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Oct 05, 2012

Biofuels lead to carbon reduction

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Carbon emissions and climate change advisory firm Promethium Carbon regards bioenergy as an additional solution to that of renewable energy in dealing with rising energy costs and the impacts of global warming, which are exacerbated by carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

However, the firm states that care should be taken to ensure the sustainability of the fuel source, be it biomass, biogas or bioliquid.

South Africa has a significant carbon footprint, as the country’s electricity grid is coal based.

Fostering the country’s renewable energy sector, using renewable energy as far as possible, being energy efficient and conducting a fuel switch to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels and related products, will reduce CO2 emissions.

Meanwhile, the biggest challenge to South Africa’s implementation of bioenergy projects on a commercial scale is regulatory barriers, says Promethium Carbon director Harmke Immink.

The voluntary Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) framework under the Kyoto Protocol that encourages developing countries to implement emission-reduction projects to earn certified emissions reduction (CER) credits is one way to overcome this, she adds.

The CDM framework states that emission-reduction projects can earn CER credits, each equivalent to 1 t of CO2, which can be counted towards meeting Kyoto targets.

The CDM stimulates sustainable development and emission reductions.

Further, business associations that lobby for the responsible changing of regulations and the commitment by government to establish a low-carbon economy in South Africa are also ways to deal with CO2 emissions.

While biofuels for energy purposes reduce fossil-fuel consumption and reduce emissions, the main advantage of biofuels, compared with other renewable energy technologies, is the option to produce transportation fuels, says Promethium Carbon carbon adviser Karolina Euler.

The use of the CDM framework would assist in the adoption of commercial bioenergy projects in South Africa, however, as in most cases, bioenergy needs government support or funding to be economically viable. This is evident in Europe, where energy crop cultivation and end-user subsidies exist and in the US, where bioethanol is more expensive than mineral fuel.

In South Africa, the Biofuels Industrial Strategy, released by the former Department of Minerals and Energy in 2007, excluded maize as a feedstock, owing to such food security concerns. Grain sorghum, sugar cane and sugar beet were identified instead as possible feedstocks for local bioethanol production.

In the US, however, recent drought has caused maize and food prices to rise, which has sparked renewed interest in the country’s biofuels production debate.

Newswire Reuters reports that the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation increased pressure on the US in August to change its biofuel policies, which incorporate maize as a feedstock, because of the danger of a world food crisis, arguing the importance of growing crops for food over their use for fuel, at times like these.

Edited by: Chanel de Bruyn
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