Oxfam: Biofuels have dragged 30 million people into poverty


What arguments are left for biofuels? A help to a domestic industry at the expense of the world? A small addition to total world energy production? A step towards miracle ethanol that can be made from anything? Oxfam has now refuted a principal argument in favor of “green” fuels.

The most recent aid agency report does a good job of debunking the myth that biofuels will help reduce carbon emissions. I have often heard the claim that they are “carbon neutral” since the crops take in carbon from the atmosphere and then are converted to ethanol and burned, returning them to their original form. This simplistic model ignores one necessary element of expanded biofuel production: land clearing. According to Oxfam, the EU target to have 10% of transport come from renewable resources could could actually multiply carbon emissions by 70-fold. Quite the startling revelation.

In addition, other proponents like Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, have said that biofuels present the developing world with the opportunity to be exporters of a valuable cash crop. This potential benefit is currently being outweighed by the 30 million people being pushed into poverty. The food shortages seen in many of these countries suggests these nations would be better off supplying themselves with food, if they were able to achieve any sort of significant agricultural production.

Also, we are given the idea that we can increase our energy independence and national security. This is a false assumption since biofuels will make up a small portion of the total energy mix and are likely to lead to greater international instability.

Without any significant technological breakthroughs in the near future, biofuels will continue to raise food prices and worsen the climate crisis while adding to global instability.


8 Responses

  1. I saw the same article and I agree, the ethanol picture keeps getting worse and worse. The kinds of biofuels we are producing today are just not going to be a big part of any positive change. We should stop subsidizing flawed biofuel implementations immediately and focus on increasing food supplies and stopping deforestation. Doing both of those is hard enough without having to worry about wasting energy and arable land on ethanol.

    As frequent readers may recall, another Oxfam study suggested that 15-30% of the food price inflation was attributable to biofuels such as ethanol.

  2. Great article… and don’t forget the benefits that planting a tree will have on the environment. Each one will soak up 20kgs of CO2 every year and put enough Oxygen back in the atmosphere to support 2 people.

  3. […] the debunking of several ethanol myths while we have also looked into the prospect of biofuels dragging 30 million people into poverty and increasing carbon emissions by 30-fold. Needless to say, this story feels a lot like it is out of early 2008 rather than October […]

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