Lower Sixth Lecture: Biofuels: Fueling the Future or a Big Fraud?

Friday 1st February 2019

On Friday 25 January, our L6 students gathered in the Lecture Theatre for a talk from Professor David Read, on “Biofuels: Fueling the Future or a Big Fraud?”


Throughout his lecture, Professor Read encouraged our students to use an interactive app to give their thoughts on biofuels and the environment.




First of all, Professor Read asked our girls to share how they feel about climate change. Most of the students in the room identified as a ‘climate change believer’ – a good sign!



Professor Read explained how the demand for energy resources across the world is constantly going up. He showed the impact this has had on the environment through a graph showing the spike in CO2 levels since the industrial revolution.



So, how can science help solve these problems?

Professor Read revealed some ideas that scientists are currently working on, including:

  • Developing alternative fuels to replace fossil fuels.
  • Finding ways to capture carbon.
  • Developing and improving nuclear fission.
  • Reducing the demand for energy by improving energy efficiency.



One way that scientists have been looking into developing, as an alternative fuel source to fossil fuels, is biofuels.

Professor Read asked our students “Do you think biofuels are the answer to our problems?” After a few seconds for our girls to submit their answers on the interactive app, the results of the poll showed that yes, they could, as part of a bigger solution and with more research.



Bio fuels are traditionally made from food crops, and, in theory, are carbon-neutral, as the carbon dioxide that is absorbed by the plants is equal to the carbon dioxide that is released when the fuel is burned. However, in practice, many other factors come into play, and so carbon-neutrality is often not the result that occurs.


Professor Read compared the use of biofuels to the use of other forms of fuel that are being used and developed  currently, and revealed that it would be a huge challenge to create a whole biofuel industry.

From what they had learned, he asked our students why this would be difficult? What are the problems with biofuels? Our students shared some of their ideas, including:

  • Biofules are less diverse.
  • Food prices would go up.
  • Usually they aren’t actually carbon neutral.
  • They are not a good solution economically.
  • To grow crops for biofuels, a large amount of deforestation would occur, destroying animals’ habitats.
  • Their emissions aren’t much better than other fuels.


So, what did or students think of biofuels now, after learning more from Professor Read? The interactive poll showed that the majority of our girls now thought that biofuels were a waste of time!



Professor Read revealed that scientists are now working on developing fuel from algae, which is something that some of our girls have been looking into outside of their curriculum studies.


“You are the future!” Professor Read told our students. “We need bright people like you in science and the areas surrounding it.”



Our students thoroughly enjoyed Professor Read’s informative and interactive lecture:


“Professor Read gave us lots of really interesting real-life examples, that we don’t usually get to experience and delve into in the classroom.” – Sofya V (L6)


“It was really good to have a lot of useful information on the topic of biofuels all in one place. It was a really accessible lecture: although it included a lot of science, it linked to many other different subject areas too.” – Marjolein H (L6)


“Professor Read made a seemingly complicated subject simple to understand. I don’t study any science subjects at A level, but I was fully engaged! I also really liked the interactive elements of the lecture.” – Sylvia S (L6)


Read more news from our Sixth Form Lecture Series here.


Find out more about Sixth Form life at Queen Anne’s.