Biofuel and its local spin-offs on the agenda again
The debate about biofuel has largely been silent since the advent of the recession but as the economy slowly recovers the talk has begun again.
Last week the Democratic Alliance welcomed what it called a “significant policy shift” by the minister of agriculture on the use of maize as a source for biofuel.
The party has been arguing for the use of maize, largely a subsistence food, to be channelled into biofuel production.
“This is in light of Grain SA, the body representing most of South Africa’s maize, wheat and soya producers, recently warning that a substantial number of small farmers could face bankruptcy due to the 20 09-20 10 harvest season surplus, which has driven maize prices down,” said David Ross, the party’s shadow deputy minister of energy.
According to him, contrary to fears that food would be channelled into the making of fuel, using maize to make bioethanol would create a market for surplus crops and could create 105 000 direct jobs.
South Africa’s policy has made allowances for a 2% blend ratio in liquid fuels from biofuels. But this is just a fraction of what could be produced, according to Emile van Zyl of Stellenbosch University.
In a presentation given to a stakeholders’ forum at the Southern African Bioenergy Association last year, he noted that significant strides had been made in the field, with the emergence of new technology to convert woody plant biomass (called lignocellulosics) to biofuels.