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Finnish government task force questions viability of relying on biofuels

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Staff Writer | September 15, 2018
A Finnish governmental task force has brought up the negative side of choosing biofuels as a way to reach zero greenhouse emissions in Finnish road transport, the task force said in its interim report released on Friday.
Finland biofuel
Europe   The working group was appointed in April
The working group was appointed in April. It noted that emissions perhaps would not shrink after all as most of the fuels would be made of wood. The development of emissions depends on how much carbon the vast Finnish forests actually tie down, and that is still being debated.

Biofuels have been high on the future agenda in Finland in recent years. Last year the European Union allowed to increase the limit of the use of wood in Finland, and the news was hailed in the Nordic country as a major victory, both for the biofuel and pulp industries. But no major investments in the biofuel sector have started due to the high costs and the need to secure public financial support to the investments.

Commenting in the business daily Kauppalehti on Friday, observer Outi Jarvinen quoted a key sentence in the report: "The forest carbon sinks may decline in size more than the decline in the transport related emissions."

Jarvinen concluded that the observation may actually "pull the rug out from underneath the biofuel scenario". As a further negative option associated with the biofuels, the task force noted that reliance on biofuels may damage the international competitive edge of Finland as "other countries could find cheaper ways of reducing carbon emissions".

Competition in purchasing raw wood could also be a problem. With the vast use of biofuels, a competition would exist between the pulp and biofuel industries.

The working group did not yet take a stand against biofuels as the Finnish choice, but simply presented two alternatives. One was the wide based use of electric cars, and the other was a "service approach" where public transit and shared transportation would be promoted aggressively to reduce the use of private cars.

In the alternative labelled as "Techno-Finland", nearly all cars would be electricity driven by 2045. Seven percent would use hydrogen. Heavy duty transport would rely on biodiesel or gas.

The group noted the vista is totally feasible, but public tax revenue would be hardly hit. Currently in Finland a special auto tax and taxation of the use of fossil fuels are major sources of revenue.

The group suggested that major investments in public transit would shrink the use of automobiles down to a half.