False Solution to Climate Change
Few voices of reason challenge the myopic ideals of the exponents of the new anthropogenic global warming cult. They may very well be a menace to civilization. Please give a thoughtful read to the following by Vandana Shiva.
Monday, December 31, 2007
The Last Word (for 2007) on Biofuels and Hunger
The promotion of biofuels based on corn and soy, palm oil and jatropha is a false solution to climate change.
So says Vandana Shiva, one of India's leading physicists, who is also widely considered to be one of the world's leading authorities on the environment and women's rights. The author of Biopiracy: the Plunder of Nature and Knowledge, Shiva directs the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy in New Delhi. Her current work centers on biodiversity and sustainable agriculture. She is a Slow Food international vice president.
Excerpts from her essay, "Food, Forests, and Fuel," in Share the World's Resources, appear below. Following articles that China Confidential has published by scientists, environmentalists, energy experts, and other analysts, her piece again illustrates that opposition to biofuels cuts across social, economic, and ideological lines. Except for the heads of the agribusiness industry, a relative handful of wannabe biofuels barons, and the politicians pushing mandates and subsidies for biofuels in the name of clean energy and energy independence, there is an emerging global consensus that biofuels are at best a boondoggle or a scam; at worst, a genocidal menace--masked in green.
Biofuels, fuels from biomass, continue to be the most important energy source for the poor in the world. The ecological biodiverse farm is not just a source of food; it is a source of energy. Energy for cooking the food comes from the inedible biomass like cow dung cakes, stalks of millets and pulses, agro-forestry species on village wood lots. Managed sustainably, village commons have been a source of decentralized energy for centuries.
Industrial biofuels are not the fuels of the poor; they are the foods of the poor, transformed into heat, electricity, and transport. Liquid biofuels, in particular ethanol and bio-diesel, are one of the fastest growing sectors of production, driven by the search of alternatives to fossil fuels both to avoid the catastrophe of peak oil and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. President Bush is trying to pass legislation to require the use of 35 billion gallons of biofuels by 2017. M. Alexander of the Sustainable Development Department of the FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization) has stated: "The gradual move away from oil has begun. Over the next 15 to 20 years we may see biofuels providing a full 25 per cent of the world’s energy needs."
Global production of biofuels alone has doubled in the last five years and will likely double again in the next four. Among countries that have enacted a new pro-biofuel policy in recent years are Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Columbia, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mexico, Mozambique, the Philippines, Senegal, South Africa, Thailand and Zambia.
There are two types of industrial biofuels--ethanol and biodiesel. Ethanol can be produced from products rich in saccharose such as sugarcane and molasses, substances rich in starch such as maize, barley and wheat. Ethanol is blended with petrol. Biodiesel is produced from vegetable only such as palm oil, soya oil, and rapeseed oil. Biodiesel is blended with diesel.
Representatives of organizations and social movements from Brazil, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Columbia, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, in a declaration entitled ‘Full Tanks at the Cost of Empty Stomachs,' wrote: "The current model of production of bio-energy is sustained by the same elements that have always caused the oppression of our people’s appropriation of territory, of natural resources, and the labor force...."
The biofuel sector worldwide has grown rapidly. The United States and Brazil have established ethanol industries and the European Union is also fast catching up to explore the potential market. Governments all over the world are encouraging biofuel production with favorable policies. The United States are pushing the other Third World nations to go in for biofuel production so that their energy needs get met at the expense of plundering others’ resources.
Inevitably this massive increase in the demand for grains is going to come at the expense of the satisfaction of human needs, with poor people priced out of the food market....
The diversion of food for fuel has already increased the price of corn and soya. There have been riots in Mexico because of the price rise of tortillas. And this is just the beginning. Imagine the land needed for providing 25% of the oil from food....
Industrial biofuels are being promoted as a source of renewable energy and as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, there are two ecological reasons why converting crops like soya, corn and palm oil into liquid fuels can actually aggravate climate chaos and the CO2 burden.
Firstly, deforestation caused by expanding soya plantations and palm oil plantations is leading to increased CO2 emissions. The FAO estimates that 1.6 billion tons or 25 to 30 per cent of the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere each year comes from deforestation. By 2022, biofuel plantations could destroy 98% of Indonesia’s rainforests.
According to Wetlands International, the destruction of Southeast Asian land for palm oil plantations is contributing to 8% of global CO2 emissions. According to Delft Hydraulics, every ton of palm oil results in 30 ton of carbon dioxide emissions or 10 times as much as petroleum producers. However, this additional burden on the atmosphere is treated as a clean development mechanism in the Kyoto Protocol for reducing emissions. Biofuels are thus contributing to the same global warming that they are supposed to reduce. (World Rainforest Bulletin No.112, Nov 2006, Page 22)
Further, the conversion of biomass to liquid fuel uses more fossil fuels than it substitutes.
One gallon of ethanol production requires 28,000 kcal. This provides 19,400 kcal of energy. Thus the energy efficiency is--43%.
The US will use 20% of its corn to produce 5 billion gallons of ethanol which will substitute 1% of oil use. If 100% of corn was used, only 7% of the total oil would be substituted. This is clearly not a solution either to peak oil or climate chaos. (David Pimental at IFG conference on ‘The Triple Crisis’, London, Feb 23-25 2007)
And it is a source of other crisis. 1700 gallons of water are used to produce a gallon of ethanol. Corn uses more nitrogen fertilizer, more insecticides, more herbicides than any other crop.
These false solutions will increase the climate crisis while aggravating and deepening inequality, hunger and poverty. Real solutions exist which can mitigate climate change while reducing hunger and poverty.
According to the Stern Report, agriculture accounts for 14% emissions, land use (referring largely to deforestation) accounts for 18%, and transport accounts for 14%. The increasing transport of fresh food, which could be grown locally, is part of these 14% emissions.
Not all agricultural systems however contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Industrial chemical agriculture, also called the Green Revolution when introduced in Third World countries, is the major source of three greenhouse gases--carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and methane.
Carbon dioxide is emitted from using fossil fuels for machines and pumping of ground water, and the production of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Chemical fertilizers also emit nitrogen oxygen, which is 300 times more lethal than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. And grain fed factory farming is a major source of methane.
Studies indicate that a shift from grain fed to predominantly grass fed organic diet could reduce methane emission from livestock by up to 50%.
Ecological, organic agriculture reduces emissions both by reducing dependence on fossil fuels, chemical fertilizers and intensive feed, as well as absorbing more carbon in the soil. Our studies show an increase of carbon sequestration of up to 200% in biodiverse organic systems.
When ‘ecological and organic’ is combined with ‘direct and local’, emissions are further reduced by reducing energy use for ‘food miles’, packaging and refrigeration of food. And local food systems will reduce the pressure to expand agriculture in the rainforests of Brazil and Indonesia.
We could, with a timely transition reduce emissions, increase food security and food quality and improve the resilience of rural communities to deal with the impact of climate change. The transition from the industrial globalized food system being imposed by WTO, the World Bank and Global Agribusinesses to ecological and local food systems is both a mitigation and adaptation strategy. It protects the poor and it protects the planet.
The post-Kyoto framework must include ecological agriculture as a climate solution.