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The Pros, and Cons of Bio-fuels, and why Some Diesel Engines are so Polluting.

In my previous article I wrote extensively about a specific scheme, in the United Kingdom, for producing bio-gas, which would make the UK self-sufficient for domestic gas, without the use of prime agricultural land, or food crops. Writing that article piqued my interest in bio-fuels in general, and the legitimacy, or otherwise, of any objections, and any specific advantages in the use of bio-fuels. In this article, I intend to write more about all kinds of bio-fuels, and why they might be necessary.

Bio-fuels can be classified into four types;
  1. Solid fuels for domestic heating, and for industrial processes, such as firing boilers for electrical generation, or other purposes.
  2. Bio-diesel, meaning any plant oil that can be burnt in a diesel engine.
  3. Bio-ethanol, which is just alcohol, and can be used as a substitute for petroleum, and other volatile liquid fuels, or blended with bio-diesel to make less dense fuel-oils.
  4. Bio-gas, which is just methane, and is identical to so-called “natural” gas from fossil-fuel sources, which is supplied on the national gas grid, for domestic heating, and cooking, and for industrial users. It can also be used like LPG, (Liquid Petroleum Gas), for powering motor vehicles.
What are the Objections to Bio-fuels?

The burning of any fuel will produce CO2, but also, possibly, pollution in the form of particulates, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, and carbon monoxide, though the extent of these, depends on the nature of the particular fuel, and the efficiency with, which the fuel is burnt.

Even an efficient combustion will produce CO2, where we are trying to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere. The difference between CO2 produced by bio-fuels, and CO2 produced by fossil-fuels, is that the CO2 from those fossil-fuels is being introduced into our current atmosphere, where it has never been before, or, should we say, not for millions of years. The CO2 from bio-fuels is being reintroduced into our atmosphere, from, which it was extracted only a short while before. How long before depends on the type of material used to create the fuel. When wood is being burnt, the CO2 released might have been absorbed into the tree anything from 1,000 to 25 years ago, and will take time to be reabsorbed. That fact does count against the use of wood for fuel, though people would argue that trees absorb CO2 best when they are young, and growing, so, by cutting down old trees, and replacing them, immediately, by fresh new ones, the CO2 is being recycled, even if over a long period. It can also be said that no tree lasts for ever, and dead trees will rot down releasing carbon dioxide, and methane as they do so. That being so, burning the wood is only releasing the CO2, which will be released eventually in any case, without the methane.

Where material is processed to produce ethanol, or methane, that material can be from fast-growing plants, so that the period of recycling the CO2 is only a matter of weeks, or months, and so, is very much more clearly a recycling process. In cases where food-waste, and farm effluents are used as a feedstock for creating bio fuels, if not used for that, they would simply be disposed of as waste. In that case, their breakdown would simply release the CO2, and methane, directly into the atmosphere, without any of the benefits of having used it as a fuel.

Another objection people have is that land, and crops are being utilised for bio-fuel, which would otherwise be utilised for food. Again, this is a reasonable objection, but with careful management of resources it need not be a problem. It is easily solved by not using food crops, and by not using prime agricultural land. As explained in the article about bio-gas, this would be produced entirely without the use of food crops, using land that would otherwise be unproductive, provide rich wildlife habitats, and also, return rich natural fertiliser back to the land, to improve it. In this way, agriculture would actually benefit, as would rural communities, from the increase in income, and jobs, that the bio-fuel industry would bring. If we can move away from rearing, and eating, bovine animals that each produce up to 500 Lts of methane, every day, the land they occupied could be used for bio-fuel feedstock crops.

Finally, it is definitely a problem where forests are cleared to create new land for planting crops for bio-fuels. Firstly, forests are essential to the process by which carbon dioxide is absorbed from the atmosphere, and oxygen added. It is imperative that forests should not be cleared in this way. It is also the case that, when such forest clearings are used for crops, the soil is rapidly depleted, and farmers move on, to clear more forest, leaving a semi-desert behind. This criminal destruction of forests, is something, which should be prevented.

Such practices are especially prevalent in the production of palm oil, whether for bio-fuels, or not. Oil is only suitable for diesel engines, and I will separately be explaining why diesel engines are a particular problem. We all know that diesel engines can produce higher levels of pollutants than most others, but do you know why? I will be explaining precisely why this is so. It is also the case that such problems can be largely eliminated, making diesel engines a more attractive option, if run on 100% bio-fuel.

There are also subsidiary objections concerning transport of bio-fuels, and their feedstock. Transportation creates hidden CO2 output, especially where fossil-fuels are used for the transport, or in the processing. For example, the UK have replaced coal at some power stations with wooden fuel pellets, which are created in the USA, and transported all the way across the Atlantic, representing much hidden carbon output.

A final objection is that providing people with bio-fuel, instead of fossil-fuel, enables them to carry on as before, without adopting much more beneficial clean technology, such as induction hobs for cooking, heat pumps for space-heating, and electric vehicles for transport. Houses need to be built as carbon neutral, with high levels of energy efficiency, rather than continuing to use gas to heat poorly insulated homes, or air conditioning to cool them.

What are the Benefits of Using Bio-Fuels?

In an ideal world, people, and their governments, would not be sleepwalking towards planetary destruction. By now, all governments, everywhere, would be enacting legislation to shut down the fossil-fuel industry, and to replace it with 100% renewable-energy, used in all-electric, energy-efficient, homes, industries, and transport. The world is far from ideal, and world leaders waste their time, and energy on petty, international squabbles, and wars, unsustainable, perpetual, economic “growth”, and on the nonsense of petty nationalism, where global co-operation, and unity is so much needed, now. Also, it appears some governments can be, or have been, “bought” by powerful financial interest groups, and individuals, to represent their short term financial interests. In doing so, they compromise the long term survival of the ecosystem we all rely on for our life to continue. Individual people, with a few exceptions, seem oblivious of the perilous consequences of their behaviour, and continue their energy-extravagant, wasteful, throw-away, lifestyles. They seem ambitious to have more of the same, rather than less. Car manufacturers, with a few exceptions, are still advertising their latest SUVs, and sports saloons, with the emphasis on their sex-appeal, and “vroom-vroom” qualities. The oil industry are just thrilled by the melting permafrost, as they can drill for yet more oil, and gas, in previously difficult, and inaccessible places. It is a picture that engenders despair.

However, even if governments were wanting to change every car to an electric car, every mediaeval style of energy inefficient house to be exemplary in high-tech modernity, and carbon neutrality, and every electricity generator to operate without burning fossil-fuel, this could not be achieved in an afternoon. There would have to be a transitional period, where all the systems of energy production, management, and consumption, would be transformed, in a planned, and, orderly way. In the UK, in, order to meet government targets for CO2 reduction, all fossil-fuel gas burning for electricity generation, and domestic heating, must be ended by 2030. I am not sure that anyone has mentioned that to the current Tory government, as they are still promoting fracking for gas, and busy replacing coal-fired power stations, with gas-fired plant. I have not seen any schemes to replace all our fossil-fuel gas supplies with bio-fuels, or plans to help home owners to convert to electric heat pumps, for heating.

Where people have serviceable, modern, gas heating-appliances for their home, and expensive motorcars, sitting in their drive, they will be reluctant to, immediately, replace them with equally expensive heat pumps, and electric vehicles. If we are to have all electric homes, and transport, the infrastructure to generate, and distribute, all the required electrical energy, will need to be in place. This would take time, and huge amounts of money, as would the upgrading of homes to be anywhere near to carbon neutral.

As it is, progress is very slow, if not non-existent, and governments, and corporations, are largely perverse in their business-as-usual approach, while they talk much, but do little, or nothing, or even work actively against progress being made. Any transition period, therefore, is likely to be extremely long, and during that period, it will be better for people to be burning bio-fuels, than fossil-fuels. Progress is so slow, in fact, that even a move towards using bio-fuels would be part of the transition itself, rather than something put in place up front, to enable a short transition period.

It could also be the case that in some processes, and applications, it will prove difficult, or impossible, to replace a fuel-burning system with something operated entirely by renewable energy. There again, if we have to burn fuel, it would be better for that to be bio-fuel, than fossil-fuel.

Separate Types of Bio-fuels

It would not be reasonable to judge all bio-fuels as if they were one thing. If we consider, for example, the destruction of rainforests for palm oil plantations, where the palm oil is then used for creating bio-diesel; that would be environmental vandalism. Compare that with the “gas from grass” scheme, which I wrote about in the previous article, which is a very well planned, environmentally sensitive scheme, which would be of positive benefit to agriculture, wildlife, rural communities, and the national economy, while replacing 95% of gas from fossil-fuels with bio-gas, for domestic use, (in the UK). That scheme would allow people to continue using their gas-fired central heating boilers with much less detriment to the environment. It would also obviate the need for either importing gas, or obtaining gas locally, through hydraulic fracturing of shale gas reserves, with its attendant destruction of rural areas, and enormous risk to the water supplies.

Bio-gas

Continuing to talk about bio-gas, the gas from grass scheme was only one possible source. Currently there is an enormous amount of food waste, farm waste, domestic waste, and sewage effluents, that are disposed of on a daily basis, with little reference to the most environmentally beneficial method of disposal. For example, in the UK, much of the domestic waste used to be dumped into landfill sites. Over a period of years, the mountains of waste decompose, releasing carbon dioxide, and methane, into the atmosphere. Where the use of landfill has now been actively reduced, much domestic waste, including plastics, which could be recycled, are being incinerated, producing CO2, in addition to toxic gases. Farm waste, and sewage effluent, have been processed, and used for fertiliser, but in the process, and after application, CO2, and methane are released.

There could be a national effort to manage all kinds of waste, so that firstly, all that can be recycled is recycled, and secondly, all other waste is sent to anaerobic digester plants, for the production of bio-gas. Only the residue would remain, which would make a good agricultural fertiliser, and soil conditioner. In combination with the gas from grass scheme, this would supply all the gas requirements, for both domestic, and industrial uses, including electricity generation. Any surplus gas could be used for powering engines.

Hydrogen can also be considered as a bio-gas, and has the advantage of producing water vapour, (H2O, or hydrogen oxide), when burnt, without CO2, (which is an end product of combustion of hydro-carbon fuels). Because it burns at a very high temperature, it can also produce oxides of nitrogen, sometimes called “NOx”, just like diesel engines do, which is an undesirable pollutant. Hydrogen used in a fuel cell, to produce electricity, is a very clean process, but the use of manufactured hydrogen is currently inefficient, as it takes more electrical energy to produce than it yields, and it would be better to use the energy directly. Hydrogen is the least dense substance there is, as it has only one proton, and one electron in the atom. To carry sufficient hydrogen for use in a fuel cell, in a vehicle, requires a very high pressure gas bottle, and being highly flammable would be somewhat hazardous. Hydrogen gas-stations are also very expensive, which is a further disadvantage. New systems are being developed, where fuel is stored as a hydrogen compound, such as ammonia, formic acid, or bio-ethylene, and the hydrogen extracted within the system before being fed into the fuel cell. This makes storage in the vehicle, and at the refuelling station much safer and cheaper.

Bio-diesel

Bio-fuels have to be assessed in conjunction with the systems in which they will be used, so, looking at plant oils as a bio-fuel, the only option is for use in diesel engines, which no longer have a good reputation. The diesel engine was promoted, at one time, by governments, as producing less CO2 per kilometre than a comparable petrol engine. It also used less fuel per kilometre making it more economic. It has a high torque, (the turning power in the drive shafts) at low engine revs, and so is ideal for heavy transport, and boats. However, what was not appreciated, then, was by how much more the diesel engine produced dangerous nitrogen oxides, and particulates. As this has become more apparent as a problem, especially in cities, the diesel is now the big bad polluter to be shunned by all. So, why is the diesel engine more polluting? I assumed that it was because it ran on oil rather than petrol, (gasoline), and my first thought was why not convert all these diesel engines to run on a “cleaner”, fuel, but I discovered that the fuel is not the cause of the problem. The problem lies in the different ways the engines work.

In a petrol engine, the stages are –

  1. A piston travels down its cylinder, sucking a mixture of air, and fuel into the cylinder from the inlet valve. (Or air from the inlet, mixed as it comes in, with fuel from the injector in a modern direct injection engine
  2. The piston travels back up, the valves are closed, and the fuel, and air mixture is compressed, but not enough to ignite the fuel
  3. Just before the piston reaches the top, the spark plug ignites the compressed fuel, and air mixture. The piston, which has now gone past the top, and coming back down, is pushed down by the rapidly-expanding, hot combustion gases, much like a bullet in a gun barrel.
  4. The exhaust valve opens, the piston travels back up, and the exhaust gasses are pushed out.

In a diesel engine, the stages are –

  1. A piston travels down its cylinder, sucking just air into the cylinder from the inlet valve
  2. The piston travels back up, the valves are closed, and the air is compressed to be hot enough to ignite diesel-fuel.
  3. Just before the piston reaches the top, the fuel injector begins to spray fuel into the very hot air, and it immediately starts to burn. The piston, which has now gone past the top, and coming back down, is pushed down by the rapidly expanding hot combustion gases, just as in the petrol engine.
  4. The exhaust valve opens, the piston travels back up, and the exhaust gasses are pushed out.

It is the high compression, and temperature in a diesel that gives it its high efficiency, and high torque at low revs. A diesel-engine’s compression ratio is around 17:1. The “compression ratio” is the ratio of the full cylinder volume, to the volume at the top of the piston travel. In a 2Lt, 4 cylinder, diesel engine, the full volume of each cylinder is 500 cc, where the final volume is only about 30 cc. In a petrol engine of the same size, the final volume is around 50 cc, with a compression ratio of around 10:1

In the petrol engine the fuel, and air are ready mixed as a homogeneous vapour, at just the right ratio of fuel to air, for perfect combustion. All the fuel ignites relatively completely, with the exhaust being mainly C02, and water vapour. Power is controlled by “throttling” the air intake, so reducing the volume of the fuel, and air mixture, but without changing the ratio of fuel to air. In the diesel, power is controlled only by reducing the amount of fuel injected, so that at low power there is much more air than will be used in combustion. Because of the high compression, and the denser nature of diesel fuel, the combustion temperature is much higher. Taken together, the high temperature, and excess oxygen, both facilitate oxidisation of nitrogen in the air, in the combustion chamber, so producing the nitrogen oxides. Also, only the fuel in contact with the air will burn, and so, as the fuel is sprayed in, there is a flame front with complete combustion at the fuel/air boundary, and less complete combustion further back, and this is where some of the other pollution comes from.

A number of solutions have been tried. One is a short pre-injection to mix fuel, and air, before it starts to burn, followed by a longer injection into that mixture, once it starts to ignite, so making burning more complete. Another method diverts some of the exhaust back into the air inlet to reduce oxygen, and combustion temperature, and then there is the “blue” additive, (a fancy name for what is mainly ammonia, and urea), sprayed into the exhaust, where it has a chemical reaction with the nitrogen oxides, to break them down again to nitrogen, and water vapour. Filters in the exhaust system, deal with the particulates.

If all this was not enough bio-diesel fuel, being plant based, has more oxygen, and possibly nitrogen, in the fuel itself, so that nitrogen oxides are likely to be even higher. However, it is the case that careful design of diesel engines can reduce pollution to the same, or less, than equivalent petrol engines. In a recent report, testers found that some diesels, including BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E Class, Audi Q2, Seat Alhambra, and VW Golf models, emitted less than 80mg/km of nitrogen dioxide pollution in real-world tests, making them cleaner than many petrol cars. This is where 80mg of NOx, as a maximum, is the Euro-6 standard for diesel engines, but these cars actually meet it in real-world driving, rather than just pretending to do so, in laboratory tests. The same report, stated that some other Euro-6 diesels emitted up to 10 times the maximum nitrogen dioxide in real world tests. So, if restrictions, and bans on diesels are to be rational, they must be based on real-world tests, and not these misleading laboratory tests used to define Euro-6 standards.

Diesel in Shipping

At sea, ships burn heavy fuel oil that contains thousands of times more sulphur, than road diesel. Heavy fuel oil is pretty much the dregs of the fuel refining process, and is therefore cheap, and plentiful for shipping to use.

Many of the world’s main shipping routes pass close to coastlines, subjecting inhabitants to dangerous pollution. Ships are also responsible for huge carbon emissions. If shipping was a country, it would be the 6th largest emitter of CO2 in the world, but it has no plan in place to reduce its emissions, and shipping emissions are not included in the Paris Agreement.

Shipping, without intervention, is likely to increase emissions from somewhere between 50%, and 250%, by 2050, which would seriously undermine any chance we have of keeping warming below 1.50 C.

There are alternative energy sources that could be used for shipping. In addition to using wind directly, there are many green alternatives to enable electric drive for ships, including combinations of batteries, solar, hydrogen fuel-cells, and hydrogen derived from stored liquids such as formic acid, and from ammonia. Also bio-diesel can be used as a direct substitute for heavy fuel oil, or for a diesel-electric configuration, as used in diesel-electric railway engines, where the diesel engine runs at the optimum speed for efficiency, and drives a generator to power the all-electric drive.

The old sailing clippers were as fast as many modern cargo ships, but the large crew would be too expensive, and the work too dangerous for modern times. However, if the solid masts were replaced with hydraulically-operated telescopic tubes, and the sails replaced with large single sails on a roll, sail could be hoisted, furled, and angled, all by one person, or even an autonomous system. That would have to be better than those unwieldy, solid, wing-like sails, that could be dangerous in a storm. Captains would need to learn how to sail again. Unlike the old clippers, there could be electric drive for ports, and when wind is insufficient.

What ever is used, it is likely that a diesel generator would need to be on board as a back up, at least, and using bio-diesel would be better than fossil-fuel, especially the very polluting heavy fuel oil used currently.

Wood

Burning wood emits similar levels, and a similar range of pollutants, as burning coal, though smaller amounts of sulphur dioxide, and mercury, and greater quantity of volatile, organic compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, (PAHs), and, particulates. The largest volume of pollutants are nitrogen oxides, (NOx), carbon monoxide, (CO), small particulates, (PM10, including PM2.5), and sulphur dioxide, (SO2), as well as carbon dioxide, (CO2).

Burning some woods also results in a wide range of other pollutants such as – antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, dioxins, and furans, lead, manganese, mercury, nickel, selenium, vanadium, and zinc.

The level of pollution depends on the efficiency of combustion, and the presence of any secondary combustion. Combustion with high oxygen, and temperature levels will produce less CO, but more NOx, and low oxygen, and low temperatures will produce high levels of CO, and lower NOx, Where the combustion is at a high temperature, and prolonged in a secondary process some pollutants such as particulates, might be further oxidised.

An example of a device providing prolonged combustion at high temperature, and oxygen level, is what is known as a “rocket stove”. In this, small quantities of material in the form of long sticks, are held in a gravity feed hopper. The combustion chamber is just at the bottom of the hopper, so that it is the bottom of the sticks that are alight. The combustion chamber is at the bottom of a short chimney, (imagine a letter “J”, where the short upright is the hopper, the long upright the chimney, and the combustion chamber, the base of the letter “J”), and a very strong draft is created through the hopper, and usually a secondary air vent, through the combustion chamber, and up the chimney. The combustion chamber, and chimney are heat insulated, so that they get very hot, so increasing the draft, and combustion temperature. It is called a “rocket” stove, because once it gets going, the draft is strong enough to create a roaring, rocket sound. It is this strong draft, that prevents any smoke, or flame, escaping up through the hopper. The chimney is enclosed by a flat topped steel cylinder, much like an upturned oil drum, (literally an upturned oil drum, in some home-made devices), with a vent to release the hot flue-gases. These stoves burn at a very high temperature, with a very high oxygen level, but use very little wood, so they are very efficient. It is claimed that the flue gases are almost entirely CO2, and water vapour, but I haven’t found any proper studies that present any precise measurements, and I see no reason why nitrogen oxides should not be formed, along with the PAHs, and other pollutants from wood. It is normally the case that the hotter the combustion, the higher the incidence of NOx. So, where it might be possible to minimise pollution from wood combustion by careful design, it is not certain, and a reasonable objection remains against burning it on the grounds of that pollution.

Bio-ethanol

Bio-ethanol is ethyl-alcohol, the same type of alcohol found in alcoholic drinks. It can be produced from any plant material containing sugars, such as sugar-cane, potato, cassava, and corn, but less obviously, hemp, waste straw, willow, sawdust, reeds, and grasses. There is even research and development into the use of municipal solid wastes to produce ethanol. Also, cellulosic ethanol, (from plant cellulose), has potential, because cellulose fibres are a major component in all plant cells, and are available as waste material. There is an alternative process to produce bio-ethanol from algae, where the algae grow in sunlight, and produce ethanol directly, which is removed without killing the algae. This is 15 times more productive per acre than using corn.

Ethanol is most often used as a replacement for petrol, (gasoline), but it has much less energy by volume, so, to replace the energy of 1 gallon of petrol, needs 1.5 gallons of ethanol.  However, it is very clean burning, and can be used for indoor heating, without a flu to carry away the exhaust gases, which are purely CO2, and water vapour.

Ethanol-blended fuel is widely used in Brazil, the United States, and Europe. Most cars can run on blends of up to 10% ethanol, but many cars, today, are flexible-fuel vehicles, able to use up to 100% ethanol fuel. A flex-fuel engine has sensors to detect the blend of fuel being used, and adjusts the injection, and ignition timing, accordingly. Ethanol has an octane rating of 105, which allows a much higher compression ratio, so where an engine is built to run specifically on ethanol, the problem of lower energy content is largely overcome, as the higher compression ratio yields better performance, and fuel economy. Some flex-fuel engines can vary the compression ratio too, either by turbocharging, or by changing the engine geometry. Because of its high octane rating, ethanol can be used in modified diesel engines, and Scania have used these in buses in Sweden, and the UK.

Pure ethanol is difficult to vaporise so that starting a car in low temperatures can be difficult, but that problem can be overcome by mixing it with a small amount of petrol. Various blends of bio-ethanol, and petrol, or bio-diesel have been used.

Such as –

· E5G to E26G – 5% to-26% ethanol, 95%-74% gasoline

· E85G – 85% ethanol, 15% gasoline

· E15D – 5% ethanol, 85% diesel

· E95D – 95% ethanol, 5% water, with ignition improver

There are engines that will run on 100% ethanol, so blending like that is not essential.

Conclusions

It seems that some of the objections to bio-fuels are largely spurious. I say this because many of these objections are based on the idea of replacing all fossil-fuels with bio-fuels, where the idea is to replace most fossil-fuel use with renewable energy, and electrically powered systems. bio-fuels would be used as a transitional arrangement, and to continue to provide fuels for situations where a fuel burning system is the only practical solution. For example, an objection has been that to produce bio-ethanol from corn, there would not be sufficient land to provide for more than about 10% of petrol used today, and corn is a food crop, so should not be used for bio-fuel production in any case. However, bio-ethanol can be produced from non-food sources as we pointed out, from algae, or what would be waste, and using marginal land that would be of little use for food-crop production. Even then, we would be aiming to replace ICE vehicles with EVs, and not to run them all on bio-fuels.

In any event, we need to change our dietary habits for both sustainability, and human health. Land that is currently used for bovine rearing, could be given over to feedstock for bio-ethanol, and bio-gas, in addition to food crops. We also consume far too much sugar, so continuing to use the same land for sugar production, that sugar can be converted to bio-fuels, rather than contributing to our obesity, tooth decay, and ill-health. In the same way, we consume far too much vegetable oil, so we would be doing ourselves, and the world, a favour, by converting it to bio-diesel.

Wood-burning, I think, is something we should not be doing, as burning wood produces pollution, and for the present, we need to be planting trees, not cutting them down for firewood, because we need all the forest we can get to absorb excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. All our forests need to be preserved, and certainly not burned down, as in Indonesia, to provide land for palm-oil plantations.

Bio-diesel in itself is not harmful, provided that the land used for its production, is well managed, and essential food production is not diminished. The burning of bio-diesel can produce undesirable pollution, but as we mentioned in the section on bio-diesel, it is possible to make diesel engines, which are relatively clean. It would be especially advantageous to use bio-diesel for shipping, in combination with sail, and electrical drive systems, in place of the highly polluting heavy fuel-oil currently in use. Also diesel engines can be run on 95% ethanol. It would be best to move directly to electrical drive systems for all vehicles that currently use internal combustion engines.

Bio-ethanol, bio-gas, and hydrogen, are the least polluting fuels. Bio-ethanol, and bio-gas can both be produced from waste, and from non-food crops using marginal land. Where using waste, the CO2, and Methane would be released into the atmosphere, if not converted to bio-fuel, which would be much better waste management. The creation of an industry for the production of bio-ethanol, and bio-gas would provide farmers with many more opportunities for diversification, and to make money from land, which is currently unproductive. It would be a great boost to the rural economy providing much needed income, and jobs, without any detrimental effects to food production, or land management. As it might take some time to convert to all-electric households, the complete replacement of fossil-fuel gas, with bio-gas, would be a very desirable transitional, and ongoing measure.

Currently, in the United Kingdom, the government are missing a huge opportunity to exploit, and develop our potential to be self-sufficient in gas, using bio-gas. The government are intent on replacing coal-fired power stations, with gas-fired power stations, which are less polluting, but which produce only marginally less CO2. To achieve this they have a blinkered vision of fracked gas wells across the country, destroying our countryside, and exposing the water table to contamination risks. With more foresight, awareness, and wisdom, they could be solving the gas supply problem, enriching our rural communities, and increasing biodiversity, all at the same time, by planning, coordinating, and developing a bio-gas industry. The same might be true of other countries.

There is great potential for the development of bio-fuel industries, and governments need to be playing a role of central planning, communication, and regulation, to ensure this is achieved, efficiently, and responsibly, to provide the best outcome, for the ecology of our planet, and the economies of our nations.

 
Written By

As a child, I had the unrealistic expectation that I would learn about, and understand, absolutely everything, during the course of growing up. Now, at the other end of life, I am fully aware of how much I have not learnt, and do not understand, and yet, remain interested in everything. My education, starting with an arts degree, and going on to postgraduate studies, in everything from computer science, to hypnotism, reflected my broad interests. For 20 years, I worked in local government, and am now retired, living in North Leicestershire in the UK, with plenty of time for doing whatever I like. I have always had a keen interest in everything alternative, which includes renewable energy and energy efficiency and, of course, electric vehicles. So, naturally, I have taken ownership of an EV, now that they are affordable and practical forms of transport. Writing is also one of my great pleasures, so writing about EVs and environmental issues, is a natural evolution for me. You can find my work on EV Obsession, and CleanTechnica, and you can also follow me on twitter.

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