Biofuel concerns

Without casting doubts on the technical viability of biofuels for use in internal combustion engines or their ability to counter global warming, a number of environmentalists have pointed out some possible adverse side-effects. What is pointReturn’s response?
The western approach to biofuel so far has been to derive it from field crops like corn, rapeseed, sugar cane, etc. Also, in the west, there is no demand pressure on edible oils and therefore much of it is diverted for biofuel production. Finally, G8 countries are looking to drive cars and trucks with biofuels, the same way they are doing with petrofuels: centralised production and worldwide distribution.
A recent spate of mandates in European countries to use 5% biofuel in blend with petrofuels by 2010 has spawned both enthusiasm and criticism. Corporate appetite for subsidy windfalls has turned their attention to continents with abundant sunshine: south America, Africa and Asia. Here biofuel crops are to be grown and ferried to Europe to meet the government mandate. Thereby hang much of the mounting criticism.
Newspaper headlines reporting criticism might make a lay reader doubt the viability of biofuel itself as an alternative. Since one of the missions of pointReturn is to demonstrate energy self-sufficiency through biodiesel it is important to clarify how none of critics’ concerns is applicable to pointReturn’s approach.
A good place to understand critic’s concerns is to read this article from this Guardian newspaper. It’s a good summary of the involved issues and let me consider them one by one.
1- “Fermentation using fertilisers” does not take into account the fact “those fertilisers may well have been made in factories that burn fossil fuels.” In one with this, are proposals to haul biofuel stocks across oceans in ships driven by petrofuels. At pointReturn only mechanical pressing will be used -if possible by animal power- to extract oil. A nominal filtration is sufficient to use the oil directly in diesel engines. The oils will be non-edible, -mostly pongamia- derived from long-lived trees raised using no chemical fertilisers. The oil will be strictly for rural energy needs such as to generate electricity and use in tractors and short-haul transportation.
2- The next criticiam is that farmers might be tempted to diversify from food production to growing biofuel crops. There is much evidence that this is happening by collusion between ill-informed third world politicians and greedy entrepreneurs on the one one side and carpet-bagging tycoons from the west, on the other. Papers periodically report new big-ticket international collaborations for biofuel production. The land for pointReturn [see link below] was deliberately chosen as one abandoned as un-viable for growing food. It will be used for growing both food and fuel for local needs.
3- Another criticism is that wooded land converted to grow biofuel will endanger wildlife. At pointReturn, energy self-sufficiency is only one of the goals. The major objective is integrated restoration of land as habitat for both man and wildlife. Consider too that biofuel will be extracted from trees and that such trees will be in a stand of diverse species. Sound balance inheres in that approach. The objective is not to extract the maximum from land but to enjoy its natural abundance.
pointReturn deliberately chose abandoned land and proposes to restore it as a bio-diverse patch. It’s policy for energy self-sufficiency is to “produce sustainably and use locally”.

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