Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 460 - 463)



  Q460  Colin Challen: Finally from me, I wonder whether or not any government department has approached the Association for the Study of Peak Oil to discuss your predictions and to explore them with you?

  Mr Skrebowski: Not that I am aware of.

  Q461  Chairman: The IEA are predicting an increase in demand for oil in China and India of almost 3% a year for 25 years. Given the impact that has on global demand, does that make anything that happens in the UK just irrelevant?

  Mr Skrebowski: Possibly.

  Q462  Chairman: On another tack, what do you think about Sweden's exploration of whether they can become as oil-free as possible by 2020?

  Mr Skrebowski: I think it is a very useful trial and very helpful for the rest of us. Ireland is also getting rather more interested in biofuels. When you have got a small population and a relatively large area, it becomes a realistic option. The UK is land-constrained. Now, in fact, the best place to grow biofuels is the Tropics. We should be praying it grows well in the Tropics and does not really grow outside them. Maybe that is a whole new business area that is going to grow up. Tesco, which is busily selling you a premium fuel with ethanol in it already, is able to do that because it secured a very good contract from the Brazilians for several cargos of fairly cheap ethanol before the price really went up.

  Q463  Mr Stuart: Do you have any assessments of the contribution that biofuels, hybrid engines and hydrogen could have on replacing oil in transport?

  Mr Skrebowski: I think Malcolm suggested five to 10%. That is five to 10% self-supplied, but if you say that it is no more insecure to bring in ethanol from the Tropics than to bring in oil from the Middle East, then you can go almost as high as you like. There are these E85 mixes, the Americans are already selling cars and the Brazilians have these flex-fuel cars which are quite bizarre in a way; you just put in whatever you want and the car works out what is in there and adjusts it to work. Apparently, this technology is really quite satisfactory and that gives a lot of flexibility, because in the States if you are in areas where there is a lot of alcohol available, you put that in and if you are in areas where only gas is available, you put that in. This is happening in Brazil. Then you can go up to 80% or 85%. You cannot go all the way, well, you can actually go all the way, but it tends to be more satisfactory not to go above 85% for some technical reason I am not desperately aware of; I think it is starting properties.

  Chairman: Thank you very much. We are grateful for you coming in here today.

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