At the BioCube Corporation, we firmly believe that the recycling and processing of used cooking oils (UCO) into biodiesel represents a key pillar in the fight against climate change. We also believe, however, that a large part of this fight needs to involve the empowerment of local communities in the developing world. The export of UCO from developing economies to developed nations is unfairly distorting market prices and undermining efforts to develop sustainable efficient local biodiesel processing capacity.
Export Impacting Sustainability
Despite best intentions, it is one of the great ironies that international Government policies intended to drive a speedy transition from fossil fuel to sustainable green biodiesel, are substantially increasing the fuels’ carbon footprint, whilst at the same time frustrating the development of circular green economies.
In the understandable rush to transition from diesel to biodiesel, a number of major biodiesel producing nations, in particular Germany, have decided to increase the share of renewable energies in their transport sectors. In the case of Germany, the new mandate is 28% by 2030. Unsurprisingly such mandates influence supply by causing large processing facilities to search further afield for their UCO. This in turn drives up the price of UCO. In February 2021, the price of UCO was reported as high as $1,015/t. As a result, nations with only limited biodiesel processing capacity are discouraged from building capacity since locally sourced UCO is either in short supply and/or too expensive to purchase and process.
Shifting The Focus
It is time for all nations, developed and developing, to look to their own internal resources and to build up their own sustainable biofuel industries. Locally sourced UCO should be collected, cleaned, and processed into biodiesel for consumption locally. Biodiesel production should be considered an enabling process, one which creates local employment, and which importantly democratises energy supply. It certainly should not be transported from multiple collection points only to be shipped half-way across the world, thereby increasing its carbon footprint, simply to meet other nations renewable energy targets, no matter how laudable these targets may be.
Governments permitting the unfettered export of UCO must be made to realise that enabling such a distorted market to thrive comes at a long-term cost since it discourages the creation of local biodiesel industries, denies them taxes/duties, and frustrates the creation of gainful new employment opportunities. Moreover, if COVID-19 has taught us anything, developing and protecting home grown biodiesel processing capacity to mitigate the risks associated with broken international supply, is something that all Governments should be mindful of.
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