REPLY. I don’t want to ban biogas in road traffic, but only to dismantle the socially economically ill-founded subsidies. The debaters avoid raising the question of how we should phase out the 12–13 TWh of fossil gas that is still used in Sweden, writes Per Kågeson in an answer.
This is a discussion article. The opinions expressed are the writer’s own.
In a reply, Maria Malmkvist, Mattias Goldmann and Björn Fredriksson Möller present their views on my debate article on biogas. They agree on a lot but believe that biogas still has an important role to play in road traffic. In this reply, I comment on their views.
The three claim that The biogas market investigation states “the potential for biogas production in Sweden to 14–15 TWh in 2030, not 5 TWh as Kågeson states without a source”.
My figure is based on a number of assessments reported in a study by IVL which indicate the economic potential for digestion in Sweden to be between 3.5 and 4.5 TWh and on the Biogasmarknadustredningen (SOU 2019:63) which states that “the practically available potential” for digestion is around 7 TWh. In this context, it should be noted that Swedish biogas production increased by less than 0.8 TWh (to 2.2 TWh) between 2010 and 2020 despite all the billions in support. And there are not many years left until 2030.
The fact that one could theoretically produce large amounts of biogas through the gasification of residual products from the forest is hardly relevant in this context. Many interests compete for this bio-resource and a smaller part of the residue needs to be left in the forest (including the stumps) to reduce carbon losses from the soil and benefit biodiversity.
I advocate technology-neutral policy instruments so that the resource can be used where it is most needed and at the lowest economic cost to society. There will not be very much biogas. A few years ago, Göteborg Energi invested 1.6 billion in the small pilot Gobigas (0.16 TWh/year) but was forced to put the finished plant in the mothball as a result of poor profitability.
In the reply, the three try to claim that the biogas has not been particularly subsidized. On the contrary, it appears from the Biogas market investigation that it involves many forms of support, including tax exemption. In total many billions.
On one essential point, the three have carelessly read or misinterpreted my article. I don’t want to ban biogas in road traffic, but only to dismantle the socially economically ill-founded subsidies. For example, there is no reason to completely tax-exempt biogas used in vehicles when electric vehicles have to pay a high tax on their electricity use. In some way, the remaining socio-economic costs of road traffic must be covered.
The three say in the reply that the biogas cannot survive without the subsidies. In that case, it means that they share my assessment that a phase-out (in orderly forms) of the majority of support will lead to a gradual reduction in the use of biogas in road traffic. Regarding passenger cars, the EU’s decision to ban combustion engines in new cars from 2035 will contribute to this. In heavy trucks, liquefied biogas (BLG) may survive as one of several alternative fuels in the smaller portion of traffic that may prove difficult to electrify. HVO and hydrogen are competing concepts in this niche.
The three avoid raising the question of how we should phase out the 12–13 TWh of fossil gas that is still used in Sweden. In my article, I proposed a reduction obligation, a technology-neutral policy instrument that the Biogas Market Investigation considered but rejected. The investigator considered that it would be too expensive for the industries concerned and instead proposed additional state aid billions for primarily the production and processing of biogas. I think it’s time to start applying the polluter pays principle.
The three also do not comment on my claim that the gas industry’s strategy has been and is to request subsidies that direct biogas to use in road traffic, while at the same time they do not want to take the same responsibility for emissions from fossil natural gas in other sectors.
This is confirmed in the roadmap for the gas industry’s climate work that Energigas Sverige (where Maria Malmkvist is CEO) established together with Fossilfritt Sweden. It states that road traffic’s gas use must be fossil-free in 2023, while other sectors’ use of methane must not become fossil-free until 2045. Depressing!
Per Kågeson, PH.D. in energy and environmental systems analysis
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