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Low Emissions Economy report doesn't pass the warrant mark

The Productivity Commission’s voluminous Low Emissions Economy report is not something that can be read and digested quickly. And it is so big that it is doubtful if anybody can claim to have been through the whole thing. But the impression that is created is that in places it is quite good - in that amongst other things it mentions Miscanthus four times and mentions renewable diesel once. It was an improvement on the Commission’s draft report which did not mention renewable diesel at all even though there was a significant amount of information provided on this in the initial submission last year by GP international Limited (GPI).

But once again as tends to be the case with such large organisations, anything that they are not already familiar with or that does not come from another large organisation, tends to be discounted. As a result much of the GPI submission, which went into some detail in informing the Commission about existing commercialised technology for making better-than-carbon-neutral drop-in diesel from cellulosic feedstocks, seems to have been ignored.

GPI director Gary Milne expressed his disappointment that the Commission’s final report did not really acknowledge the large potential for NZ of existing technology that can make drop-in diesel - generally known as renewable diesel - from existing cellulosic feedstocks such as forest industry residues and purpose grown energy crops such as Miscanthus. Milne said “I expected the Productivity Commission to acknowledge the many benefits of renewable diesel production. These include clear regional development opportunities presented by the establishment in the regions of renewable diesel production facilities; the very significant carbon negative characteristics of renewable diesel fuel; the opportunity provided by renewable diesel to reduce New Zealand dependence on foreign oil and hence on foreign oil prices; and the associated reduction in susceptibility to changes to the USD:NZD conversion rate. Surely these should have warranted more attention and some mention.”

Managing Director of Miscanthus New Zealand Limited, Peter Brown, also commented that it seemed as if the Productivity Commission had lost an opportunity to highlight to NZ the many positive benefits that can be provided to New Zealand by uptake of the opportunity to grow and use Miscanthus. Brown said “Miscanthus has a wide range of uses, which amongst other things include the production of renewable diesel and permanently sequestered carbon in the form of high quality biochar with a high content of graphene-like material. So I had expected that the Productivity Commission would have paid somewhat more attention to the real opportunities presented by Miscanthus rather than simply glossing over it as a potential temporary fuel supply - as portrayed by Scion in it is rather flawed biofuels roadmap report.”

Brown added “We have trouble believing that in spite of our having all of the data necessary to demonstrate that renewable diesel has been successfully made from radiata pine material, from Miscanthus and even from cereal straw – which is a wasted Canterbury resource, the Productivity Commission seems to have ignored or disbelieved this. In addition we have shown - by testing in New Zealand by Independent Petroleum Laboratory - that this fuel meets and in many cases betters all the New Zealand diesel specifications other than the physical density. But one deficiency is made up for by the fact that the renewable diesel has greater energy density than fossil fuel diesel which is of course a more important consideration.”

The overall impression left of the Productivity Commission report is that it does not get a pass mark in terms of being useful for New Zealand’s future development of a truly low emissions economy.

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