backback backenergy ecoglobe basics Bio-fuels - letter to Mr Ruud Lubbers, Rotterdam
Fludd's perpetual machine... Bio-fuels, compete with food production or withbiomass for heating, always.
The proposed certification of bio-fuels by the Energy department of the Swiss EPFL State University is a misguided use of public money in support of an industry that is on principle unsustainable.

Bio-fuels are Business As Usual, a trial to maintain our lifestyles although we have hugely overshot the planet's carrying capacity and we are destroying nature and depleting its resources at inceasing speeds because of economic expansion (growth) and population growth.
Letter sent to the former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers:
ecology discovery foundation - ecoglobe
Helmut E. Lubbers
BE MsocSc DipEcol
14 Boulevard Carl-Vogt
CH-1205 Genève / Genf
Tel./tél. +41-22-3212320

Genève/Genf, 21 March 2011

ecoglobe, 14 bd. Carl-Vogt, CH-1205 Genève
De heer
Rudolphus Franciscus Marie Lubbers
Lambertweg 4
NL-3062 RA Rotterdam

Bio-fuels and sustainability - your interview for the Rotterdam bio-fuels conference 22.3.2011
Geachte heer Lubbers,

Your interview, copy further down, sparks the following questions:
  1. What is "sustainable"? A society is sustainable if its lifestyle, i.e. its modes of production and consumption, can be carried on unchanged for a very long time, for many generations. We are clearly not in this situation. Our modern, fossil-fuel based society has arguably lead to a huge overshoot of the earth's carrying capacity, by too many people with too high a GDP per capita. We will have to contract and reduce, if humanity wants to survive. If we do not do this voluntarily in an orderly way, the impending post-peak-oil period will lead to that contraction, albeit with resource wars, famines and die-off. This is a scenario that is based on hard, scientific facts of development trends, resource depletion, and destruction of nature.
  2. What is the potential of bio-fuels? Bio-fuels are a trial to maintain the status quo of modern lifestyles - which are not sustainable. Bio-fuels are always, one way or another, supplanting food crops by fuel crops, be it directly or indirectly by displacement mechanisms. If we want to feed the world population, which does not stop growing, we cannot produce fuel instead of food. One should bear in mind that food and agricultural production will decline in the post-peak-oil era, because there is no quantitative and qualitative equivalent replacement for fossil fuels. Transportation and globalization will be rolled back for the same reason. We will be forced to re-localize, live on local resources again.
  3. Are bio-fuels a solution to peak-oil and climate change? No. Bio-fuels are factually displacing food production, harming biodiversity, and contributing to the illusion we could continue our present unsustainable lifestyles. The energetic return on energetic investment for bio-fuels production is frequently negative, in which case they increase greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change is happening in any case and cannot be stopped. Only its increase can be moderated by drastic reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, by means of a radical change in our lifestyles.
  4. Can technology and innovation generate sustainable bio-fuel solutions? No. Bio-fuels are by its very nature not sustainable, nor will hoped-for next-generation bio-fuels be sustainable. Technology increases the efficiency of resource use and increases the speed of resource depletion. Gains by efficiency increases are lost by the rebound effect and continued economic expansion and population growth. Technology cannot recreate depleted resources, destroyed forests or undo climate change. Nor can it revive extinct species. The biomass that is available in the form of planted forests in our northern countries will be needed for heating rather than for transportation bio-fuels. Innovation is the hope for new technology. Hope for future solutions cannot replace concrete action in the present.
  5. Can certification of bio-fuels help to make bio-fuels sustainable? No. Certification is a feel-good activity that tries to make the impossible possible. No label or certificate will be able to dissolve the food-or-fuel dilemma. Bio-fuels belong to the trio of hope, optimism and technology that prevent us to work with the means we have whilst hoping for future solutions and continuing growth.
Scientific and realistic assessments of the state of the world and the options for humankind do exclude growth. Scenarios for the survival of humankind include stopping growth, followed by contraction.

The reason is extremely simple: the earth is a globe, with limited space and decling resources. Dematerialized growth is impossible. Nothing can grow without resource inputs, whatever certain economists may claim. Higher resource efficiency leads to a reduction of GDP. Efficiency increase has technical limits and is in itself no reply to the limits to growth reality.

May I, because of the above arguments, take the liberty to suggest that you rethink your position with regard to bio-fuels in particular and growth in general?

Your reaction will be of interest and importance.

With thanks in advance and kind regards,

Bijlage: interview from
  Helmut E Lubbers

Copy of page

60 Second Interview Speaker Interviews - Ruud Lubbers

Ruud Lubbers, Former Prime Minister of the Netherlands  

How do you view the role of bio-energy and bio-fuels as a solution to climate change and peak oil?

Bio-energy and bio-fuels are a crucial part of the solution to climate change and peak oil, along with other forms of renewable energy, energy conservation and carbon capture and storage. Biomass is (in the Netherlands) the most cost-effective source.

What are your thoughts on innovation and developments in this field?

Biomass must be sustainable, rising demands could increase unsustainable production. We need innovation to avoid adverse effects of the first generation feed stocks on the local ecosystems and the environment.

How will a shift to renewable energy platforms affect globalization and fossil fuel geopolitics?

We need practicing biomass in a multipolar world with "common but differentiated responsibilities". In that spirit Rotterdam has to partner worldwide with ports and countries of origin.

If you could change / improve governmental policy towards bio-fuels tomorrow, what changes / improvements would you make?

I think it is crucial that our national and European governments show its political will to realize the three dimensions of biomass: use in the energy sector, use as fuel for transport and biomass use in the chemical industry.

[Our qualification: "Sustainable Development", Business As Usual, without a real understanding of Sustainability and the State of the World.]

Links (new window):
  • Roundtable on "Sustainable Biofules" - RSB: certification of bio-fuels
  • Energy department of the Swiss EPFL university
  • Wachstumsforum: documents on bio-fuels
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