Sunday, January 27, 2008

Choosing between food and fuel

A loooong piece by Ashok B. Sharma in MyNews (India) examines the trade-offs between agriculture and transportation. He's not impressed with biofuels and their likely consequences for India: ...

“In theory there might be enough land available around the globe to feed an ever-increasing world population and produce sufficient biomass feedstock simultaneously,” the [OECD] report said and added “but it is more likely that land-use constraints will limit the amount of new land that can be brought into production leading to a ‘food-versus-fuel’ debate.” Since land use is driven largely by profit motives, it says, diversions of cropland from food production will lead to food price increases over the next decade, the OECD report said.

Biomass production will likely put increased environmental pressure on tropical regions, whose land is most suitable for such crops, the report said. “When such impacts as soil acidification, fertilizer use, biodiversity loss and toxicity of agricultural pesticides are taken into account, the overall environmental impacts of ethanol and bio-diesel can very easily exceed those of petrol and mineral diesel,” it said. Moreover, the report questions whether developed nations have dramatically overestimated the extent to which bio-fuels can displace fossil fuels and warns that many of the more optimistic scenarios are highly unlikely to come to fruition....

Photo of an Indian tea plantation by Rightee.

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