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Gore Urged to Put Brake on Biofuel Production

John Yeld, Cape Argus
An international coalition has appealed to former US vice-president and environmental campaigner Al Gore to take up their concerns about the world’s rapidly developing biofuels industry.

They have told him that large-scale biofuel production and new incentives to promote biofuels, based on “energy-crop monocultures”, are having a devastating impact on biodiversity and contributing to global climate change. ..

“Energy yields are highest from crops growing in the tropics; hence much of the global biofuel demand is being, and will continue to be, met from Asia, Latin America and Africa. “Already, biofuels production is leading to increased rates of deforestation in many rain forest nations, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Cameroon.”

For example, Indonesia planned to expand palm oil production for biofuels 43-fold, a move that threatened most of that country’s remaining rain forests and peat lands. Indonesia is the world’s second-most biologically diverse country, after Brazil. South Africa ranks third.

“If those plans are implemented, up to 50 billion tonnes of carbon are likely to be released into the atmosphere – the equivalent of over six years of global fossil fuel burning, that would clearly stand in the way of our common objective of stabilising the climate before feedback mechanisms make this impossible.”..

The coalition also told Gore that many organisations, particularly from the global south, had signed declarations expressing concerns about the threats posed by biofuel monocultures, including threats to food security, human and land rights, and biodiversity.
(8 Mar 2007)

Demand for corn driving up meat prices

Libby Quaid, Associate Press
Strong demand for corn from ethanol plants is driving up the cost of livestock and will raise prices for beef, pork and chicken, the Agriculture Department said Friday.

Meat and poultry production will fall as producers face higher feed costs, the department said in its monthly crop report. Ethanol fuel, which is blended with gasoline, is consuming 20 percent of last year’s corn crop and is expected to gobble up more than 25 percent of this year’s crop.

The price of corn, the main feed for livestock, has driven the cost of feeding chickens up 40 percent, according to the National Chicken Council. The council says that chicken, the most popular meat with consumers, will soon cost more at the grocery store. The industry worries the competition from ethanol could cause a shortage of corn.
(2 March 2007)
Related story: As biofuels boom, will more go hungry? (Reuters)

Ronald R. Cooke (“The Cultural Economist”) writes: Everything I wrote in my essay on Ethanol has now been verified.

UPDATE. Contributor Rick Lakin writes:
Ethanol is Corporate Welfare for farmers. Ethanol makes absolutely no sense as a fuel for cars but it certainly raises the standard of living for corn farmers. Corn farmers deserve a higher standard of living but this is not the answer.

Livestock Industry Testifies Before Congress In Food Vs. Fuel Debate

Alicia Karapetian, Cattle Network
Testifiying before the livestock, dairy and poultry subcommittee of the House Agriculture Committee Thursday, members of the poultry and livestock industries warne that consumer food prices will rise if the burden of expensive corn is not alleviated.

J. Patrick Boyle, president and CEO of the American Meat Institute, said that Congress should take practical actions to moderate the impact that the nation’s renewable energy policy is having on animal feed costs and, by extension, the cost of food sold to consumers.

Matthew Herman, complex manager for Tyson Foods, who spoke on behalf of the National Chicken Council, told the subcommittee that the United States could see a corn shortage as ethanol demand outstrips supply.
(9 March 2007)

Success derails biofuels bandwagon

Gerard Wynn and Muriel Boselli, Reuters (Alertnet)
A global, government policy-fuelled rush to produce biofuels is backfiring as it pushes up costs and makes the environmentally-friendly alternative fuel far less competitive.

Made from plants, bioethanol and biodiesel emit fewer greenhouse gases than fossil fuels and have been hailed as an answer to both climate change and energy security. U.S. and European backing look to have secured their long-term future.

But in the near term a looming biofuels glut plus falling rival crude oil prices, down a fifth on last summer’s highs, mean producers can less easily pass on their spiralling costs.

The present dip will last until demand rebounds, perhaps as far off as the end of the decade.
(6 March 2007)