With oil industry operatives clearly pulling strings in the background, CNN ran a report about how the world’s rush to embrace biofuels is causing a spike in the price of
corn and other crops and could worsen water shortages and force poor
communities off their land. The voice-piece for this one was a U.N. official.
Oil industry operatives lurking in the background of the CNN set
Speaking at a regional forum on bioenergy, Regan Suzuki of the
U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization acknowledged that biofuels are
better for the environment than fossil fuels and boost energy security
for many countries.
However, she said those benefits must be
weighed against the pitfalls — many of which are just now emerging as
countries convert millions of acres to palm oil, sugar cane and other
crops used to make biofuels.
"Biofuels have become a flash point
through which a wide range of social and environmental issues are
currently being played out in the media," Suzuki told delegates at the
forum, sponsored by the U.N. and the Thai government.
among the concerns is increased competition for agricultural land,
which Suzuki warned has already caused a rise in corn prices in the
United States and Mexico and could lead to food shortages in developing
She also said China and India could face worsening
water shortages because biofuels require large amounts of water, while
forests in Indonesia and Malaysia could face threats from the expansion
of palm oil plantations.
"Particularly in the Asia-Pacific
region, land availability is a critical issue," Suzuki said. "There are
clear comparative advantages for tropical and subtropical countries in
growing biofuel feed stocks but it is often these same countries in
which resource and land rights of vulnerable groups and protected
forests are weakest."
Initially, biofuels were held up as a
panacea for countries struggling to cope with the rising cost of oil or
those looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The European Union,
for example, plans to replace 10 percent of transport fuel with
biofuels made from energy crops such as sugar cane and rapeseed oil by
But in recent months, scientists, private agencies and
even the British government have said biofuels could do more harm than
good. Rather than protecting the environment, they say energy crops
destroy natural forests that actually store carbon and thus are a key
tool in the fight to reduce global warming.
Some of those doubts
were on display Wednesday at the U.N. forum, with experts saying many
countries in Asia have rolled out plans to mandate biofuels for
transport without weighing the potential risks.
example, is considering delaying the introduction of diesel blended
with 2 percent biofuel for two months until April because of palm oil
shortages, while the Philippines is considering shelving a biofuels law
over concerns about the negative environmental effects.
facing criticism that its plans to plant 30 million acres of jatropha
trees by 2012 for biofuel could force communities from their land and
worsen deforestation. There are also concerns that it will be unable to
find the 100 million acres of vacant land it needs to grow the
Varghese Paul, a forest and biodiversity
expert with the Energy and Resources Institute in India, said
dependence on a single species is dangerous.
"An outbreak of pests and diseases could wipe out entire plantations in one stroke," Paul said.
The piece that was never mentioned is that the oil industry is well organized and has unlimited money to garner influence. The agriculture industry, on the other hand, is poorly organized with limited money and even less influence.
Via CNN with editorial comments added for effect