1. Preconceptions: Curse or blessing?
Do Biogas plants lead to the displacement of cattle farms?
- In contrast to agricultural facilities, industrial plants have a large catchment area
Does Biogas foster maize monocultures and the spread of genetically modified maize?
Facts: Genetically modified maize
- No transgenic maize varieties have been developed for biogas
- Extensive crop rotation makes transgenic maize cultivation unnecessary
- Using genetically modified maize creates unnecessary costs (maintaining cultivation boundaries, separate storage)
- Farmers are contractually bound to rotate crops three to four times
- Active research into alternative energy crops undertaken to allow further crop rotation
- Maize grown for energy uses less than 13 percent of total maize acreage in Germany
Does intensive maize cultivation degrade the humus balance of the soil?
- The producer is obliged to attend to humus balance
- The effect of corn as a humus consumer is balanced by:
- Cultivation of catch crops
- Rotation of crops three to four times
- Adherence to cross compliance regulations
- Return of fermentation residues into the natural cycle
Are farmers disadvantaged and inflexible if they sign long-term contracts?
- Planning is secure
- Crop rotation is planned for the long-term
- Shortfall compensation is possible
- In case the producer fails to show profit, contracts can be renegotiated
Does the biogas/biofuel industry raise the price of raw materials and food around the world?
- Changes are occurring in dietary habits; the consumption of meat in China doubled between 1993 and 2005. ? One kg of meat requires seven kg of grain in production
- The population is exploding in developing countries by around 80 million people per year
- Harvests have been poor; EU exports declined about 30 percent from 2007 to 2008
- Demand for substrates was too small in total comparison to effect prices
- Acreage cultivated for biodiesel/bioethanol is substantially larger than for biogas
Does the planting of energy crops lead to a reduction in cultivated acreage and endanger the food supply?
- The acreage used for biomass can be increased to three to four million ha by 2030 (from today’s 400,000 ha)
- In 2007, slightly less than two million hectares were used for energy crops out of a total of slightly less than 12 million ha of acreage altogether; of this, only 400,000 ha were cultivated for biogas
- Enormous potential exists for increasing harvests, especially in eastern Europe (up to 70 percent in Russia and Ukraine)
- Biomass can be maximized through breeding to yield higher returns
2. Processes: How is biogas produced?
Does the biogas/biofuel industry push up global prices for raw materials and food?
Current price increases in agricultural products are mainly due to the following factors:
- Changes are occurring in dietary habits, for example in China, toward increased meat consumption, which causes a disproportional increase in demand for animal feed
- The population has exploded in developing countries, which has led to increased demand for food
- Harvests have been poor in recent years
- The acreage demands of the biogas industry are much too small in comparison to total production to have a marked effect on prices
- The acreage used to produce bioethanol and biodiesel is much larger than what is used for biogas, but even that acreage is too small to have an appreciable impact on the price of raw materials around the world
Does the cultivation of energy crops lead to a reduction of acreage devoted to food production and thus endanger the food supply?
- Energy crops make up a small percentage of the total agrarian surface
- Some 400,000 ha (2.5 percent of the agricultural area in Germany) are used for energy crops for biogas production
- Advancements in cultivation mean a reduction in the acreage needed to produce a certain quantity of biogas
- The acreage devoted to biomass in Germany can be increased to approximately three to four million ha without impacting food production before 2030
- In other countries, particularly in eastern Europe, there is enormous potential for increased harvests
Does the Renewable Energy Law (EEG), with associated feed-in tariffs, drive up electricity prices in Germany?
- A kilowatt hour of electricity cost the consumer about EUR 0.21 in 2007. Of this amount, renewable energies constituted about EUR 0.01. It is mainly higher oil prices and CO² trading schemes that have driven up electricity prices; the Renewable Energy Law plays a tiny role. An average four-person household pays roughly EUR 3.50 per month for the feed-in tariffs designated by the Renewable Energy Law (EEG).
- The EEG sees more to promoting those renewable energies that do not require extensive acreage, such as wind, solar thermal, photovoltaics, and geothermal energy, than biomass
- We need a healthy mix of renewable energies in Germany and across the globe. None of the renewable energies alone can solve our fuel problems
- Other renewable energies such as wind or solar energy are dependent on immediately available wind or sunlight and are therefore not suitable for meeting baseload requirements. When using these resources, power utilities must still maintain expensive reserve capacities (conventional power plants) to guarantee a constant supply of power
- In some cases, this calls for facilities that are expensive to build, with high land consumption and low effectiveness
Does biogas foster maize monocultures?
- Biogas does not foster maize monocultures, since the proportion of maize used in Germany for energy is very small (less than 13 percent)
- NAWARO® farmers are contractually bound to good agricultural practices and must rotate their crops three to four times
Do biogas plants lead to the displacement of cattle farms?
- In regions with many refineries, there are isolated cases of competition between land cultivation for biogas substrates and for animal feed. The NAWARO® bioenergy plants are not, however, located in regions with many refineries, such as the area around Münster
- The new Renewable Energy Law (EEG) plans to give incentives to cattle farms for the operation of biogas facilities (bonus for liquid manure)
Does biogas promote the spread of genetically modified maize?
- No genetically modified corn variety has been developed and cultivated especially for biogas
- Sufficiently broad crop rotation makes the cultivation of genetically modified maize unnecessary
- A field planted with genetically modified maize adds unnecessary expenses such as the requirement to keep a distance of 150 meters to other fields, the use of special equipment and the separate storage of other maize varieties
- NAWARO® BioEnergie AG does not use genetically modified maize
Is the humus balance negatively impacted by the intensive cultivation of maize?
- The contracts between NAWARO® BioEnergie AG and its suppliers stipulate that they are required to adhere to good agricultural practice, including protecting the humus
Are farmers disadvantaged and inflexible if they sign long-term contracts?
- A long-term agreement gives the farmer security and allows for the long-term planning of crop rotations
- In case the farmer is unable to deliver the agreed-upon amount, he/she can procure the shortfall elsewhere and bill it to NAWARO® BioEnergie AG
- If the farmer can prove that he/she is not making a profit during the span of the contract, then the contract can be renegotiated
How much potential is there for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the production of biomass?
- It is generally accepted that the replacement of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) with biogas shows a positive ecological balance. Compared to the emissions generated by extracting and transporting fossil fuels, emissions from the production of biogas are relatively low.
- To implement EU goals, the German government’s strategy for sustainability looks to the sustainable, energy-efficient production of biogas while taking into account the mitigation of climate change, the conservation of natural resources, the continuing development of renewable energy, biodiversity, and the security of the food supply.
- For this reason, the government stipulates that minimum greenhouse gas reduction values today must stand at 35 percent, by 2017 at 50 percent, and by 2018 at 60 percent. NAWARO’s BioEnergie Park Güstrow has already attained a greenhouse gas reduction factor of 58 percent.