Feeds

Biofuels make poor people even poorer

Oxfam warning

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

European targets for use of biofuels will make life worse for some of the poorest people on the planet, according to a report from charity Oxfam.

In January, the European Commission issued guidelines suggesting that member states should use biofuels for 10 per cent of their transport fuel "budget" by 2020. Oxfam argues that if we meet these targets, deigned to reduce Europe's fossil fuel burning, it will have a catastrophic knock-on effect in countries like Indonesia, Colombia, Brazil, Tanzania and Malaysia.

The organisation wants the EC to review its policy and make sure proper safeguards are put in place to protect vulnerable groups.

"In the scramble to supply the EU and the rest of the world with biofuels, poor people are getting trampled," said Oxfam's Robert Bailey. "The EU proposals as they stand will exacerbate the problem. It is unacceptable that poor people in developing countries should bear the cost of questionable attempts to cut emissions in Europe."

The charity is concerned that to supply crops on the scale needed to supply 10 per cent of Europe's transport fuel, the scale of cultivation will threaten the food supply, land ownership, and livelihoods in developing nations.

Oxfam also warns that biofuels do not live up to their reputation as a clean fuel supply. Although they have a much shorter carbon cycle (i.e. we burn them, releasing carbon, then more biofuel plants use that carbon dioxide to grow), it is not a zero sum game.

It says in its report:

The actual carbon savings of biofuels vary considerably... and depend on the type of feedstock, agricultural practices, the production pathway, and the effects of land use change.

Bailey says: "Biofuels are not a panacea - even if the EU is able to reach the ten per cent target sustainably, and Oxfam doubts that it can, it will only shave a few per cent of emissions off a continually growing total."

To make the best carbon savings, crops should be grown in tropical regions, which without proper management will lead to the exploitative scenarios the charity fears.

Abet Nego Tarigan is deputy director of Sawit Watch, an organisation which represents communities, farmers, and plantation workers affected by palm oil development in Indonesia. He explained that the lure of "biofuel gold" is prompting palm oil companies to clear communities from land they have farmed for generations.

"Workers and small holders are shamefully exploited and we are losing valuable agricultural land to grow the food we need to feed ourselves and make a living," he said. "The proposed EU policy will only make this worse - pushing more people into poverty and concentrating land in the hands of a few." ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.