3E Intelligence

Swedish truck and bus manufacturer Volvo presented no less than 7 biomass-driven (“CO2-free”) trucks during the 2007 European Transport Forum in Brussels yesterday. With its high-level campaign the company wants to demonstrate that it can provide the car engine technologies needed for the alternative fuels to take off. Although there is a lot of vocal support from industries and policymakers for the new fuels, traditional fuel producers seem to be reluctant to start producing them in large quantities. Volvo itself admitted that it had a hard time finding the necessary fuels to show off the trucks outside of the conference venue. When representatives of the fuel sector present in the conference were challenged to respond to this issue, no one apparently dared to take up the challenge.

One remarkable element of the debate was that Volvo CEO Leif Johansson explicitly refered to “peak oil” as one of the drivers (together with climate change) for his company’s resolve to build the new bio-diesel and bio-gas trucks. “We are approaching the peak of oil production”, Johansson said. Quite a surprising statement from a commercial vehicle manufacturer but then again his home country Sweden has some time ago already taken the lead in Europe on trying to become the first non-fossil fuel country. I hope the Brussels EU policy makers were listening.

During the debate which I had the pleasure to moderate I felt that Mr Johanssen evaded a bit my questions on the predictable struggle for biomass material from the transport, the food and the wood and paper sector. Several NGOs as well as a recent OECD report have warned that the “rush to energy crops threatens to cause food shortages and damage to biodiversity with limited benefits”.

Mr. Johansson admitted that it would be a good idea to bring the leaders of the different sectors together to find a constructive cooperation for biomass raw material but also warned against a system of central political planning to deal with this issue. I personally think it could be one of the tasks for the EU to provide this kind of permanent collaboration forum between different sectors (including NGOs) on future uses of biomass.

The presentations of Leif Johansson and two of his colleagues can be found on the European Transport Forum website:

More extensive news coverage of the event at eTrucker.com.

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