Biofuels make poor people even poorer
By Lucy Sherriff → More by this author
Published Thursday 1st November 2007 11:54 GMT
European targets for use of biofuels will make life worse for some of
the poorest people on the planet, according to a report from charity Oxfam.
In January, the European Commission issued guidelines suggesting that
member states should use biofuels for 10 per cent of their transport
fuel "budget" by 2020. Oxfam argues that if we meet these targets,
deigned to reduce Europe's fossil fuel burning, it will have a
catastrophic knock-on effect in countries like Indonesia, Colombia,
Brazil, Tanzania and Malaysia.
The organisation wants the EC to review its policy and make sure proper
safeguards are put in place to protect vulnerable groups.
"In the scramble to supply the EU and the rest of the world with
biofuels, poor people are getting trampled," said Oxfam's Robert Bailey.
"The EU proposals as they stand will exacerbate the problem. It is
unacceptable that poor people in developing countries should bear the
cost of questionable attempts to cut emissions in Europe."
The charity is concerned that to supply crops on the scale needed to
supply 10 per cent of Europe's transport fuel, the scale of cultivation
will threaten the food supply, land ownership, and livelihoods in
Oxfam also warns that biofuels do not live up to their reputation as a
clean fuel supply. Although they have a much shorter carbon cycle (i.e.
we burn them, releasing carbon, then more biofuel plants use that carbon
dioxide to grow), it is not a zero sum game.
It says in its report[
The actual carbon savings of biofuels vary considerably... and
depend on the type of feedstock, agricultural practices, the production
pathway, and the effects of land use change.
Bailey says: "Biofuels are not a panacea - even if the EU is able to
reach the ten per cent target sustainably, and Oxfam doubts that it can,
it will only shave a few per cent of emissions off a continually growing
To make the best carbon savings, crops should be grown in tropical
regions, which without proper management will lead to the exploitative
scenarios the charity fears.
Abet Nego Tarigan is deputy director of Sawit Watch, an organisation
which represents communities, farmers, and plantation workers affected
by palm oil development in Indonesia. He explained that the lure of
"biofuel gold" is prompting palm oil companies to clear communities from
land they have farmed for generations.
"Workers and small holders are shamefully exploited and we are losing
valuable agricultural land to grow the food we need to feed ourselves
and make a living," he said. "The proposed EU policy will only make this
worse - pushing more people into poverty and concentrating land in the
hands of a few." ®
Check for earlier Pacific Biofuel posts: http://pacbiofuel.blogspot.com/