Earthrace skipper Pete Bethune is defending mounting criticism of biofuels as he prepares for a second attempt to go around the world in a biodiesel-powered trimaran.
He leaves from Spain tomorrow, seeking to break a 75-day record for circumnavigating the world set by the British boat Cable & Wireless in 1998.
Earthrace is a sleek, grey 24-metre-long mean machine, designed to punch through and under waves.
Mr Bethune said he was well aware of criticism that some biofuels are not sustainable or environmentally sound.
In Indonesia, Greenpeace is protesting against the clearing of forests to make palm oil plantations destined for biofuel.
Biofuels are also being blamed for pushing up food prices, because they consume arable land.
"Our role is to do more than just present biofuel as a holy grail," he said. "We spend almost as much time highlighting the negative aspects of biofuels.
"Our job is to present a balanced view of them."
He doubted biofuel would replace fossil fuels in the foreseeable future, but "they still have a significant role to play".
The Government's proposed Biofuel Bill would require oil companies to sell a minimum percentage of biofuels from July 1. This would start at 0.53 per cent of energy, rising to 3.4 per cent in 2012.
The bill has a sustainability clause, but there is doubt that environmental standards will be drafted in time for the July 1 launch date.
Mr Bethune said there was also a need for biofuel standards to be developed as the industry developed.
During its first attempt at the record, Earthrace was hit with a bad batch of biofuel picked up from India, which clogged the boat's 1000-horsepower engine.
It was just one of several calamities to bedevil the attempt.
The worst, a collision at night with a small boat off the Guatemala coast, left a fisherman dead and the Earthrace crew facing court.
They were able to set sail again only after a judge ruled the crash was an accident.
Mr Bethune said the incident, problems with the propellers and the hull mounted up to spell the end of the first record challenge.
"By the end of it we are absolutely buggered. We were stuffed."
But he said the adversity had toughened them up, and he was confident of success this time around.
"We are much better prepared in terms of what to expect, much better equipped to deal with things as they come up."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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