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Adris Piebalgs : getting a sense of proportion

by Luis de Sousa Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 11:04:31 AM EST

[editor's note, by Migeru] Originally posted on Friday March 28.

Andris Piebalgs continues this Friday his blogging on bio-fuels, addressing some of the concerns expressed by the readers of the last blog-entry.

I agree that a radical change in consumer behavior is needed if we want Europe to be more energy efficient. At the same time, as policy makers we have to come up with policies that are based on present day realities. And the reality is that most Europeans are living and working in big cities and using modern means of transport. It would be unrealistic to impose sanctions on car producers and users if no alternatives are provided.

Before continuing I can't but express once more my joy in seeing EU's leaders having such a close interaction with their citizens. More bio-fuel talk under the fold.

Diary rescue by Migeru


This is a crosspost from TheOilDrum:Europe.

In Europe, we use less than 2 percent of our cereals production for biofuels, so they do not contribute significantly to higher food prices in the European context. Even if we reach our 10% biofuels target by 2020, the price impact will be small. Our modeling suggests that it will cause a 8 to 10% increase in rape seed prices and 3 to 6% increase in cereal prices. Increase in the price of the latest has very small influence on the cost of bread. It makes up around 4 per cent of the consumer price of a loaf.

[...]

We need to use first-generation biofuels as a bridge to the second generation biofuels using lignocellulosic materials as a feedstock. With this in mind, the Commission within the forthcoming review of the Common Agricultural Policy will urge the farmers to invest more in short rotation forestry crops and perennial grasses which are the most typical feedstocks for advanced biofuels.Over the past 30 years, Europe's farmers have stood accused, through their association with the Common Agricultural Policy, of over-producing and dumping their surpluses with the aid of massive export subsidies on over supplied world markets, therefore depressing market prices and contributing massively to poverty and starvation in poor countries. That criticism has now been reversed. The charge now is that EU biofuel policy will contribute to third world poverty by driving food prices up. My impression from this debate sometimes is that we the Europeans know best what is good for people in developing world. Let them speak for themselves.

[...]

And let's not forget that oil is a finite commodity, and high oil prices are one of the main factors making food more expensive, particularly in poor countries.

The most important questions raised in the previous log entries were left unattended. Here's a simple accounting exercise to get a real sense of proportion:

The EU consumes today roughly 20 Mb/d of Oil. Of that about two thirds are used in Transport, make it 13 Mb/d. Assuming that EU's Transport use remains unchanged up to 2020 that turns the target to something like 1.3 Mb/d.

Ethanol has an energy density of about 60% of gasoline, biodiesel is somewhat better, so make it 75%. Thus to replace those 1.3 Mb/d of Oil, about 1.75 Mb/d of bio-fuels are needed ( 1.3/0.75 ).

Ethanol production in temperate climates has an EROEI below 2:1, biodiesel about 4:1. Oil's EROEI differs markedly from place to place (offshore versus onshore, etc) but 10:1 is a general enough mark. Account for EROEI then 10% of the useful energy the EU gets from Oil is about 1.2 Mb/d. To match that useful energy total bio-fuels production has to rise to 2.1 Mb/d ( 1.2/0.75/0.75 ).

Corn crops yield about 3500 litres of ethanol per hectare per year (that's 9.5 litres per hectare per day). With sugar cane in the tropics that number goes up to 6000 (16,5 litres per hectare per day). But for bio-diesels the numbers are considerably lower, around 1250 litres per hectare per year (3,5 per hectare litres per day).

Using 159 for a barrel 2.1 Mb correspond roughly to 333 Ml (mega-litre). Using again the most optimistic figure for the temperate regions, the EU needs to allocate thirty five million (35 000 000) hectares to bio-fuels production.

I live in state that has an area of less than 9 million hectares. Germany has an area just over 35 million hectares.





All that dark green area producing ethanol in 2020?

Good or evil? Friend or foe? This kind of wording doesn't fit in my Engeneering/Architecture dictionaries. Bio-fuels are not an option, it's all a matter of numbers.



Data sources:

Ethanol fuel

Biodiesel

The EROEI of ethanol


Previous coverage of Andris Piebalgs blog:

Andris Piebalgs on Bio Fuels

Piebalgs on European Energy Security

Andris Piebalgs' Blog


Poll
Should bio-fuels be part of EU's Energy Policy
. Yes 22%
. No 33%
. We shouldn't be wasting our time with this question and dashing for real energy alternatives 44%

Votes: 9
Results | Other Polls
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European Tribune - Adris Piebalgs : getting a sense of proportion
Andris Piebalgs continues this Friday his blogging on bio-fuels, addressing some of the concerns expressed by the readers of the last blog-entry.

I agree that a radical change in consumer behavior is needed if we want Europe to be more energy efficient. At the same time, as policy makers we have to come up with policies that are based on present day realities. And the reality is that most Europeans are living and working in big cities and using modern means of transport. It would be unrealistic to impose sanctions on car producers and users if no alternatives are provided.

Right, and it's precisely in the urban setting where a car is least useful and "modern means of transport" means light rail within the city and high-speed rail between cities.

I undestand the need of businesses to have delivery vehicles, but those can be electric since, again, they don't need to leave the urban area.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 11:02:33 AM EST
Germany just stopped its project of mandating bio-additives in fuel. (Maybe I should write more on this.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 11:07:21 AM EST
Won't that lead to a violation of the EU's biofuel market share targets?

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 11:12:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know.

I have to precisify myself, what the minister stopped was a raising of bio-ethanol from 5% to 10%. The argument is that too many car drivers would be forced to fuel expensive Super Plus because their engines don't tolerate much bio-ethanol. He blamed it on the car industry, for giving him false initial estimates about the number of cars affected.

However, diesels are unaffected by this. (On that front, Greenpeace Germany just blasted the bio-diesel industry association, after conducting a study into the nitty-gritty of their claim about using only sustainably grown soya.)

The real good news is that given mandated CO2 reductions, now car transport emissions have to be further curtailed by other means.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 11:22:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
what the minister stopped was a raising of bio-ethanol from 5% to 10%

EurActiv.com: Biofuels for transport

The EU is promoting the use of biofuels as an alternative energy source for transport. In 2003, it set itself an indicative target of increasing the use of biofuels in energy consumption to 5.75% by 2010. But a 2007 progress report shows that it will likely only achieve a 4.2% biofuels share in that year. Therefore, the Commission proposed in its 2007 "Energy Package" to step up its effort and demanded a mandatory target of 10% by 2020.
So, if Germany will stick to 6% ethanol, will they be demanding 15% biodiesel?

If I remember correctly, the EU's entire oil seed production wasn't sufficient to meet the 6% biodiesel target (assuming 1:1 ratio of replacement of diesel with biodiesel and no demand increase to 2020).

This is madness.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 03:39:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By 2020, I'd imagine the number of cars unfit to be fuelled with 10% bioethanol will be greatly reduced.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 04:20:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes. Please, give us a link or other type of reference, if you already have one.
by findmeaDoorIntoSummer on Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 11:37:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's all over the German media. Do you speak German?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 11:54:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't. But there are some German news services in english, and important speeches or exchanges or arguments can be referred in the foreign press.
by findmeaDoorIntoSummer on Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 12:06:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(I was not suggesting you gave a link or reference in English about Germany issues. I was looking for a clue.)
by findmeaDoorIntoSummer on Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 12:08:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I could only do what you could: Google. But upthread, I gave a summary in English, mainly based on this German article.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 12:09:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Climate Ark has a good record of English-language news articles. With a search for the name of the environment minister, you get a number of hits on the issue.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 12:12:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, DoDo. The content of the article is very similar to this English-written article from Deutsche Welle. A summary follows:

  • It has been concluded that more than 2 million cars used by German residents are not compatible without modification to the mixtures expected to enter the market in 2009 (10% bio-ethanol + 90 % gasoline, 7% bio-fuel + 93% diesel oil). That exceeds the 1 million limit set by the government as pre-condition for the introduction of those mixtures.

  • Greenpeace reports that around 20% of bio-diesel currently sold comes from imported soybean oil, grown in tropical regions. Therefore the use of such bio-diesel would have a cost in climate-change (via ecosystem change), against the original aim of the introduction of bio-fuels - to fight against climate-change.
by findmeaDoorIntoSummer on Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 01:03:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Greenpeace says more than that. They analyse how hollow the claim of this imported soybean oil (mainly from South America) not being grown in place of cleared rainforest is, write that methylester from soybeans is not considered in the industry claim of sustainable production.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 02:07:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Luís, one question. You in the end measure production output considering ethanol, but the last (1/0.75) factor seems to be derived from an EROI or 4:1 (from bio-diesel), instead of 2:1 (ethanol)
Shouldn't therefore the total crop area be roughly the double, i.e. equal to the combined surface areas of Germany & Poland?

Notice that the comparative advantage of bio-diesel to ethanol in EROEI is more than cancelled by its comparatively lower production density. That ensures that ethanol figures are a lower bound on agricultural surface demand.

by findmeaDoorIntoSummer on Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 11:57:37 AM EST
Predictions of crop production per hectare (or acre) are based on previous history and with GW coming down they are certainly wrong.  Second, the high yields of corn (maize) in the US are dependent on petro-chemical inputs; the highest yielding GM crops are utterly dependent on large, even massive, doses of pesticides, fertilizers, & etc., all stemming from crude oil.

Thus, I wouldn't take the EROEI figures floating around too seriously.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 12:32:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
GW is George Walker or Global Warming?, and what are the differences?
by findmeaDoorIntoSummer on Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 03:12:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Global Warming.  

George Walker is a noxious pest infestation.  The overt signs of this parasite will be over by the end of 2008.  Unfortunately, the damage it caused has weakened the fields and enabled other pests, parasites, and disease-causing organisms to flourish.  It is estimated it will take anywhere from four to twenty years to get rid of these secondary invaders.

There are two minds regarding the proper eradication effort.  One group is strongly in favor of the Obama™ method which involves widespread reconstruction of grassroots to choke-out the remaining pests.  The Hillary™ method involves a Top/Down dressing on the fields to stunt pest growth.  Unfortunately, both of these requires a costly Spinal Implant procedure to members of the Congress of the United States.

Another school advocates the McCain™ patented Invisible Hand© treatment.  This involves letting the parasites run amok until the whole thing falls over.  

The assumption is either the Obama™ or Hillary™ will be selected in November but one shouldn't count the last out.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Apr 6th, 2008 at 04:45:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The first step in designing a system is to decide what you're trying to do.  So ...

What is the EU trying to do?

Establish a working, sensible and efficient transportation system with currently available technology, find an alternative fuel to, literally, power the current petro-chemical based transportation system, build a bridge between the present system and some (undefined, so far) future system, or do something else?

Discussing which fuel or fuels mixture: bio-diesel, electricity, hamster-powered treadmill, to use is premature.  Tho' not entirely pointless.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 12:25:13 PM EST
The EU top officials are trying to do what most European politicians nowadays understand under policy: helping the Invisible Hand. No serious bold policy will come out of this.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 12:27:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well then you're screwed.

The high cost of crude is forcing fertilizer factories in the US to close, meaning there is a fertilizer shortage in the US, meaning -- who the hecks knows?  IF this shortage continues we can confidently predict the gradual abandonment of cereal production on marginal land in the US.

Just as a note, that "marginal land" is pretty near anything west of central Kansas to the Sierra Nevada mountain range in central California.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 12:44:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Suppose you were EU Commissioner in charge of Energy. What do you think you should be trying to do?

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 01:11:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Core dump time.

I would be working to build as many Solar, Wind, Tidal, and other renewable power plants as I could and building the high transmission power lines required, if any are, to bring that power to where it is needed.

I would work through the EU to encourage the countries along the southern Mediterranean to build Solar and Wind based power plants and the high transmission power lines needed to bring that power to the EU.  (Across the Gibraltar Strait?)  

With oil going bye-bye as an energy source the world is going to have to replace those terrawatts of energy with something.  That something is, most likely - given our current stage of technology, electricity.   The EU needs to be building these renewable plants as fast as they can in order to ease the transition from oil to electricity as well as to use oil (while it is 'cheap') as the energy source to build the plants.  

Along with that do or push for:

  1.  Encourage or mandate (through pricing) conservation

  2.  Encourage or mandate the power companies to purchase a goodly hunk (25%, more?) of their power from producers within a 60 kilometer radius of the customer.  This to encourage the development of local and regional power production.

  3.  50% tax credit for the cost for businesses who establish their own Solar, Wind, or etc. power plants for their business.

  4.  50% tax credit/refund for the cost of doing the same for residences.

  5.  Institute the 'Energy Prize in Memory of Alfred Nobel' for the outstanding contribution in the area of energy conservation, production, distribution, storage and so on.  (Silly, but if one can be given for Economics, why not?)

  6.  Institute an equivalent prize for an Engineer's outstanding contribution in & etc.

  7.  Institute an EU-wide 'Energy Fair' for K-12 (in the US) pre-university students with tiers starting at a local area, then regional, national, and ending at the EU.  The top 5 winners at each level go one to the next level and at the EU level get a suitable reward.  

This is more-or-less off the top of my head list.  I'm sure someone who knows more than I about EU energy policy could construct a better list.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 10:34:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Make that a diary. Call it "Energizing Europe: Core Dump". As it took a European (Jérôme) to get DKos cracking on a US energy policy it might take an American (you) to get ET cracking on an EU energy polity.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Apr 6th, 2008 at 03:12:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A Eurotribber who knows what they are talking about needs to write that diary.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun Apr 6th, 2008 at 12:46:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Okay, I'll just blockquote you liberally.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Apr 6th, 2008 at 12:48:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What are we trying to do? It's a great question. I think the answer, which is a non-answer, is along the lines of this:

WorldChanging: Someone Invent a Better City Ranking!

one of the barriers to sustainability is the idea -- common throughout the developed world -- that we need to do something to protect the environment, and therefore anything we do is pretty much a step in the right direction.

But of course, we don't need to merely do something, we need to do enough; and we don't just need to do anything, we need to do the right things.


Biofuels were seen as 'something' we could do by a lot of people, which is why they were in first instance highly popular among greens of all sorts.

Policy is, I think, often made in that kind of way: there is a problem conceptualised in a narrow frame, some solution to the problem comes up, its benefits for various kinds of groups and purposes (climate change targets, farmer wages, popular opinion) become apparent, its negatives (not enough land, food prices) are not appropriately weighed, and presto, you get a Biofuels Directive with absurd targets.

We really need better governance.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 02:26:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What is the yield of early cropped rapeseed in comparison with the figures you are using? It might mean a higher price for the resulting fuel as some of the growing and harvesting costs would remain the same despite less output, but it would avoid the either/or situation with food production.

Of course, the real answer is to cut transport needs, but I doubt there is half as much money in that.

Member of the Anti-Fabulousness League since 1987.

by Ephemera on Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 07:07:53 PM EST


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