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`The smart money is on second generation biofuels`, says Sir David King

Second generation biofuels “will make a significant contribution” to the global battle to find a sustainable solution for transport fuels, believes Professor Sir David King.

In his latest quarterly bulletin published by UBS Investment Bank he says in the report Biofuels: the route to a low carbon future?, Professor King that second generation biofuels, which are those made from waste crop residues like stalks, leaves and husks could be a much more fuel efficient option than first-generation food-based fuels. This is due to the effect food-based fuels have on the price of food, as a “World Bank report attributed fully 75 per cent of last year’s spike in food prices to the surge in demand for biofuels.”

King also outlined that although biofuels should be carbon neutral, the process it takes to produce them is not.

He said: “Sowing, tending, harvesting and then converting the plants into fuel requires energy and fertilizer, both of which produce significant greenhouse gas emissions.

“Some biofuels, such as Brazil’s sugar cane alcohol, still come out fairly well compared to fossil fuels. But others, notably the corn-based fuel favoured in the US, can be almost as bad as the petrol they seek to replace.”

However, he commented although it is not easy to convert crops into second generation biofuels through the current methods “both show great promise”.

His findings come after working with research teams from Oxford and Cambridge universities, which are developing a system for producing petrol or kerosene from bi-products of food crops and general waste.

King added: “As for the timescale on which we can expect second generation biofuels, much depends on investment levels. I would expect second generation biofuels to be available in the next 5-10 years. I would also expect investments in second generation biofuels to rise as further climate commitments begin to bite.”

Professor Sir David King is the former UK Government Chief Scientific Advisor.

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