Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sustainable biofuels

One of National's first acts on gaining the government benches was to reward their friends in the oil industry by abolishing the previous government's Biofuels Sales Obligation, which would have seen oil companies required to sell an increasing percentage of biofuels. Instead, they replaced it with a grants scheme, which would give token subsidies to New Zealand biodiesel producers, but not actually do anything to create a market or require oil companies to sell them. But the Greens have noticed a problem: most biofuels produced in New Zealand are sustainable, in that they have genuinely lower emissions, don't compete with food crops, and aren't gouged out of tropical rainforests. This is even more true of biodiesel, which tends to be made from waste or from meat byproducts like tallow. But under the government's scheme, these sustainably produced fuels could face competition from unsustainable imported fuels such as those based on palm oil.

Fortunately, the Greens also have a solution: a member's bill [PDF] setting a sustainability standard for all biofuel sold in New Zealand, whether locally produced or imported. It's a good idea, which protects the environment while encouraging local production, and it would be good to see it drawn from the ballot.