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April 13, 2008 / Mridul

Biofuel Agreement Between Netherlands & Brazil Defies Logic

The Netherlands, a member of EU and hence a partner to the emissions target legislation, has approached the world’s second largest producer of ethanol biofuel, Brazil, to help it meet the standards stated the legislation. According to this legislation biofuels would comprise of 10% of all the transport fuels by 2020.

Emission Targets

By March 2009 the European Union plans to pass a legislation that would raise the target for cutting carbon emissions to 30% percent by 2020. EU adopted a biofuel policy in order to achieve this target but lately the environmental consequences and the sustainability of this cleaner fuel have become targets of intense scrutiny from the members of various governments and scientists around the world. USA’s Environment Protection Agency too has similar plans.

Problems

Many scientists have linked the rising food prices to biofuel production and have warned that if the the current situation persists the world could see a ‘global food war‘. Already riots have be reported in many countries where people are protesting against the sky rocketing food prices. According to the UN 36 countries are facing food crisis, which is no mean figure.

Relentless cutting of rain forests in Brazil and Malaysia in order to make land available for production of biofuel crops has led to loss of ecological balance and has adversely affected the biodiversity of those regions. Greedy contractors seeing the tremendous biofuel demand are buying or forcefully taking away lands from farmers to grow sugarcane and palm.

The EPA has ordered that about 9 billion gallons of ethanol be blended to gasoline during 2008. But the scientists fear that an increased production of biofuel crops (sugarcane, maize etc.) would lead to expansion of an already large dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

Objections & Review

The arguments against the role of biofuels in the effort to achieve emissions targets is still restricted to the parliaments and review committees of many nations with environmental experts trying to persuade governments to rethink biofuel policies. The agreement on biofuels between the Netherlands and Brazil comes at a time when scientists across the world are sounding alarm bells about the adverse effects of biofuel production.

UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon and British Chancellor Alistair Darling are among those who have called for a review of the current biofuel policies. Recently even the Indian finance minister blamed biofuel production for the increasing food prices in his country.

The agreement which calls for sharing knowledge about the production and transport of biofuels and it does not send the right signals given the large build up public opinion against the use of biofuels. But surprisingly Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva not only thinks that the scientists are wrong in linking biofuels to food crisis but also wants to extend the biofuel production to some of the poorest nations in the world.

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