Biofuels ‘need to be optimised’ to succeed

Biofuels do have a part to play in the switch to a more sustainable transport system but the production and supply chain needs to be refined to get the most out of them.

That was the opinion of Dr Steve Koonin, chief scientist at BP, as he spoke at the Intelligence Squared Green Festival 2009, in London.

Dr Koonin said much more work was needed to research which plants should be used and in which way, how they could be grown more efficiently, and what kind of fuels could be produced from them.

“What we need to do to biofuels is to optimise the value chain,” he said.

“The petroleum value chain has been in existence for about 150 years – it has been optimised and refined at the 1% level. The agricultural value chain has been developed over several thousand years.

“Right now we are doing biofuels by piggybacking it on the agricultural value chain. That’s a rather inefficient and technologically backwards way to be tackling this problem.”

Dr Koonin’s comments were part of a debate on biofuels with Nick Goodall, chief executive of the Renewable Fuels Agency and Dr Ben Graziano, research and development manager at the Carbon Trust.

Listen to their comments in full below.

Later in the day, it was the turn of geoengineering to be put under the spotlight as experts discussed whether these often wacky solutions are a silver bullet for the climate change crisis.

Listen below to Professor Chris Rapley, director of the Science Museum in London, and Professor Stephen Salter, of the University of Edinburgh, debate the pros and cons.

Kate Martin

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