is zero waste fuel here?

Filed in Blog by on April 5, 2012 8 Comments
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Would biofuel put an end to the fuel crisis?

Would biofuel put an end to the fuel crisis?

In the UK, our media headlines are full of stories about the potential fuel crisis.

Last week saw Britons panic buying which means many forecourts remain without fuels while others are rationing supplies. Some garages have hiked prices to record levels to cash in on the hysteria.

This could have a knock on effect on tourism over the Easter holiday. At a time when guest houses open their doors and welcome an influx of holiday makers for the first time of the season, many families are preparing to stay at home.

And a knock on effect further down the line could be increase food prices or even food shortages in the supermarkets…

It makes you realise just how reliant we are on fossil fuels doesn’t it?

Apart from staying at home and getting out our bikes, what are the alternatives?

According to wikipedia, biofuels are gaining increased public and scientific attention, driven by factors such as oil price hikes, the need for increased energy security, concern over greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, and support from government subsidies.

It all sounds a rather brilliant way forward but what about looking more deeply?

Recycled chip fat sounds like a good solution to me. I’m no engineer and I don’t know what’s involved, but anything that takes a waste product and turns it into something useful has to be considered in my opinion.

What I’m more concerned about, however, is the thought of growing food crops and using them for fuel. That feels morally wrong at a time when – according to the United Nations – one in 7 people don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

By growing food for fuel, it pushes food prices beyond the reach of more people and increases hunger.

There are a host of other issues too such as human rights, deforestation, displacement of indigenous people – the list seems to go on and on.

Anyway, while you’re pondering the rights and wrongs of biofuels, and please do share your comments below, this great infographic might help you. It highlights that 1440 million litres of biofuel was supplied in the UK during 2011 and shows the main findings of a Government report on biofuel usage.

If you’re a fan of biofuels, you can even find your nearest supplier on the table beneath.

Tell me – have any of you run an engine on recycled cooking oil? And what are your thoughts on growing food for fuel? Is it the way of the future or a greedy idea that we shouldn’t even consider?

Biofuel usage in the UK

Biofuel Outlets

Infographics provided by Staveley Head

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (8)

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  1. Tracey says:

    We run our landrover freelander on biodiesel made from waste vegetable oil – I can’t tell the difference, other than the exhaust doesn’t affect my asthma any more and I don’t gag when we’re refuelling.

    We buy from: but I’d love to be able to make my own as/when I need it. 🙂

    You don’t need to make any engine modifications to use biodiesel and it’s more lubricating than fossil-diesel, so it can actually help your engine parts last longer!

    I don’t agree with growing crops to make it, when we can recycle it from waste oil, which has already been grown, used and is ready to be disposed of! has more info on biodiesel if you’re interested and I do recommend their book if you’re just starting to learn about it.

    Personally, I can’t understand why the government haven’t put it into full-scale production to be purchased on every fuel-station forecourt! Ideally at a nice reduction in price as the cost to make (waste product is free!), transport (locally sourced), etc., will be a LOT less than extraction, purification and transportation of fossil-diesel from the oil-fields in the middle east! Talk about energy security!

  2. Ann says:

    It is not generally available in New Zealand, so my thoughts are academic only. To use waste cooking oil seems an excellent option. However, to use corn to make oil for vehicles etc., thus removing it as a potential food, or growing corn for fuel instead of wheat for food, seems to me to be indecent in a world where so many die of malnutrition each year. Are a few of us to continue driving while many starve, so we can keep our cars? Many years ago, a scientist friend of mine designed a fuel system for his car, using the grass clippings from his lawn.
    He approached some companies to have it made commercially, and was quickly signed up to one of the large oil companies (still a major world oil company) which paid him out for the rights to his designs – then buried them deep, not yet heard of since. How many similar stories are out there? These various designs should be brought out into the public now, and USED!

  3. Carrie says:

    I agree, it would be immoral to continue with this approach and drive while others starve. Let’s go electric, or use hydrogen powered cars. The film, Who Killed the Electric Car makes for very interesting viewing. The oil companies are VERY powerful, but so are we consumers.

  4. Jane says:

    Unfortunately buying out the competition is an old story. It isn’t in everybody’and the world’s interests for this to happen – so let’s hear the stories!

  5. Antonio Pachowko says:

    The problem is supply outstripping demand and reclaiming vegetable oil cannot fuel all vehicles in the UK. Saying that it can be part of mix of how the vehicles will be fueled. The main replacement for petroleum will be fuel cells (if we can find a way to produce and store hydrogen safely) and electrical car (once tthey find a way to charge it for a long time). The only other way chemicals that could be used from fuel is derived from coal (pyrolysis, gasification) where the UK have massive reserves. This is provided that clean technology is used. I think that a mixture of coal, electrical and fuel cells will be used in the future

  6. Mrs Green says:

    @Tracey: thanks for the links Tracey and good to hear that using waste oil is working for you.

    @Ann: I guess there are many stories like your friend’s Ann. Like you I don’t feel that growing food for fuel is the way to go while there are people starving in the world…

    @Carrie: I’ve seen that film, but it made me cry at the hopelessness of it all. It was just such as waste of brilliant resources…

    @Antonio Pachowko: I came across an innovative company this week called RiverSimple; they are promoting hydrogen fuel cell cars. Interesting about the gasification – thanks Antonio

  7. Voucher for says:

    I have several problems regarding the use of bio fuels when crops have been specifically grown to produce fuel.
    1 How environmentally friendly is it anyway? It still produces CO2 when burned and how much energy is used in the processing?
    2 Most bio fuel raw materials are grown in poor countries, pushing up the price of locally grown FOOD prices to people who are already struggling to feed their families.
    3 Bio fuel production at the growing end destroys bio diversity, results in the destruction of valuable rain forest and is likely to lead to soil erosion in the long term.

    I often wonder if bio fuels are just to make the west feel better about pollution levels whilst ignoring the damage being done in the developing world.

  8. Mrs Green says:

    @Voucher for: Hi there, thanks for outlining your concerns; they are ones we share too. I think there are many more issues, these are just the tip of the iceberg.

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