More UKIP bonkersness.
Roger Helmer has now decided he supports renewable energy, but only if it is bioethanol distilled from wheat.
This appears to be because he doesn’t want a bioethanol distillery built in Stocton (sic) on Tees to lie dormant.
Helmer displays his usual casual disregard for facts by claiming that bioethanol can be produced at the same cost as fossil-fuel derived petrol, because it has no subsidy. Wrong on both counts.
British Farmers grow winter wheat across 2 million hectares of farmland to feed to beef cattle. You may think cows eat grass – think again. They are fed wheat to make them grow quicker. Feeding wheat to cows is good for farmers profits but otherwise is not such a great idea. Intensive wheat production is also a high impact land management practice which affects the environment, landscape and society. To suggest it has no cost is beyond naive.
Anyway some of the energy in that wheat is converted into vehicle fuel: bioethanol is produced by distilling the alcohol from fermented wheat. That wheat is grown in Britain by British farmers, receiving £200 per hectare per annum (plus bonuses) just for the privilege of owning land. This is the madness of the Common Agricultural Policy. And the idea that this is a co-product which would have been thrown away had it not been made into ethanol is of course nonsense. As I said, the energy has been removed from the crop to make ethanol. That energy would have ended up in the cow or been returned to the soil.
So Helmer is of course wrong to suggest that the bioethanol has no subsidy. I’m surprised that his Climate Adviser Ben Pile hasn’t spotted this basic gaff. I have written about Pile before.
Secondly Helmer is wrong to suggest that the Fossil Fuel industry doesn’t get a subsidy. In fact the Fossil Fuel Industry is one of the most heavily subsidised industries on the planet. According to the International Energy Association, hardly a radical outfit, Fossil Fuel Subsidies globally were $544 billion in 2012. Renewable Energy subsidies were just $100 billion.
OK so those are both wrong, what about the plant – who paid for that? As always it’s not as easy as you might think to follow the money. Helmer quotes a £750M investment in the plant. But Ensus, who run the plant only mention £240M and say that the plant was funded by “both private investments and grants from the government.” Grants is another word for subsidies. If anyone can tell me how much Ensus (or indeed the other bioeth plants) received in government grants I would be grateful.
Finally scientists have looked at whether bioethanol plants in the UK are economic or not. They concluded that, at an oil price of $100 a barrel, they aren’t economic.
Based on this effort, I suggest UKIP sticks to its current position on renewables; that they are all bad. At least that keeps it simple (and also wrong.)