land (the CIA gives 16.82%). That’s about 1,158,730 hectares. If all arable land in the state were planted with rape, we’d be looking at about 1,680,159 tonnes of biodiesel (that’s using George Monbiot’s calculations in Heat). According to the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Ireland used 7,560,000 tonnes of oil in 2003. Even disallowing a probable increase, this is just over 22% of total fuel consumption. This isn’t making huge inroads, even if every single patch of arable land was used to grow biofuels.
Unless there is widespread use of biofuel (which we don’t have even the theoretical capability to produce ourselves), it’s unlikely that it will catch on. If only a few people convert to biofuel technology, the costs will remain high. Biofuels will be difficult to distribute, since so few people demand them.
If we’re serious about biofuels, and recognise that we can’t grow them ourselves, then we’re led to the idea of importation. The importation of biofuels is extremely problematic. This topic has been well covered by others, including the Green Party’s own Eamon Ryan. Already the development of “biofuel republics” has been noted (Sumatra in Indonesia being a good example – a quick Google search will explain). The problems (environmental, economic and social) associated with biofuel importation grow as Western demand does.
Problems with local capacity (which I’ve touched on here) and foreign importation (which is well covered elsewhere) make biofuels appear, at least to me, to be little more than a tokenistic effort – and certainly not something worth mentioning on a national level.
Rapeseed fuel per hectares stat – “Heat” by George Monbiot, pg 158
All calculations are, as goes the blog tagline, open to correction.