Sunday, April 13, 2008

British Government Urges Biofuel Rethink

News from the Guardian (here) that Chancellor Alistair Darling is calling for an urgent review of Europe and America's use of biofuels is a welcome piece of news for those who have been concerned about the potential environmental and social harm caused by a rush to ethanol - despite its apparent "green" credentials.

The Chancellor's call - ahead of the G7 summit in June - comes amid growing international awareness of the link between, on the one hand, the increase in greenhouse gases caused by clearing land to grow crops for ethanol and, on the other, the effect on world food prices of a shift in agricultural production from traditional foodstuffs to "ethanol crops".

A previous post on this site highlighted the problems facing a number of Asian countries as the cost of rice has soared this year. Meanwhile, the increased costs of wheat, soya and other staples is triggering unrest in several African and Asian countries, with demonstrations and riots in Bangladesh, Egypt and Indonesia as well as violent protests in Ivory Coast, Senegal and Cameroon over recent weeks.

Darling is quoted in the Guardian as saying, 'If the developed world is serious about meeting the millennium development goals - and we are currently way off track - we have got to do something about rising food prices."

Tony Juniper, meanwhile, director of Friends of the Earth, has called to an immediate halt to grain-based biofuel production because the unintended consequences have become so damaging. "Policymakers have inadvertently created a competition between the drivers of big vehicles and people who do not have enough food to eat," he said.

More provocatively, a quote from David Strahans in his The Last Oil Shock: the rush to diodiesel could leave us "starving to death in a traffic jam."

All posts on the biofuel issue can be followed on this blog by clicking here.

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