Page last updated at 11:12 GMT, Wednesday, 10 June 2009 12:12 UK

Shell sells straw-based biofuel

Shell tank getting filled
The biofuel is made from straw and renewable sources such as corn stalks

Royal Dutch Shell is selling a biofuel made from straw at one of their service stations in Canada.

The station in Ottawa will sell a blend of cellulosic ethanol and petrol.

Biofuels have been hailed as a way to fight climate change, but have also been criticised for their potential impact on food stocks and prices.

This biofuel, however, is made from a non-food portions of crops, such as corn stalks and corn cobs, which are renewable, according to Shell.

Such so-called "second-generation" biofuels do not compete with food sources for land - unlike some current biofuels, which are made from the edible parts of crops such as corn or sugar cane.

Biofuel emissions

In principle, biofuels are a way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions compared with conventional transport fuels such as petrol and diesel.

Burning the fuels releases CO2; but growing the plants absorbs a comparable amount of the gas from the atmosphere.

Shell claims that the straw biofuel can offer 90% less carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as compared to petrol.

However, the method of production is also important. Farming and processing the crops can make biofuels as polluting as petroleum-based fuels, depending on what is grown and how it is treated.

The UK Government has said that by 2010 5% all fuel should come from biofuels.

The European Union has gone further, setting a target of 10% by 2020.



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