Forestry Commission leads on biofuels

As the government considers proposals for a renewable transport fuel obligation which would see five per cent of all fuel sold by 2010 to come from crops, the Forestry Commission has shown that far higher targets can be reached with no adverse effects.

The Commission has 160 vehicles already using bio-diesel to some extent, one running on 100% bio-diesel, and one running entirely on 100% used cooking oil that hasn’t even been refined into biodiesel.

As a Government department, the Forestry Commission is committed to meeting the EU target for use of bio-fuels of 2% by the end of 2005 and 5.75% by the end of 2010.

However, with 15% of their total road fuel budget in Southern Scotland already coming from bio-fuels, and 5% over the whole of Great Britain, the Commission is way ahead of target.

Motorists have, in the past, feared that concentrated vegetable oils would clog their engines and ruin the performance of vehicles. However, Richard Earle, sustainability development officer for the Commission’s Business Units, begs to differ.

“So far, so good,” he said. “All our biodiesel-powered vehicles are running well, with no sign of it doing any harm to our engines, and we’re delighted to be making this contribution to the ‘greening government’ programme.”

He added that vegetable oils were carbon neutral as they don’t increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. “That’s because this year’s crop of oil-producing plants reabsorbs the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere as last year’s crop released, in a perpetual, carbon-neutral cycle – just as our forests do when we replant them after harvesting.”

The fuels also release fewer particulates, unburned hydrocarbons, oxides of sulphur and carbon monoxide, and by burning them, motorists can solve the problem of disposing of the oils after they’ve been used for cooking.

Government estimates suggest that an obligatory 5% blend biodiesel in all fuels would reduce carbon emissions by more than 1% by 2010.

David Hopkins

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