Sat, Apr 22, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Legislators push biofuels

FUEL FOR THOUGHT Environmentally friendly biofuels made from manure, for example, are the way forward, a group of legislators said at a public hearing

By Jean Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Legislators yesterday urged the use of environmentally friendly biofuels and said the government should plan energy policies that encourage their development, production and usage.

A `Biofuel' is any fuel that derives from organisms or their metabolic byproducts, such as manure from cows. It is a renewable energy source, unlike other natural resources such as petroleum, coal and nuclear power.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Cheng Kuo-chung (鄭國忠), who led a public hearing at the Legislative Yuan with two other DPP legislators, said that with oil prices rising fast, Taiwan should consider using its agricultural resources to develop biofuels.

Cheng said biofuels like ethanol produced from sugar cane are being used as automotive fuel in Brazil and ethanol produced from corn is being used as a gasoline additive in the US.

The use and production of biodiesel, another biofuel, is increasing rapidly worldwide with fuel stations beginning to make biodiesel available to consumers, and a growing number of transport fleets using it as an additive in their fuel, Cheng said.

However, academics at the hearing raised questions about the feasibility of increasing the production of biodiesel and ethanol fuel in Taiwan.

Wang Yu-wen (王裕文), an agronomy professor, said that Taiwan has the technology to produce biofuel, but the production costs are too high.

Another problem is that Taiwan has insufficient land available to grow sufficient volumes of crops such as castor beans or corn which could be used to produce biofuels, Wang said. As result Taiwan was likely to continue to be reliant on diesel imports.

However, government subsidies should be used to promote the use of biofuels, because their development is still crucial, he said.

Legislators raised the question of whether the WTO would allow the government to subsidize crops needed for biofuels.

Kao Cheng-chi (高成際), deputy director of the development and planning division for Chinese Petroleum Corp (CPC), said that the WTO had no reason to be opposed to subsidizing such crops since biofuels are environmentally friendly.

Biodiesel for example, is biodegradable and non-toxic, producing significantly less pollution than petroleum-based diesel when burned.

Cheng said the government currently plans to have 1 percent of biodiesel additive in regular diesel by 2008 and 2 percent by 2010.

Chen Yi-ling (陳怡玲), chief secretary of the Bureau of Energy under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, said that the issue of biofuels is something that requires cross-agency cooperation.

The bureau plans to begin offering biodiesel in several gas stations nationwide next year.

There are also plans to introduce biodiesel buses and garbage trucks to encourage the use of biofuels, Chen said.

However, the use of ethanol fuel is still being discussed due to safety concerns, she added.

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