Tuesday, October 09, 2007

'So it goes' - is the environment dying to give us biodiesel for the Earthrace powerboat?

So, the '...revolutionary biodiesel powerboat Earthrace arrived in Bristol Docks.As part of the Sound of Many Waters - Clifton Cathedral's year-long campaign of caring for the environment' recently (see the local story about the 'cross between a spaceship and a spider' here and more details on the boat and what its going to do here). Amazing design, technically very interesting, thrilling to be on, and so on....but is it really powered by truly green biodiesel fuel?? (I'll leave aside, for the present, whether spending all this effort trying to achieve a world record for circumnavigating the globe is the greenest thing to do with your time!!)

If the biodiesel put into the boat comes from large scale crop moncultures, which involves massive land, including forest, clearance and energy/chemical intensive production then its certainly not a green fuel. Far from being carbon neutral, the sums show that fuel from these origins is making climate change much worse, as well as taking land from food production and inflating food prices.

If the biodiesel comes from the recycling of used vegetable oil and fat, which some of it may do for this boat(??) (including some fat extracted from project founder Pete Bethune's own backside apparently), this is much greener.

Truly green biodiesel could be produced from all the waste veg oil and fat we produce in large amounts (its a waste disposal problem for goodness sake!!), but we aren't organising our society to do this at the moment - instead we seem to be going for the environmentally damaging production of biodiesel and other biofuels from large scale monocultures, with people wrongly still calling it green!! There are some very rich people out there getting a lot richer, making a lot of already poor people poorer, and over-exploiting the environment - and investing in bio-fuels produced by very un-green methods! So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut wrote (and the environment does seem to be dying to give us biofuel).

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