Increasing Biofuel Use Will Continue to Increase Food Prices, Drive People Into Poverty: United Nations


photo: Kevin Lim

Oxfam said biofuels were pushing millions of people into poverty; a World Bank report said increase in biofuel use was the one of the prime causes of increasing food prices. Adding more weight to the anti-biofuel side of the food versus fuel balance is a new report for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. In comparing decreasing oil usage or increasing food prices, biofuels will have a greater effect on the latter:

The report finds that while biofuels will offset only a modest share of fossil energy use over the next decade they will have much bigger impacts on agriculture and food security.

Food Price Increases To Continue With Biofuels
The report went on to predict increases in agricultural commodity prices over the next 10 years: If demand for biofuel feedstock rose 30% from 2007 levels, sugar prices would increase by 265, corn prices by 11% and vegetable oil by 6%. (Reuters)

Land Use Changes Can Increase CO2 Emissions
The report also highlighted a topic which is probably familiar to many TreeHugger readers: The fact that when land is put under cultivation for biofuels, when that land was previously wild, often times it absorbs less CO2 than does the cultivated land, thus casting doubt on the carbon-neutral promise of some biofuels:

In many cases, increased emissions from land-use changes are likely to offset or even exceed the greenhouse gas savings obtained by replacing fossil fuels with biofuels; and impacts on water, soil and biodiversity are also a concern.

Second Generation Biofuels Needed
While this report really just points out many of the arguments that have been used increasingly over the past year to point out that first generation biofuels are far from the panacea that they were once believed to be (or at least sometimes presented to be), I think it's important in that it is one more example of why second generation biofuel research and development is strongly needed. While still not an energy panacea, liquid fuels derived from waste products or grown in situations which truly can never compete with cropland, such as algae-derived fuels, still offer promise as part of a diversified clean energy portfolio.

via :: Reuters
Food Versus Fuel
Biofuels Have Pushed Thirty Million People Into Poverty: Oxfam
Secret World Bank Report Says Biofuels Are Prime Cause of Food Crisis
Earth Policy Institute: Lester Brown on Food-Based Fuels
Biofuel Comparison Chart: The 'Good', the 'Bad' and the (Really) Ugly

Tags: Biofuels | Poverty | Renewable Energy