Biofuels benefit billionaires, study finds

Oct 12, 2012

Biofuels will serve the interests of large industrial groups rather than helping to cut carbon emissions and ward off climate change, according to research to be published in the International Journal of Environment and Health this month.

Simone Vieri of the University "La Sapienza" of Rome, Italy, explains that, in its policies to combat , the European Union has planned to increase to 10% the share of fuel derived from biofuels on the market by 2020. It has focused attention on first-generation biofuels, made from the conversion of which can be grown specifically for , such as corn, soy, or . It has given only a secondary role to second-generation biofuels, made from agricultural and woody crop biomass, including waste and by-products.

Vieri suggests that, "In 2020 the EU won't be able to keep to its 10% biofuels goal using only European agricultural production, but will have to continue importing the greatest part of raw materials, or biofuels." In this frame, Vieri explains that, "The EU's decision to focus on the first-generation biofuels, raises many doubts." In particular, the approach seems to favour several issues. For instance, it favours production systems that are in competition with traditional agriculture for use of resources and production factors, he says. Additionally, to encourage agro-industrials models, such as those on which the production of first generation biofuels is based, might compromise the possibility of developing models based on multifunctional agriculture and, then, on the production of energy from agriculture waste and by-products rather than from dedicated products.

The adoption of first-generation biofuels sometimes leads to exploitation of human and of poorer countries, adds Vieri, as they are commonly the source of many of the agricultural raw materials used for production of biofuels. Moreover, processes that change land use can lead to zero net benefit in terms of emissions reduction.

Other problems that arise when reliance is placed on first-generation biofuels lie with the economics. Financial market speculation strengthens the link between the price of oil and the price of the main agricultural raw materials, Vieri says. Furthermore, an increase, or instability of agricultural products' prices, weighs heavily on poorer nations and their food security.

In this context "the choice to promote first generation biofuels is an example of how politics places the protection of the interests and profit strategies of a restricted number of subjects before the costs and benefits to be had on a wider scale", adds Vieri.

Vieri adds that the "green economy" model might break new ground if it were to prove able to facilitate reduced emissions and allow economic growth and development with direct benefit to society itself rather than the profits of multinationals.

Explore further: When the isthmus is an island: Madison's hottest, and coldest, spots

More information: "Biofuels and EU's choices" in Int. J. Environment and Health, 2012, 6, 155-169.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

France reconsiders plans to boost biofuel use

Sep 12, 2012

France said Wednesday it would reconsider its plans to further develop the use of biofuel, once seen as a potential source of cheap alternative energy but now blamed for soaring food prices.

Kenya biofuel project opposed

Mar 23, 2011

Environmental goups Wednesday protested an expansive project to grow jatropha in Kenya for biofuels, arguing that such production would emit more carbon than fossil fuels.

Current biofuels policies are unethical, says UK report

Apr 13, 2011

Current UK and European policies on biofuels encourage unethical practices, says a report by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics today following an 18-month inquiry. Policies such as the European Renewable Energy Directive ...

21 grants awarded for biomass research

Mar 05, 2008

Two U.S. departments said they plan to invest $18.4 million for biomass research, development and demonstration projects over three years.

The ethics of biofuels

May 09, 2011

An article in the current issue of Global Change Biology Bioenergy outlines a framework for evaluating biofuels in order to address ethical issues surrounding the rapidly evolving race to develop biofuels.

Recommended for you

Beijing's focus on coal lost in haze of smog

39 minutes ago

The soaring, grimy chimneys of the coal-fired power station have belched the last of their choking fumes into Beijing's air, authorities say—but experts doubt the plan will ease the capital's smog.

Stopping the leaks

18 hours ago

When a big old cast-iron water main blows, it certainly makes for a spectacular media event.

Alpine lifelines on the brink

19 hours ago

Only one in ten Alpine rivers are healthy enough to maintain water supply and to cope with climate impacts according to a report by WWF. The publication is the first-ever comprehensive study on the condition ...

User comments : 0