I Want My Bioethanol Now!

While New Zealand seems stuck in some sort of laxy dazy sloth warp, Iceland plans to become the first country to replace fossil fuels with hydrogen for all its energy needs.

Brazil has been busy making biogas from soybeans, Sweden from the entrails of dead cows, and Ireland has developed a car which runs on manure.

This Zephyr won't run on manure – but it almost certainly ran over some (New Zealand has oodles of it!)

Then last week Sweden stated that it aims to completely wean itself off oil within 15 years, without building new nuclear plants.

Even the US is making serious noise about biofuels. In Austin, Texas – the costs of renewable energy there is even cheaper than oil and gas – and New York Republican Governor George Pataki is proposing a plan to get alternative fuels at fuel stations across the state.

Pataki says “The new technology that to me is enormously exciting is cellulosic ethanol. That is where you break down the cellulose fibers in woods or in grasses, biomass that can be replenished, and is replenished naturally, year after year after year. And preliminary indications are you can get 25 times the amount of energy out as the amount of energy that goes into producing the cellulosic ethanol.”

Fact is, for years, biofuels have already been commercially available in many Western countries including the US, Canada, most European countries and across the ditch in Australia.

Well, by crickey… what’s holding back ‘clean green’ New Zealand?

After all, we’re a country of just over four million people and plenty of potential materials for biogas, including: tallow, animal products and dung. And for cellulosic ethanol we already have huge fields of crops including maize, corn, straw and massive pine plantations. I’m sure Ohakune could also spare a few carrots

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) says that at least three per cent of our petrol needs can be ‘competitively’ met from bioethanol from forestry waste, straw, and waste paper (but I doubt they factored in the actual cost to our environment and human health).

Good news is that the Government has said that they’re encouraging the fuel industry to ensure biogas is an option at service stations in New Zealand by 2008. Their focus is on low level blends of biodiesel in diesel and bioethanol in petrol that can be used in existing cars without modification.

But for me, that’s not going far enough.

I’d like to see our Government follow in the footsteps of Sweden and Iceland – make a bold vision – and go for it…

3 responses to “I Want My Bioethanol Now!”

  1. John Francis Avatar

    Right on, Zef. I’m an Aussie resident who regularly chews up hydrocarbons and adds massively to pollution by flying back and forth across the Tasman. But at least I can vouch for biofuels.

    While Victoria (where I live) has yet to do anything about providing facilities, when I would take my old diesel Landcruiser across to Adelaide, I was able to fill up with 100% diesel biodiesel, at the SAFF stations.

    All the stats for using this fuel – from lower emissions to improved performance – stack up.

    Of course, it’s also possible to make your own (something I never got around to doing through lack of time). But the processes are outlined on websites, and there are support groups – especially US-based. The University of Melbourne also has one.

    As an interesting side issue, they reckon you are not allowed to use biodiesel in US national parks – because the emission smells like hot chips, and attracts the bears!


  2. Ecomonkey Avatar

    Hi there,

    I agree that the media focus, financial investment & government incentives need to be taken away from individual car use (and it’s subsequent problems) and moved on to investing in a public transport system that actually works.

    As a relatively new kiwi, I was shocked to see how little investments there is public transport in NZ and how much personal car use is promoted in this "clean, green" country.

    Until this is improved, I don’t think car drivers are going to change their habits much, but at least having an alternative fuel available would make some small difference.

  3. rick Avatar

    Hi Zef,

    I agree with your sentiments. I did some research 1.5 years ago and created this webpage that you may wish to have a look at on this subject :


    It is over due for an update, which I may be able to do over the summer break.

    Cheers, Rick.