Biofuels: Good or Bad?
By admin July 16, 2014




The debate over biofuels has been dragging on since 2008. With the Europe Union Energy Ministers agreed to a 7% cap on the biofuels for use in transport last month, biofuels again have been grasping people’s attention.


Biofuels refer to fuels that contain energy from geologically recent carbon fixation, and these fuels are produced from living organisms such as corn and palm oil trees. The two most known biofuels are ethanol and biodiesel. There are two major aspects about the biofuel debate: whether biofuels stimulate food price spikes, and whether biofuels can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Critics blame the high and volatile food prices on biofuel production because as food prices go up, poor people have no choice but to take their children out of school, and farmers prioritize foods that provide energy over nutrition. With millions of people dying from hunger every year, no wonder Jean Zidgler, the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, called biofuels a “crime against humanity”. However, proponents of biofuels consider the critics as “alarmists”, and they may be on the right side. According to a study released by ABF Economics, an agriculture and biofuels economics consultancy firm, there is no evidence showing that direct correlation between the increasing ethanol production and increasing food prices. The finding backs up a 2010 World Bank study that cited higher crude oil prices as the leading cause of increased food prices globally.


The effect of biofuels on climate change is also controversial. Critics don’t deny that biofuels can lessen our reliance on fossil fuels, and therefore help in reducing greenhouse gas emission. But at the same time, they also question the methods of biofuel production and what environmental results those may have. For example, they question whether or not it is responsible to cut down an area of carbon-capturing forest in order to plant corn for producing clean-burning ethanol.


No matter what the answers are to the above debate, there is one thing for sure: the biofuel debate is not purely a scientific one; it also involves social and ethical aspects, and of course, the political stakeholders.


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