We’ll need new plants, then new plants

They’re called GRAIN, and this is what they’re about:

GRAIN is an international non-governmental organisation (NGO) which promotes the sustainable management and use of agricultural biodiversity based on people’s control over genetic resources and local knowledge.

And they take a dim view of the Rush to Ethanol:

[T]he stampede into agrofuels is causing enormous environmental and social damage, much more than we realised earlier. Precious ecosystems are being destroyed and hundreds of thousands of indigenous and peasant communities are being thrown off their land.

Worse lies ahead: the Indian government is committed to planting 14 million hectares of land with jatropha (an exotic bush from which biodiesel can be manufactured), the Inter-American Development Bank says that Brazil has 120 million hectares available for biofuels, and lobbyists in Europe are speaking of almost 400 million hectares being available for biofuels in 15 African countries. We are talking about expropriation on an unprecedented scale.

And we’ve heard that word “expropriation” before:

[T]he push for agrofuels amounts to nothing less than the re-introduction and re-enforcement of the old colonial plantation economy, redesigned to function under the rules of the modern neoliberal, globalised world. Indigenous farming systems, local communities and the biodiversity they manage have to give way to provide for the increased fuel needs of the modern world.

One of the main justifications for the large-scale cultivation of agrofuels is the need to combat climate change, but the figures make a mockery of this claim. According to the US government, global energy consumption is set to increase 71 per cent from 2003 to 2030, and most of that will come from burning more oil, coal and natural gas. By the end of this period, all renewable energy (including agrofuels) will only make up 9 per cent of global energy consumption. It is a dangerous self-delusion to argue that agrofuels can play a significant role in combating global warming.

They can, however, play a significant role in pushing up food prices, which doesn’t strike me as a particularly useful goal.

When I was still in school, back during the Pleistocene era, they took the trouble to impress upon us the value of crop rotation and the folly of expecting the same land to produce the same stuff year after year after year. But hey, we can’t waste time on that sort of thing: we need fuel, dammit.

Sheesh. I think I need a drink. Which, incidentally, would contain ethanol.

(Via Hippyshopper.)


  1. gerry rosser »

    2 July 2007 · 2:55 pm

    I read that if every bit of corn grown in the USofA were used to make ethanol, the resultant fuel would be less than 5% of the amount burned by cars every year in our fair land. Further, you get less gas mileage. Even further, you have to have energy to make the alky, and, unlike Brazil, I don’t think they are burning corn stalk residue.

    In short, it’s a scam to avoid increasing gas mileage in cars. As for the diminution in food production, don’t forget: you can drink the stuff.

  2. Mister Snitch! »

    2 July 2007 · 10:48 pm

    Turning food into fuel in the US is wrongheaded and inefficient and stupid on SO many levels. All our energy (except for nuclear) ultimately comes from the sun, anyway. Gasoline is just the purest and most efficient expression of liquid sunshine we have so far.

    We either need a better way (than food) of gathering up that solar power and turning it into something relatively stable and portable, or cars that run on plutonium. (And no, that B2TF Delorean did NOT run on plutonium, it ran on gas. The flux capacitor was another story.)

  3. Silflay Hraka »

    6 July 2007 · 6:38 pm

    Ethanol is Not Only Evil

    It’s stupid. One of the main justifications for the large-scale cultivation of agrofuels is the need to combat climate change, but the figures make a mockery of this claim.

RSS feed for comments on this post