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Sustainability the key to biofuel industry: Greens

12 December 2008

Sustainability the key to biofuel industry: Greens

The Government has turned its back on a sustainable biofuel industry in New Zealand and instead opened our borders to imported fuels that could contribute to world hunger and destruction of rainforests, says the Green Party.

New Zealand has some waste materials and low value by-products of our agricultural industries which could be converted into fuel to supplement imported petroleum. In particular, tallow from our meatworks can be made into biodiesel and blended or used alone in diesel vehicles, Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.

"The problem for investors already building plant and setting up contracts for feedstocks here, is that they could be undercut by subsidised ethanol from the USA where it is made from corn that could feed people, and by biodiesel made from palm oil, grown by clearing tropical rainforests that are the last refuge of the orangutan and many other species.

"National is about to repeal the Biofuel Act, under which unsustainable fuels that do not save much carbon, are made from food or grown on land that could grow food, or are grown by clearing important ecosystems, would be prevented from coming in," Ms Fitzsimons says.

"Officials are in the process of drafting regulations to give effect to this clause in the Act, which was drafted by the Green Party. The regulations were expected to be in place late next year. Without those regulations, anything can be imported.

"Another problem for a developing local industry is fluctuating fuel prices. In August, when oil was over $150 a barrel, biofuel was slightly cheaper. Now, with oil less than $50 a barrel, it is more expensive. The oil companies will much prefer to import biofuel when petroleum prices are high and import petroleum when it costs less.

"That may sound like short term sense, but in the long term it is foolhardy.

"If we rely on stop-go imports we will be totally stranded the next time global shortages mean the oil tanker on its way here turns round and goes away, as it did in 1979. When oil becomes that scarce, biofuels wil be equally scarce.

"In that situation having even 5 percent of our usual diesel demand made here, would enable emergency services to keep running and food to be distributed to supermarkets."


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