Problems with the introduction of E10 lead to the revival of old demons in the biofuel industry

Ethanol E10 gasoline summit gas station compatibility biofuel engine failureSince the beginning of February this has been particularly the case at petrol stations in southern and eastern Germany Biofuel mixture E10 offered. The planned introduction since the beginning of 2011 has, innocently speaking, not exactly worked smoothly. In the meantime, the discussions about the introduction of the E10 have unfortunately lost all humor and in some cases the old demons of the biofuel industry, such as the "plate-and-tank" discussion, are being dug out again. What problems and possible solutions are there with the introduction of E10?

E10 - a euphoric leap into unknown waters?

Maybe too cheered up and taken lightly, became the Biofuel E10 with 10% (bio) ethanol content, introduced at German petrol stations. According to public figures, 90% of all vehicle engines tolerate the new fuel without any problems, while the remaining 10% can experience problems with the engine even when refueling once.

A very reassuring statement if you need your car every day, for example, at work. Especially when your own car has already been in the workshop and some engine parts that may not be suitable for the E10 have been replaced. The handling of the liability question for possible engine damage caused by refueling E10 in the event of incorrect information in the compatibility lists is uncertain. All in all, an unsatisfactory starting point that was apparently underestimated by most of the parties involved.

Most drivers currently prefer the “Super”, which is 8 cents more expensive on average. The E10 blend is piling up at petrol stations, while “Super” will likely soon be able to trade at exorbitant prices on the black market.

The search for guilty parties

The refineries are starting to shut down their E10 production and the expansion of the E10 import area to other petrol stations in the Republic has been stopped for the time being. Economic damage has occurred and the guilty party is being sought. Black Peter, who is to blame for the mess, is currently being pushed back and forth. I can understand the emotions, but an image damage will probably be mainly for the fuel E10 or even that Biofuels stay behind.

Everyone involved could certainly have done a little more to give the new fuel a more relaxed entry into his petrol station career. In the current phase, the search for a culprit only helps the critics of biofuels.

On Tuesday there will be the petrol summit on the E10, which will clarify which measures are to be taken. It would be gratifying if the gasoline summit only deals marginally with the search for culprits and instead concentrates its concentrated expertise on developing and introducing rapid, yet well thought-out solutions.

In order to increase the drama even more, some vehicle manufacturers are NOW reporting that the use of E10 could also result in further changes for consumers. It may be necessary to shorten the oil change interval due to the higher alcohol content in the tank.

Was the introduction of the biofuel mixture rushed?

If you look at the effects that we are currently experiencing around the introduction of the E10 fuel, you have to answer this question with "yes". But I would say that the introduction was not rushed in terms of timing, but simply required more extensive planning. With the introduction of the E10 fuel, Germany is ultimately only aiming to implement common goals within the European Community.

The "EU Biofuel Directive" (2003/2003 / EG) published in 30 describes the handling of biofuels in Europe. It was supplemented in 2009 by the "Renewable Energy Directive" of the EU (2009/28 / EC) and is to be completely replaced by this in 2012. As usual, it was possible to implement the EU directive in an adapted form in national law.

Germany took advantage of this opportunity and adopted the Biofuel Sustainability Ordinance in 2009. As in the European directive, a binding target was set in this 10% share of biofuels set by 2020.

Germany had to act to achieve the European climate targets. It is difficult to answer whether an introduction of E10 would have been enough in 2 years. The fact is that better planning was necessary and probably would have been possible.

More information and consultation with consumers before placing E10 on the market, a little more accompanying information at the petrol stations after the introduction and, of course, tangible studies on the exact effects of E10 on the various models would have surely anticipated many surprises. In addition, one could have started with a smaller introduction area in order to contain the logistical problems that are currently occurring.

But afterwards you are always smarter and of course everyone would have done better!

Biofuels are neither "eco-angels" nor "hunger devils"

It is a pity that due to the launch problems of E10 and the associated frustration, the biofuel criticisms are boiling up again, which have nothing to do with the current E10 problems.

Opinions that judge so undifferentiated about such a promising topic as biofuels simply have to annoy you as a “friend of biofuels”. This is especially true when general judgments are made for ALL biofuels. Climate change or the preparation of a life cycle assessment is such a complex field that even scientists admit that the results of their climate models are only valid under very specific boundary conditions.

Particularly painful are allegations that biofuels are leading to deforestation in the rainforests and increasing hunger in the world. If you have then followed how intensively the biofuels industry has dealt with these points of criticism in recent years and taken measures to eliminate each one, then undifferentiated articles about the "bad biofuels" can no longer reflect the love for the planet or justified to people in developing countries. Criticism is important and in part certainly justified, but accusing biofuels as the scapegoat for all the ills in the world does not solve a single one of these problems.

What are the common criticisms of biofuels?

1. Biofuels are responsible for deforestation in the rainforests

Unfortunately, this is true to a certain extent. But even palm oil, which is always cited as the most important product for this point of criticism, is “only” about 5% used for the production of biodiesel. The majority of palm oil is used in the manufacture of cosmetics and margarine. And not every palm oil from Malaysia or Indonesia is grown on areas that were previously covered with rainforest.

In addition, complex certification procedures have been and are being developed and have recently been used (see article on certification systems for biomass), which excludes biomass obtained on such high-quality land for the use of biofuels (at least in Europe).

2. Biofuels are responsible for rising food prices and world hunger

It cannot be denied that the cultivation of renewable raw materials also contributes to the increase in food prices due to the competition for land and use of foodstuffs, but the most important reason for the price increase for foodstuffs is the rapid economic growth in countries like India and China, through which also the demand for food such as corn, wheat and rice has skyrocketed.

Developing countries also benefit in part from the broader uses of biomass and have gained additional sales markets for their often large acreage. Not to mention the fact that biomass is the only affordable fuel source for many regions in developing countries - especially with rising oil prices! The energetic development of decentralized regions is often only possible through bioenergy.

In order to further strengthen the economic interaction between food and biofuels, research and development of second and third generation biofuels is also being intensively promoted. For example, the production of bioethanol from non-edible plant components (see article cellulose-ethanol) an important step to limit competition from biofuels and food.

3. Biofuels have a poorer life cycle assessment than fossil fuels

The argument that bioenergy has a worse CO2 balance than fossil fuels is pretty presumptuous. The statement for the cultivation of some biomass is certainly true (e.g. in the case of plowing up grassland), but it is not tenable as a general statement for all organic input materials and bioenergy sources.

As with all other forms of energy, the calculation of the life cycle assessment of biofuels can sometimes be very difficult, as many different technologies are combined across the entire production chain right down to the place of consumption and long-term consequences and the use of materials are often difficult to take into account.

Nevertheless, the production of biofuels naturally also has negative ecological effects (for example in maize monocultures), which must be recognized and eliminated.

Even if biofuels have mainly acted as climate protectors in recent years, they should not be judged solely on the basis of their ecological effects. Biofuels and other bioenergy carriers have far more advantages over many fossil fuels than “just” a different ecological balance (see article on the benefits of bioenergy). Particularly noteworthy here is greater independence from oil and the relocation of many value chains and jobs to the place where the renewable raw materials are grown and ideally also used.

Summary

Without being too moralistic, everyone should ask themselves whether they want to support greater independence from oil and what personal sacrifices they are willing to make for this development. Which common path is taken should be discussed publicly. A way to realize the economic and ecological potential of biofuels must be found in a common and differentiated dialogue.

Every change in our energy industry has an impact on our environment and not every one will be positive. The introduction of E10 will not be absolute and will only have advantages for everyone. Nevertheless, based on human time horizons, oil remains a non-renewable resource for the time being and is FINAL. Therefore alternatives have to be found, otherwise we have to expect far bigger changes in our way of life.

12 comments on “Problems with the introduction of E10 lead to the revival of old demons in the biofuel industry”

  1. I find it interesting that you only named palm oil as the representative for the extraction of biofuels. You should also mention soybean oil, rapeseed oil and fats. And if you add all the different raw materials, you get percentages far higher than 5%. And all of these crops are or must be grown in third countries to meet the need for biofuels. There is no other way. If only because of the required acreage. The need for the fuel is higher than the possible production in Europe. The cultivated areas in third countries, previously used for the supply of food, find their new function in the cultivation of energy crops such as soybeans, rapeseed or oil palms. In order to cover the food requirements, previously used areas are being substituted. Deforestation among other things. Loans must be taken out from the World Bank to import food from industrialized countries. The repayment, sometimes also the repayment of the interest, requires further loans. In fact, the chances of combating global hunger are diminishing. And the debt trap increases. The sales markets are not broadened. They shift to their disadvantage. In addition, large agricultural companies from abroad lease huge areas in poor countries with large areas, in order to sell crops on the world market at high profit. The country itself has none of it.
    And the argument that this (the cultivation) is an advantage for these countries, because they are so astonishing: “Not to mention the fact that biomass is the only affordable fuel source for many regions in developing countries, then countries themselves a better one Can provide energy supply ". In fact, the energy crops are not used for local energy supply, but are exported. The technologies that are necessary for the production of biofuels do not exist either. As an engineer, you should know that too. Regarding the certificates based on the EU's Renewable Energy Sources Directive (2009/28 / EG), I was told, when I asked the BfN, that the EU has set itself the goal of controlling what proportion of land use energy crops are in the exporting countries, but that there are no measures for the implementation that make control feasible. Certificates that are effective only exist for Europe. And if you consider the statement that the cultivation of energy crops a worsening of the ecological balance compared with fossil fuels to be presumptuous, then you are welcome to do so. Personally, I tend to rely on investigations commissioned by Greenpeace, WWF or Nabu.

    And the German government's Renewable Energy Concept 2010 is going in the wrong direction for me here. NaWaRos as an energy source to meet fuel requirements is the wrong answer to reducing CO² emissions from traffic. The path to electric cars and hydrogen technology should be promoted massively. Logistics for practice too. In fact, it would already be possible to primarily use electric cars in the city. The technology for this is there. The car can be charged overnight. And the principle of smart grids can even be used to save stored energy. CO² emissions from coal-fired power plants or the securing of basic needs by nuclear power can be reduced.

  2. Thank you for the critical but very differentiated comment. So he shows that despite great care in my arguments because of the complex topic, I quickly reach the limits. Now, of course, an article is not a complete book, and from a certain point you are always a little undifferentiated, but your perspective inspired me anyway.

    But I still have to make a little "defense" of some arguments :-)

    1. I found it a shame, for example, that in your criticism of my laudation for biofuels you did not say a single word about the second and third generation biofuels. Because I think the current biofuels, especially the feedstocks used, can also be expanded. Many conflicts over bioethanol have already been resolved with the concentration on cellulose ethanol.

    2. Then I have to say that I think it is not that difficult to produce bioethanol in developing countries. The fermentation of sugar components (e.g. from millet or cassava) is not that complicated and fermentation is also possible in poorer countries - at least rather than finding and tapping into an oil well. The purification of the alcohol produced, which would be required for a refinery, does not necessarily have to be necessary for the initial use of bioethanol, since one does not necessarily have to produce gasoline mixtures, but pure fuels can also be used. This has been done in Brazil for decades. There is no need for industrial production like Verbio AG, where several hundred thousand tons of bioethanol are produced every year.

    3. And about the studies of environmental associations (NABU, WWF or Greenpeace) I would like to say that of course they focus on the ecological effects of biofuels, that is their main topic and their responsibility. However, many other advantages of biofuels / bioenergy are not taken into account by these studies (relocation of value chains, greater independence from finite oil or the preservation / creation of jobs). At least the sustainability triad strives for an optimized mix of ecological, economic and social factors and ultimately hardly anyone wants to live WITHOUT ENERGY.

    4. And I would like to say about electric vehicles that they are certainly another alternative for a new form of mobility that should definitely be encouraged. But it also currently has many problems that will require some time and investment to resolve. For example, I think of problems with range, the lack of infrastructure for charging stations, the procurement and disposal of batteries that are not necessarily ecological, the costs of building electric vehicles or the question of the energy source for the electricity required. And what about the use of electric vehicles in countries that do not even have an electrical network (developing countries), let alone a smart grid? Sure, if you take a very benevolent look at electric vehicles (as I do with biofuels, by the way), then they have huge potential and can overcome any of the current problems. Currently, biofuels are more likely to be used on a large scale than electric vehicles - even if this view is of course not supported by the current E10 chaos :-)

    Perhaps as a final word: environmental policy is an exciting but also highly complex topic. And in my opinion, the goal should be a sensible mix for a modern transport system and use the various sources such as electric vehicles, biodiesel / bioethanol, bio natural gas or hydrogen in equal parts. You are more likely to see the weaknesses of biofuels and I am more likely to see their potentials and strengths - the opposite is true for electric vehicles. Let us use our passions for the respective type of mobility and help you to build an ever more environmentally friendly, social and economical transport system.

    Best regards and thanks for the critical words.

  3. Thank you for the very differentiated answer.
    For my part, I would like to address your individual "points of defense".
    To point 1.: How do the process flows change compared to the 1st generation?

    Regarding point 2: it is admittedly "not that difficult to produce bioethanol in developing countries". The point remains that rainforests are being deforested. Especially in Brazil. Control measures, as mentioned, have not been worked out - for 3rd countries.

    to point 3. at this point I would like to point out the material use of NaWaRo`s-sa http://www.fnr.de. The value chain is now being expanded in a cascade: cultivation processing, manufacturing construction, furniture and chemical industry, recycling and energy generation via biogas plants. The number of jobs increases to over 1 million. However, I cannot say directly or indirectly.

    in point 4 you really packed a lot of keywords.
    As far as the range is concerned: Germany is a densely populated country. Think about the actual reduction of CO² emissions by using electric cars in the city! If the logistics for recharging the batteries are correct, they need to be removed. But if you really want to go this route, the infrastructure can be expanded quickly. For research on environmentally friendly batteries, have a look at url: elektor.de/elektronik-news/umweltfreund-akakus-aus-grunalgen.1072548.lynkx. And charging stations for the batteries are the driver's own home. The following principle: electricity is fed into the network by individual homeowners via wind turbines and CHP units. The sum matters. An intelligent central control system regulates the demand. Accumulators and cold stores act as energy stores, whose energy can also be drawn off !! According to this principle, surpluses in the feed are regulated and gaps are filled. This means that the introduction of such virtual networks can turn electricity from wind energy into a base load. After successful introduction to third countries, the technology itself can be exported as sensible development aid. And what is happening in Japan can be excluded in the future. Nuclear power plants as bridging technology are not required if they are implemented consistently. Future GAUs are excluded.
    I would also like an exchange very much. If you have any information about small biogas plants and innovations, I'm a grateful customer. Finally, just one more. I have the page http://www.umwelt-autoren.de built up. I would be happy if you could write an article on the subject and send it to me. I will then publish it.

  4. I am also in favor of environmentally friendly energy supply, but as long as people around the world are still hungry, I find it worrying that food will be converted to fuel

  5. Thank you for your critical words. The tank-or-plate discussion is certainly one of the most difficult in the assessment of biofuels. It is difficult to use rational arguments. I don't think anyone wants other people to go hungry because of him. But on the other hand, you also want poorer countries to have any chance of development at all, and an energy supply is certainly helpful for that. So only with a functioning energy industry (to which I also count fuel) can agricultural production and also the production of food be significantly increased. The use of biofuels is often a good alternative that developing countries can fall back on, especially when oil prices are rising.

    6% of the agricultural acreage worldwide is currently used for the cultivation of biomass, which is then converted into biodiesel or bioethanol. It is therefore up to us to ensure that biofuels do not compete directly or indirectly with food and that suitable measures are found to prevent this.

    With the demonization of biofuels, you not only make things a little easy for yourself, but you do not take the problems of developing countries in covering their energy needs (without having a good network structure like industrialized countries) not really serious. I don't think there is a black and white solution here, but the specific case must always be considered. It's exhausting, but in my opinion the biofuels deserve it :-)

  6. How about the introduction of the E10 biofuel blend to our neighbors in Austria? The increase in the share of biofuels is actually planned for October 2012.

    However, the problems with the introduction of E10 in Germany are increasing pressure from representatives of the petroleum industry, who are pushing for a postponement of the date by 2 years until 2014.

    An interesting article on E10 introduction to Austria was published on 16.09.2011 on DerStandard.at.

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