As a parable of our times the biofuels debate is brilliantly instructive. It seems that as soon as a ‘new’ technology comes along, the forces of environmental conservatism want to knock it down instantly, regardless of the facts or that some risk is inevitable in industrial activity.
It’s not that long ago that industry visionary Richard Parry-Jones was linking biofuels to long-term average tailpipe emissions of 40g/km within a couple of decades, while Bentley used the Geneva show to announce its backing for biofuels by future-proofing its models to accept the new fuel.
The US car industry has been pumping out ethanol capable cars in their hundreds of thousands for half a decade – and Brazil has been happily fuelling its entire car fleet on biofuel from sugar cane for thirty years. A third of Swedish cars are already biofuel capable, and the country plans to be completely independent of fossil fuels by 2030.
So what’s gone wrong in the UK?
It feels biofuels have become the chattering classes new bogeyman. If you believe the scare stories then biofuels will drive up the cost of food for the world’s poorest, cause more CO2 from their production than they save and cause the rain forests to be slashed-and-burned.