Biofuels under fire
AUGUST 21, 2009: The charity Christian Aid claims the production of biofuels is exacerbating problems of poverty, human rights abuses and damage to the environment.
It said large subsidies and targets in developed countries for boosting the production of fuels from plants such as maize and palm oil are, in fact, causing more environmental and social problems in poor nations. It says that, rather than being a ‘silver bullet’ to tackle climate change, the carbon emissions of some of the fuels are higher than fossil fuels because of deforestation driven by the need for land for them to grow. According to a report, Growing Pains, industrial scale production of biofuels is worsening problems such as food price hikes in central America, forced displacement of small farmers for plantations and pollution of local water sources. But with 2.4 billion people worldwide currently without secure sources of energy for cooking and heating, Christian Aid believes the renewable fuels do have the potential to help the poor. It highlights schemes such as the growing of jatropha in Mali, where the plant is raised between food crops and the oil from the seeds is used to run village generators.