Sunday, 28 October 2007

The latest 'crime against humanity': biofuels

Last week, a UN official declared that biofuels result in worse effects than their fossil fuel counterparts.

The UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, said he feared biofuels would bring more hunger.

The growth in the production of biofuels has helped to push the price of some crops to record levels.

Mr Ziegler's remarks, made at the UN headquarters in New York, are clearly designed to grab attention.

He complained of an ill-conceived dash to convert foodstuffs such as maize and sugar into fuel, which created a recipe for disaster.

Food price rises

It was, he said, a crime against humanity to divert arable land to the production of crops which are then burned for fuel.

He called for a five-year ban on the practice.

Within that time, according to Mr Ziegler, technological advances would enable the use of agricultural waste, such as corn cobs and banana leaves, rather than crops themselves to produce fuel.

As the world's population grows, and nations develop at record rates, more food and energy is needed. Sadly, many people are too short-sited to see the affects of the use of ethanol and the over-use of other energy sources as counterproductive and harmful. I hope that the ethanol bandwagon crashes soon, because at least here in the United States we are already seeing the negative economic effects of corn biofuels. Bio-waste fuels make far more sense.

Is waiting five years too much to ask? Or is our thirst for energy too great? We still have plenty of oil left, and currently using corn ethanol takes more energy to create than it releases, and is thus neither environmental nor economical. Sadly the politicians in capitols like Washington are all-too-eager to appease the agricultural special interests.


cwilcox said...

Food security is a huge issue and being looked at very closely around the globe. You may remember the tortilla shortage blip of an issue in the news last year. It seems tortillas are in short supply as a result of the migration of corn products to ethonol. But, and I have a big butt! Corn ethonol is not imagined to be the be all end all of bio-fuel. The fact that the production is up and running is a basis for further development, the establishment of infrastructure and a short term answer to reducing dependence on foreign oil. Hopefully the gains made in the corn ethonol industry will translate to switch grass, wheat shaff or other bio-waste products that currently lack a market. The science is new, it needs to grow. Only recently has corn based ethonol become energy neutral in it's production

clearthought said...

I agree for the most part; but it is essential at this point to sit back and let scientists find more efficient, reasonable biofuel production means, etc., and not jump to conclusions. Switchgrass and other plants could prove great energy sources, but the cellulose conversion into ethanol is still a problem.

As for how dependent America is on foreign states for oil, this chart is a telling indicator — but it could be far worse (Europe, for example, is much more reliant on Mideast oil).