Guest post by Sir Henry Casingbroke
The Howard government's winner-picking is clearly bad for the environment, dishonest, smacks of crony capitalism and in the case I am about to quote, inimical to the long-term aim of turning down the flow of petrodollars to islamofascists of the Wahhabi kind.
A budding biodiesel industry is being nipped in the bud in Australia because the Howard government has decided not to extend the diesel subsidy to biodiesel.
Yet, biodiesel is a brilliant interim tech and makes sense in Australia for the following reasons:
1. It requires very little energy to process it, unlike petroleum-based fuels
2. Diesel engines run on it without any modificationso we could in theory start using an alternative fuel in current technology cars and trucks, and trains and power stations.
3. It is comparatively easy to make, indeed you could make it at home, see link
4. It has relatively low carbon emissions, not as low as burning natural gas or LPG but lower than petro-diesel, petrol and of course coal, which is a real nightmare in this respect
5. Exhaust is clean: it is particulate (soot) free eliminating the black smoke of worn diesel engines
6. The oil for making biodiesel can be grown from plants. Australia's climate is ideal for such large-scale agronomy. Oil plants are many and various, and yields vary too. Candlenut and coconut are among the highest but have a long lead time. But best of all are oil-producing algae, which can reach a yield of around 95,000 L/ha (Compared to flax/linseed of 478L/ha!). See wiki article with a table link
7. Algae will grow very well on salinised land, or better still, brackish water. Especially genetically modified algae - hey wouldn't that put the tree huggers in a spin! This could be a great boost to the farmers in the WA eastern wheatbelts who have lost much of their acreage to salt. (For more on extent of the salinity problem see my article in Australian Geographic issue 72).
8. To grow, algae needs, yes! carbon dioxide, lots of it. Geosequestration is useless, diverting carbon dioxide to algal fields situated on land around coal fired power stations would make sense and allow the coal users to obtain carbon-tax credits and then use the resultant biodiesel in adjunct diesel generators running them into the grid without any need to create new infrastructure.
9. It would improve Australia's balance of payments situation by lessening the need for imported petroleum products.
10. Finally, the main criticism levelled against biodiesel is that it would require too much real estate and would thus "eat" into the land available for food production. This of course is total self-serving bullshit. Apart from the fact that oil can be grown on land too damaged even for crudest fodder for sheep (saltbush), there has been some good, serious work done on this, see link and link