Tallow based biodiesel is bad policy

Tallow and its uses

Tallow is a fat produced by the Australian meat industry. Like other edible fats, it is an essential ingredient that has been in use for well over 100 years. Australia produces approximately 500,000 tonnes of tallow annually, of which approximately 150,000 tonnes is used domestically in food, soap and derivatives. The balance is exported to countries including China, South Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Sub-Continent for similar applications. In all these applications, tallow can be directly replaced with palm oil.

Environmental impact

The previous Australian Government’s decision to subsidise the use of tallow and other edible oils for the production of biodiesel is bad policy for the environment, rain forests and biodiversity.

Palm plantations on average produce three tonnes of oil per hectare per year. If 300,000 tonnes of Australian tallow is converted to biodiesel to help meet the previous Government’s renewable fuels target an additional 100,000 hectares (1000 square kilometres) of palm oil plantation will be needed to make up the short fall. This has and will continue to contribute to deforestation in South East Asia.

The affect of the Government’s subsidy

Under current legislation, biodiesel producers are able to claim back $0.38 per litre for each litre of biodiesel produced and sold. This legislation gives one industry group, the biodiesel producers, a very large relative subsidy allowing them to out-bid traditional industry users that are not subsidized.

Consumers are unlikely to stop eating or washing, hence the non-subsidized industries will be forced to use palm oil as a cheaper alternative to tallow.

A sensible Government policy

Biodiesel came into existence in commercial quantities in Europe almost 20 years ago, as part of European agriculture policy. Europe had excess agricultural land and most European governments were paying farmers not to grow crops as a means of cutting production. Farmers received a subsidy not to grow food on a certain portion of their land – “set aside land”.

To keep farmers employed governments in the major agriculture producing countries such as France and Germany introduced excise rebates for companies producing biodiesel from rape seed oil that could be grown on “set aside land”.

Germany has recently put legislation in place specifically excluding soya bean and palm oil as acceptable raw materials for biodiesel. This has been a response to the growing global pressure to address the issues of “oil from food” and the wider environmental impact of “oil from forests”.

The current Australian government would do well to modify current legislation to exclude tallow and palm oil as acceptable raw materials for biofuels for the same reasons.

Allister Tomkins
Executive Director
Symex Holdings Ltd

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One Response

  1. […] first Have your say article was published earlier this month and is an excellent example of what we’d like to see more of on Envirofuel. The topics for […]

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