News Release

Are Biofuels the Solution?


Research biologist at the Global Justice Ecology Project, Smolker said today: “In just the past week [the U.S. government] permitted field testing of a eucalyptus genetically engineered specifically for biofuel production, a $375 million DOE grant was made to fund three major bioenergy research centers, BP and DuPont fronted most of $400 million for a ‘world class’ biofuel plant in the U.K., and the U.S. Senate passed a bill to mandate a target of 36 billion gallons of biofuel by 2022. The pace at which biofuels are being promoted is staggering.

“Behind the corporate ‘greenwash’ that biofuels will help solve the problem of global warming is an unfolding environmental and social catastrophe. The idea that we can solve our problems by permitting huge multinational corporations to grab up agricultural lands and cut down forests in order to install massive industrial plantations of fuel feedstocks is ludicrous and extremely dangerous. The direct and indirect impacts on food, soils, water, indigenous people and biodiversity are already evident. Any greenhouse gas emission savings is far outweighed by the emissions caused by deforestation and industrial agriculture. The oil, biotechnology and agribusiness industries see massive profits and are forging alliances to consolidate food and fuel production under one collosal industrial roof.”
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Maria Luisa Mendonça is based in São Paulo and is in the U.S. until Saturday at the U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta. She is director of the Social Network for Justice and Human Rights and co-wrote an article titled “The Myth of Biofuels.” She said today: “Now there is a real concern in the U.S. about global warming and that’s good because the U.S. is responsible for 25 percent of all air pollution, so of course it’s important that the U.S. public take responsibility for that. But no alternative energy source would meet the current demands for oil in this country. Right now there are about 770 cars for each 1,000 people in the U.S., so this is not a sustainable sort of society. So before we talk about alternative sources of energy, we need to talk about massive good-quality public transportation — and then talk about the impacts of the current sources for biofuel and bio-diesel and ethanol.

“In the case of ethanol, the main sources now are sugarcane and corn, and both have several problems in terms of environmental destruction because any type of extensive agricultural process will have an impact in terms of the amount of water you need, the soil pollution with pesticides, and of course the ground water pollution. In the case of sugarcane there is also the problem of burning sugarcane which causes air pollution as well. And in the case of bio-diesel, which is mainly made from palm oil and soybeans, this is causing a great deal of deforestation, destroying the rain forest in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Malaysia and Indonesia. So using agricultural land for biofuels is not really sustainable.

“In addition to all environmental issues, we have also serious labor rights violations in the case of cutting sugarcane. …

“Biofuels can actually make global warming worse in the case of Brazil, because in the case of Brazil carbon emissions are not as much because of our lifestyle, like in the United States. Carbon emissions for Brazil are for the most part because of the destruction of the rain forest in Brazil, so putting more pressure on expensive agriculture will only mean more destruction of the rain forest and therefore more emission of carbon and more global warming.”
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For more information, contact the Institute for Public Accuracy at (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan at (541) 484-9167.