By Daan Bauwens
– Despite growing evidence that biofuel production is causing food insecurity around the world, the new European Union policy blueprint on renewable energy ignores the social effects of biofuels. Last week, Guatemalan victims of the food crisis came to Brussels to make European policy makers aware of the problem.
In a bid to reduce the of amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the European Union decided three years ago to increase biofuel use in transport. With the 2009 directive on renewable energy, the Union set a mandatory target of a ten percent share of agrofuels in transport petrol and diesel consumption by 2020.
The British NGO ActionAid calculated that reaching Europe’s target would require converting up to 69,000 square kilometres of natural ecosystems into cropland, an area larger than Belgium and the Netherlands combined. Furthermore, because of the conversion of forests, grasslands and peat lands into crop fields for biofuel, total net greenhouse gas emissions would amount to 56 million tonnes of extra CO2 per year, the equivalent of an extra 12 to 26 million cars on Europe’s roads by 2020.
ActionAid estimated that the extra biofuels entering the EU market would be, on average, 81 to 167 percent worse for the climate than fossil fuels.
NGOs also found that the EU’s planned increase in biofuel use would push oilseed, maize and sugar prices up. According to a study by the Austrian International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), the 10 percent target would put an extra 140 million people at risk of hunger, with the poor urban populations, subsistence farmers and the landless in developing countries particularly vulnerable. Finally, the Rome-based International Land Coalition recently stated that the demand for biofuels is driving more than 50 percent of large-scale land acquisitions globally.
Earlier this month the European Commission published its post-2020 communication on renewable energy. Despite the relentless campaigning of several international NGOs to cancel out the 2020 target, the new communication remains completely silent on the effects of biofuels on food security in developing nations, leaving a similar target for 2030 open.
“The European Commission wants to decide on the 2030 policy without having considered the impacts of the 2020 policy first,” Marc-Olivier Herman, Oxfam’s EU biofuels expert, told IPS. “The new communication specifies hard criteria to measure environmental impact, but stays mute on the social impact of biofuels. The word ‘food’ is not even mentioned in the document, let alone food security.”
According to Herman, the Commission is moving too fast because of industry demands. “Investors in biofuel want security,” he added.
“Ever since the first target was set in 2009, the biofuel industry has been growing rapidly. This industry now wants to know what will happen after 2020. And it is an industry with lots of lobby power here in Brussels.”
In the meantime, the social effects of the growing demand for biofuels are aggravating. For instance, a large percentage of Guatemala’s indigenous population is facing a new hunger crisis because of land grabbing, forced evictions and water diversion to create large-scale monoculture plantations of palm oil trees and sugar cane for biofuel.
In one such case in March last year, Guatemalan police and soldiers evicted more than 3000 indigenous people from their homes in Guatemala’s Polochic valley to make room for a large-scale plantation. Banned from their land, these 700 families are now facing severe malnutrition and high child mortality as a consequence of diarrhoea or fever.
Three months after meeting president Otto Perez Molina to discuss the problem, Guatemalan small farmer Daniel Pascual from the Comité de Unidad Campesina (Committee for Campesino Unity) came to Brussels on Jun. 18 to make European policy makers aware of the social impacts of biofuels.
“With a growing demand for biofuel, this hunger crisis will only get worse,” Pascual told IPS. “We need external players like the EU to make sure that they don’t cause more damage with their policies. And we need them to put pressure on our government to respect the rights of the population.”
But it is unlikely that the EU will lower its demand for biofuel. “Who is gaining from this policy? Not the environment but European farmers, because of the positive effect of the demand on the price of products and the biofuel industry that was directly or indirecty built with EU funding and grants,” Herman said.
Herman believes the problem will get even worse as in the years to come, as traditional players have become increasingly interested in biofuels as well. “Shell and BP invested heavily in Brazilian sugar cane last year,” he stressed. “They want to remain leaders in the fuel sector and they are lobbying in Brussels as well.”
“Everyone looks at it from their own rational point of view but the final result is pure madness,” Herman concluded
While food prices have always been volatile, today’s high prices are not just the result of weather and other natural forces. They are the consequence of a sinister conspiracy on the part of the left to raise prices and force an ever larger number of Americans into dependency. As of early March, milk prices were setting new record highs, along with near record highs for corn, wheat, soybean, and other staples. Where is the President on this? He is out there promoting ethanol mandates that burn 40% of the U.S. corn crop, raising the price of everything from milk and meat to pop-tarts.
Obama claims to care deeply about the lives of ordinary working Americans, but he is the one responsible for rising food and energy prices.
Government Ideology greed and corruption are setting the stage for collapse of the US food supply system
Most of our industries, technologies, blue collar jobs, and increasingly white collar jobs have already been exported. If Big Government and Big Money succeed in their assault on Rural America, our nation – once the breadbasket of the world – will be dependent upon other countries for its very sustenance, our debts will grow, our prosperity will decline, our sovereignty will be lost, and we will be subject to the dictates of our suppliers and bondholders.
Tom Gow- Freedom First,Review of Green Hell by Steve Milloy.
“Government’s Marxist power grab”
living green is really about someone else microregulating you — downsizing your dreams and plugging each one of us into a brand new social order for which we never bargained. It’s about … having the boundaries of your life drawn by others.
“There is hardly any area of your life that the greens consider off limits to intrusion. There is almost no personal behavior of yours that they consider too trivial or sacrosanct to regulate.”
Green Hell clearly shows, “this is how the greens themselves describe their intentions. Their words alone reveal their true intent: to curtail, to ration, to force, to deny, to compel, and to squeeze.”
Green Hell also reveals the credibility of the threat — the tremendous funding, high level support, and tactics that have been able to steamroll natural resistance and drive the green agenda forward.
By creating shortages, the greens expect to “force through dramatic, mandatory conservation laws.” Water, as Milloy points out, is by far the most abundant substance on the planet. But if the greens have their way, water “will soon be in desperately short supply.”
need to Defend Rural America
The defense of Rural America is a matter of national security and sovereignty.