Adverse Effects of Biofuels on Food Production

With many hopefully turning to biofuels as a mechanism to solve all of our energy concerns, some researchers have burst some citizens’ bubbles by providing information about how detrimental these fuels just may be.  Published in Science in 2008 was an article addressing the sweet, yet also sour, implications that biofuels have.  It articulates that a vast array of researchers feel that biofuels will consume vast swaths of farmland and native habitats, drive up food prices, and result in little reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions.   Each biofuel has certain benefits and potential costs, and there is no common currency for comparing them. However, the article mentions research by Zah et al. which breaks new ground by devising a conceptual scheme to evaluate different biofuels using just two criteria: greenhouse-gas emissions and overall environmental impact.  In other words, this article has reduced disparate environmental costs to a single number, which some think is  risky because they have most likely missed some information to merge into their calculation.  An article published in Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society this past summer has taken a slightly different view on the situation and seem to drive home a different point.  Although these authors too agree that biofuels are more bittersweet than some think, they make clear that about 60% of people in the world are malnourished.  Thus, they spark controversy about biofuels and raise the moral and ethical concerns of why so many nations use food crops to produce energy, instead of using those food crops to feed the millions of people starving throughout the world.

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One Response to Adverse Effects of Biofuels on Food Production

  1. Chris says:

    Great post, Kofi. The lack of a clear comparative statistic seems to be a huge problem in estimating the potential costs and benefits of a given biofuel.

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