30 Apr 2007
The Future of Biodiesel, or not.
I travelled back from Lewes on the train last week, and was really struck by the amount of yellow fields I could see from the window as I passed. There is a lot of money going into the creation of a UK biodiesel sector, with very favourable subsidies, and the English countryside is becoming increasingly yellow. The farming press is abuzz with regular talk of the glittering potential future in biodiesel, and refineries are being built. It is a great green illusion (or delusion), although there are many others who can argue the case against biofuels far better than I can. David Strahan sums up the case against biofuels in his new book The Last Oil Shock (review pending) when he writes that they offer the prospect of “starving to death in a traffic jam”.
Possibly the only benefit of large scale plantings of rapeseed is the wonderful canvas is makes for crop circles, those geometric wonders of the English summer, which have just begun appearing again after their winter dormancy (see left). The green of the flattened rape against the bright yellow of the flowers is a striking medium for these artistic creations.
I take a very strong position against biofuels, believing them to be profoundly unethical. Either we eat or we drive, or, to begin with at least, we do both, while millions do neither. I believe that the argument comes from the wrong direction, we should begin by working out how much land we will need to feed ourselves, and then if we have any left over, then it could be used for biofuels. I think we will see the booming of a biodiesel industry, and then its equally rapid disappearance as the pressures for increased food security mean that food begins to increasingly take precedence.
At our recent Transition Tales storytelling day in Totnes we spent the day writing newspaper articles from different points along a notional timeline we devised from now until 2030. Writing stories and what Tom Atlee calls “imagineering” are a very useful way to explore the ways the future might play out. Here is one that emerged which gives quite a nice overview of the way biodiesel might be viewed in 2021…
**Totnes Times March 21st 2021**
**The Last Drop.**
**“I felt like a chip,