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SCMP Letters: HK biofuels company makes case for biofuels advantage

Anthony Dixon, CEO of ASB Biodiesel, writes in to SCMP to counter the lack of consideration given to biodiesel by Hong Kong official officials:

There are some encouraging signs that the government is beginning to recognise our local waste-to-biodiesel industry as an excellent already-working model of what it hopes to achieve more broadly for recycling and food waste in Hong Kong.

But I must disagree with the Environmental Protection Department’s ongoing assertion that the introduction of biodiesel will have little impact on roadside emissions (“Biodiesel maker pushes product use in market”, October 28). Surely, given the World Health Organisation’s recent pronouncement that air pollution is a leading cause of cancer, no government can afford to ignore any positive incremental impact.

The department’s position that Euro V fossil diesel is as good an alternative as biodiesel (EN14214 standard) is misleading. While some parameters of Euro V fossil diesel (such as sulphur content) are equal to those of EN14214 biodiesel, the fundamental difference between the two is that biodiesel contains oxygen. This means it burns more completely, producing fewer emissions.

The department’s position is also not supported by the science. Nearly 100 scientific studies conducted on a wide variety of engines in the past decade have confirmed that biodiesel reduces most roadside emissions. B20 (a 20 per cent blend of biodiesel) has been shown to reduce particulate emissions, unburned hydrocarbons, and carbon monoxide by 10 to 20 per cent compared to fossil diesel.

The reduction in particulate emissions occurs across the range of particle sizes, including the very dangerous PM2.5 particles that are known to cause heart and lung disease, cancer, and respiratory infections. Nitrous-oxide emissions have been shown to be essentially unchanged for blends of B20 or lower. B20 also lowers emissions of the cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydro-carbons by 15 to 20 per cent.

I do not think these reductions can be called insignificant or marginal and I would encourage the department to review the science again. While we fully support the scheme to retire old diesel vehicles, we note it will take until 2020 and cost HK$10 billion.

Meanwhile, biodiesel is another tool in the clean air toolbox that we could be putting to work right now without the need for subsidies and with only a 1 to 2 per cent increase in fuel prices.

Locally produced biodiesel also comes with the added benefits of significant greenhouse-gas reductions and the safe disposal of one of our waste streams.

6 Nov 2013

Read about the difficulties faced by Mr. Dixon’s company on our previous post.

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