The problem with biofuels

Biofuels

Biofuels were once touted as the miraculous answer to our energy shortages and fears around climate change. But mounting evidence has exposed this supposedly ‘green fuel’ as the ultimate red herring. Meeting global biofuel targets could force hundreds of millions more people into hunger by 2020.

Causing food price rises

The rising demand for crops for fuel has put them in direct competition with food crops over land and water. With food being burned in our cars instead of used to feed hungry people, the price of food is being pushed up.

Meeting existing European biofuel targets would push the price of some crops up by as much as a third. For poor families in the developing world who have to spend up to 80% of their income on food, even a small rise in the price of staple foods is catastrophic.

Driving land grabs

Targets for the amount of biofuel used in road transport guarantee a market for biofuels, which gives companies the incentive to find land on which to grow their biofuel crops.

This land grab is leaving farmers in the developing world stranded, unable to grow their own food or afford food in their local market.

Biofuel companies are also routinely breaking promises [link http://www.actionaid.org.uk/food-not-fuel/real-lives-tanzania]  they make to communities to provide local improvements and jobs.

A false solution to climate change

Industrial biofuels present a false solution to climate change and divert attention from the real changes needed. They were introduced as a ‘renewable energy’ but are not living up to that promise. Far from tackling climate change, most biofuels emit just as many greenhouse gases as the fossil fuels they were designed to replace.

This is largely due to the indirect ‘land use change’ (or ILUC) needed to make way for the vast biofuel plantations popping up all over the developing world.  Growing biofuels entails using land that could have been used to grow food. However, total demand for food does not decrease, so new land must be cleared to produce the food previously grown on the land now being used for biofuel. This land use change causes greenhouse gases to be released. ILUC (Indirect Land Use Change) emissions factors (or ‘ILUC factors’ for short) refers to these carbon emissions from land cleared to grow this food and how they are measured.

It is the world’s poorest people who are taking the brunt of these policies as the impacts of climate change hit developing countries first, and hardest.

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