Denmark’s budget-hit buses could pause switch to green fuels

Regional buses in Denmark are considering a pause on green fuel plans by switching from more expensive biodiesel back to regular diesel, according to a report.

Denmark’s budget-hit buses could pause switch to green fuels
High costs could put the brakes on green fuel use on some Danish regional buses. File photo: Mike Blake/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

Regional bus operators could switch back to less environmentally-friendly fuels to avoid closures, broadcaster DR reports.

Buses in the Central Jutland region are under pressure due to a combination of low passenger numbers and rising fuel prices.

Danish Regions, the authority responsible for administration of regional bus services, last week called for state relief for the sector, estimating that one in seven regional bus routes could face cancellation if budget excesses are not addressed, the authorities said.

Regional buses are public buses that connect cities, as opposed to local bus routes which have separate operators.

READ ALSO: Why Denmark’s regional bus services could face crisis

The Central Jutland regional buses must make savings of 100 million kroner in the 2023 budget, DR reports.

An analysis provided by consultancy firm COWI recommends the buses switch from biodiesel back to regular – and more polluting – diesel as a cost-cutting measure.

Biodiesel prices have rocketed upwards as high gas prices – connected to the Russian invasion of Ukraine – have knock-on effects on fuel prices generally.

The Central Jutland regional bus operation expected additional costs of 7.5 million kroner annually from using biodiesel instead of regular diesel, but is actually paying an extra 19 million kroner according to DR.

HVO biodiesel, produced from non-food biowaste, is around 90 percent CO2 neutral according to Region Central Jutland information published by DR. The 10 percent which is not CO2 neutral is related to production and transport of the fuel.

“It is clear that it’s a step in the wrong direction in the climate calculation. I just think the situation is very serious and unusual. The situation is actually almost catastrophic. I think we should strongly consider going back to black diesel in 2023,” elected official Bent Graversen of the Central Jutland’s Regional Development committee told DR.

Buses on seven routes currently use biodiesel. That equates to a total of 56 buses on the regional routes, spending around 130,000 hours on the road per year.

Based on these numbers, Central Jutland Region calculations reported by DR show that switching to biodiesel gives a reduction of 3,700 tonnes of CO2 emission per year. This is equivalent to emissions caused by around 200 people in Denmark.

The municipality in Jutland town Randers is meanwhile considering a similar switch from biodiesel to regular diesel on city buses in order to save money, DR writes.

Forced to choose between running buses on regular diesel and cancelling services, the former is the better option, Aalborg University traffic researcher Harry Lahrmann told the broadcaster.

“The absolute worst thing is to close down routes because we know that when they are opened again, it’s very difficult to get passengers back. They’ve found alternatives in the meantime,” he said.

“If we can’t get more tax kroner spent on public transport, this is the second-best solution,” he said.

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Denmark to ban caged egg production by 2035

Denmark is to follow a rule banning new cage egg farms from next year with a total ban on the farming method by 2035.

Denmark to ban caged egg production by 2035

In a statement, the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries said that is would ban new cage egg farms from next year.

A full ban will come into place following a 12-year transitional period to “ensure proper conversion of production”, the ministry said.

“We wanted to phase out cage eggs as soon as possible. But we have a genuine responsibility to producers of cage eggs,” the agriculture minister, Rasmus Prehn, told news wire Ritzau.

The 12-year transition will avoid instances of expropriation by giving farmers time to fund and make the switch, according to Prehn.

Supermarket Lidl chose to remove cage eggs from its shelves as long ago as 2015, according to broadcaster DR. Other supermarket chains including Coop and Dansk Supermarked have since followed that decision, meaning most supermarkets in Denmark no longer stock eggs from hens in cages.

The EU banned battery cages in 2012, but hens can still be kept in larger cages, termed “enriched” or “furnished” cages, for the production of eggs, in line with the EU directive that banned battery production.

Production of cage eggs in Denmark has fallen from 61 percent of total egg production in 2010 to 13 percent in 2021, according to DR.

That is an underestimate in comparison to the ministry press release, which states that seven producers of cage eggs in Denmark were responsible for 17 percent of Denmark’s total egg production last year.

While most supermarkets have stopped selling cage eggs, they are still often used by restaurants, catering businesses, food factories and pharmaceutical companies, the ministry states.

“Cage hens live – as the name suggests – their whole lives in small cages with limited space to flap their wings. Denmark is in many ways a forefront country within agriculture, and this must also be the case when it comes to animal welfare,” Prehn said in the press statement.