Biodiesel in East Anglia Sept02

I am sure all of us would welcome the opportunity to cut carbon emissions in the atmosphere, so I am pleased to be able to report that one company in East Anglia is doing its bit to produce green energy in the form of recycled cooking oil.

As a nation, we use millions of litres of cooking oil for frying in our homes, hotels and restaurant kitchens, most of which is thrown away either down the kitchen sink or buried in landfill sites of local authorities. Such disposal is costly and a waste of valuable material that can be recycled for essential use.

Every week, 50 000 litres of used vegetable oil (corn, sunflower, sesame, rape seed), collected from restaurants, cafeterias and factories throughout England, are delivered to a small commercial unit at Shipdham in Norfolk. This waste oil is mixed with chemicals (trans-esterified) which together produce biodiesel and readily saleable by-products such as glycerine and soap concentrate.

The biodiesel can run any diesel engine without modification. Unlike fossil fuels, it produces no particulates on combustion, thereby helping enormously all those who suffer from asthma and other air-borne allergies. Furthermore, it produces no more CO2 than what the plants consumed in the first place in growing the seeds that yield the vegetable oil.

This biodiesel offers complete biodegradability in 28 days Ė you can wash your hands in it and even drink it. Its use in diesel powered vehicles will give you the same mileage and engine performance as diesel," said Mr. Dennis Thouless, the entrepreneur and owner of one of two companies in the UK involved in such a venture.

Mr. Thoulessís company, Global Commodities UK, produces 4.5 million litres of biodiesel that can run any diesel truck, car or tractor. His biodiesel puts back the lubricity lost in using ultra low-sulphur diesel from fossil sources. Mr.Thoulessís biodiesel is neither subsidised by the EU or the UK government and he has not received any grant from any source in establishing his plant. He can sell all that he produces!

The UK government excise duty on biodiesel is 25p a litre compared to zero in Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria and about 3p in France! Clearly, this is hardly a level playing field if the UK is serious about encouraging domestic and foreign investment in generation of green energy that can create so many jobs and offer substantial environmental benefit. Furthermore, such diversification in energy production in the UK reduces our dependence on fossil fuel imports from unstable countries in the Middle East.

The EU budget is £60bn per annum and half of this is used in subsidising agricultural production with most benefit accruing to continental farmers. It is time that the UK took full advantage of the CAP reforms allowing farmers to diversify their activity to enhance the environment. They should be encouraged to grow more oil seed rape, especially on set aside land, invest in machinery to extract oil and convert to biodiesel. It would attract substantial investment in East Anglia benefiting far more businesses than just the biofuel producers. Also, it would minimise the adverse public perception of farmers profiting from EU subsidy for set aside land.

Mr.Thouless has put East Anglia on the UK map for green energy. Such an investment, attracting possible EU funding, would be more viable if our Government lowers the UK excise duty. Such a reduction would earn the Treasury additional revenue both from biofuel producers and ancillary businesses connected with the new source of energy. I intend to help Mr.Thouless and any other East Anglian business to promote such investment in establishing recycling plants for biofuels.