Friday, March 14, 2008

Fuel = Food

a hungry child with a fuel gauge superimposed and registering emptyFrom Avaaz with a few amendments and comments from me.

EU and US demand for biofuels is pushing up world food prices. You can argue all you like about climate change but the impact on your wallet and your conscience, if you have one, is becoming all too real.
Each day, 820 million people in the developing world do not have enough food to eat. Food prices around the world are shooting up, sparking food riots from Mexico to Morocco. And the World Food Program warned last week that rapidly rising costs are endangering emergency food supplies for the world's worst-off.

How are the wealthiest countries responding? We're burning food.

Specifically, we're using more and more biofuels--alcohol made from plant products, used in place of petrol to fuel cars. Biofuels are billed as a way to slow down climate change. But in reality, because so much land is being cleared to grow them, most biofuels today are causing more global warming emissions than they prevent, even as they push the price of corn, wheat, and other foods out of reach for millions of people.
Not all biofuels are bad--but without tough global standards, the biofuels boom will further undermine food security and worsen global warming. This weekend there is a global summit on climate change in Chiba, Japan, but I don’t hold out much hope.
Sometimes the trade-off is stark: filling the tank of an SUV with ethanol requires enough corn to feed a person for a year. But making ethanol from Brazilian sugar cane is vastly more efficient than US-grown corn, for example, and green technology for making fuel from waste is improving rapidly.
The problem is that the EU and the US have set targets for increasing the use of biofuels without sorting the good from the bad. As a result, rainforests are being cleared in Indonesia to grow palm oil for European biodiesel refineries, and global grain reserves are running dangerously low. Meanwhile, rich-country politicians can look "green" without asking their citizens to conserve energy, and agribusiness giants are cashing in. And if nothing changes, the situation will only get worse.
What's needed are strong global standards that encourage better biofuels and shut down the trade in bad ones. Such standards are under development by a number of coalitions, but they will only become mandatory if there's a big enough public outcry.

It's time to move: today and tomorrow, the twenty countries with the biggest economies, responsible for more than 75% of the world's carbon emissions, will meet in Chiba, Japan to begin the G8's climate change discussions. This will not end the food crisis, or stop global warming. But it's a critical first step. By confronting false solutions and demanding real ones, our leaders could show they want to do the right thing, not the easy thing.
Will they, won’t they?

Is fuel for your car more important than someone else’s hungry child?

It's time to put the life of our fellow people, and our planet, above the politics and profits that too often drive international decision-making.
I’m not holding my breath.


  1. The fuel for my car is important because it helps me look after the youngest and the oldest members of my family, and my close friends who are in need of help due to serious illness.

    Most of the world's starving children live in countries where there is unimaginable wealth in the ruling or upper classes, frequently allied to massive Governmental corruption. How about blaming them for a change?

    Of course it is stupid to change from producing food to producing biofuel - but who started all this global warming/C02 fanaticism?

  2. Judith,
    Neither Avaaz or I are saying cars are not important within the social structure that we live. We are saying that some biofuels create more problems than they resolve not just for the poor but for us too.

    And the snouts in the trough brigade do not seem to me to be restricted to the developing world. Yes they are the real culprits.

    You hit the nail – it is stupid to switch from producing food to biofuel, but it is not just down to Climate Change. There is the small matter of Oil being a finite resource. As for “New Climate Change” there is no need to worry now –
    Tony Blair has been put in charge.

  3. Where presumably T Bliar will have as much success as in the Middle East, where he is apparently supposed to be a 'peacemaker'.

  4. Anonymous - was that peacemaker or p***taker?

  5. Food prices will inevitably continue to rise whilst the World's population, including that of South Ilford, continues to grow at an unsustainable and alarming rate. This country relies heavily on imported foodstuffs and whilst it seems that most of us can afford the increasing costs for the time being the prospects of many of our growing population being unable to cope with inflated prices cannot be so far away. So what is the solution? Councillor Weinberg as one would expect has the obvious remedy; 'flog off the Borough's allotments in order to gather funds for the construction of a massive swimming pool and sports complex in Seven Kings'. Well, think about it, he's got to leave some form of monstosity as a tangible 'acknowledgement' of his time in office hasn't he?

  6. I am reminded of a comment from "Two Men in a Ditch". "If humans did not leave a mess behind them there would be no archaeology".

  7. Two men in a ditch, justifying humans creating a mess for the sake of archeology!
    Positive thinking?
    Smart asses?
    anne sevant