World urgently needs thriving biofuels industry, says Porritt

Growth in the biofuels industry is being 'stifled' by continued lobbying from the oil and gas sectors, according to the founder and director of Forum for the Future.

Speaking earlier this week at the 2013 World Biofuels Markets Exhibition and Congress, which incited debates on the role of biofuels in achieving global energy security, Forum for the Future’s Jonathon Porritt, said “the oil and gas industry is a problem for the biofuels industry”.

Porritt was backed by General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander and Co-chair of Growth Energy: “You’re up against massive lobbying from the oil industry. Both industries need to band together and stop fighting each other.”

However, CEO of BP Biofuels, Philip New, was adament that the two industries will be collaborating going forward, saying that it was “unhelpful to cast these industries into good guys and bad guys. We will be seeing both industries work together whether people like it or not”.

There was also disagreement around the land available globally, with Clark taking a positive stance and claiming that there is “a billion acres of unused cropland in the world”.

Clark’s comments were challenged by fellow speaker, director of Pöyry Global BioFutures, Petri Vasara, who cautioned delegates that the “lack of land is the real battleground. The strongest land requirement is in Asia but more modest in Russia and the USA. Land requirement for cattle grazing dominates in all regions bar North America”.

According to the majority of speakers, the added value biofuels have both at the domestic and international level continues to be misunderstood by the general public.

“The bio-economy has reached a tipping point,” said Vasara on the perceived mistrust within the biofuels industry. “Societal acceptance is key,” he added.

Executive director for the International Energy Agency said that demand and growth for biofuels cannot be taken for granted and that there is a need for a gradual shift to new technology.

“We need national and international certification schemes,” Hoeven said on improving the links between feedstock and legislation.

Leigh Stringer

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