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Korea Biodiesel Plan Has Its Skeptics

Posted July. 01, 2006 04:17,   


The real phase of the alternative fuel industry has started in Korea, too.

The commercialization of gasoline mixed with biodiesel begins on July 1, supplying the new fuel to customers nationwide. Accordingly, drivers of all gasoline cars will have to use biodiesel-mixed gasoline in the future.

Soybean Oil and Other Eco-friendly Raw Materials-

Biodiesel is an eco-friendly fuel made from soybean oil, rapeseed oil, and other vegetable oils. In the U.S and Europe, supply for this kind of fuel began 10 years ago.

In Korea, the government has led the test business since 2002. Some 334 gas stations in Jeonbuk, Jeonnam and the capital regions have been supplying BD20, which is a mixture of gasoline and (20 percent) biodiesel.

The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy (MOCIE) had signed contracts with oil refineries in March to commercialize biodiesel in the domestic market, following its plan to fill five percent of the supplied primary energy (petroleum, coal and natural gas) with the renewable alternative energy by 2011.

In line with this, the oil refineries will start selling the mixture fuel BD5, a gasoline mixed with 0.5 percent of biodiesel that the refineries bought from small and medium corporations. The term is set to last for two years.

Environment Organizations Contested Strongly to the Reduction of the Fuel Ratio-

The MOCIE said, “The time has arrived for the petroleum equivalent alternative fuel,” but many problems are arising.

In the first place, the low ratio of raw biodiesel being added makes us doubt whether it will have the effect of improving the environment. Half a percent seems to make biodiesel only an additive. In the developed world, the gasoline for buses and trucks is mixed with 20 to 30 percent of biodiesel, and that for ordinary gasoline cars, three to five percent.

The ratio was reduced to 0.5 percent after requests by the oil refineries, which saw the quality as a problem.

Environmental organizations pointed out that the government is going against the supply of biodiesel.

Secretary General of the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement Kim Hye-jeong said, “The government is blocking ordinary customers from purchasing BD20 by restricting the use of it to only buses and trucks of companies that have their own domestic maintenance and storing facilities after all the testing of the use of BD20.”

Those biodiesel producing companies that were not selected as the suppliers of biodiesel to oil refineries are complaining that they lost in the market because of the limits set on the use of BD20.

Customers of Gasoline Cars are Not Satisfied, Either-

The customers who have to use biodiesel mixed fuel without any other choice are not too happy, either.

Kim Jeong-ho, an office worker who drives a diesel car, said, “It doesn’t feel good to be forced to insert fuel with additives in it rather than the fuel that I’ve used every day into my car.”

Biodiesel easily freezes in the winter and eats into engine parts because it is a vegetable oil. Car manufacturers say they cannot take responsibility if the cars suffer problems due to the use of biodiesel.

A Hyundai Motor officer said, “The rule has it that the manufacturers do not have to take responsibility when the fuel causes problems to engine parts.”

Sang-Soo Kim Sung-Won Joo ssoo@donga.com swon@donga.com