What energy source will oil replace

Energy: "Biomass can completely replace oil"

On fallow land in Africa and South America, enough could be planted to satisfy the world's hunger for energy. Biomass could completely replace oil, says the World Bioenergy Association.

Vienna / Jaz. On Wednesday, the oil price took a breather and stayed at $ 115 - but the upward trend is unbroken. This brings possible alternatives back into focus. One of them is biomass, says Kent Nyström, President of the World Bioenergy Association, to journalists on Tuesday evening. Not only individual houses could be heated with wood, straw and energy crops. “Biomass can completely replace oil and satisfy all of the world's energy consumption,” says Nyström.


16,500 billion liters of gasoline

Humanity consumes around 500 exajoules of energy per year. That corresponds roughly to the calorific value of 16,500 billion liters of gasoline. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), energy consumption will rise to over 1,000 exajoules by the middle of this century. Nevertheless, from Nyström's point of view, it is not a problem to cover this demand with biomass. “We looked at all of the studies on global potential that were published in the past ten years. According to this, between 1100 and 1500 exajoules could be covered by biomass. "

This figure is surprising, as domestic studies, for example, have come to the conclusion that in Austria not even the politically desired increase in the bioenergy share from 25 to 45 percent can be achieved because too little space is available.

For Nyström this is not a contradiction in terms. “The biomass would not come from Europe, but from currently fallow land in Africa and South America.” The fact that transporting these raw materials to consumers would emit CO2 is not a major problem for him. "Fossil energy is also largely imported, why shouldn't that be possible with bioenergy?"

There would still be savings in carbon dioxide emissions, as the example of a power plant in Belgium shows. Instead of coal, wood pellets from Canada are now being used there. Although the wood was transported halfway around the world, CO2 emissions have fallen by 80 percent.

Nyström also does not accept the accusation that bioenergy is in direct competition with food production and that food prices are rising as a result. “In 2009 and 2010 food prices were again at a low level, although no less biofuel was used. This shows that there is no connection between biofuel and food prices. "

He receives support from Judi Wakhungu from the “African Center for Technology Studies”, which is also involved in the global biomass association. “Of course, food could also be grown on the fallow land. Why is that not done so far? Because there is no infrastructure and the farmers have no access to markets, ”says Wakhungu.


Energy exporter Africa?

However, the higher prices for energy crops could bring in enough money to change that. "In Africa people are not interested in bioenergy because of climate protection, but because it could be a lucrative export product," says Wakhungu. Worldwide, around 2200 billion dollars are spent on oil every year. The poor countries of Africa want to get something from this cake.

That leaves the higher costs for bioenergy. Without a further rise in oil prices, it is still a long way from being competitive. “According to the IEA, oil products are subsidized with more than 300 billion dollars per year. This amount could be used much better to replace fossil fuels with renewable ones, ”says Nyström.

At a glance

Biomass could satisfy the world's hunger for energy, says Kent Nyström, president of the World Bioenergy Association. For this purpose, only currently fallow land in Africa and South America would have to be used. For the countries concerned, this would be a chance to get a lucrative export good.

("Die Presse", print edition, 03.03.2011)