The Case for a More Regulated Biofuels Market

by Karl E. Watkin, Chairman of D1 Oils plc (D1), the UK-based global producer of biodiesel

Climate change is a global problem that can only be solved with globally implemented solutions. There is a Tsunami of dedication, commitment, and money being thrown at the problem. The commitment and enthusiasm is generally focussed and responsive, the money and regulation are sadly not; indeed the latter is probably the biggest remaining problem we need to address today. An ill-informed media distort the story making the implementation of sensible regulation ever more difficult, sometimes it seems there is someone trying to stop everyone doing anything.The total one-sided obsession of the media on the wrongful use of food grade land for biodiesel feed stocks and aircrafts’ contribution to carbon emissions are solid examples of poor reporting. This does not lead to proper and informed debate over the use of non-food feed stocks, but instead to the real contributors to global warming encouraging flawed policy making.

Billion dollar funds to develop technology-led businesses are in abundance but their agility is no match for the pace and energy of the developers. Developers are progressing their ideas in days and weeks; “venture” funds, which lost their “ad” many years ago, are dinosaurs that are not delivering the support which is required. Reasonable due diligence is still essential but time lines from concept presentation to delivery of funds need to be cut by 90 percent. Implementation risk is built into the investment community’s decision-making process, which considerably undermines the value and economic effectiveness of the emerging business.

Investment managers and funds themselves need more certainty — a certainty that can only be delivered in a regulated market. And that market, like climate change, is a global one. Governments need to recognize the imperative of acting in coordination with others and regulate for the long term. A period of at least 15 years is required; at worst a rolling 5-year regulated stable market is needed.

The emerging biodiesel industry, as one example, has seen and is experiencing the stupidity of governments acting in isolation and following short term interests. Germany removed a tax incentive this year for imported biodiesel which led to an immediate million-ton excess capacity in the European Bio Diesel industry. This would have been difficult for a mature industry to deal with, impossible for an emerging market.

Currently the US government is subsidizing the manufacture of biodiesel B99 at $1 a gallon, which producers are then exporting to the UK where, under a different subsidiary regime, the biodiesel receives a second subsidy. This madness strengthens the US industry but destroys the UK’s at a stroke.

At a micro level in the UK for example the biggest risk to the emerging climate change reduction businesses are local governments and antiquated planning policies. The need to consult with organizations such as RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) and Natural England, who, as a matter of course, object to every planning application. The effect is that, like Nero, they fiddle with minutiae whilst the environment burns up. Speedier planning clearance of clearly beneficial projects is required

A 15-year, stable, regulated, informed global market in every area of climate change reduction is required from governments. If governments deliver that, entrepreneurs and technology supported by proactive and reactive adventurous funding will deliver the necessary solutions.