South Africa’s Biofuel Policies: On a Road to Nowhere

By Glenn Ashton


The South African Department of Minerals and Energy (DoE) is holding its final public consultation meetings about the adoption of regulations relating to the mandatory blending of biofuels with petrol and diesel at the end of February. This follows the publication of the draft regulations in September 2011.

There is a concerted local drive to promote so-called “biofuels” by their supporters and agro-fuels by their opponents. The logic behind these different terms is worth considering.

Supporters of so-called “biofuels,” the most prominent in recent times being George W (Dubya) Bush, emphasise the purportedly “green” credentials of these fuels. They primarily include maize and sugarcane sourced ethanol, blended with conventional petrol, or vegetable oils blended with diesel, in varying proportions.

In reality these fuels are not as green as they are projected to be. They are better termed agro-fuels because they are all grown as industrial agricultural commodities that compete directly against, food, fibre and oil crops for human consumption. Their use threatens food security and drives up food prices.

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