Minister calls for increase in biofuel production

Published on Sunday June 1st 2008. By John Reynolds 

ENERGY minister Eamon Ryan has called for a boost in Irish biofuel production as a Sunday Independent investigation reveals that several firms, including One51, are receiving millions in subsidies to import foreign biofuels.

The finding comes as international controversy continues over whether food prices are soaring because land is being diverted from food crops to produce biofuels.

In 2006 the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) set aside €213m to be shared between 16 firms, including One51 and Agri Energy, owned by Larry Goodman.

Subsidies totalling €45.68m per year between 2008 and 2010 have been made available to eight companies, some of which are importing bio-ethanol and EN590 biofuel.

A DCENR spokeswoman confirmed that a number of firms are allowed to import biofuel under the scheme.

It is also understood that One51 plans to invest €100m in a biofuel plant here. Agri Energy is also building one, but declined to comment further. Mr Ryan said: “We need a biofuels supply that gives us a degree of security in the event of a real oil shock.

“I’d like to see as much as possible produced here. It could be lucrative for Irish farming and could perhaps be grown in rotation with another crop.”

Meanwhile, Dr Jerry Murphy, an expert on biofuels at University College Cork (UCC), warned that imports are likely to increase and that we must “do the maths” to ensure biofuel produced here makes environmental sense.

“If you’re making it from wheat, then in some cases there is no energy saving. And you would need 250 acres of land to make enough rapeseed oil here to fuel one Dublin Bus for a year. We should be running buses on biogas made from food waste and grass. This is cheap, greener and it is already powering buses in cities such as Stockholm and Florence,” he added.


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