La llama de los biocombustibles languidece
A esto lo llamo yo caer en picado:
The European Union’s dream of using vegetable-based diesel fuel in cars to cut oil imports and the pollution that causes global warming is turning sour.
The bloc made a big bet on biodiesel fuels in 2003, agreeing that its governments would phase in tax breaks and rules to encourage their production and use.
The bet seemed to make sense. Most Europeans drive diesel cars, making ethanol — the U.S. clean fuel of choice for gasoline-powered cars — impractical. Biodiesel can be mixed with regular diesel fuel and, when blended, doesn’t need any special pumps or engine-design changes.
Mirroring the U.S. experience with ethanol, European companies rushed to make biodiesel out of a range of things, including rapeseed crops and used McDonald’s frying oil. Low raw-material costs and generous tax breaks meant margins were high. By last year, Europe’s annual capacity to make the fuel had climbed to 10 million metric tons from two million tons in 2003.
As with ethanol in the U.S., though, Europe now has a glut of biodiesel. The world consumed only nine million tons of biodiesel last year. Europe’s producers found buyers for just five million tons. The industry is in trouble, under pressure from soaring costs, disappearing tax breaks, less-costly imports and waning public support.
The trend is at odds with conventional wisdom that rising oil prices make green energy more attractive. It also means the EU risks missing the goal it set in 2003 of replacing 10% of transportation fuel with nonfossil fuels by 2020.
Since January, prices for the crops that make most biodiesel have doubled, driving the cost of a ton of biodiesel up 50%, to around $1,440 a ton, or about $4.80 a gallon. Prices for regular crude-oil-based diesel have risen sharply, too, but only to $840 a ton, or $2.80 a gallon. Biodiesel has become more expensive for oil companies to buy than fossil fuel, and they are cutting back.
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