Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Biofuel production 'is harming the poor'

Emily Beament in the Independent (UK): The production of biofuels is fuelling poverty, human rights abuses and damage to the environment, Christian Aid warned today. The charity said huge subsidies and targets in developed countries for boosting the production of fuels from plants such as maize and oil palm are exacerbating environmental and social problems in poor nations.

And rather than being a "silver bullet" to tackle climate change, the carbon emissions of some of the fuels are higher than fossil fuels because of deforestation driven by the need for land for them to grow.

According to a report, Growing Pains, by Christian Aid, industrial scale production of biofuels is worsening problems such as food price hikes in central America, forced displacement of small farmers for plantations and pollution of local water sources.

…The report argues that talking about "good" or "bad" biofuels is oversimplifying the situation, and the problem is not with the crop or fuel - but the policies surrounding them. Developed countries have poured subsidies into biofuel production - for example in the US where between 9.2 billion dollars and 11 billion dollars went to supporting maize-based ethanol in 2008 - when there are cheaper and more effective ways to cut emissions from transport, the report said.

…."Christian Aid believes that the best approach to biofuels is to grow them on a small scale and process them locally to provide energy for people in the surrounding countryside….

Jatropha production in Paraguay, shot by Helmut von Brandenstein, Wikimedia Commons: The copyright holder of this file allows anyone to use it for any purpose, provided that the copyright holder is properly attributed. Redistribution, derivative work, commercial use, and all other use is permitted.

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