The subject of biofuels has been a contentious issue for some time and it seems that many of the larger oil companies have been slow to commit themselves to the production of renewable fuels in general. There had been some talk of the oil companies taking a look at other forms of green power as a future focus of investment, but some of the oil companies, such as Shell and BP have taken the view that wind, solar and hydro power are not what they do and they see this route as not being profitable for them. Both Shell and BP have recently therefore turned their attention more in the direction of biofuels as an alternative form of fuel.
There appears to be still a broad uncertainty amongst the fuel companies about which is the way to go. There have been comments from some industry leaders that oil is still plentiful, but is in harder to reach places. However a huge new oil find off the coast of Brazil may lead many to rethink their approach to alternative fuels. If there are large oil fields still to be found without the need to change the whole focus of oil companies, then the likelihood is that they will continue with their
main business and biofuels will still be a side project. It appears that when the oil companies do venture down the path of producing biofuels they still attract the wrath of the green lobby. Twelve oil companies have been accused of supplying large amounts of palm oil to their filling stations at the expense of large tracts of rain forest, many of which were not under any form of environmental; control.
There is no doubt that biofuels offer an alternative which the oil companies would be foolish to ignore. One of the largest oil companies, BP has poured five hundred million dollars into an American biosearch institute which will investigate possible research into advanced biofuels. This is on top of a four million dollar investment in bioethanol plant in Hull in the United Kingdom. Further collaborations in the United States and India paint a picture of the way BP are thinking.
Shell has decided to try and develop a range of non crop based biofuels. The use of crops which could be used for food has long been one of the main arguments against biofuels. They are still also looking to find cleaner ways of developing fossil fuels. Shell are still the largest supplier of crop based biofuels and their view is that many of the alternative technologies did not represent good investment
potential. This of course is the main problem for most of the oil companies; namely that biofuels are less profitable. As technologies become more advanced and efficiency greater, this may provide a more attractive option.
Recent figures show that of the other major world players, only Exxon Mobil and Petrobas invested more in biofuels than other renewables. Shell BP, Texaco and Total all spent more on renewable energy than biofuels. It seems that the oil companies are still not entirely convinced by biofuels just yet, however one of the big four supermarkets. Morrison`s is selling biofuels on fourteen of its forecourts and at present biofuels is retailing for about two pence less per litre.
You can find out more about different fuel costs at business fuel cards. However, it is interesting to note that only two vehicles on the road, actually run on so called flex fuels, which are a mix of unleaded and bioethanol and these are producing on average twenty per cent less mileage.