New Zealand Labour Party wants biofuels mandate reinstated

By Erin Voegele | May 31, 2012

Representatives of New Zealand’s Labour Party are speaking out with the message that the country’s government should reinstate its biofuel obligation. Labour’s Energy and Climate Change spokeswoman Moana Mackey said in a statement that New Zealand’s 2012 budget confirms that the government has made no commitment to supporting and growing renewable energy technologies.

“The biofuels sector represents an enormous opportunity for the New Zealand economy, but its potential for development and growth has been ignored in Budget 2012,” she said, noting that biofuel production offers opportunity both in terms of job creation and energy security. “The government, however, continues to act like the proverbial ostrich over biofuels, to the extent that it has even used the manufactured failure of its own subsidy scheme as an excuse to withdraw support for the industry altogether.”

The Labour Party originally introduced the establishment of a biofuel mandate in 2007. The program would have mandated biofuel blending, up to 2.5 percent over a five-year period. However, according to information released by the Labour Party, the National Party took over the government in 2008 and repealed the volume obligation. “National replaced this obligation with a costly subsidy for biodiesel which was clearly unworkable,” Mackey said. “It is the predictable failure of this subsidy, introduced to replace the Labour Government’s biofuels obligation, which has acted as a scapegoat for cuts.” The subsidy to which Mackey refers was created with $36 million in the country’s 2009 budget, and was available in the form of grants over a three-year timeframe for biofuel production. That subsidy has not been funded in the 2012 budget.

“It is unbelievable that at a time when we should be investing in alternative technologies as a way of transitioning New Zealand to a low-carbon economy, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, the government has its foot on the brake,” Mackey said. “The Minister needs to demonstrate a clear commitment to the renewable energy sector. It would send an important message to those operating and investing in clean energy companies if the minister showed as much enthusiasm for sustainable options as he does for fossil fuel exploration and extraction. Reinstating the biofuels obligation would position investment in clean-tech and renewable energy as a government priority.”

At least one company in New Zealand has been actively working to develop an advanced biofuels industry. Aquaflow Bionomic Corp. announced the execution of a technology cooperation agreement with CRI Catalyst Co. in April, and noted it was seeking investment to scale up its algae biofuels technology. At that time, the company’s Director Nick Gerritsen said that Aquaflow was working with entities in New Zealand and other parts of the world in an effort to develop commercial-scale projects.

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