26 Dec 2007

Earthrace: Sink the biofuel nightmare!

The only hemp in the boat is in the floor of the wheelhouse (for no other reason than this is where there is the least stress and was the ideal place to put this novelty and totally pointless adition). The ice-cream containers were donated by a school near the boat yard where Earthrace was built and were used as containers to keep small amounts of epoxy resin in as the boat was being fabricated. They are not part of the boat.

Had this from Martin...thanks Martin!

Biofuel from used chip fat is one thing but biofuel is about the dominance of palm oil, a crop which kills the rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia, is the number one threat to Orang Utans and shifts forest dwelling people off of their land.

There is blood in the tanks...very proud the Green Party of England and Wales opposes biofuel...corporate non solution of choice to climate change.



On December 27th 2007 at 2.30pm, swimmers and a land-based team will approach the boat where it is docked at the QEII Pier, North Greenwich (by the 02 Arena) and peacefully attempt to highlight that this boat, running on 100% biofuel is not (as its owner claims) good for the environment.

The race website proclaims that the boat is "racing round the world for a better planet" and that "with its net zero-carbon footprint" it will "increase awareness of the environment and the sustainable use of resources."

Two of the sponsors of the record attempt, Caro Diesel and Fortrek, are strong promoters of palmoil-sourced biofuel, with both companies having operations and links in Malaysia and Indonesia - the world's leading producers of palm oil, a well known environmentally-destructive crop. The Indonesian Government in particular has been pushing palm oil plantations for years, with little or no control or concern over environmental degredation. In 1997/98, so much forest was cut down there to make new plantations that the resulting burn-offs affected the whole SE Asia region. The released CO2 estimates of this environmental disaster have been calculated as 40% of the worlds total CO2 output for the period from burning fossil fuels. Likewise, Indigenous peoples have been forcibly removed from their land throughout SE Asia to make room for this latest oil industry craze.

The Earthrace boat itself runs on biofuel obtained from sources such as rapeseed and soy crops. As a result of these crops becoming common as a fuel source, fertilizer, pesticide and herbicide use has dramatically risen in the agricultural sector worldwide due to the fact that crops previously marked as being for food will not be eaten and are therefore not subject to such strict controls. In Mexico, the price of maize, another staple food crop now used for fuel, has doubled this year, causing food riots. The US buyers of the maize continue to burn the fuel obtained from this food in their heavy and fuel inefficient cars.

Biofuel is now lauded by both the British and American Governments as an environmental saviour. The facts show that it is anything but. A gallon of biofuel is more damaging to the environment than a gallon of fuel obtained from more conventional sources. This smokescreen is an attempt by the US and UK Governments to ensure that car use and associated revenue continue to grow, with consumers conned into thinking they are doing the right thing by using "Green" biofuel. As long as these myths continue, the world will not put enough resources into truly viable alternative energy and fuels.

Martin Wyness
marty1111 (at) btinternet.com


The boat has usually received worldwide praise for it's green credentials and much confusion now exists, resulting in articles appearing stating that the boat is environmentally friendly because it is made from recycled ice-cream containers and the hull is made from a naturally grown Hemp composite. The facts are the boat is made from oil based epoxy resin, carbon fibre and kevlar sheeting over a 40mm thick closed cell foam core. The only hemp in the boat is in the floor of the wheelhouse (for no other reason than this is where there is the least stress and was the ideal place to put this novelty and totally pointless adition). The ice-cream containers were donated by a school near the boat yard where Earthrace was built and were used as containers to keep small amounts of epoxy resin in as the boat was being fabricated. They are not part of the boat.










I Dr Wall am not literally but only metaphorically calling upon readers of this blog to sink the biofuel earthrace boat...sometimes I worry that readers take my musing too literally, honey can can you put David on hold while I finish the blog, tell him its important.


yachtwork said...

Derek- “Sink the biodiesel boat?” This coming from someone who claims to speak for the green party? It sounds like a call to violence. How do you expect your followers to react to such a headline? Luckily it seems you have very few followers and so maybe Earthrace does not have much to worry about.

I spent much time on Earthrace and NEVER once did I ever hear anyone claim the boat was made from used ice cream containers, or hemp. I have heard on rare occasion people say “hemp was used in the construction” and it was. You should also know very well once a spokesman makes a statement the press distorts it in any number of ways.

I truly hope nobody takes your suggestion seriously.

I wonder where your motives come from. Your writings seem to ignore the million plus claimed to have been killed in Iraq. I also seem to read into your stance if trees are being cut down in Malaysia then biodiesel is bad. This seems to be a very narrow vision of the world. I wonder if this is why the green party has now become a shill party that nobody takes seriously.

Is that your goal? To be the spokesman for the green party while making such stupid comments and policy to drive away the masses?

If you want to see what effect a true option can have on the masses I suggest you Google Ron Paul and see what the masses really want.

Steve_Barker said...

Biofuel: business as useual:


Derek Wall said...

If biofuel was not based on palm oil and the Earthrace was not sponsored by companies who promote palm oil, I would take a more generous view.

ecology is about doing what is right not what is wrong!

A said...

Statement by Adrian Erangey, Operations Manager Earthrace

Earthrace positioning statement: Biofuels and deforestation

Earthrace is committed to the promotion of renewable fuels such as Biodiesel and ethanol, and to encouraging healthy debate on the adoption of such fuels on an international scale. One of the great advantages of Biofuels is that countries and their regions can utilise the resources and crops most suited to their area to produce them. Some countries can potentially harvest a large percentage of their needs locally, while others can harvest less depending on their needs.

Overall however, the planet we simply does not have enough land to grow our total transport energy requirements. So Biodiesel and ethanol will only ever be a part of the transport energy mix - , and they should certainly not be considered as a silver bullet. We should ensure we use waste and by-products first (such as used cooking oils and tallow), and adopt dedicated energy crops with caution. The industry must also research new feed stocks such as algae that, in the long term, may take away the pressure on farmland.

Recently there has been much debate on the clear-felling of rainforest in Malaysia and Brazil, with following some of this land being converted to energy crops such as palm oil. Indigenous people have a valid point when they argue that they have every right to develop their own lands for crops just as the Western world has most of their land dedicated to farming.

Unfortunately however we need these places to remain in rainforest because they are such significant carbon sinks. It is the developed countries in North America and Europe that emit most of the CO2, and it these same countries that have already cut down the bulk of their forests. Maybe it is unfair to expect developing economies to simply stop the development of additional farmland when we’ve already used up most of our own land. Thinking globally however, the world needs countries such as Malaysia and Brazil to maintain their rainforests because they are of such significance as carbon sinks.

The answer potentially lies potentially in western countries recognising CO2 as a pollutant, and paying severe a penalties for its emission, perhaps in the form of carbon credits, and then ensuring that such payments from this may go to rainforest countries to ensure the carbon sinks remain. Certainly the continued clear-felling of rainforest is detrimental to the planet’s effectiveness in absorbing our CO2 emissions, so it is highly desirable we keep as much of the forests as we can. Without such payments of compensation however, it seems likely that clear-felling will continue.

It cannot be argued against that some Biodiesel production then is far from sustainable, but that it does not diminish the very real environmental and economic advantages that most Biodiesel production offers. They Biofuels remain a key element in our journey towards sustainable transport energy, and when combined with new feedstock options and technology developments, they can – and should - become an integral part of the world’s energy mix.

Earthrace positioning statement: Food versus energy crops

In the nineteenth century, around 20% of our arable land was set aside for what could loosely be considered energy, taken up by horses and bullocks. The development of fossil fuels took away this need, and today we have as little as 2% of our lands used for energy, mostly in the form of crops such as rapeseed, canola, sugar and corn.

Now however, recent demands for Biofuels have seen an increase in cropland dedicated to energy, taking us back to what we did over a century ago.

Farmers now consider planting energy crops as part of their crop rotation policy. This has seen food prices increase in many areas, and is certainly seeing increased returns to a lot of farmers.

There have been suggestions that increased food prices result in people starving, but no concrete evidence on this has been seen to date. A similar argument could be used to halt coffee production, as it equally competes with food crops for land share. We should also remember that farmers in poorer rural areas, as well as larger crop producers, are benefiting from slightly higher earnings on crops.


Earthrace fully supports the protection of the equatorial forests and the non-systematic use of cultures in industrial countries for the preparation of Biodiesel. As you obviously already know, there is a plant called Jatropha. This plant, in the form of small shrubs, is robust and can be cultivated in arid soil and in very dry climates. Certain countries in Africa, like Mali, already produce this plant, but for other purposes: to stop soil erosion and shifting sand dunes and to stabilise small barriers. Jatropha oilcake also makes excellent organic manure. Traditionally, women in rural areas used Jatropha as medicine and to make soap. The traditional soap-making process takes a lot of work and produces small amounts of soap of relatively mediocre quality. However, if one uses Jatropha oil, either alone or combined with other local plant oils like shea butter, large quantities of better quality soap can be produced. Women may sell this soap on local markets and in nearby towns and thus increase their income using local resources.

Cattle do not like Jatropha leaves or stalks, so they do not graze in Jatropha hedges. This is why Jatropha hedges can be used as a living barrier to protect food-producing crops from cattle. Its oil is also very useful.

Jatropha could be a suitable answer to deforestation. In many African countries, deforestation is a serious problem. We are cutting down our forests for fire wood and charcoal. If we could use Jatropha and other plants to make combustible matter, we would stop depleting our forests. However, it is difficult to predict what would happen if large amounts of African soil were planted with Biodiesel products, such as Jatropha. As a result of the current high price oil, there is some concern that farmers could plant Biodiesel cultivation on land which they used to grow food-producing crops.

Jatropha can increase family's income, reduce certain household energy costs, contribute to the prevention of soil erosion and increase fertility. It has all these advantages and it is easy to grow, even in dry regions where it is difficult to grow food-producing crops. However, I would like to give an important warning to any village wishing to increase its production in Jatrophas and perhaps transform the local area or erect Jatropha barriers on a larger scale. Indeed, it is very important to ensure that women keep their traditional roles of harvesting and transformation of grain. If this is not done, the financial situation of the village will not benefit. There again, African farmers must be educated not to dedicate all their cultures to Biodiesel but only that part which corresponds to their excess production.

This is one of the goals of Earthrace. Pete Bethune, the owner and skipper of the boat is not only a sailing enthusiast and is not insisting that everyone should use Biodiesel in all circumstances and in any way; he is also very keen to find answers and solutions so that the development of Biodiesel should benefit the planet and so that third world countries should develop an "intelligent" agricultural system.

Derek Wall said...

'Two of the sponsors of the record attempt, Caro Diesel and Fortrek, are strong promoters of palmoil-sourced biofuel, with both companies having operations and links in Malaysia and Indonesia - the world's leading producers of palm oil, a well known environmentally-destructive crop. '

any chance of dumping these sponsors?

The only record that will be broken by palm oil is the record for rainforest destruction, while Earthrace is not powered by palm oil..its existence sadly at present promotes companies that promote palm oil...this clearly needs challenging

Martin Wyness said...

Earthrace skippers quote from above:

"Indigenous people have a valid point when they argue that they have every right to develop their own lands for crops just as the Western world has most of their land dedicated to farming".

I see where he is coming from with this, but in the real world it is not the indigenous people who benefit from biofuel crops because the plantations are usually owned by big business concerns.

Two of the race sponsors Fortrek and Caro-Diesel are a good example of this with their palmoil plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia. It is getting more and more common for native peoples to be forcibly moved from their land to make way for fuel crops. Please use this link to see what the UN thinks of the way the biofuel industry is displacing indigenous people:


They say that in just one Indonesian province alone, up to 5 million indigenous people may be displaced by the biofuel crops. These people will have no choice in this and they will be poorly compensated if at all. And for what exactly? So the developed world can continue to drive everywhere as usual whilst thinking they are doing the right thing by using biofuels. It seems that most of the biofuel industry is cynical and awash with government backed green spin.

Another quote from Earthrace above is:

"There have been suggestions that increased food prices result in people starving, but no concrete evidence on this has been seen to date. A similar argument could be used to halt coffee production, as it equally competes with food crops for land share".

The point missed here is that the developed world will not be using millions of tons of coffee in their fuel tanks. If it did then that industry should also be resisted.

You have to sympathise with Pete Bethune the owner and skipper of Earthrace. His dream is to get the record for racing a power boat around the world. It takes great courage and skill to do this, especially in a boat at the leading edge of design like Earthrace.

Pete feels he is a genuine advocate of environmental awareness and i share many of his concerns away from this biofuel issue. It is not ideal (from a CO2 point of view), but maybe he can get conventional diesel sponsors and leave the biofuel element out of his challenge. Leaving it there risks too much confusion at a time when absolute clarity is vital if the world is to find its way with alternative energy sources.

Big business sees too much profit in biofuels to be able to make the right decisions for indigenous peoples and the environment. You only have to look at the way George Bush has enthusiastically embraced the technology to hear alarm bells ringing.

The man will have been advised that this direction is the most profitable for his business mates whilst hopefully being able to con enough environmentally concerned swing voters to tick the Republican box.

Come on Pete, do the right thing and enjoy London until you can organise sponsors who are exactly what it says on their labels. Big oil companies are loathesome in their business practices but at least you know where you stand with them. I am sure Exxon and Shell would be chuffed to have their names plastered on your amazing boat.

Martin Wyness.

Pete said...

Dear Dr Wall

Firstly, I would like to say how disappointed I am that you have not contacted me or anyone else connected with Earthrace following our invitation to you personally via your PR representative on Friday 28th Dec. I would have been delighted to have spoken with you at length about the Earthrace project, and explained in detail the rationale behind it, and my personal belief in the future of biofuels.

Knowing that you have not taken up the opportunity to discuss the project with me personally, and therefore being aware that you are not fully cognisant of all the facts, I am amazed that you would launch an attack on us, let alone endorse a protest such as that advertised on your blog.

However, readers should also be aware that, since the call to protest, I have had a long and amicable one to one conversation with the originator, Martin Wyness. I believe and hope that this open discussion with him will result in no further calls to protest against a project that, after all, has at it's heart, similar global aims to that of your and Martin's agendas.

As we have not had the opportunity to speak in person, perhaps some of the following information may allow you to take a more balanced view of Earthrace in future.

We have endorsements from many green organisations, political and otherwise, from around the globe.

We are against clear felling of rainforest for global supply of energy needs. We do however support communities developing their own fuel sources locally, using byproducts, and crops most suited to their situation, and then using them locally.

We are also strong advocates of CO2being recognised as a polutant, and payments from large CO2 emitters being paid to Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia etc., to encourage them to keep their rainforests in tact. It is the west who emit most of the CO2 and it is up to us to pay the price for this, perhaps in a modified form of carbon credits.

You criticise our promotion of hemp because we didn't use enough of it. Earthrace is the first powerboat in the world to use hemp composite, and while it was only used on the floor soles and in the horns, at least we researched it, in conjunction with the University of Waikato, and then promoted the idea. Hemp has great potential for composite requiring moderate loads and high numbers of impacts (like a floor sole funnily enough).

We did use recycled ice cream containers during construction - supplied by local schoolchildren and used for mixing epoxy resins - a great use of recycled materials we felt - as did the kids. We have never said the hull itself was made from ice cream containers (although perhaps Blue Peter might like to take the idea and develop it into a model of Earthrace a la Tracy Island once we beat the record?).

All through construction we used recycled products, or ensured materials used in the process were recycled afterwards.

A few other things you probably won't be aware of.

We run recycling on the boat. Sounds easy doesn't it? But a survey we conducated two months ago of 20 superyachts in Mallorca showed that not a single one had a recycling bin. At least we do these things and promote the fact, hopefully encouraging others to adopt similar practices.

We are about to start trials on biodegradable lubricants made from vegetable oils. How many boat owners do you know of that do this?

The crew eat locally produced food and organic foods where available.

In conclusion, the message from Earthrace is that there are many many ways people can reduce their environmental impact. It is not just about biodiesel. it is about recycling, using renewable materials, biodegradeable products, supporting local farmers, payng carbon credits and a million other things. And we can still lead amazing lives while doing this.

It seems to me that you alienate and castigate so many people with your messages, instead of encouraging individuals to do as much as they can towards our common goals. It may go some way to answering the question of why your party appears to have such a dismal showing in the UK parliament. In New Zealand, for example, the Green Party pulls in 5% of the vote, and currently has eight full members of parliament.

I would still welcome the chance to speak with you - your PR department have the contact details.

Pete Bethune
Skipper - Earthrace

Kentbiofuel said...


Great Blog! Jatropha is a good second generation feedstock, however there is not enough first generation fuel being used.

This short video explains how anyone anywhere can refine their own biofuel


I have really been inspired to do more by your site!

Warm Regards,