Turning Crops Into
Petrol And Manure Into Electricity
MSPs told Scottish farms can help fight climate change
Scotland's farmers have huge potential to contribute to the fight
against climate change, according to NFU Scotland. Giving evidence
to MSPs at Holyrood today (Wednesday 9 February), the President
of Scotland's farming union, John Kinnaird, has highlighted that,
with the right support, a new range of renewable energy resources
can be explored. Mr Kinnaird is giving evidence as part of the
Environment and Rural Development Committee's inquiry into the
Scottish Executive's climate change programme.
In particular, NFUS is highlighting the potential to grow energy
crops such as oilseed rape, which can be processed into environmentally-friendly
road fuels. Biodiesel and bioethanol can both replace conventional
diesel and petrol. Biofuels can be produced by processing farm
crops such as cereals, oilseeds and sugar beet. They can cut carbon
dioxide emissions by 50-60 per cent compared to fossil fuels (see
notes for further details on biofuels).
Currently more than half of the biodiesel used in the UK is imported.
NFUS has stressed that the suitability of Scotland to grow these
crops should be exploited and government investment is crucial
to kick-start the industry.
NFUS is also emphasising the potential use of biogas. That involves
harnessing methane gas generated from the 13 million tonnes of
manure and slurry Scotland's livestock produce every year. NFU
Scotland calculates this could provide the energy equivalent to
over 70 million litres of diesel. Britain's first power station
to be fuelled on this harvested gas has opened in Devon. NFUS has
welcomed the pilot projects to explore the opportunities in Scotland
and would like to see these extended.
NFUS President John Kinnaird said:
"Scotland's farms have real potential to fight climate change
with government support. We hear a lot about wind, wave and solar
power, but we must remember that there is a massive pool of potential
renewable energy being produced on farms across the country every
"Our climate is well suited to growing crops like oilseed
rape. Given the continued increase in demand for transport fuels,
an initiative which will significantly reduce their environmental
impact should be treated as a priority.
"Half the biodiesel consumed in the UK is imported. That
means jobs and investment being exported abroad. Farmers can produce
the raw material, but we need the processing industry to actually
use it and turn it into fuel.
"If the biofuel processing industry could get the same investment
support and tax treatment as that available elsewhere in Europe,
farmers would benefit from extra income, jobs would be created
and, crucially, the environment would benefit enormously.
"The same rings true for harnessing methane from slurry and
manure. Whilst its use as a fertiliser is important for our soil
quality, we should be harnessing the natural gas it can generate
as well. We welcome the six pilot projects on farms in South Scotland,
but we would urge the Executive to consider extending this project.
Turning waste into watts is what the Executive renewable energy
policy should be all about."
Energy crop facts:
- The latest figures from the European Biodiesel Board show
that the UK produced 9,000 tonnes of biodiesel in 2003, significantly
lower than other EU countries such as Germany (715,000 tonnes),
France (375,000 tonnes), Italy (273,000 tonnes), Denmark (41,000
tonnes) and Austria (32,000 tonnes). . Germany's arable land
area is only two and half times the UK's, however it is producing
80 times as much biodesel.
The following details have been produced
by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:
- Biodiesel and bioethanol
are renewable and sustainable liquid fuels made from plant
material and recycled elements of the food chain. Biodiesel
is an alternative to conventional diesel and bio-ethanol is
a petrol additive or substitute.
- They are produced from normal
farm crops such as cereals, oilseeds, sugar beet and fodder
beet. The crops can be grown using conventional farming techniques
and can be managed to enhance biodiversity.
vegetable oils and fats from the food chain can also be used
to produce biodiesel, but supplies are limited.
- In the future,
it is possible that wood, straw and even household wastes
may be economically converted to bioethanol . Biofuels can cut
emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, by 50-60 per
cent compared to fossil fuels.
- Biofuels can be used in cars,
vans, buses, lorries, agricultural vehicles, boats etc.
can be used either as a blend with mineral diesel (5 per
cent biodiesel is common in France) or as a straight fuel.
No engine modifications are required.
- Bioethanol can be used
as a 5 per cent blend with petrol with no engine modification.
With modification, bioethanol can be used at higher levels
(85 per cent bioethanol is common in the USA).
- Production costs
of biofuels are far higher than for fossil fuels, therefore
duty cuts are required to make them competitive.
- The UK is
required to set targets for the use of biofuels of around
2 per cent by 2005 and 5.75 per cent by 2010.