The folly of biofuels

Grain for biofuel

As a chemist working in the food industry for the past 35 years I have always had doubts about the viability and morality of biofuels. To devote vast acreages of land to the generation of plants solely for the production of fuels for cars when millions do not have enough food to eat is both selfish and irresponsible.

It was interesting to read therefore on Friday that a World Bank report study has shown that biofuel production has forced world food prices up by 75%. The figure contradicts US government claims that biofuels contribute less than 3% to food price rises. But who believes a US government run by the oil industry and its puppet.

Robert Bailey, a policy adviser at Oxfam is quoted in the Guardian as saying “Political leaders seem intent on suppressing the strong evidence that biofuels are a major factor in recent food price rises.” The study has identified three ways in which biofuels have distorted the price of foods. First it has diverted grain away from food with over a third of US corn and half of EC vegetable oil used to produce biofuel. Second farmers are being encouraged to set aside land for fuel production and third it has sparked speculation in grain prices.

Reports today suggest prime minister Gordon Brown is setting himself up for a potential clash with US officials by calling for a moratorium on biofuel production at least from grain crops. This is of course too little to late from a government which has for too long been subservient to the US government and its oil industry.

What is needed is an alternative policy which encourages reduction of use of carbon based fuels all of which contribute to global warming and all of which are not in the long term economically or environmentally sustainable.

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