Food-versus-fuel debate

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Food -- or fuel?

Note: A new wiki page is being developed on biofuel impacts on food prices.

Many biofuel feedstocks like corn, sugarcane, and soybeans are also key sources of food for millions of people. Production of crops for bioenergy uses may also displace other food-related crops, and otherwise increase the cost and decrease the availability of foodstuffs, including plant and animal-based foods. This page examines the debates over what the ideal balance between food and fuel is and links to articles and resources that touch on this debate.

Contents

Events

2012

2011

2010

See the archive of past Food-versus-fuel debate-related events.

News

2012

  • Coconut and mango waste could help power Asia 22 March 2012 by Syful Islam for SciDev.Net: "[DHAKA] Researchers in the United States say agricultural waste from coconut and mango farming could generate significant amounts of off-grid electricity for rural communities in South and South-East Asia."
  • "Many food crops have a tough, inedible part which cannot be used to feed livestock or fertilise fields. Examples of this material — known as ['endocarp'] — include coconut, almond and pistachio shells, and the stones of mangoes, olives, plums, apricots and cherries... Endocarp is high in a chemical compound known as lignin. High-lignin products can be heated to produce an energy-rich gas that can be used to generate electricity."
  • The researchers identified high-endocarp-producing regions of the world – and noted that coconut and mango agriculture account for 72 per cent of total global endocarp production. Coconut production alone accounted for 55 per cent... Most coconut endocarp comes from South and South-East Asian countries, including Bangladesh, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  • They then overlaid these findings with energy consumption data to identify communities with little access to electricity, who could benefit from endocarp-based energy.
  • [Tom] Shearin [co-author and a systems analyst at University of Kentucky] said endocarp was preferable to crop-based biofuels as it had no value as a food item. "Its exploitation as energy source does not compete with food production," he said. [1]
  • The rise and fall of biofuels and why they failed key test 20 March 2012 by George Wachira, for Business Daily Africa: "An energy expert asked me the other day if I still believed in biofuels as feasible alternative transport fuels for Kenya. We had met at a biofuels conference in Dar-es-Salaam about four years ago where I presented a paper. Around the same time I was the vice-chairman of the National Biofuels Committee at the Ministry of Energy. My hesitant answer was that emphasis on biofuels has reduced, globally and here in Kenya, as priorities have definitely changed."
    • "So what caused a shift in biofuels emphasis? Globally, around 2008/09 the western world was experiencing serious economic downturn and economic survival may have become more urgent that the global warming subject. Downgraded commitment to global warming issues by the western nations was apparent at all subsequent global climate meetings (Bali, Copenhagen, Cancun, and Durban)... About the same time, the sudden shift from food to biofuel crops was starting to negatively impact global food sufficiency. Food commodity prices shot up, prompting caution on biofuel production across the globe."
    • "Further, it was emerging across the world that other more effective green solutions (wind, solar, geothermal, nuclear, afforestation) could deliver quicker and more effective carbon reduction solutions, and these have now been embraced on a massive scale. Thereafter, there has been less emphasis on biofuels to provide green energy."
    • "Kenya’s energy mix has plenty of green content and this is sufficient national contribution towards global warming mitigation efforts. The country has also opted to emphasise tree planting for both climate change reasons and also for reinforcing the country’s hydrology. With these measures and plans in place, we may not need to produce biofuels justified on global warming mitigation." [2]
  • Spike in Food Prices Projected by 2013, 7 March 2012 by the New York Times: "In 2008 and in 2011, the world was rocked by riots and by revolutions coinciding with spikes in food prices. Now researchers are projecting that by 2013, food prices will soar to unparalleled heights, causing widespread hunger in the most vulnerable populations and social unrest, with an enormous potential for loss of human life."
    • "The computer modeling that generated the prediction of a food crisis was first published by the New England Complex Systems Institute in September. The modeling has gained considerable credibility by accurately predicting food prices over the last 10 months. The research indicates that the crucial factors behind food price increases are the conversion of corn crops to ethanol and investor speculation on the agricultural futures market."
    • "'There are two policy decisions we’ve identified as key drivers,' said Yaneer Bar-Yam, president of the institute. 'The first is the promotion of ethanol conversion, which provides the U.S. with less than 1 percent of its energy but has a much larger effect on global food availability.' The second is the deregulation of commodity markets by Congress’s Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, the report said."[3]
    • See the report, The Food Crises: Predictive validation of a quantitative model of food prices including speculators and ethanol conversion
  • Land Matters – Sizing up the bioenergy potential of marginal lands, 5 March 2012 by Greg Breining: “During 2007-8, world food prices exploded…. Many analysts later pinned most of the blame on commodities speculation, oil prices, and weather—not biofuels production. But the food-versus-fuel debate had begun.”
    • “Today, looking beyond corn for ethanol toward the possibility of producing cellulosic and other new biofuels on a meaningful commercial scale, researchers and policymakers are asking: How can we raise new non-food feedstocks without displacing food crops?”
    • “Such concerns have driven the search for abandoned land. J. Elliott Campbell, assistant professor of engineering at the University of California, Merced and colleagues from Stanford University consulted historical land-use data dating to 1700, satellite land-cover imagery, and global ecosystem modeling to identify lands worldwide that had once been farmed but now lay idle.”
      • “Campbell’s and Cai’s assessments identify lands suitable for biofuel crops. That’s not to say they are economically viable. The actual acreage used for biofuel feedstocks will depend on land ownership, transportation costs, markets, prices of other crops, [etc.]…” [4]
  • FAO Releases Reports on Methodologies and Good Practices for Sustainable Bioenergy, 5 March 2012 by IISD Reporting Services: "The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has announced several new publications from its Bioenergy and Food Security Criteria and Indicators (BEFSCI) project on: methodologies, good practices, and policy measures for promoting sustainable bioenergy development."
    • "The publications cover, inter alia: good environmental and socio-economic practices in bioenergy production; policy instruments to promote such good practices; a compilation of tools and methodologies, as well as a set of indicators, to assess the impacts of bioenergy development on food security at the national and project level; and case studies of opportunities and challenges for smallholders in bioenergy value chains and certification schemes in Peru, Mali and Thailand." [5]
  • Lufthansa says biofuel trials successful, but should they continue?, 17 January 2012 by Renewable Energy Magazine: “After a six-month practical trial involving biosynthetic fuel, Lufthansa has announced the first positive results. According to initial calculations, carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by 1,471 tonnes. However, environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth are critical, saying the trials were just ‘a convenient smokescreen for aviation expansion’ and that biofuels cause food shortages.”
    • “In all, Lufthansa operated 1,187 biofuel flights between Hamburg and Frankfurt (Germany) under the burnFAIR project. The planes ran partially on biosynthetic kerosene, with one of their engines being powered by a 50-50 blend of regular fuel and biosynthetic kerosene, which the airline says is just as reliable as conventional jet fuel but has fewer environmental effects.”
    • “Biofuel, Lufthansa calculates, emits about 50 per cent less carbon dioxide than conventional fossil fuels. Biosynthetic kerosene is also free of sulphur and aromatic compounds. Furthermore, Lufthansa reveals that thanks to the higher energy density of biofuel, it has been possible to reduce the fuel consumption by more than one per cent.”
    • “'Our burnFAIR project went off smoothly and to our fullest satisfaction. As expected, biofuel proved its worth in daily flight operations,’ confirms Joachim Buse, Vice President Aviation Biofuel at Lufthansa."
    • "[I]n a recent statement, Joachim Buse revealed that the next issue is to ensure a viable supply of sustainable raw materials. ‘Lufthansa will only continue the practical trial if we are able to secure the volume of sustainable, certified raw materials required in order to maintain routine operations. As a next step, we will focus on the suitability, availability, sustainability and certification of raw materials,’ he said.”
    • “While Lufthansa says it may continue trialling biofuels if a suitable volume of sustainable, certified feedstock can be obtained, Robbie Blake, biofuels campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, believes all biofuel trials by the aviation sector should be halted. ‘Lufthansa’s bio-fuelled flights should remain grounded permanently – flying with biofuel is unsustainable, full stop. There simply isn’t enough biofuel out there without diverting land and food from hungry communities, and causing worse climate-changing carbon dioxide emissions,’ he warns.”
    • "However, other parties believe sustainable biofuels are possible. The Bioenergy and Water Nexus report jointly produced by UNEP, the Oeko-Institut and the International Energy Agency Task 43, for example, finds that while ‘bioenergy development needs to be carefully planned to avoid it adding to existing pressures’ and that ‘in some cases, these considerations may argue against bioenergy development', ‘well-planned bioenergy development can help human development’." [7]

2011

  • S. African Biofuel Plan May Boost Sorghum Sixfold, Grain Says, 12 December 2011 by Businessweek.com: "South Africa’s proposed mandatory blending of biofuels with gasoline and diesel may signal the start of a biofuels industry and boost sorghum output sixfold, an economist at the farmers’ body Grain SA said."
    • "The nation produced 155,000 tons in the last season, according to the Crop Estimates Committee. The average annual crop was 226,000 tons in the five years to 2006, according to a report on the National Agricultural Marketing Council website."
    • "A 2007 government proposal to establish a commercial biofuels industry was insufficient to attract investments. Sasol Ltd., South Africa’s largest fuel supplier, Ethanol Africa Ltd. and National Biofuels Group Ltd. canceled or delayed projects."
    • "South Africa could introduce mandatory blending of as much as 10 percent 'without compromising food security in terms of food availability,' he said."[8]
  • U.S. Biofuel Camelina Production Set to Soar, 5 December 2011 by OilPrice.com: "Biofuel sources currently under development include algae, jatropha and camelina. Of the three, camelina is increasingly emerging as the frontrunner in attracting initial investment worldwide, as global demand for aviation fuel for passenger flights is now more than 40 billion gallons annually."
    • "Camelina has a number of advantages over its competitors, including using far less water, thus allowing it to be grown on marginal land, thereby not taking food acreage out of production."
    • "Furthermore camelina has a relatively short growing season of 80 to 100 days, requires no special equipment to harvest, and the silage remaining after processing can be fed to livestock and poultry, with the added side benefit of increasing their omega-3 production."
    • "Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture has given camelina production a major shot in the arm by selecting 40 counties in Montana for a pilot program of federally backed camelina crop insurance."
    • "Among the customers lining up for camelina JP-8 aviation fuel will be the U.S. armed forces, which have spent the last two years extensively testing camelina’s suitability, with the U.S. Air Force earlier this certifying camelina biofuel for use in its fleet of Globemaster transport aircraft."[9]
  • OSU study questions cost-effectiveness of biofuels and their ability to cut fossil fuel use, 29 November 2011 press release by OSU: "A new study by economists at Oregon State University questions the cost-effectiveness of biofuels and says they would barely reduce fossil fuel use and would likely increase greenhouse gas emissions."
    • "Biofuels were initially seen as a solution to energy and environmental problems, [the lead author of the study, Bill Jaeger said], because the carbon dioxide that's emitted when they're burned is equivalent to what they had absorbed from the atmosphere when the crops were growing. Thus, biofuels were assumed to add little or no carbon dioxide to the atmosphere."
    • "But the bigger picture is more complex, Jaeger said, in part because biofuels are produced and transported using fossil fuels. For example, nitrogen fertilizer, which is made using natural gas, is used to grow corn for ethanol. Additionally, growing biofuel feedstocks can push food production onto previously unfarmed land, according to well-documented research, Jaeger said. When this new acreage is cleared and tilled, it can release carbon that accumulated over long periods in soil and vegetation, thus increasing greenhouse gas emissions, he said."
    • "'Each dollar spent on energy improvement programs would be 20 times more effective in reducing fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions than a similar cost for the corn ethanol program,' Jaeger said. 'Likewise, a gas tax increase would be 21 times more effective than promoting cellulosic ethanol.'"[10]
    • Download the study, Biofuel Economics in a Setting of Multiple Objectives and Unintended Consequences.
  • Fifth of Global Energy Could Come from Biomass Without Damaging Food Production, Report Suggests, 25 November 2011 by Science Direct: "A new report suggests that up to one fifth of global energy could be provided by biomass (plants) without damaging food production."
    • "The report finds that the main reason scientists disagree is that they make different assumptions about population, diet, and land use. A particularly important bone of contention is the speed with which productivity improvements in food and energy crop production can be rolled out."
    • "Technical advances could be the least contentious route to increased bio-energy production, but policy will need to encourage innovation and investment."
    • "A renewed focus on increasing food and energy crop yields could deliver a win-win opportunity as long as it is done without damaging soil fertility or depleting water resources."
    • "The report stresses the need for scientists working on food and agriculture to work more closely with bio-energy specialists to address challenges such as water availability and environmental protection."
    • "If biomass is required to play a major role in the future energy system the linkages between bio-energy and food production will become too important for either to be considered in isolation."[11]
  • Biofuels growth stifled by EU policy delays: BP, 18 October 2011 by Reuters: "Biofuels for use in transport are becoming more competitive compared with oil but the pace of growth has slowed due to a lack of regulation and sustainability standards in Europe, the chief executive of BP's biofuels division said."
    • "'In the UK, biofuels get no tax breaks whatsoever. The biggest obstacle (to biofuel growth) is uncertainty around the future of mandates and clear (European Union) sustainability standards,' Philip New of BP Biofuels told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday."
    • "EU policymakers are currently debating the green credentials of some biofuels and should present proposals for approval by EU governments and lawmakers before the end of the year. However, legislation might not emerge for several years."
    • "Critics say some biofuels production can occupy land that would otherwise be used for agricultural purposes, thus limiting food and water resources for a rapidly rising world population."
    • "Some biofuel production could also increase carbon emissions, especially if rainforests are cut down to facilitate production."[12]
  • US must stop promoting biofuels to tackle world hunger, says thinktank, 11 October 2011 by The Guardian: "A new report, the Global Hunger Index, warned that US government support for corn ethanol was a major factor behind this year's food price spikes – and was projected to fuel further volatility in food prices over the next decade."
    • "Although the report noted some improvements over the past 20 years, 26 countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, are still at extreme risk of hunger including Burundi, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Eritrea."
    • "But the report also suggested that efforts to reduce world hunger would be constrained without action on climate change and changes in US and European government policies promoting the use of food stocks as fuel."
    • "In practical terms, this means countries that import food – especially those in sub-Saharan Africa which import a greater share of their food – are at the mercy of US domestic policies governing corn ethanol."
    • "US policies encouraging corn ethanol production, such as subsidies and mandates, ensure more corn is grown for fuel rather than food – especially when oil prices are high."[13]
  • Biofuels, Speculation Blamed for Global Food Market Weirdness, 5 October 2011 by Wired: "A new analysis of sudden rises in global food prices puts the blame on biofuel policy and mortgage-meltdown-style speculation, which may have fundamentally changed how food markets function."
    • "'There’s a literature of a hundred-plus articles, saying this might be the cause, or that might be the cause,' said network theorist Yaneer Bar-Yam of the New England Complex Systems Institute. 'We looked quantitatively, and found two important factors. Speculators cause the bubbles and crashes, and ethanol causes the background rise.'"
    • "Among the possible causes put forward by economists are drought, meat-intensive dietary habits and market hypersensitivity to supply and demand. Another is corn-based biofuel: In less than a decade, some 15 percent of the world’s corn production has been converted from food to fuel. Perhaps most controversially, some economists have blamed a flood of speculators betting on the rise or fall of food prices."[15]
  • Biofuels may meet development needs of Sub-Saharan Africa, 3 October 2011 by Center for International Forestry Research blog: "Biofuel expansion has enormous potential to stimulate rural development in Sub-Saharan Africa, but ensuring local community benefits and adequate protections for food production and forests will require strategic policy interventions and close collaboration among stakeholders, according to a new study by the Center for International Forestry Research."
    • "Biofuels have been touted as a ‘green’ alternative to fossil fuels, however critics of biofuel production argue that the expansion of biofuel development can often contribute to deforestation."
    • "Moreover, increasing land acquisition for biofuel expansion rather than food production in Africa could undermine food security and exacerbate a number of underlying social issues."
    • "The study urges for increased collaboration between government and the biofuel industry which will ensure that biofuel development can enhance livelihoods by bringing in urgently needed investment in the agricultural sector that would result in improved infrastructure and increased cash income in impoverished rural areas."[16]
  • Land grab for renewable energy production could impact beef capacity, 26 September 2011 by Beef Central: "Rising demand for the dominant form of renewable energy worldwide – wood – could drive yet more foreign acquisitions of land, particularly in developing countries where food insecurity is rising and land rights are weak, researchers say."
    • "Wood accounts for 67 percent of global renewable energy supplies, and many northern hemisphere countries were increasing their use of it both to reduce their reliance on costly fossil fuels and to mitigate climate change."
    • "New tree plantations in developing countries designed to be harvested to export wood could spell good news in terms of jobs, investment, climate change and conversation — if they were well managed, the IIED report said. But there was also a risk that plantations would displace poor and marginalised communities from land they had tended to for generations."
    • "Biomass plantations may also compete for the best lands with food crops and livestock (and with biofuel feedstocks), adversely affecting local food security and further marginalising smallholder farming."[17]
  • Biomass energy: Another driver of land acquisitions?, August 2011 by IIED: "Rapid expansion of biomass energy in the global North is fuelling demand for wood and increasing interest in tree plantations in the global South. But if biomass is sourced from food-insecure countries where local land rights are weak, there is a real risk that people could lose the land they depend on for their livelihoods. This briefing discusses the potential social impacts of biomass plantations in developing countries and calls for greater public scrutiny and debate about the issue."[18]
  • European biofuels given reprieve, report suggests, 12 September 2011 by Farmers Guardian: "THE European Union’s top climate and energy officials have agreed to delay rules which would penalise individual biofuels for their indirect climate impacts, Reuters news agency is reporting."
    • "The political compromise is designed to protect EU farmers’ incomes and existing investments in the biofuel sector, while discouraging new investments in biofuels which do nothing to fight climate change."
    • "At issue is indirect land use change (ILUC), which states if you divert food crops to biofuel production, someone, somewhere, will go hungry unless those missing metric tons of grain are grown elsewhere."
    • "If the crops to make up the shortfall are grown on new farmland created by cutting down rainforests or draining peat land, this can release enough climate-warming emissions to cancel out any theoretical emission savings from biofuels."
    • "The July agreement would delay crop-specific rules on ILUC in favor of an indirect approach that penalises all biofuels equally.This involves raising the carbon-savings threshold that all biofuels must meet compared with conventional fossil fuel to count toward the EU’s target, which aims to raise the share of biofuel in road transport fuels to about 10 percent in 2020."[19]
  • EU to delay action on biofuels' indirect impact, 8 September 2011 by Reuters: "The European Union's top climate and energy officials have agreed to delay by up to seven years rules that would penalize individual biofuels for their indirect climate impacts, details of the deal showed."
    • "The political compromise is designed to protect EU farmers' incomes and existing investments in the bloc's 17 billion euro-a-year ($24 billion) biofuel sector, while discouraging new investments in biofuels that do nothing to fight climate change."
    • "At issue is an emerging concept known as indirect land use change (ILUC), which states that if you divert food crops to biofuel production, someone, somewhere, will go hungry unless those missing metric tons of grain are grown elsewhere."[20]
  • Oil Palm Residue Could Solve Food vs. Biofuel Debate, 21 August 2011 by Jakarta Globe: "The millions of tons of fibrous residue produced by palm oil plantations across the country could soon become a major source of raw material for renewable fuel."
    • "Over the past year, scientists from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) and Seoul’s Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) have been working on a joint project to turn a waste product into a viable alternative energy resource."
    • "By next year, the scientists are optimistic that the pilot plant and research lab built for the project in the Research Center for Science and Technology (Puspiptek) in Serpong, Banten, can start regular production of bioethanol from the leftover parts of the oil palm plant."
    • "Indonesia has already been producing biofuel from jatropha and cassava, but, according to Yanni Sudiyani, the chief researcher for bioethanol and biomass at LIPI , there is a problem with cassava supply, since it is also used for food."
    • "This food-versus-fuel battle has been at the heart of the debate on biofuels, which might otherwise be preferable over non-renewable and heavily polluting fossil fuels."
    • "The oil palm residue has high cellulose content, Zalinar said, which can be processed into liquid glucose that would be fermented to serve as the basic material for bioethanol."[21]
  • Report Links Biofuels With Food Prices, 4 August 2011 by The Wall Street Journal: "For years, commentators have blamed Asia’s rapidly-expanding middle class for pushing up the cost of food and creating markets so volatile prices have spiked to record levels two times in four years."
    • "But according to new research for the United Nations’ food body, the increasing diversion of grain and oilseeds to create fuel—particularly in the U.S. and Europe, which spend an estimates $8 billion a year supporting their biofuel industries—has had a far greater effect."
    • "In contrast to mainstream belief, it argues that without biofuels, the rate of feed consumption in everywhere but the Soviet Union (whose livestock industry is still recovering from a collapse under Communism) is actually slowing—despite the jump in demand for meat in Asia."
    • "Because of this, the report finds that 'limiting the use of food to produce biofuel is the first objective to be pursued to curb demand.' Those that are used should be produced 'where it is economically, environmentally and socially feasible to do so, and traded more freely,' it adds."[22]
  • EU gets tough on dirty biofuel, pledges more action, 19 July 2011 by Reuters: "Europe's energy chief announced seven green certification schemes for biofuels on Tuesday and promised in future to tackle the unwanted side-effects of turning food into fuel."
    • "Guenther Oettinger said biofuels' indirect impacts were dangerous for the planet's carbon balance and food supply."
    • "The European Union agreed three years ago to get 10 percent of its road fuels from biofuels -- at a time when such fuels were widely regarded as good for the environment -- but since then controversy has raged in Europe over the target."
    • "Oettinger took a first step toward limiting biofuels' impact on the environment on Tuesday, launching a green standard to prevent companies from clearing forest, peatlands or grassland to grow biofuels for the European market."
    • "Critics say the EU's biofuel target creates an incentive for farmers to hack directly into forests to create space to grow fuel crops -- known as direct land use change."
    • "But they also charge that even biofuel crops planted in Europe can send shock waves through global food markets and indirectly promote deforestation -- indirect land use change."
    • "Recent research shows that when more food is needed, the majority of new farmland, possibly as much as 80 percent, comes from burning down forests."[23]
  • Not everyone cheering Lufthansa biofuel test, 15 July 2011 by The Local: "Lufthansa is testing biosynthetic fuels on Airbus A321 flights between Hamburg and Frankfurt and, if the trial is successful, hopes to expand use of the fuel across its fleet."
    • "The airline aims to reduce carbon dioxide (C02) emissions fleet-wide, although some environmentalists are skeptical."
    • "'The use of biofuel in the aviation sector to reduce CO2 emissions is an ecological sham,' said Werner Reh, of Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND)."
    • "In a statement, Reh complained that plans such as Lufthansa’s will just result in the mass expansion of crop cultivation necessary to create the biofuel mixture, leading to 'worldwide destruction of forests, loss of biodiversity and competition for food.'"
    • "The airline estimates it will save 1,500 tons of C02 during its tests which will cost €6.5 million ($9.1 million), about a third of which is being funded by the German government."[24]
  • Seaweed could have important biofuel role, say scientists, 6 July 2011 by WalesOnline.co.uk: "Researchers at Aberystwyth University say kelp seaweed could provide an important alternative to land-based biofuels, but the suitability of its chemical composition varies with the seasons."
    • "They say harvesting the kelp in July, when carbohydrate levels are at their highest, would ensure optimal sugar release for the production of biofuel."
    • "Kelp can be converted to biofuels through fermentation or anaerobic digestion – to produce ethanol and methane – or pyrolysis, to produce bio-oil through a method of heating the fuel without oxygen. But the chemical composition of the seaweed is important for these processes to be effective."
    • "Land-based plants have been the focus of most biofuel research. But biofuels have a disadvantage as they create conflict between using land to grow either food or fuel. Marine ecosystems are considered an untapped resource that could address this conflict, and provide for over half of global biomass energy."[25]
  • Biofuel deal sparks land debate in Sierra Leone, 2 July 2011 by AFP: "Hailed as the biggest ever investment in Sierra Leone's agriculture, a plan to grow thousands of hectares of sugarcane to produce ethanol has raised fears over food security and land rights."
    • "Swiss group Addax & Oryx announced on June 17 that it had signed a 258 million euro ($368 million) deal with seven European and African development banks to finance the bioenergy project near Makeni in the north of the country."
    • "Sierra Leone's agriculture ministry says the company has leased 57,000 hectares (141,000 acres) of land for a period of 50 years, an area roughly the size of the US city of Chicago."
    • "Most of the ethanol -- which can be blended with gasoline and diesel to reduce dependence on harmful fossil fuels -- will be exported to European markets."
    • "Addax, which plans to develop a plantation of 10,000 hectares of sugarcane, says large areas of land are available for communities to use as the project uses up less than a third of the total land leased."[26]
  • Can Biofuels Save Sub-Saharan Africa?, 28 June by the Green Blog of the New York Times: "Last week, the journal Nature published a special outlook issue dedicated to the state of, and prospects for, biofuels production in an energy-hungry future. In the article 'A New Hope for Africa,' Lee R. Lynd, a professor of environmental engineering design at Dartmouth College, and Jeremy Woods, a lecturer on bioenergy at Imperial College in London, argue that, far from posing a direct threat to the world’s food supply, the development of an African bioenergy industry has a great potential to increase food security for some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people."
    • "On marginal lands that cannot support agriculture in any case, they see great potential for biofuel crops, which require less water and nutrients. Africa’s vast land resources could also make the continent a competitive exporter of biofuels, which could bring in money for the basic infrastructure needed to transport and process food, they argued. It could also provide an economic incentive for rehabilitating degraded lands, the thinking goes."
    • "In an interview, Timothy Searchinger, a research scholar at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, took issue with that idea, arguing that people in Africa are hungry partly because of diversions of land elsewhere to bioenergy and resultant spikes in food prices. He contends that the problem will only be exacerbated by the development of an African biofuel industry."
    • "His chief complaint is that while some marginal lands there can be converted to growing biofuels without highly significant negative effects, the potential profitability of biofuels will inevitably lead to massive land conversion and consequent releases of carbon dioxide."[27]
  • The Great Corn Con, 24 June 2011 opinion piece by Steven Rattner in the New York Times: "Feeling the need for an example of government policy run amok? Look no further than the box of cornflakes on your kitchen shelf. In its myriad corn-related interventions, Washington has managed simultaneously to help drive up food prices and add tens of billions of dollars to the deficit, while arguably increasing energy use and harming the environment."
    • "...Thanks to Washington, 4 of every 10 ears of corn grown in America — the source of 40 percent of the world’s production — are shunted into ethanol, a gasoline substitute that imperceptibly nicks our energy problem. Larded onto that are $11 billion a year of government subsidies to the corn complex."
    • "Eating up just a tenth of the corn crop as recently as 2004, ethanol was turbocharged by legislation in 2005 and 2007 that set specific requirements for its use in gasoline, mandating steep rises from year to year...."
    • "...All told, each gallon of gasoline that is displaced costs the Treasury $1.78 in subsidies and lost tax revenue."
    • "Nor does ethanol live up to its environmental promises. The Congressional Budget Office found that reducing carbon dioxide emissions by using ethanol costs at least $750 per ton of carbon dioxide, wildly more than other methods. What is more, making corn ethanol consumes vast quantities of water and increases smog."[28]
  • FAO's Tool Weighs Pros and Cons of Biofuels, 7 June 2011 by AllAfrica.com: "Calculating the costs and benefits of investing in biofuels may become easier for policymakers with a guide launched by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)."
    • "The Bioenergy and Food Security (BEFS) Analytical Framework, released last month (17 May), was developed over the past three years and tested in Peru, Tanzania and Thailand."
    • "Heiner Thofern, head of the BEFS project, said that the goal is to help policymakers make informed decisions on whether development of bioenergy is a viable option for their countries and, if so, identify policies that will maximise benefits for the economy and minimise risks to food security."
    • Chris Buddenhagen, council coordinator of the Hawaii Invasive Species Council who developed a tool for assessing the risk of invasion by biofuel species, also welcomed the method, but warned that it seems hard to use and difficult to apply quickly to make the best policy decisions."
    • "He also said the tool neglects some important issues, such as biodiversity and the invasiveness of biofuel species."[29]
  • Corn ethanol policy under attack in California, 26 April 2011 by Ethanol Producer Magazine: "Opponents of corn ethanol in California achieved a small victory on April 25 after the state assembly natural resources committee approved a bill that would make corn ethanol ineligible for state funding and would repeal the California Ethanol Producer Incentive Program."
    • "Supporters of the measure claim that ethanol production is to blame for higher corn prices, which in turn directly affects Californians through higher food prices. The state’s poultry, dairy and cattle producers are at the top of the list of the bill’s supporters. Many attended the committee hearing and told legislators that high corn prices are 'killing' their businesses and eliminating support for corn ethanol will help to reduce corn prices."[31]
  • U.S. Ethanol Boom Fuels Farmland Price Spike, and Some Fear a Bubble, 24 April 2011 by Midwest Energy News (via Solve Climate News): "Midwest farmers — and the land on which they rely — have prospered in recent years, even as the U.S. endured a financial crisis and economic recession."
    • "While rising global demand for food — particularly from densely populated and growing countries such as India — gets a chunk of the credit, this newfound prosperity is closely linked to the U.S. government's backing of corn-based ethanol. Farm incomes and farmland values have surged as the ethanol industry emerged and then swelled in the past decade, creating a new form of steady demand for corn and hastening the rise in value of the soil in which it grows."
    • "But the conditions also may be inflating a bubble, which if bursts could drag farm country into a recession, regulators and policy analysts have begun to warn."
    • "Analysts and others now say that the ethanol industry could either advance to other, less costly sources than corn or — perhaps sooner — key government subsidies for ethanol will get crimped as lawmakers in Washington look to curtail spending. This could affect demand for grain — and the cash markets."[32]
  • Experts: Farmers not to blame for high food prices, 7 April 2011 by Sify Finance: "Corn prices rose even higher last week following an announcement that U.S. farmers are planting the second largest corn crop since 1944, but it won't be enough to meet growing worldwide demand. Corn has traded at more than $7 a bushel this month, more than double last summer's $3.50, and many traders say it could pass the record $7.65 set in 2008."
    • "But experts say those prices have little to do with what shoppers pay at the grocery store, and farmers and ethanol producers aren't responsible for recent increases in the cost of groceries."
    • "'Ethanol has increased demand for corn, but the lion's share of the responsibility for rising food prices has to do with volatile energy prices,' Matt Hartwig, a spokesman for the Renewable Fuels Association, said. "It is the price of energy, oil, gas, diesel, that makes what you buy at the store more expensive."
    • "The U.S. Department of Agriculture report released last month that broke down where each dollar spent on groceries goes. Farmers received an average of 11.6 cents per dollar in 2008, the latest year data was available. The rest of the money goes to processing, packaging, transportation, retail trade and food service, which includes any place that prepares meals, snacks and beverages for immediate consumption including deli counters and in-store salad bars. The share going to each category has declined some, except for food service which now gets 33.7 cents of every dollar spent, the USDA reported."[33]
  • Rush to Use Crops as Fuel Raises Food Prices and Hunger Fears, 7 April 2011 by the New York Times: "The starchy cassava root has long been an important ingredient in everything from tapioca pudding and ice cream to paper and animal feed."
    • "But last year, 98 percent of cassava chips exported from Thailand, the world’s largest cassava exporter, went to just one place and almost all for one purpose: to China to make biofuel."
    • "Each year, an ever larger portion of the world’s crops — cassava and corn, sugar and palm oil — is being diverted for biofuels as developed countries pass laws mandating greater use of nonfossil fuels and as emerging powerhouses like China seek new sources of energy to keep their cars and industries running. Cassava is a relatively new entrant in the biofuel stream."
    • "But with food prices rising sharply in recent months, many experts are calling on countries to scale back their headlong rush into green fuel development, arguing that the combination of ambitious biofuel targets and mediocre harvests of some crucial crops is contributing to high prices, hunger and political instability."
    • "'The fact that cassava is being used for biofuel in China, rapeseed is being used in Europe, and sugar cane elsewhere is definitely creating a shift in demand curves,' said Timothy D. Searchinger, a research scholar at Princeton University who studies the topic. 'Biofuels are contributing to higher prices and tighter markets.'"[34]
  • Brazil wants greater regulation of sugar, ethanol, 6 April 2011 by Reuters: "Brazil wants to increase regulation of the domestic ethanol market to ensure output, a senior government official said on Wednesday, signaling a move that could have major implications for global sugar supplies."
    • "President Dilma Rousseff has instructed Brazil's National Oil Agency, or ANP, to draft regulations that will treat ethanol as a 'strategic fuel' and no longer as an agricultural commodity, Haroldo Lima, the agency's director, told Reuters."
    • "Brazil controls more than half of the world's sugar trade and is a pioneer in biofuels such as ethanol, which it makes from sugarcane. Ethanol shares about an equal amount of the local fuels market with gasoline."
    • "World sugar prices are 25 percent off 30-year highs set in February and Brazilian cane mills have been pushing production of the sweetener close to capacity and at the expense of ethanol production."
    • "For years, Brazilian officials have threatened to tax sugar exports as a way of ensuring greater output of ethanol in between cane harvests."
    • "Brazil has imported more than 150 million liters of U.S. ethanol this year as producers struggle to supply the local market during cane interharvest, the director of a large ethanol group estimated last month."[35]
  • Impacts of Biofuel Targets on Land Use and Food Supply, 6 April 2011 by Journalist Resource: "The increased global production of biofuels such as ethanol has become a subject of controversy, as land formerly dedicated to the growing of food crops is repurposed to meet energy needs. Each year, more crops such as sugar, palm oil, corn and cassava are diverted for these purposes."
    • "A paper by the World Bank, 'The Impacts of Biofuel Targets on Land-Use Change and Food Supply,' uses land-allocation information from the biofuels production sectors to determine the levels of competition between biofuels and food industries for agricultural commodities. The authors model the potential effects of increased biofuels production to meet current national targets."
    • "The paper’s findings include:
      • Expanding global biofuels production to meet current national biofuels targets would generally reduce global GDP between 0.02% and 0.06%, with the national GDP impacts varying across countries.
      • Significant Expansion in biofuels production would necessitate substantial land re-allocation, resulting in as much a 5% decreases in forest and pasture lands.
      • The expansion of biofuels would likely cause a 1% reduction in global food supply.
      • The magnitude of the impact on food costs is not as large as perceived earlier — sugar, corn and oil seeds would experience 1% to 8% price increases by 2020 — but increases would be significant in developing countries such as India and those in Sub-Saharan Africa."[36]
  • Poplar trees useful in biofuel development, 4 April 2011 by Highlander News: " The Bourns College of Engineering's Center for Environmental Research and Technology at the University of California Riverside, a research team from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and UC Riverside calls into question the assumption that high amounts of lignin in plants is the reason why it is so difficult to convert some plants into biofuels."
    • "Researchers discovered that this was not always the case. High amounts of lignin only affected plants with low contents of syringyl and guaiacyl, which are two major building blocks of lignin. Researchers were also excited to discover some hidden secrets of poplar trees."
    • "The research team also noticed that some poplar samples produced extraordinarily high amounts of sugar even without pretreatment."
    • "Poplar trees are considered good candidates for future biofuels productions. Eventually, they could take the place of food crops such as corn as a biofuel product."[37]
  • Sustainable Biofuel Crops Project - Final Scientific and Progress Report (PDF File), 31 March 2011 by Conservation International: "The three-year Sustainable Biofuel Crops Project...was launched in early 2008" supported by the U.S. Department of Energy. The overall goal of the project was to support the development of a sustainable global biofuels industry by ensuring that biofuel crop production is not a threat to biodiversity."
    • "The Sustainable Biofuel Crops Project included three components...and was implemented by teams working in the U.S., Brazil, Indonesia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Suriname."
    • "Major achievements of the Sustainable Biofuel Crops Project include:"
      • "[A]nalysis of areas of risk, and opportunity, for feedstock production...[in relation to] areas of importance for carbon sequestration and storage, water provisioning, biodiversity conservation, and staple food production".
      • Launch of the "Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT) for Business website, which provides key decision-makers access to critical information on biodiversity priority sites to inform the decision-making processes and address any potential biodiversity impacts."
      • "[A] carbon stock assessment, ecosystem services study, and biodiversity survey in and around a protected peat swamp surrounded by areas zoned for oil palm".
    • "These results, and others outlined in the full report, have helped fill a critical need for data and information to facilitate good decisions on biofuel feedstock production, and models of successful strategies to produce feedstocks more sustainably on the ground."
    • Download the report, Sustainable Biofuel Crops Project - Final Scientific and Progress Report (PDF File)
  • Biofuels Policy May Kill 200,000 Per Year in the Third World, 28 March 2011 by PR Newswire: "U.S. and European policy to increase production of ethanol and other biofuels to displace fossil fuels is supposed to help human health by reducing 'global warming.' Instead it has added to the global burden of death and disease."
    • "Increased production of biofuels increases the price of food worldwide by diverting crops and cropland from feeding people to feeding motor vehicles. Higher food prices, in turn, condemn more people to chronic hunger and 'absolute poverty'".
    • "Research by the World Bank indicates that the increase in biofuels production over 2004 levels would push more than 35 million additional people into absolute poverty in 2010 in developing countries. Using statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Indur Goklany estimates that this would lead to at least 192,000 excess deaths per year, plus disease resulting in the loss of 6.7 million disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) per year. These exceed the estimated annual toll of 141,000 deaths and 5.4 million lost DALYs that the World Health Organization attributes to global warming....Goklany also notes that death and disease from poverty are a fact, whereas death and disease from global warming are hypothetical.
    • "His analysis is published in the spring 2011 issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons".[38]
    • Download the paper, Could Biofuel Policies Increase Death and Disease in Developing Countries? (PDF file).
  • Evidence of indirect land-use change is clear, says report, 21 March 2011 by Transport & Environment: "A report by Germany’s Öko Institut says there is sufficient scientific knowledge for the EU to include the effects of indirect land use change (Iluc) in its sustainability criteria to determine which biofuels will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The report was commissioned by the European Parliament’s environment committee, and puts further pressure on the Commission to include ILUC in its assessment of policy options on biofuels due to be published in July."
    • "The report was presented to MEPs earlier this month, and criticises December’s decision by the Commission to delay incorporating Iluc until it has more evidence about its effects. Iluc is the syndrome by which growing crops for biofuels triggers displacement of existing food or feed production to nature areas, which in many cases leads to higher emissions from biofuels than from the production of conventional fuels."
    • "The Öko Institut says the only viable option for assessing the environmental performance of biofuels is to have feedstock-specific Iluc factors. This would directly link the production of biofuels to its effect on food production."[40]
  • World at risk of another food crisis: FAO, 14 March 2011 by Reuters: "A jump in oil prices and the fast recent drawdown in global stocks of cereals could herald a supply crisis, FAO Director General Jacques Diouf told Reuters in an interview during a visit to the United Arab Emirates."
    • "'The high prices raise concern and we've been quickly drawing down stocks,' he said. 'For years we have warned that what is needed is more productivity and investment in agriculture.'"
    • "February's UN Food Price Index rose for the eighth consecutive month, to the highest levels since at least 1990. Every commodity group except sugar rose last month."
    • "The FAO has asked developed countries to re-examine their biofuels strategies -- which include large subsidies -- since these have diverted 120 million tonnes of cereals away from human consumption to convert them to fuels."
    • "Avoiding another food crisis hinges on crop yields in the next harvest season, as well as how economic growth impacts demand, Diouf said. But he also said rising food prices and oil prices could have a detrimental effect on growth."[41]
  • The energy emperor's ethanol wardrobe looks mighty bare , 6 March 2011 by Washington Examiner: "Anyone looking at the ethanol subsidy program should be reminded of the childhood story of the emperor's new clothes."
    • "While those who support the program put forth various reasons for their support -- that ethanol will reduce greenhouse gases or curb our reliance on foreign oil -- in reality, it is merely a wealth transfer program from the general taxpayer to corn producers."
    • "If we admitted that, and just gave corn producers a check, we would be better off. We would avoid the misallocation of resources and the unintended consequences of the current program, such as higher food prices, that are a result of making the subsidy indirect rather than direct."[42]
  • Chaos at the Pumps - German Consumers Are Wary of New E10 Biofuel, 4 March 2011 by Der Spiegel: "Germany recently began introducing gasoline containing a higher percentage of biofuels. But consumers have so far been skittish, leading to production chaos and shortages of traditional gasoline. Some politicians have called for laws mandating that biofuels be scrapped altogether."
    • "It began as a plan to reduce the amount of CO2 being pumped into European skies. But a European Union directive requiring gas stations to sell fuel with 10 percent ethanol content has hit a snag in Germany, where consumers are avoiding the new petrol -- known as E10 -- because it is harmful to some cars."
    • "The controversy looks set to trigger yet another debate over the feasibility of using biofuels on a large scale....Not only is significant energy used in the production of the fuel, but it isn't uncommon for forestland -- a natural absorber of CO2 -- to be clear-cut for the planting of biofuels crops. Critics have also questioned the use of farmland for automobile fuel in an age of skyrocketing food prices."[43]
  • The Corn Ultimatum: How long can Americans keep burning one sixth the world’s corn supply in our cars?, 24 February 2011 by Climate Progress: "In a world of blatantly increasing food insecurity — driven by population, dietary trends, rising oil prices, and growing climate instability — America’s policy of burning one third of our corn crop in our engines (soon to be 37% or more) is becoming increasingly untenable, if not unconscionable."
    • "Reuters has a good article which notes, 'U.S. ethanol production this year will consume 15 percent of the world’s corn supply, up from 10 percent in 2008.'"
    • "The only reason environmentalists and clean energy advocates even tolerated energy deals with corn ethanol mandates is the hope that jumpstarting the infrastructure for corn ethanol would pave the way for next-generation cellulosic ethanol."[44]
  • NASCAR goes 'green,' enters biofuel debate, 20 February 2011 by Daytona Beach News Journal: "Every car and truck in NASCAR's top three series in 2011 will use Sunoco Green E15 -- a blend of gasoline with 15 percent corn ethanol. NASCAR, the federal government and corn ethanol producers say the biofuel reduces emissions and decreases American reliance on foreign oil."
    • "Many environmental advocates are dubious about corn ethanol's benefits, and some people think governmental support for ethanol is largely to blame for soaring food prices."
    • "Mike Lynch, NASCAR's managing director of green innovation, and ethanol advocates question the impact of expanded ethanol use on corn prices, though, and point out the federal government is solidly behind ethanol, dating back to the 1970s."
    • "The U.S. churned out more than 13 billion gallons of ethanol in 2010, more than four times the amount produced in 2000. The percentage of U.S. corn crops used for ethanol has grown from about 5 percent in 2000 to 39 percent in 2010, and recent reports that America's corn reserves are at an all-time low has food industry leaders concerned."
    • "Nikoleta Panteva, an analyst who studies agricultural markets for IBISWorld, an industry research firm, called the impact of corn ethanol use on food prices 'not significant' when compared to factors like weather."
    • "A better solution, Lynch admits, would be cellulosic ethanol -- made from waste products like corn cobs -- but the technology to make that biofuel isn't commercially viable yet."[45]
  • Nigeria: Why We Could Not Realise Biofuels Project - Ericsson, 17 February 2011 by allAfrica.com: "Ericsson has stated that the biofuels initiative it tried to embark upon in Nigeria in 2007, could not be the realised because of concerns with issues of food security."
    • "Operators in the Nigerian telecoms space are hampered in their operations by inadequate power supply resulting in operators using alternative power supply to address over 90 percent of their power needs. The need to find a solution to the power challenge faced by operators in Africa led to Ericsson creating solutions that will help operators tackle the challenge."
    • "Vice President of Ericsson's Corporate Responsibility Unit, Ms Elaine Weidman Grunewald said 'Nigeria was probably not the right African country to start the project with at that time because there were issues of food crops, and we tried using palm oil for fuel instead of food...The price of Palm oil was too high to make the project work.'"
    • "The biofuel programme which is an initiative of Ericsson, and the GSM Association aims to connect off- grid locations by identifying and processing locally grown crops like coconut, cotton and jathropha into biofuel that will power base stations in the developing world."[46]
  • New FAO study shows integrated food and energy crops work for poor farmers, 17 February 2011 by Food and Agriculture Organization: "Producing food and energy side-by-side may offer one of the best formulas for boosting countries' food and energy security while simultaneously reducing poverty, according to a new FAO report."
    • "'Farming systems that combine food and energy crops present numerous benefits to poor rural communities,' said Alexander Müller, FAO Assistant Director-General for Natural Resources."
    • "'With these integrated systems farmers can save money because they don't have to buy costly fossil fuel, nor chemical fertilizer if they use the slurry from biogas production. They can then use the savings to buy necessary inputs to increase agricultural productivity, such as seeds adapted to changing climatic conditions — an important factor given that a significant increase in food production in the next decades will have to be carried out under conditions of climate change.'"
    • "Integrating food and energy production can also be an effective approach to mitigating climate change, especially emissions stemming from land use change."[47]
    • "To see the full report, go to Making Integrated Food-Energy Systems (IFES) Work for People and Climate - An Overview(PDF File)"
  • Jatropha vs Moringa as food vs fuel, 16 February 2011 by Teatro Naturale International: "Previously heralded as a wonder plant, Jatropha grows in a number of climatic zones in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world."
    • "The uses of Jatropha have undeniable value, but more recently the crop was found less robust than first thought, due to the link with rising hunger and non-edible industrial biofuels."
    • "Jatropha supposedly grows on marginal land. In reality marginal land produces only marginal yields, so Jatropha is increasingly being grown on fertile agricultural land, competing directly with food crops for space."
    • "The tree Moringa oleifera has surfaced as a higher recovery and quality oil than other crops; it has no direct competition with food crops and can be used as a source of both biofuel and food."
    • "Moringa is a rapidly growing and drought resistant tree of which all parts are edible and can be used for oil, fibre, medicine and water purification. The tree grows in semi-arid tropical and sub-tropical areas and even wasteland without ample rainfall or additions of fertiliser."
    • "With Moringa bridging the gap between food and fuel, finance and investment firms are picking Moringa as an opportunity to provide rewarding returns in the investment market."[48]
  • EU wants 60 pct transport carbon cut by 2050-draft, 16 February 2011 by Reuters: "The European Union's executive Commission will call for a 60 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from transport by 2050."
    • "The proposed transport targets are based on an existing EU goal to cut the bloc's greenhouse gas emissions by about 80 percent by the middle of the century."
    • "In one possible complication for the targets, the EU's "sustainability criteria" are meant to limit the use of biofuels which have unwanted side effects, such as competing with food production, or else leading to the destruction of tropical forests where these are re-planted with energy crops."[49]
  • In face of hunger, corn ethanol industry says blame anyone but us, 14 February 2011 by Switchboard.nrdc.com: "In a Washington Post editorial last week, biofuels expert Tim Searchinger sheds much needed light on the link between two important trends in today’s markets for grains: the expansion of global biofuels mandates on the one hand and the frequency and magnitude of food shortages around the world on the other."
    • "Where Searchinger lays out how in a complicated and complex market, biofuels make a bad situation worse, the industry cries for the messenger’s head and tries to shift the blame to anyone but themselves."
    • "This now prominently features attacks on the science of lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions accounting for biofuels, including the need to account for the carbon that is emitted when forests and other uncultivated lands are cleared for food production as a result of existing cropland being diverted towards growing grains for fuel."[50]
  • How biofuels contribute to the food crisis, 11 February 2011 by The Washington Post: "Nearly all assessments of the 2008 food crisis assigned biofuels a meaningful role, but much of academia and the media ultimately agreed that the scale of the crisis resulted from a "perfect storm" of causes. Yet this "perfect storm" has re-formed not three years later."
    • "Demand for biofuels is almost doubling the challenge of producing more food. Since 2004, for every additional ton of grain needed to feed a growing world population, rising government requirements for ethanol from grain have demanded a matching ton."
    • "Agricultural production is keeping up in general with the growing demand for food - but it keeps up with the added demand for biofuels only if growing weather is good."
    • "Economic studies imply that food prices should come down if we can just limit biofuel growth."[52]
  • Bristol's biofuels plant must be refused planning permission, 10 February 2011 by The Guardian: "Burning biofuels in power stations is environmental vandalism on a staggering scale."
    • "The operators have two options. They could burn the cheapest available vegetable oils, which means palm and soya oil. These are also the most destructive: driving massive deforestation in both south-east Asia and the Amazon"
    • "Alternatively, the operators could burn cheaper oils, such as rapeseed. In doing so, they cause two problems. The first is to raise world food prices. The second is to create a vacuum in the world edible oils market, which is filled by … palm and soya oil."
    • "Whichever kind of vegetable oil you burn, you'll end up trashing the rainforests of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brazil."
    • "Somehow the government still classes burning edible oils to make electricity as green, and issues renewables obligations certificates for it – which is the only reason why it's happening."[53]
  • Laws needed to guide biofuels development, 9 February 2011 by Business Daily Africa: "We have recently seen debates on a proposed large-scale foreign investment for 'jatropha' biodiesel crop in the Tana Delta area. The debate is an indication that we need national policies to guide biofuel development and also large-scale leasing of community lands by foreign enterprises."
    • "Over the last few years, many countries have been reassessing their strategies on biofuels especially where biofuels developments are in direct competition with national food self sufficiency and where they interfere with existing primary forests."
    • "The draft policy and strategy for biodiesel in Kenya centers mainly around rural communities primarily in semi-arid areas, where locally grown diesel crops (jatropha, croton, castor etc) would provide affordable and cleaner alternative rural energy for lighting and heating using locally customised equipment."
    • "With renewed focus on food crops in marginal areas, it is highly unlikely that the government will wish to emphasise promotion of biodiesel crops like jatropha in the same areas."[54]
  • Challenges for Biofuels – New Life Cycle Assessment Report from Energy Biosciences Institute, 8 February 2011 by Department of Energy Berkeley Lab: "A combination of rising costs, shrinking supplies, and concerns about global climate change are spurring the development of alternatives to the burning of fossil fuels to meet our transportation energy needs. Scientific studies have shown the most promising of possible alternatives to be liquid fuels derived from cellulosic biomass."
    • "'Challenges include constraints imposed by economics and markets, resource limitations, health risks, climate forcing, nutrient cycle disruption, water demand, and land use,' says Thomas McKone, lead author for the report."
    • "'Responding to these challenges effectively requires a life-cycle perspective.'"
    • "This report summarizes seven grand challenges that 'must be confronted' to enable life-cycle assessments that effectively evaluate the environmental footprint of biofuel alternatives."[55]
  • Biofuel debate unlikely to end, 7 February 2011 by PJStar.Com: "The rise in corn prices - and the continued increase in how much corn is used in the production of ethanol - fuels an ongoing debate pitting biofuels against food production."
    • "In 2001, only 7 percent of the nation's corn crop went for ethanol. Last year, ethanol production took almost 40 percent of the crop."
    • "'With corn ethanol now taking 40 percent of the U.S. corn supply, enormous pressure is being placed on the corn supply and price as well as other commodities. This pressure is being felt all throughout the supply chain and right to the consumer,' said Tom Super, spokesman for Washington, D.C.-based American Meat Institute."
    • "Michael Doherty, senior economist for the Bloomington-based Illinois Farm Bureau, said that, while higher corn prices have an impact on livestock producers, it's not the only factor."
    • "He called ethanol 'a pin cushion' - a target for critics who seize on instability around the world to focus on biofuels."[56]
  • Failure to act on crop shortages fuelling political instability, experts warn, 7 February 2011 by The Guardian: "World leaders are ignoring potentially disastrous shortages of key crops, and their failures are fuelling political instability in key regions, food experts have warned."
    • "Food prices have hit record levels in recent weeks, according to the United Nations, and soaring prices for staples such as grains over the past few months are thought to have been one of the factors contributing to an explosive mix of popular unrest in Egypt and Tunisia."
    • "The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation said this week that world food prices hit a record high in January, for the seventh consecutive month. Its food price index was up 3.4% from December to the highest level since the organisation started measuring food prices in 1990."
    • "Water scarcity, combined with soil erosion, climate change, the diversion of food crops to make biofuels, and a growing population, were all putting unprecedented pressure on the world's ability to feed itself, according to [Lester] Brown" of the Earth Policy Institute.
    • "Richer countries such as China and Middle Eastern oil producers have reacted by buying up vast tracts of land in poorer parts of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa and parts of south-east Asia."
    • "There were widespread food riots in 2008 in Africa, Latin America and some Asian countries, as soaring grain prices put staple foods out of reach of millions of poor people."[57]

2010

  • Germany relaxes rule on biofuel sustainability, 15 December 2010 by Michael Hogan: "Germany has temporarily relaxed rules requiring raw materials for biofuels come from sustainable output, a move which industry bodies said on Wednesday will smooth imports of rapeseed and rapeseed oil for biodiesel use."
    • "The directive aims to protect tropical rain forests being cut down for biofuel crop production. But German industry associations had feared the failure of other EU states to implement the rule on time would mean Germany would not have been able to import non-certified rapeseed and rapeseed oil from other EU states in 2011."
    • "Germany imports about two million tonnes of rapeseed annually for food and biodiesel production."
    • "'The change is limited to June 2011 so we now hope that other EU states will also introduce the EU directive otherwise we will be faced with the problem again,' the UFOP spokesman said."[58]
  • The ethics of biofuels: Paper asks hard questions about biofuel production, 14 December 2010 by University of Calgary: "In the world-wide race to develop energy sources that are seen as "green" because they are renewable and less greenhouse gas-intensive, sometimes the most basic questions remain unanswered."
    • "In a paper released today by the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary, authors Michal Moore, Senior Fellow, and Sarah M. Jordaan at Harvard University in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, look at the basic question of whether these energy sources are ethical."
    • The main questions addressed are: "1. What is the effect of biofuel production on food costs, especially for poor populations? 2. Should more land be used for biofuel when the return of energy per acre is low? Are there better uses for that land? 3. In addition to worrying about the impact of global warming, should we not consider the impact on land of massively expanding biofuel production? 4. What are the other economic impacts of large scale production of biofuel?"[59]
  • New Wikileaks show biofuel food impacts were underestimated, 14 December 2010 by Kenneth Richter of Friends of the Earth UK: "I found out today that biofuels and GM crops now have their very own Wikileak."
    • "The secret cables reveal some yet more evidence about US attempts to push GM crops onto Africa. The cables also contain notes from an international meeting called by Gordon Brown on biofuels and the food crises in 2008."
    • "In that meeting Joachim Von Braun, Director General of the [International] Food Policy Institute Research (IFPRI) suggested a moratorium on maize for biofuels. Their modelling showed it would immediately slash maize prices by 20 per cent and wheat prices by 10 per cent, with further reductions because it would discourage speculation."
    • "But this idea was dismissed by other participants. Cargill's Ruth Rawling predicted that wheat prices would come down quite quickly without the moratorium. The Overseas Development Institute estimated that prices would fall back from their 2008 peak to roughly what they had been in the early 1990s."
    • "How wrong they were."
    • "Wheat has now risen in price by nearly two-thirds in the past six months. Pier Luigi Sigismondi, Unilever's chief supply chain officer acknowledges: 'The world is losing arable land at a rate of about 40,000 square miles a year. That is land being used for biofuel production, while climate change is eroding away topsoil.'"
    • "As a result the FAO now predicts another major global food crisis for 2011."[60]
  • Left-Right Coalition Responds to Senate Vote on Ethanol Tax Credit, 6 December 2010 by BeforeItsNews: "On Saturday (December 4, 2010), the Senate defeated a package of tax policy extensions, including a year extension of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) at $.36 per gallon, a 20 percent reduction from current levels. In response, a diverse coalition of organizations issued a joint press release applauding the vote on the VEETC and explaining why the tax credit should not be renewed."
    • "Here’s what the participants said:
    • "'A reduction in the corn ethanol tax credit is a small step in the right direction for animal agriculture and America's taxpayers. Burning a substantial portion of our food and feed as fuel is not a sustainable answer, in the long term, to solving this nation’s fuel needs....' - J. Patrick Boyle, President and CEO, American Meat Institute"
    • "'The blender’s credit and import tariff on foreign ethanol have distorted the corn market, creating needless volatility in the cost of animal feed....' - Joel Brandenberger, president of the National Turkey Federation"[61]
  • U.S. corn ethanol "was not a good policy" -Gore, 22 November 2010 by Reuters: "Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore said support for corn-based ethanol in the United States was 'not a good policy', weeks before tax credits are up for renewal."
    • "'It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for (U.S.) first generation ethanol,' said Gore, speaking at a green energy business conference in Athens sponsored by Marfin Popular Bank."
    • "A food-versus-fuel debate erupted in 2008, in the wake of record food prices, where the biofuel industry was criticised for helping stoke food prices."
    • "Gore said a range of factors had contributed to that food price crisis, including drought in Australia, but said there was no doubt biofuels have an effect."
    • Gore also stated, "'I do think second and third generation that don't compete with food prices will play an increasing role, certainly with aviation fuels.'"[62]
  • Researchers Debate Whether Biofuels Are Truly Greener Than Fossil Fuels, 21 November 2010 by Loren Grush: "The ETC Group, an international organization supporting sustainability and conservation, has just published its newest report, an 84-page document that presents a lengthy criticism of "the new bioeconomy." In it, principal author Jim Thomas argues that using biofuels for energy and resources isn't green -- in fact, he says, in certain ways they can be more harmful to the environment than coal."
    • "But other scientists say the biofuel economy is complex, and they note that it's hard to lump absolutely everything labeled biomass together."
    • "'One needs to recognize that all biofuels are not the same. The current generation is based on corn in the U.S., based on wheat and rapeseed in Europe,' Dr. Madhu Khanna, a professor of agriculture at the University of Illinois, told FoxNews.com."
    • "But even among the first generation, there is also sugarcane, which is a much cleaner fuel, and Brazil has a lot of available land for sugarcane production. You're able to expand without coming into conflict with food production. So you don't hear the same criticism necessarily about sugarcane."
    • "Thomas is adamant that land use will become a massive issue for the biomass industry. "This isn't a switch, it's a massive grab on land," he said. "This movement to a plant-based, or so-called green economy, will throw a lot of people off their land in the developing world."[63]
  • Biofuel worse for climate than fossil fuel - study, 7 November 2010 by Reuters: "European plans to promote biofuels will drive farmers to convert 69,000 square km of wild land into fields and plantations, depriving the poor of food and accelerating climate change, a report warned on Monday."
    • "As a result, the extra biofuels that Europe will use over the next decade will generate between 81 and 167 percent more carbon dioxide than fossil fuels, says the report."
    • "Nine environmental groups reached the conclusion after analysing official data on the European Union's goal of getting 10 percent of transport fuel from renewable sources by 2020."
    • "But the European Commission's energy team, which originally formulated the goal, countered that the bulk of the land needed would be found by recultivating abandoned farmland in Europe and Asia, minimising the impact."
    • "The debate centres on a new concept known as "indirect land-use change."
    • "In essence, that means that if you take a field of grain and switch the crop to biofuel, somebody, somewhere, will go hungry unless those missing tonnes of grain are grown elsewhere."
    • "The report was compiled by ActionAid, Birdlife International, ClientEarth, European Environment Bureau, FERN, Friends of the Earth Europe, Greenpeace, Transport & Environment, Wetlands International."[65]
  • World Bank report: demand for biofuels and animal feed is causing land grabs, 8 September 2010 by Friends of The Earth: "On the launch of a new World Bank report today (8 September 2010) in which the Bank explicitly identifies biofuels as one of the driving forces of land grabs in Africa and acknowledges its detrimental impact on local livelihoods, Friends of the Earth renews its call on rich countries to drop their biofuels targets and invest in planet-friendly farming."
    • "Mariann Bassey, African food and agriculture coordinator for Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria said: 'The World Bank is backing the practice of nations selling vast agricultural lands to foreign investors, despite evidence that the expansion of industrial farming is trashing rainforests, increasing emissions, and pushing up global food prices.'"
    • "Last week Friends of the Earth released new research showing that the scale of land grabbing in Africa for biofuel production was underestimated and out of control...Even more land will be required for biofuels if the European Union is to reach its target of obtaining 10 per cent of transport fuels from renewable sources by 2020, it says."[66]
  • USDA and DOE Partnership Seeks to Develop Better Plants for Bioenergy, 2 September 2010 by the US Department of Energy: "Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced research awards under a joint DOE-USDA program aimed at improving and accelerating genetic breeding programs to create plants better suited for bioenergy production."
    • "The research grants will be awarded under a joint DOE-USDA program focused on fundamental investigations of biomass genomics, with the aim of harnessing lignocellulosic materials--i.e., nonfood plant fiber--for biofuels production. Emphasis is on perennials, including trees and other nonfood plants that can be used as dedicated biofuel crops."[67]
  • Land grabbing for biofuels hits Ghana, other African countries – Report, 30 August 2010 by Emmanuel K. Dogbevi: "There appears to be a gradual but ominous attempt to turn Africa into the production centre of some selected food crops and non-food crops for the production of biofuels to feed industry and vehicles in Europe."
    • "According to [a recent report by the environmental group, Friends of the Earth International], a third of the land sold or acquired in Africa, some five million hectares is intended for fuel crops."
    • "The report profiles land-grab cases that have happened in 11 African countries, most of which is being used or intended to be used to grow biofuel crops like Jatropha and palm oil."
    • "The report indicated further that concerns about energy supply appear to be a key driver behind the demand for agrofuel crops – with the EU aiming for 10% of transport fuel to come from “renewable” sources by 2010. These EU targets have established a clear market – which given land prices and the lack of available land within the EU will inevitably be met by imports."[68]
  • Biofuels Don't Threaten Food Security - Study, 30 August 2010 by Catherine Riungu: "'Crops can be produced for bioenergy on a significant scale in West, East and Southern Africa without affecting food production or natural habitats,' said the joint report by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, Imperial College London, and Camco International."
    • "'If approached with the proper policies and processes and with the inclusion of all the various stakeholders, bioenergy is not only compatible with food production; it can greatly benefit agriculture in Africa,' said Rocio Diaz-Chavez, the report's lead author and research fellow at Imperial College, London."
    • 'Bioenergy production can bring investments in land, infrastructure and human resources that could help unlock Africa's idle potential and positively increase food production,' she added."
    • "Among the report's findings is that there is enough land to significantly increase the cultivation of crops such as sugarcane, sorghum, and jatropha for biofuels without diminishing food production."[69]
  • Lack of science means jatropha biofuel 'could fail poor', 9 August 2010 by Papiya Bhattacharyya: "Mass planting of jatropha as a biofuel crop could benefit poor areas as well as combating global warming, but only if a number of scientific and production issues are properly addressed, a review has warned."
    • "Growing jatropha for biofuel on degraded land unsuitable for food and cash crops could help improve the earnings of small farmers and counter poverty, reports the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in the review published last month."
    • "But Balakrishna Gowda, biofuel project coordinator in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, where jatropha is grown, and professor at the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore, said that it would be unrealistic to expect jatropha to reverse poverty 'overnight' in developing countries. 'The plant requires water and nutrition like any other plant [even if it grows on degraded land],' he told SciDev.Net. 'And it takes at least five to seven years for the plants to mature and grow their first fruit. We can rule out expectations of a great 'overnight' yield.'"[71]
  • The effect of biofuels on food prices has “not been as large as originally thought”, according to a newly-released working paper from the World Bank., 6 August 2010 by James Cartledge: "In fresh analysis on the 2008 boom in global food prices, the paper said much of the problem was caused by the rising price of energy and to a lesser extent by the actions of various commodity investors looking to make a fast buck out of the rising prices."
    • "Between 2003 and 2008, the general price of metals and energy rose by 230%, fertilizers four-fold and food more than double."
    • "With some researchers blaming biofuels for as much as two thirds of the rise in food prices, the World Bank paper said there were “serious doubts about claims that biofuels account for a big shift in global demand”.This was particularly because biofuels account for only 1.5% of world grains consumption, the report suggested."
    • "During the energy boom, more attention was devoted to the possible impact of diverting food crops into biofuel production than the fact that rising energy crops made the cultivation and production of food more expensive."[72]
  • GBEP Newsletter Highlights Progress on Sustainability Indicators for Bioenergy, 1 July 2010 by Climate-L.org: "The Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP) has published its eighth newsletter, which discusses, inter alia, the recent G8 Summit in Muskoka, Canada, GBEP’s new partners, and new online resources for greenhouse gas (GHG) measurement."
    • "The newsletter opens by noting that G8 leaders renewed GBEP’s mandate, highlighting the need for further progress on sustainability indicators and criteria, and capacity building efforts. The newsletter further highlights that, concerning sustainability indicators, the GBEP Task Force on Sustainability has recently reached agreement in a number of areas including economic, energy security, social and environmental aspects. This is contrasted, however, with hurdles that remain in the areas of food security, government support, trade, land rights and national legal, policy and institutional frameworks."[73]
      • See the GBEP newsletter here
  • Klobuchar bill: trojan horse for bad biofuels, 14 July 2010, Nathanael Greene’s Blog/NRDC: "It should come as no surprise that the first copy of the full text of Sen Klobuchar's energy bill was found on a corn ethanol industry association website; the bill reads like the industry's wish list."
    • "Here are some of laundry list of bad biofuel provisions:
  • "5 year extension of the corn ethanol tax credit (which mostly enriches oil companies such as BP)."
  • "Legislating away the science of lifecycle GHG accounting for ethanol. Using lots of land to make ethanol instead of food means that food production moves to new land and that leads to deforestation."[74]
  • Surging costs hit food security in poorer nations, 6 June 2010 by Associated Press: "With food costing up to 70 percent of family income in the poorest countries, rising prices are squeezing household budgets and threatening to worsen malnutrition....Compounding the problem in many countries: prices hardly fell from their peaks in 2008, when global food prices jumped in part due to a smaller U.S. wheat harvest and demand for crops to use in biofuels."
    • "The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's food price index — which includes grains, meat, dairy and other items in 90 countries — was up 22 percent in March from a year earlier though still below 2008 levels."
    • "Costs also have been pushed up by a rebound in global commodity prices, especially for soy destined for Asian consumption. That has prompted a shift in Argentina and elsewhere to produce more for export, which has led to local shortages of beef and other food."
    • "In Argentina, soy production has taken over more than 32 million acres (13 million hectares) of grassland once used to raise cattle and replaced less profitable wheat and corn as well, driving up prices in supermarkets."[78]
  • Cars and People Compete for Grain, 1 June 2010 by Earth Policy Institute: "At a time when excessive pressures on the earth’s land and water resources are of growing concern, there is a massive new demand emerging for cropland to produce fuel for cars — one that threatens world food security."
    • "Historically the food and energy economies were separate, but now with the massive U.S. capacity to convert grain into ethanol, that is changing....If the fuel value of grain exceeds its food value, the market will simply move the commodity into the energy economy."
    • "The grain required to fill an SUV’s 25-gallon tank with ethanol just once will feed one person for a whole year."
    • "Suddenly the world is facing an epic moral and political issue: Should grain be used to fuel cars or feed people?"
    • "For every additional acre planted to corn to produce fuel, an acre of land must be cleared for cropping elsewhere. But there is little new land to be brought under the plow unless it comes from clearing tropical rainforests in the Amazon and Congo basins and in Indonesia or from clearing land in the Brazilian cerrado."[79]
  • Maryland researchers turn poplar trees into biofuel, 3 May 2010 by the Baltimore Sun: "Fuel derived from the hardy, fast-growing common poplar could eventually replace some of the billions of gallons of petroleum-based fuel now pumped a year," according to University of Maryland "biologist Gary Coleman and engineer Ganesh Sriram, who have partnered to help turn the woody plant into a widely used biofuel."
    • "Globally, other crops such as sugar are used to make biofuel. And more, including willow trees, algae and switchgrass, are in the race with poplars to become the next viable crop. But the government and scientists see poplars as having an edge because they naturally grow to about 70 feet in five or six years and grow just about anywhere."
    • "Poplars would use up land...but not as much as corn and not in place of food crops, said Sriram, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering".[80]
  • Weed to Wonder Fuel? Jatropha Draws Biofuel Investors - and Questions, 13 April 2010 by SolveClimate.com: "In the world of biofuels, the pattern is familiar: Concerns grow over one crop’s impacts or overhyped potential, and another then appears to take its place with promises of planet-saving prowess."
    • "The latest savior is jatropha, a drought-resistant and hardy plant that supposedly can deliver high energy yields on marginal land and eliminate concerns about food competing with fuel for farmland."
    • "As of 2008, 242 jatropha biofuel projects covered 2.2 million acres; those numbers are likely much higher now....The Global Exchange for Social Investment predicted in its 2008 report that 32 million acres would be in production by 2015."
    • "Achieving [estimated] yields [of 200 gallons of oil per acre per year] on a large scale, though, will most likely require better than 'marginal' lands and better than primitive farming practices."
    • "Also, research into jatropha’s potential as a greenhouse gas emissions saver has yet to be fully explored. The major sticking point that arose with corn ethanol, sugarcane and other feedstocks is the concept of indirect land use changes and other elements of total lifecycle emissions that reduce the overall benefits".[82]
  • EDITORIAL: Stop 'Big Corn', 5 April 2010 by the Washington Times: "The Environmental Protection Agency wants to dump more corn into your fuel tank this summer, and it's going to cost more than you think."
    • "The agency is expected to approve a request from 52 ethanol producers known collectively as "Growth Energy" to boost existing requirements that gasoline contain 10 percent ethanol to 15 percent. The change means billions more in government subsidies for companies in the business of growing corn and converting it into ethanol. For the rest of us, it means significantly higher gasoline and food prices."
    • "According to the University of Missouri's Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute, the ethanol tax credit increases corn prices by 18 cents a bushel, wheat by 15 cents and soybeans by 28 cents. That means higher prices for most food items at the grocery store and restaurants."[83]
  • IFPRI Publishes Study on the EU Biofuels Mandate, March 2010 by The International Food Policy Research Institute: "The report is one of four commissioned by the European Commission to assess the impacts of the 10% target for the use of renewable energy in road transport fuels by 2020."
    • "The study uses a global general equilibrium model, separately including numerous first generation ethanol and biodiesel feedstocks, co-generated products, farming techniques, as well as direct, and indirect land-use changes (ILUC) resulting from the mandated increase in consumption of biofuels. Additionally, as the model is global, it also considers different multi- and bilateral trade scenarios."
    • "The results indicate that there is ILUC associated with the EU mandate, but that the mandate will still result in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emission savings of nearly 13 million tons over 20 years. Additionally, the authors find that the mandate will have only a negligible effect on food prices and, concerning biodiesel, even with ILUC taken into account, imported palm oil remains as efficient as European rapeseed."[85]
  • Bill To Extend Ethanol Tax Credit Reignites Fuel vs. Food Debate, 25 March 2010 by SustainableBusiness.com: "A bill introduced in the US House last week would extend ethanol tax credits for another five years, to 2015. This tax credit is set to expire on December 31, 2010."
    • "The Renewable Fuels Reinvestment Act (RFRA), introduced by Congressman Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and and John Shimkus (R-IL), has reignited the fuel versus food debate and intensified scrutiny on the EPA's regulations on the environmental impact of corn-based ethanol."
    • "The bill would extend the $0.45 Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC), commonly called the blenders’ credit, and a secondary tariff on imported ethanol from countries like Brazil. It would also extend the Small Producers Tax Credit and the Cellulosic Ethanol Production Tax Credit to January 1, 2016."[86]
  • Biodiesel lobby: EU understates emissions from oil, 18 March 2010 by Reuters: "[B]iodiesel producers argue the EU's reference values for emissions from diesel and petrol are set too low. That's because they fail to take account of the rising use of unconventional fossil fuels such as Canadian tar sands and extra heavy oil."
    • "Emissions from unconventional oil are up to two-and-a-half times higher than ordinary crude, the [European Biodiesel Board] said, as more energy is used to extract it."
    • "Under the EU's renewable energy directive, biofuels must deliver emissions savings of at least 35 percent compared to fossil-based fuels to count toward the bloc's target of sourcing 10 percent of road transport fuels from renewables in 2020."
    • On the other hand environmental group activists like "Adrian Bebb, biofuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth [argue that], 'All the evidence suggests that Europe's demand for biofuels is causing untold deforestation, increased food prices, land conflicts and greenhouse gas emissions.'"
  • NGOs take European Commission to court over biofuels reports , 9 March 2010 by Euractiv: "Four environmental groups have sued the European Union's executive for withholding documents they say will add to a growing dossier of evidence that biofuels harm the environment and push up food prices."
    • "In December 2008, EU leaders reached agreement on a new Renewable Energy Directive, which requires each member state to satisfy 10% of its transport fuel needs from renewable sources, including biofuels, hydrogen and green electricity, by 2020."
    • "However, concerns have been raised that increased biofuel production would result in massive deforestation and have severe implications for food security, as energy crops replace other land uses (so-called 'indirect land-use change').
    • "The lawsuit, lodged with the EU's General Court, the bloc's second highest court, alleges several violations of European laws on transparency and democracy."[88]
  • U.S. Feeds One Quarter of its Grain to Cars While Hunger is on the Rise, 21 January 2010 press release by Earth Policy Institute: "The 107 million tons of grain that went to U.S. ethanol distilleries in 2009 was enough to feed 330 million people for one year at average world consumption levels. More than a quarter of the total U.S. grain crop was turned into ethanol to fuel cars last year."
    • "In a globalized food economy, increased demand for food to fuel American vehicles puts additional pressure on world food supplies."
    • EPI calculates that "even if the entire U.S. grain crop were converted to ethanol..., it would satisfy at most 18 percent of U.S. automotive fuel needs."
    • "The amount of grain needed to fill the tank of an SUV with ethanol just once can feed one person for an entire year....Continuing to divert more food to fuel, as is now mandated by the U.S. federal government in its Renewable Fuel Standard, will likely only reinforce the disturbing rise in hunger."[90]
  • 'Invasive' biofuel crops require monitoring and mitigation measures, 21 January 2010 by ENN/European Consumers Bioenergy Division: "Biofuel crops will impact on biodiversity and natural ecosystems unless tightly controlled, says a panel of European experts."
    • The Bern Convention "adopted a recommendation on potentially invasive alien plants being used as biofuel crops (Recommendation 141, 2009). They warn that some biofuel crops are able to escape as pests, and in so doing impact on native biodiversity. As rural communities plan to grow more biofuel crops, the likelihood of new and harmful 'invasions' will increase apace."[91]

See the archive of past food-versus-fuel debate-related news


Publications

See books, reports, scientific papers, position papers and websites for additional useful resources.

  • Regional level actions to avoid ILUC, June 2011 by Department of Transport. "This report considers the potential to reduce the risk of ILUC by actions taken at a regional level, for example by a region with a country, a national government or an international body such as the European Union."[93]

US Corn Ethanol

Available vehicle fuels increasingly include fuel blends that combine petroleum-derived fuels (diesel and gasoline/petrol) with plant-derived fuels (biodiesel and ethanol). Image of a gasoline pump in the Eastern United States, 2008.
  • Corn prices were at an 11 year high, with farmers getting up to $3.50 a bushel.[97].
  • With ethanol now a serious factor in grain markets, the debate over what the impact of the US ethanol industry will be on world food supplies has heated up.
  • Boom in biofuel leading to higher costs for food, 11 May 2007 from the Asahi Shinbun. The increase in US corn going to ethanol production is driving up the prices of other products. In particular farmers are planting less soybeans, which has resulted in a 10% increase in the price of mayonnaise made by Japan's largest producer. It was their first price hike in 17 years. Beer and beef producers are also feeling the pressure.

Mexico

China

European Union

  • Food industry calls for a more balanced biofuel policy February 5 2007 from Foodnavigator-usa.com. "With the increasing use of some of their raw materials for the production of biofuels, the food industry is calling on the European Commission to take measures to ensure they do not face further price hikes for their supplies."
  • Biofuel expansion raises the risk of future famines 28 January 2007 from Gulf News. "Switching more land from food to biofuel production raises the risk of future famines, a conference organised by the Soil Association, Britain's leading organic certification body, was told."
  • EU food demand for biofuel production in the near future is however not excessively high November 22, 2006. "Research presented at the third Amsterdam Forum for sustainable energy held on November 21-22 2006 in Amsterdam, [[The Netherlands], showed that although a 14% replacement in 2020 would require between 10 and 20% of current cereal production levels, depending on the share of so-called [[second generation technology that will be used by that time. This can be met by increasing average crop yields with 10% (or less than 1% per year) and bioethanol conversion rates with 5% (less than 0.5% per year). Such increases have been realised in the past. Another source of biomass is 3 million ha that currently is excluded from production in the so-called set-aside program. Thus, there no real need for expansion into non-agricultural (nature, marginal) land, especially outside of the EU. Figures are more promising for sugarbeet (bioethanol), but not so for oilseed rape (biodiesel). One should further keep in mind that, while currently multiple hundreds of millions of cereals are used annually for animal feed, the actual amount of food required to feed the 800 million or so malnourished in the world is accounted to 100 million tons only. This calls, therefore, for a more specified and balanced discussion on the issue of food-versus-fuel."

Latin America


Controversies concerning bioenergy edit
Food security | Food-versus-fuel debate (Biofuel impacts on food prices)

Food crops used for biofuels: corn

Controversies concerning bioenergy edit
Food-versus-fuel debate | Land-use change (Tropical forest conversion)
Net energy debate | Peat burning | Sustainable agriculture


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