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Biofuel to cut emissions starting in 2011

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan's carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced by as much as 210,000 tons annually starting in 2011, when the so-called E3 biofuel will be available throughout the island, the Cabinet-level Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) said yesterday.

The CEPD, which spearheaded a biofuel promotion campaign, said the development of renewable energy has become inevitable, amidst high oil prices and damage caused to the environment by fossil fuels. Biofuel is a good way to help reduce the amount of petroleum in gasoline, the council said.

The E3 biofuel is regular gasoline that contains 3 percent ethanol. Ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, is a bioalcohol, as it can be developed from organic materials such as corn, wheat, yams and other plants, which are turned into alcohol through fermentation.

CEPD cited statistics as saying in 2006, production of bioalcohol reached 51.06 million kiloliters, with the United States being the largest production base, with 18.38 million kiloliters. The U.S. has initiated the "Twenty in Ten" project, aiming to cut the consumption of petroleum by 20 percent in 10 years, CEPD said.

Another major bioalcohol production base is Brazil, with 17 million kiloliters being produced in 2006, translating into a market share of 33 percent, the CEPD said.

As for Taiwan, the CEPD has begun implementing its biofuel promotion campaign, which is divided into three phases. During phase one, all government-use vehicles in Taipei City will switch to E3 fuel by December 2008. During phase two, all gas stations in Taipei and Kaohsiung Cities will by the end of 2009 provide E3 fuel, made with crops produced locally in Taiwan. During phase three, E3 fuel will be provided throughout the island.

"With the use of E3, Taiwan will see its carbon dioxide emissions reduced by 210,000 tons annually, the same amount achieved by the building of 550 Taan Forest Parks," CEPD said, referring to the one of Taipei City's largest green spaces.

One expert, however, expressed his skepticism over the government's policy.

Hsiao Tai-chi, researcher with Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research, said currently certain renewable energies such as solar energy and biofuel require more energy to make than it provides.

"What the government should do now, instead of promoting mass production of renewable energy, is to analyze the cost-effectiveness of using renewable energy," Hsiao said. "Plus, it should conduct more research on the effects of renewable energy on the food chain, the environment, the conservation of land and water, and biodiversity."

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