Potentials and Pitfalls New Jobs in Biofuel Industry

Surely everybody hopes that Biofuels will be able to strike two birds with one stone by not only solving our energy consumption concerns, but also by creating new jobs in the process.  An editorial article published in January’s edition of Future Science has divulged into the vigorous and contentious debate over the economic and environmental merits of biofuels.  Particularly intriguing to these authors, though, was the debate about what jobs may be created.   They  articulate, “social impacts deserve close scrutiny, including whether [or not] biofuels projects alleviate or worsen poverty, guarantee fair compensation for land and protect workers’ rights.”  Biofuels clearly promote jobs, as illustrated in Brazil where the sugarcane-ethanol industry has produced at least a million jobs to citizens.  A similar trend was seen in the United States; 136,000 people directly found new jobs in 2006 and another 310,000 in supplier industries.   Interestingly, biofuels require about 100-times more workers per joule of energy content produced than the highly capital-intensive fossil fuel industry.  Jatropha is a particularly labor intensive crop so as a result, oilseed crops in developing countries hold the most promise for job creation because they must typically be harvested manually, rather than with the help of machinery.  The authors then spoke of some pitfalls biofuels may have and some were quite unsettling. They think that a concerted drive to produce biofuels on a large scale could lead to widespread displacements of small farmers and poor communities; this has already occurred in Brazil, Tanzania, and Uganda, leading to much domestic disputes and violence.  In conclusion, the authors suggest that merely substituting biofuels for fossil fuels should not be the sole goal of the biofuels industry.  A unique bonding between sociologists, economists, and biologists will be needed to effectively identify the best means of introducing biofuels to new communities in a manner that will benefit all parties in question.

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