Six Experts On Why Ethanol is a Dumb Idea

In response to the many questions and concerns about ethanol/biofuels and impacts on food prices and climate change here are the six or seven articles I’ve done on the subject in the past year.

Emissions from ethanol are 93 percent higher than gasoline,” said David Tilman, an ecologist at the University of Minnesota and co-author of one of the papers published Thursday in the journal Science.

See: Ethanol Worse Than Gasoline

“The U.S. has led the fight to stem global hunger, now we are creating hunger,” said Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, an environmental think tank in Washington.

See: Biofuels: Another Good Reason to Hate American Policy

Subsidising biofuels is just about the dumbest way to go.” – Todd Litman, director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute — Subsidies for 2007 est $13-$15 billion

Ethanol: The Great Big Green Fraud

We consider sweet sorghum an ideal ’smart crop’ because it produces food as well as fuel,” said William Dar, director general of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics.

See: Food & Fuel: The New Magic Bullet Biofuel?

“It’s not just the World Bank, regional development agencies, progressive development groups in Europe and many countries are all investing in agrofuels,” says Anuradha Mittal of the Oakland Institute,

See: Record $Financing For Biofuels, Not Food

“Cellulosic ethanol is just the next big money-maker for the agro-chemical and biotech corporations,” says Andrew Boswell of Biofuelwatch, a British environmental NGO.

See: (Cellulosic) Greenest Ethanol Still Unproven

Food & Fuel: Can Sorghum Be The New Magic Bullet Biofuel??

By Stephen Leahy

Korcula, CROATIA, May 13 (IPS) –

A new crop that provides food, animal feed and fuel at the same time promises to help developing countries redirect money spent on oil imports to benefit their own farmers. Is sweet sorghum biofuel’s “holy grail”?

Biofuels are widely blamed for driving food prices higher, sparking food riots in many countries. At least 25 percent of the U.S. maize crop is diverted to biofuel, and extensive areas in Indonesia, Malaysia, China and Brazil are also devoted to growing fuel rather than food.

With sweet sorghum, however, only the stalks are used for biofuel production, while the grain is saved for food or livestock feed. It is not in high demand in the global food market, and thus has little impact on food prices and food security.

“We consider sweet sorghum an ideal ‘smart crop’ because it produces food as well as fuel,” said William Dar, director general of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). Continue reading

Only Green Part of Most Biofuels is the Wealth (Subsidies) They Generate

sugar-cane-field-oz-rslpix1By Stephen Leahy

Feb 4 (IPS) – Biofuels have quickly turned from environmental saviour to just another mega-scale get-rich quick scheme. Countries and regions without their own oil reserves to tap now see their farms, peatlands and forests as potential “oil fields” — shallow but renewable lakes of green oil.

Renewable does not mean sustainable, and in most cases the only green part of biofuel is the wealth they generate.

Not surprisingly, given the record high oil prices, worldwide investment in bioenergy reached 21 billion dollars in 2007, according to the U.N. Environment Programme. The Inter-American Development Bank announced 3 billion dollars for investment in private sector biofuel projects — mainly in Brazil — while the World Bank said it had 10 billion dollars available in 2007.

Meanwhile development assistance for food-producing agriculture had fallen to 3.4 billion dollars in 2004 — with the World Bank’s share less than 1 billion dollars, according to the Bank’s own World Development Report on Agriculture released in October 2007. And most of this financial assistance was spent on subsidising use of chemical fertilisers. Continue reading

Ethanol: The Great Big Green Fraud

gsi-biofuel.jpg

Subsidising biofuels is just about the dumbest way to go.” – Todd Litman, director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute — Subsidies for 2007 est $13-$15 billion

…increasing biofuel production is a “total disaster” for starving people Jean Ziegler, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

By Stephen Leahy

Oct 20 2007 (IPS)

A raft of new studies reveal European and American multibillion dollar support for biofuels is unsustainable, environmentally destructive and much more about subsidising agri-business corporations than combating global warming.

Not only do most forms of biofuel production do little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, growing biofuel crops uses up precious water resources, increasing the size and extent of dead zones in the oceans, boosting use of toxic pesticides and deforestation in tropical countries, such studies say.

And biofuel, powered by billions of dollars in government subsidies, will drive food prices 20-40 percent higher between now and 2020, predicts the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute.

“Fuel made from food is a dumb idea to put it succinctly,” says Ronald Steenblik, research director at the International Institute for Sustainable Development’s Global Subsidies Initiative (GSI) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Biofuel production in the U.S. and Europe is just another way of subsidising big agri-business corporations, Steenblik told IPS.

“It’s (biofuel) also a distraction from dealing with the real problem of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” he asserts. Continue reading