Biomass: for vehicle fuels or power generation?

A European directive was recently adopted encouraging member states to make greater use of biofuels in the transport sector, while leaving due scope for increased use in other sectors too. Before the directive is implemented in the Netherlands it is pertinent to ask where biomass can in fact be most effectively used: in the transport or energy sector? Against this background the Netherlands Petroleum Industry Association (VNPI) asked CE to com-pare these two options for the period up to 2010, the horizon of the directive.

The study indicates that within this horizon co-firing biomass in coal-fired power stations is roughly 3 to 8 times more cost-effective than conversion to vehicle fuels. A second conclusion is that co-firing in power stations is a relatively efficient way of using farmland, yielding 3 to 10 times greater environmental benefits per hectare than biodiesel. Massive introduction of biofuels today is, moreover, unlikely to hasten market introduction of more cost-effective and environmentally benign biofuels in the longer term.

From the angle of cost-effective climate policy, in both the short and the long term, this study consequently concludes that the EU directive can best be implemented by stepping up biomass use for electrical power generation.


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