Monday, February 11, 2008

Speaking of Starvation, How's that Biofuel Industry?

From an article by George Monbiot from a few months ago:
It doesn't get madder than this. Swaziland is in the grip of a famine and receiving emergency food aid. Forty per cent of its people are facing acute food shortages. So what has the government decided to export? Biofuel made from one of its staple crops, cassava. The government has allocated several thousand hectares of farmland to ethanol production in the county of Lavumisa, which happens to be the place worst hit by drought.

Monbiot says the biofuel trade
should be frozen until second-generation fuels - made from wood or straw or waste - become commercially available. Otherwise the superior purchasing power of drivers in the rich world means that they will snatch food from people’s mouths. Run your car on virgin biofuel and other people will starve.

He goes on to analyze the relative inefficiency of current generation biofuels (corn ethanol for instance), and reminds us:

If there is one blindingly obvious fact about biofuel it’s that it is not a smallholder crop. It is an internationally-traded commodity which travels well and can be stored indefinitely, with no premium for local or organic produce. Already the Indian government is planning 14m hectares of jatropha plantations. In August the first riots took place among the peasant farmers being driven off the land to make way for them.

If the governments promoting biofuels do not reverse their policies, the humanitarian impact will be greater than that of the Iraq war. Millions will be displaced, hundreds of millions more could go hungry. This crime against humanity is a complex one, but that neither lessens nor excuses it.

People are starving, but hey, at least the big rich greenwashing countries can look all environmentally friendly without anyone having to, say, drive less. 'Cause that would be a real tragedy.

1 comment:

libhom said...

Biofuels from yard waste would be a good idea, but using food crops is inhumane and contributes to global warming.