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Black and white thinking has no place in a green future: alternative fuels can pave the transition path to new technologies says William Tebbit

The UK government has generated much discussion around reducing greenhouse gases, and is willing and happy to talk about its environmental pledges the Prime Minister has plans for ‘building back greener’, for example. But a good idea is only good if it can be delivered in a timely and viable fashion. The Road to Zero Strategy, which aims for zero road transport emissions by 2030, and the North Sea Transition Deal, which aims to cut emissions in oil and gas incrementally from 2025 to 2030, set out lofty ambitions. But these announcements are, excuse the word play, Net Ambitions. Through their current actions Government recognises that fossil fuels can’t be consigned to the bin overnight. The name of the Transition Deal at least inadvertently acknowledges that we are in a transition phase and solutions that are available today should be adopted and supported by Government whilst we work towards Net Zero.

Science has long shown that effective measures to tackle the climate crisis must be strategic, sustained, and collaborative. It is imperative that we act to honour agreements such as the Paris Climate Accords. 2021 not only marks five years since the agreement was signed but will see the UK hosting COP26 in Glasgow this November. If executive and judicial departments are reluctant to act now, we are at least seeing private businesses accepting their role in improving air quality and reducing emissions1.

With the whole world watching Glasgow in November, more British businesses have an opportunity to demonstrate that they are taking positive action not just waiting for tomorrow. More action and less empty messaging is needed to create change and make a difference today to the UK’s CO2 emissions and air quality. Recently, we have seen dangerous self-undermining which has drawn criticism from courts of law. Not only have UK ministers lost a third case against ClientEarth over the “illegal and harmful” levels of air pollution in urban areas2, but in March the court of justice of the EU ruled that the UK has “systematically and persistently” failed to tackle toxic levels of nitrogen dioxide3.

This is the time for even more companies to show real leadership in sustainability. The private sector has the luxury of not being constrained by slow government regulation or having to wait for new technologies. In making the right decisions for the environment, there are solutions available now. Fortunately for all of us in the UK, we can thank an increasing number of businesses that are doing the right thing ahead of Government.
These businesses are delivering actions not words; they are walking the walk. Undeniably, one of the biggest emiters of pollutants from the use of dirty fuels in the UK are the construction companies building huge state funded infrastructure projects. It was revealed earlier in April that carbon emissions from England’s planned roadbuilding programme could be 100 times higher than the government projected4. Data shows that this problem is not going anywhere soon. In spite of the Covid-19 lockdown, the UK construction sector has seen the sharpest uptick since 2014 across the board, from commercial work to civil engineering. The HIS Markit/CCips construction activity index registered 61.7 in March, up from 53.3 in February5. A growing number of operators in this sector are leading by example and adopting GreenD+, an advanced fuel, across their businesses and offering it across their supply chains. Without direction and policy from Government to use the best available technologies to reduce these emissions we are forced to rely on the private sector businesses to do the right thing, which an increasing number are despite this lack of pragmatic Governmet policy and direction.

Due to the lack of a targeted incentive to adopt advanced fuels such as GreenD+ diesel is still the favourite option for many construction procurement teams and fleet managers. In this country, around 9.5 billion litres of commercial diesel were used in 20196. With the recent boom in construction, this number is certainly not going to decrease.

But there are green alternatives for eco-conscious businesses to use now. There is no better way for construction companies to build our future than by adopting advanced fuels. By replacing regular diesel with an advanced fuel such as GreenD+, the CO2e emissions of ten diesel-engined pieces of plant running GreenD+ HVO would have the same CO2e emissions as one running regular diesel. These are BEIS default values, so we assume Government knows this fact. Not only are they proven to reduce greenhouse gasses and improve air quality, but they are widely available throughout the UK in volumes significantly higher than hydrogen, GNG/Biogas or EV powered plant and equipment. Not only are advanced fuels widely available they require no capital expenditure and can make a difference immeadiatley to CO2e and air quality.

Advancement in this sector isn’t a black or white choice between diesel, electric or hydrogen. It is about doing what makes a difference today and ensuring we transition with the right solution for the future. Binary thinking has no place in a green future. Although hydrogen and electrification are certainly part of the solution for the future, the cost of building a new infrastructure and the scale of the installed base of diesel engines are factors that need to be carefully considered. The appeal of a nil capex transition technology such as advanced fuels is powerful. The reality is that viable solutions that can be widely adopted in scale without compromising the business model of the construction sector don’t exist today. What does exist today is a transition technology that reduces CO2e, improves air quality, is widely available and requires no capex; why doesn’t this solution get as much support as future solutions that will only deliver in the future?

The policy of Net Zero and promoting of new technologies at the exception of anything else has affected business thinking. Many businesses have been led down the path of waiting for tomorrow and not acting today. The reality is that not only does the adoption of green fuels not harm the bottom line, it also greatly improves air quality for the benefit of workers on site and you and I walking down the street. It’s time for those contractors, service providers, procurement teams, and operators that haven’t 7taken action, to take the step towards a cleaner Britain with positive encouragement from Government. It’s not too late; walk the walk and improve air quality for everybody, and reduce GHG to boot.

1 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/16/top-uk-court-overturns-block-on-heathrows-third-runway
2 https://www.clientearth.org/latest/latest-updates/news/uk-government-loses-third-air-pollution-case-as-judge-rules-air-pollution-plans-unlawful/
3 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/06/co2-from-englands-road-plan-up-to-100-times-more-than-dft-says
4 https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/apr/08/sharp-pick-up-in-uk-construction-amid-economy-recovery

William Tebbit is CEO of Green Biofuels. XGreen Biofuels provides the bridging technology essential to help the transition to a greener and more renewably fuelled world. The company supplies its own brand of low emission and GHG saving fuels to customers using diesel consuming engines. Green D+ is the lowest emission diesel replacement fuel available in the UK. Green Biofuels’ products include completely renewable diesel alternatives made from vegetable and/or animal fats and oils. Using Green Biofuels’ products does not require any modification to engines. There is no need for costly upgrades to machinery, it can be filled into the tank and used just like diesel fuel.

For more information, please see https://www.gbf.ltd/