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Driving home energy efficiency message

Driving home energy efficiency message

Driving home the benefits of environmentally-friendly fuels, Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons tomorrow drives a uniquely-fuelled car in a leg of the EnergyWise Rally.

Ms Fitzsimons will drive from Johnsonville to Parliament in Massey University's entry in the four-day rally, aimed at increasing public awareness of fuel efficiency and economy. The Massey University car is a VW Golf, powered by "biodiesel" - a greenhouse-gas-neutral fuel made from rapeseed oil.

Ms Fitzsimons' co-driver is Massey University lecturer, climate change expert and co-inventor of New Zealand's version of biodiesel, Professor Ralph Sims. One of the rally's aims is to decide which is New Zealand's most fuel-efficient new car, but the Massey University car is not entered in that part of the race as it is not in commercial production.

Ms Fitzimons is expected to begin her journey from the Johnsonville Railway Station between 9.30am and 10am (depending on the rally's Palmerston North start times which will not be known till tomorrow morning), arriving at Parliament's grounds well before the rally's "ministerial reception" at 10.45.

Ms Fitzsimons said today biodiesel was a very promising technology, as it was greenhouse-gas-neutral, cleaner-burning than diesel, and derived from crops.

"New Zealand's land area and climate give us a world advantage in producing fuel from crops," Ms Fitzsimons said.

"While biodiesel is not yet in commercial production in New Zealand, it is one of the many energy alternatives New Zealand has to consider for the future. It is important we continue to explore a variety of new technologies to replace fossil fuels; so we don't put all our eggs in one basket."

Cars did not have to be modified to use biodiesel, and it could be alternated or blended with ordinary diesel. It was rapidly becoming an economic option, as the price of crude oil increased, and as New Zealand moved closer to introducing a carbon tax on ordinary diesel.

Ms Fitzsimons said it was excellent to see a rally where the objective was not to get there the fastest, but with the minimum of environmental damage and maximum efficiency. Ms Fitzsimons' own car runs on compressed natural gas, which produces less greenhouse gas than petrol but considerably more than biofuels.

Biodiesel Facts [Information provided by Massey University Professor Ralph Sims]

* Biodiesel, made from canola oil (rapeseed oil), is now widely used in Europe, including Germany, Austria and France.

* Massey University has developed technology whereby it can use tallow (animal fat - a byproduct of meatworks) instead of rapeseed oil, or a combination of tallow and rapeseed oil, in making biodiesel.

* The VW Golf used in the rally has been provided by the importers, European Motor Distributors of Auckland. VW supports the use of biodiesel in Europe.

* Biodiesel is greenhouse gas-neutral, as the carbon is recycled in the cropping process. [The carbon dioxide released during combustion of the fuel in the engine enters the atmosphere, but then is reabsorbed by the crop or forest during the photosynthesis plant growth process when grown to replace that harvested. Thus the carbon is recycled in a closed loop system.]

* For biodiesel to be economic in New Zealand, the price of crude oil has to reach $27 a barrel, which it started achieving recently -hitting $25 this week and $29 last week. * "It probably is economic now, and if you add a carbon charge on using diesel in a couple of years; that makes it even more economic," Professor Sims said. * Massy University's biodiesel research began in the 1970s and 1980s, but was put on hold when the price of crude oil slumped to $12 a barrel. The climate change issue had also arisen since the research began, and had to be factored into the economic equation.

* "The focus of the rally is to encourage everyone to drive more sensibly, not waste fuel and produce less greenhouse gas emissions. New cars are more fuel-efficient than imported Japanese cars," Professor Sims said.

* "I drove from Palmerston North to Auckland on biodiesel, averaging 84km/hr - so we weren't crawling but observed the speed limit through the towns-and we used only 22 litres of fuel, That's about half what you'd usually use," Professor Sims said.

EnergyWise Rally Facts [Information provided by the EnergyWise Rally]

* The EnergyWise Rally is an initiative of the Motor Industry Association, with support from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) and Gull Petroleum NZ Ltd.

* The rally is designed to highlight the fuel economy of new cars, driven under real-world New Zealand conditions, providing results that could be replicated by vehicle owners.

* The rally consists of a four-day circumnavigation of the North Island by new cars of all sizes and makes, competing against each other for fuel economy. The results will form a permanent database available for the competitors and public alike to compare the fuel economy of new cars available for sale in New Zealand. The overall EnergyWise Environment Award

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