Biofuels make poor people even poorer
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." ®
Biofuel doesn't only mean ethanol-based fuels, as the EU and USA seem to be pushing for. The diesel-based bio-fuel sources are easier, cheaper, and friendlier on the environment, and they leave you with more capable vehicles anyway. New generation diesel engines are getting quieter and quieter, more and more powerful, and more efficient. The major nations are pushing for the ethanol-derived/based fuels and shooting themselves in the foot.
As for the end of the planet, it's nowhere as close as people make out. We are going through an age where the necessary changes to our environments will naturally take place to counter the problem. Yes there is a problem, i admit to that. Whether its new or variants of creatures or plants that have a greater carbon-sucking capacity, or a few different species of plants re-emerging to counter this, it will happen. Otherwise, the prophecy of human beings being nothing more than a glorified virus on this planet will have come true, and The Borg will come to make us part of the whole, so we may be saved from ourselves.
Either way, i'm out to make some money, splash it on a gas guzzler or ten and sod the expense! I don't have time to waste attempting to convince humans who never pay attention to anything any of their peers say - i gots me some fun to have!!!
Me Like Fire - NOT
It's about time we stop lighting things on fire just to get from A to B. Or leave the porch light on. Or re-heat yesterday's burrito...
There's plenty of energy available from the sun, wind, wave action, heat differential between ground & sky; the list goes on.
Instead of investing billions just to figure out a different way to burn things, why not be as smart as the guys who discovered fire in the first place, and refine these processes which we already know exist?
Oh, yeah, I remember why. The money those poor, suffering corporations would miss if humans had their own methods of capturing energy, instead of having to rely on some modern day alpha male to dole it out.
The end of the world party
The end of the world party has my vote...
and while we're on the subject, if biofuels are the answer then why is there still such a high tax on it in the UK, it's zero rated in Germany.
I suppose at least we can take comfort in the fact that because it will be kept at the same price as ordinary Diesel in this country we won't be responsible for pillaging the rest of the world... not this time anyway ;-)