swissworld.org - Switzerland's official information portal

swissworld.org - Switzerland's official information portal

Your Gateway to Switzerland

Biofuels

Biofuels are produced from organic materials. They emit no more CO2 than that fixed by the plants when they were growing.

There are different types of biofuels:

Biogas

Biogas is used for gas-powered vehicles. It is produced by fermenting vegetable and timber waste. It consists of about two thirds methane and one third carbon dioxide. Sewage is another source of biogas, and is being pioneered for the public transport in Bern. Most of the current (2006) biogas stations are in the Zurich area. If the million or so tonnes of organic waste produced in Switzerland were transformed in this way, it would enable 100,000 vehicles to run 10,000 km (6,200 miles) per year. Biogas is used not only as a vehicle fuel, but also to produce heat and electricity.

Bioethanol

Bioethanol is an additive for petrol (gasoline) or diesel. It is made from vegetable matter. It already used most famously in Brazil, where some vehicles can use pure bioethanol. In Switzerland the first fuel to use it is called essEnce5, of which only five percent is bioethanol. In September 2006 there were about 100 service stations selling bEnzin5 (in French: essEnce5). It costs the motorist the same as traditional petrol, since it is not taxed. Cars need no adaptation to run on this. A first station selling E85, with 85 percent bioethanol, opened in July 2006. To use this fuel, both vehicles and pumps need slight modifications. A pilot ethanol production plant opened in Canton Solothurn in 2004, using timber waste as the main raw material. Other plants using agricultural waste products are planned. Switzerland expects eventually to produce about 50 percent of its bioethanol needs. The first flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) able to use either petrol or bioethanol were launched on the Swiss market in 2006.

Biodiesel

Biodiesel can be produced from vegetable oils, usually rape, through a chemical process. Even oil that has been used for frying can be transformed into diesel. It produces fewer fine particles than ordinary diesel, and almost no sulphur. It can be used alone or mixed with other diesels.

Supporters of biofuels say that the addition of five percent bioethanol to traditional fuels would reduce Switzerland's CO2 emissions by more than 830,000 tonnes, nearly 20 percent of the total reduction required from Switzerland under the Kyoto protocol. It would also create jobs, particularly in the hard-pressed agricultural and forestry sectors, and reduce Switzerland's dependence on foreign fuel suppliers.

However, the actual production of bioethanol currently requires a lot of energy.

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