Since 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.
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.