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Biofuels debate

Earl Attlee recently answered questions on biofuels from members of the House of Lords. The Hansard record is here, and it gives a flavour of the pressure for the government to wave its magic wand and make the industry viable. In other words poor people must subsidise the rich, the wasteful and the inefficient:

Baroness Worthington: ...Will the noble Earl undertake to meet representatives of the industry to discuss a more sensible way forward so that the industry can continue to grow and deliver investment and jobs, which is what we need?

Lord Bradshaw: ...can the Minister please assure the House that the Government really take the biofuels industry seriously?

Lord Kennedy of Southwark: ...what does the noble Earl's department intend to do to support small companies that make biofuels from locally sourced used cooking oil?

Lord Soley: ...The Minister will know-...that not all biofuels require extensive land use, algae being an obvious example... I wonder whether we should be doing much more about it. Does he agree?

But you probably knew that. We also learn that ministers are aware that land-use changes brought on by biofuels may actually increase emissions, but that the biofuels mandate is increasing anyway, and that if you don't use your diesel-powered engine often enough the biofuels in the fuel may rot your engine.

A normal day's work for the political class.

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Reader Comments (41)

What BrownOut-Bryony doesn't seem to grasp is that if the biofuels industry has the inherent ability to "grow and create jobs" then it clearly does not need a "way forward" (taxpayer subsidy) - as venture capitalists will be rushing forward to invest in this "win-win" industry.
However as the biofuels industry is just another green folly, meeting no consumer demand whatsoever, the government may just as well invest in a powerstation that burns ten pound notes.

Apr 4, 2013 at 12:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterBuffy Minton

The Japanese experimented with (used?) biofuels toward the end of the Pacific War, soybean derived oil in submarines.

The reports from the US Navy after boarding one such submarine which had not sortied in some months included observations on the odor of the decomposing fuel.

Apr 4, 2013 at 12:49 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson

Lost for words. So depressing.
I felt nauseous watching Newsnight last night and the second most dangerous man in the UK - the first is in prison.

Apr 4, 2013 at 12:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterG.Watkins

Very depressing. Nearly as depressing as last nights Newnight report on "keeping the lights on". Crap package which leaned towards renewables and didn't address the really important aspects of the subject.
Paxman was appalling interviewing Ed Davey. Wasn't briefed in the subject and was trampled underfoot by Davey whose technique is to talk over the interviewer.

Watch here:

Apr 4, 2013 at 1:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul

I like this bit from Hansard,

"Lord Palmer: My Lords, does the noble Earl not agree that this exciting new biofuels industry is greatly hampered by the fact that four different government departments are involved in it? I declare an interest as the president of the British Association of Biofuels and Oils."

A very exciting industry, making things no one wants and putting up the price of things they do want, while solving no problems and creating many.

Apr 4, 2013 at 1:27 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

"what does the noble Earl's department intend to do to support ..."

WTF is Lord Kennedy of Southwark? This guy seems to think that Downton Abbey is real life in 2013.

Apr 4, 2013 at 1:29 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna


A professional Labour Party member and employee of many years, given a life peerage by Brown, not a Downton Abbey type at all.

That's just the style of speech they're expected to use.

Apr 4, 2013 at 1:52 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

So many 'conflicts of interest' competing for attention - I am reminded of one of my favourite excerpts -

"The next few years are going to be very interesting. Watch the global power elite squirming to reposition itself as it slowly distances itself from Anthropogenic Global Warming ("Who? Us? No. We never thought of it as more than a quaint theory…"), and tries to find new ways of justifying green taxation and control. (Ocean acidification; biodiversity; et al). You'll notice sly shifts in policy spin. In Britain, for example, Chris "Chicken Little" Huhne's suicidal "dash for wind" will be re-invented as a vital step towards "energy security." There will be less talk of "combatting climate change" and more talk of "mitigation". You'll hear enviro-Nazis like Obama's Science Czar John Holdren avoid reference to "global warming" like the plague, preferring the more reliably vague phrase "global climate disruption."

And you know what the worst thing is? If we allow them to, they're going to get away with it.

Our duty as free citizens over the next few years is to make sure that they don't.

Al Gore, George Soros, Bill Gates, Carol Browner, John Holdren, Barack Obama, David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Tim Yeo, Michael Mann, Ted Turner, Robert Redford, Phil Jones, Chris Huhne, John Howard (yes really, he was supposed to be a conservative, but he was the man who kicked off Australia's ETS), Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd, Yvo de Boer, Rajendra Pachauri….The list of the guilty goes on and on. Each in his own way – and whether through ignorance, naivety idealism or cynicism, it really doesn't matter for the result has been the same – has done his bit to push the greatest con-trick in the history of science, forcing on global consumers the biggest bill in the history taxation, using "global warming" as an excuse to extend the reach of government further than it has ever gone before.

It is time we put a stop to this. In the US, the Tea Party movement is showing us the way. We need to punish these dodgy politicians at the ballot box. We need to ensure that those scientists guilty of malfeasance are, at the very least thrown out of the jobs which we taxpayers have been funding these last decades. We need to ensure that corporatist profiteers are no longer able to benefit from the distortion and corruption of the markets which result from green regulation.

We need a "Global Warming" Nuremberg."

James Delingpole, the Telegraph

... and that time just can't come soon enough for me!!!

Apr 4, 2013 at 1:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterMarion

Hey it's snowing out side.

And Ed Davey last night on News Night just confirmed what a (words fail me) man he is.

Apr 4, 2013 at 2:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterShevva

cosmic, I admit I was being a bit snarky. But I note that in the Bish's excerpts, the less aristocratic the questioner (see Bryony Worthington's question as well), the more grovelling their form of address.

Real aristos would have probably referred to "the Minister", or if they were at school together, something like Jam-tart or Snuffles.

Apr 4, 2013 at 2:17 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

"Baroness Worthington: ..."

Help me!

Bedlam, it cometh again to the UK - the green loonies have the keys and are also running Parliament.

Doomed, we most certainly are.

Apr 4, 2013 at 2:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

jeesh! Your loons come with the same mental disabilities as our loons, but yours come with titles.

Apr 4, 2013 at 3:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterNoblesse Oblige

I'm sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer can give the Noble Lords details of the amount of money that flows IN to the treasury from a profitable oil and gas industry. This helps pay for schools, hospitals, military, unemployment and other programs.

Subsidising biofuel is an expense, not a source of revenue.

Apr 4, 2013 at 3:06 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

I agree with your sentiments, but I'm afraid the ballot box is too blunt an instrument when all parties are infected by the CO2 - CAGW meme plus many in the upper house. The arrogance of these people is astounding - read Tomo's post on the previous thread - and we find ourselves more and more impotent.
Richard North at EU Referendum blog is at least attempting to achieve a new paradigm with the Harrogate Agenda but some years will pass before much can happen.

Apr 4, 2013 at 3:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterG.Watkins

"We need to punish these dodgy politicians at the ballot box."

How? In the UK at least, there is no rational alternative for whom we could vote. UKIP may have some border-line sensible energy policies, but have some others views on borders that I could never vote for.

One of the few methods of protest we have is to abstain or destory the ballot - and this is treated as "apathy" by those in power who "failed to get the message across" - and they carry on regardless.

“The ideal form of government is dictatorship tempered by assassination” – Voltaire

Apr 4, 2013 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

Re: Apr 4, 2013 at 3:12 PM | G.Watkins

Can't disagree with that.

But what we can do is shine the harsh light of sunlight onto these vampiristic leeches. I really do hope Tomo achieves more success with the media. The expenses scandal was a long time in coming out but hit hard when it did.

Apr 4, 2013 at 3:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterMarion

Marion, re:

We need a "Global Warming" Nuremberg."

I agree with much that you say but I reject the Nuremberg analogy for the same reason we must all object to unwarranted Holocaust references and allusions done for rhetorical effect.

Whatever the myriad problems with the squalid and powerful in our time, they are not Nazis.

A day of reckoning is needed, to be sure. But let's not call it a "Nuremberg" please.

Apr 4, 2013 at 3:35 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

Re: Apr 4, 2013 at 3:35 PM | Skiphil

Was simply quoting, Delingpole, Skiphil, but disagree that his call is "unwarranted". The machinations of these people are having a global effect and will be severely detrimental to many millions.

Apr 4, 2013 at 3:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterMarion

Apr 4, 2013 at 4:22 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

Local algae? Great, now I'm subsidising pond scum.

On second thoughts, no great change there.

Apr 4, 2013 at 4:23 PM | Unregistered Commentercui bono

...And the purpose of The House of Lords is - what, exactly..?

Apr 4, 2013 at 4:25 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

at 1:57 PM | Marion
Please add C. Figueres, exec. sec'y, UNFCCC, Yvo de Boer's successor.
A two-fer - woman from [un-]developing Costa Rica - daughter and sister of two CR presidents, and carbon-trading consultant trained by Al Gore.

Apr 4, 2013 at 5:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn R T

Not one of them, including the Ministers, will have heard of Joule Unlimited, who don't seem to have any trouble raising private funding for their projects and who include such luminaries among their partners as GazProm, Qatar Petroleum & Audi

Fancy, a process that 'grows' carbon neutral ethanol or diesel, continuously, using non arable land, waste water, industrial waste CO2 and sunlight, entirely compatible with existing distribution and consumption infrastructure, at yields as high as 15000 litres an acre & costs as low as $0.17 a litre...

How on Earth are our Lordship's connections going to make any money out of that?

Apr 4, 2013 at 5:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterGras Albert

"Our technology has already been proven with the direct conversion of CO2 to ethanol"

Can the Joule Unlimited process be used to produce vodka cheaper than Tesco's Basic?

Apr 4, 2013 at 5:37 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

Hey this is just the usual knockabout. What the politicos are much more activated about is their dinner money.

Apr 4, 2013 at 6:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterRB

No, No, Bugger all and No would have been my answers if I had been the noble lord asked those questions in the house. By the way, don't knock the way they address each other, at least they manage to keep proceedings civil.

Apr 4, 2013 at 7:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterBloke down the pub

Perhaps Lord Monckton of Myanmar can provide much needed publicity for the country's ennobled-eco troughers? A general announcement to their Lordships and Ladyships that the great terror global warming has ceased for the last 15 years would be most welcome. Perhaps Prince Phil could appoint them all knights of the whatever, as they have apparently solved the problem, and a grateful nation can quietly ignore any additional 'provisions' on the subject.

Apr 4, 2013 at 7:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Watch here:
Apr 4, 2013 at 1:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Doesn`t work watch here,

Apr 4, 2013 at 7:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob

It was hardly a biofuels debate where conflicting points of view were argued. It was more like various sectional interests bleating that more should be spent on the boondoggle or their flavours of it. Certainly nothing along the lines of "This house beileves that the biofuels scam should be ended as quickly as possible".

Apr 4, 2013 at 7:53 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

I hope that someone is keeping a record of all those who have been given titles since 1997, so that when the time comes, they can be given the reward that they deserve.

Apr 4, 2013 at 8:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterjohn in cheshire

If you want to distill biomass you would think that Lords of all people would recognise that it is fiscally and socially far more satisfying in the whisky bottle than in the jerry can.

Apr 4, 2013 at 9:14 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

O/T When will the lights go out ? Britain's looming energy crisis...

The (New) Dark Ages ?

Apr 4, 2013 at 9:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterTomcat

....and biofuels attract mice and rats which gnaw through fuel lines...happened to me using E10...have the gnawed fuel line to prove it...replaced with stainless more biofuel for is also pulls water in...horrible stuff

Apr 4, 2013 at 10:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterRGH

The belief in the AGW doctrine comes from the Guardian and the Independent....whose views dominate the BBC. The politicians are then surrounded by the scientific establishment and that is why we are in this mess. The politicians have not the brains to point out the obvious
Paxman can't ask real questions because he is not allowed no point in rocking the boat and losing his job.
Stuck in the middle of this debacle are us.
No way out for a while yet but many more cold winters with the ensuing deaths from the cold will get them rattled...but nothing will happen until the msm get their act together,

Apr 4, 2013 at 10:17 PM | Unregistered Commenterjames griffin

Reading this item reminds me that in it's early days of finding it's way through the maze of democratic forms as a newly-minted independent nation during the nineteenth century, New Zealand experimented briefly with an Upper House but rejected it in short order as unworkable. When will the penny drop for our Brit cousins?

Apr 4, 2013 at 10:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

I am not in favour of biofuels for many reasons such as (i) on burning, there is no significant reduction in CO2 (any slight saving is off-set by the fact that mpg is reduced), (ii) substantial amounts of energy in the form of fertilizers and in conversion is used which adds to the CO2 equation, and (iii) it is reducing the availability of food grain and is pushing up food prices to the detriment of the consumer (the third world is suffering in this regard with less grain aid cargoes and unaffordable food - some say that the increase in grain is partly responsible for the Arab Srpring that has cost many lives),

If one wants to off-set carbon emissions from burning petrol/diesel, just plant some trees or grass. Heck, nature is doing this for us; the planet is greening despite our assault on the rain forests due to the higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere which is plant food. In summary, it appears to me that biofuels, just like wind, fail in their primary goal namely they do not result in a signifcant reduction in CO2 emissions, and they have a number of adverse consequences. Since they do not reduce CO2 output, what is their point?

But, as a classic car owner, biofuels concern me from a usage perspective. I have a car that I do not presently use on the road and which I only start 3 or 4 times a year. Biofuels degrade and are meant to give rise to corrosion. Whilst one may drain a fuel tank, it is not practical to fully drain the fuel lines, carburetors etc. Further, a drained fuel line may well corrode internally from humidy/water in the atmosphere etc leading to particulates (rust particles) getting into the fuel when next used. I can foresee the possibility of blocked jets and sticking carburetor valves if biofuel has to be used. This adds to the problem of the change from leaded fuels.

Slightly off topic, yesterday I read an article that recogned on average PV solar takes about 8 years (or so) to payback the CO2 emitted in their construction. This is an average figure for the world as a whole. For those in cloudy climates or high northern latitutes where sun light is weak (particularly for 6 months of the year) the pay back time is even longer. It may be that in places like the UK and Germany the pay back time is nearer 20 years especially if one adds weakening efficiency over time and dirt etc accumulating on the panels. It would appear that PV solar is nowhere near as effective at achieving the reduction in CO2 emissions as claimed. But for subsidies, the financial pay back time would exceed the life expectancy of the panel.

PS. I erroniously posted this comment under another thread.

Apr 5, 2013 at 8:21 AM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

@Apr 4, 2013 at 10:17 PM | james griffin

I concur with your comments, although it is more difficult to understant how the top governmental scientific advisors and the head of the RS have been corrupted and have failed to approach the issue with scientific rigour. How have these positions become so politicised?

If CAGW turns out to be a non problem, say if the warming of the late 1970s/late 1990s is nothing more than multidecadal natural variation, once the dust settles, it is necessary to investigate how and why the BBC so spectacularly, and the MSM got corrupted, and why and how they failed in their position/duty to act as a check and balance on government and governmental policy. We need to learn from this so as to try and ensure that similar failings do not occur again in the future.

Apr 5, 2013 at 8:30 AM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

Paxman was appalling interviewing Ed Davey. Wasn't briefed in the subject and was trampled underfoot by Davey whose technique is to talk over the interviewer.

Watch here:

Apr 4, 2013 at 1:18 PM | Paul

I think Paxman is overrated and overpaid. He used to be a good interviewer but nowadays he often fails to do his homework properly so a reasonably articulate and better prepared person can get the better of him. The BBC employs plenty of researchers so there is no excuse for Paxman not being prepared. However, as james griffin implied, the BBC researchers probably do not do their jobs properly either when it comes to coverage of topics connected with climate change and just regurgitate standard green arguments.

Apr 5, 2013 at 8:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

@Alexander K

New Zealand experimented briefly with an Upper House but rejected it in short order as unworkable.

"Unworkable" meaning the lower house hated having its self-serving short-termist excesses reigned in.

Apr 5, 2013 at 10:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterTomcat

A bit belated.

The Economist has an article on biomass power, and especially wood-burning.

It says that wood burning initially looks better than wind or solar, but in keeping with the headline and sub-head (Wood: The fuel of the future -- Environmental lunacy in Europe) concludes:

In short, the EU has created a subsidy which costs a packet, probably does not reduce carbon emissions, does not encourage new energy technologies—and is set to grow like a leylandii hedge.

Apr 8, 2013 at 2:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

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