It’s not a gas!

Nearly three weeks ago I wrote a blog about Ecotricity‘s plans to produce gas from grass – I wasn’t very impressed by them.

A few day’s ago a comment appeared on that post from Almuth Ernsting:

I’ve just written a short report about Ecotricity’s ‘green gas from grass’ plans for Biofuelwatch (before coming across this article). Based on figures contained in a peer-reviewed study which Ecotricity themselves cite in a planning application, they’d need 10.2 million hectares of land used to grow enough grass to replace current domestic gas use in the UK. Mark Avery is absolutely right: The competition with food would be enormous!

Almuth’s report uses slightly different figures than I did but comes to the same point – there is no way that Ecotricity‘s claim ‘Britain should have enough suitable land to supply the overwhelming majority of household heating using Green Gas Mills fed by grass – all without reducing Britain’s agricultural production.‘ can be believed.

This is a shame for at least three reasons:

  • we should all want it to be true
  • several organisations and individuals gave Ecotricity a form of endorsement for this plan which it does not deserve
  • Ecotricity (who supply my electricity) has slumped in my estimation
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6 Replies to “It’s not a gas!”

  1. Alternatively, you could do it with trees. I think that would be better – but I did the sums here about 20 years ago and came up with the same conclusion – you can have energy or you can have food but not both off our rather small land area in proportion to population.

    However, it is interesting that whilst the farming religion screams food security if its suggested there should be more nature reserves, there tends to be a complete silence when first there was the prospect of big subsidies for super carbon-inefficient oil seed rape for energy, and more recently solar farms which are about as effective as a Tescos in extinguishing the natural (and food production). Remember that the next time you are sold the ‘we can’t lose an inch of farmland or we’ll starve’ argument.

  2. Food is energy, fuel is energy. Why not have a system which takes the suns energy, converts it into sugar, then use the sugar to fuel all biochemical processes including heat production to keep warm? Oops that already exists and greedy capitalists can really exploit it except by destroying it.

  3. Is there room here for the government to hand over the management of grouse moors to the environment agency to produce biofuel BUT ensure the preservation of all natural species via a crop rotation system? Surely that is a better use than breeding grouse for the elite?

  4. What about using some of the large amounts of (often subsidised) grass land devoted to “pet” or race horses to produce substantial amounts of biogas without any food impact at all? We can further produce more by reducing the number of acres devoted to dog food. Surely, ecotricity’s claims were exagerated, but any reduction in extracted natural gas, if at low cost, would be welcome. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing does it?

  5. Not sure its food production versus energy that is the only argument. Where I live near prime agricultural land I would estimate 40% is currently used to grow turf for gardens and golf courses – neither food nor energy.

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