Thursday, July 03, 2008

Biofuels Blamed for 75% of Food Price Increase

More trouble for biofuels as an energy solution appears to be on the horizon. The Guardian is reporting that leaked information from a report by the World Bank which is not yet published says that 75% of the increase in global food prices is attributable to biofuels. According to the Guardian the US government has said that biofuels from plant sources are to blame for less than 3% of the rise in food prices. Quite a difference in opinion. The Guardian also says that the World Bank estimates that so far 100 million people have fallen below the poverty line because of rising food prices.

Only last year biofuels seemed to be a savior for both fighting global warming and achieving energy independence. There has been so much enthusiasm over biofuels that about one third of the US corn crop now goes to producing ethanol. And the US Congress was so enthralled with this replacement for gasoline that last year it mandated that billions of gallons of biofuel be produced in the coming years. But this year has been a different story entirely. Not only have there been concerns about the link to increasing food prices but scientists have argued that clearing land to grow crops for biofuels actually would result in a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions compared with using gasoline. The emerging problems associated with biofuels were outlined a few months ago by Michael Grunwald in an article in Time magazine titled The Clean Energy Scam.

The big question that this negative information raises in the US is whether Congress will roll back their mandate for biofuel production. Based on the science and concerns about humanity it is hard to see how the mandate can remain intact. Yet, because of political considerations predicting what Congress will do isn’t a given. It has to be hoped that the mad rush to biofuels will be replaced by a cautious approach based on an assessment of the facts. We don’t want to plant ourselves into oblivion.

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