Sep 26 2012

A Debate on Biofuels and its Impact on Food Prices

A new study released this week about the efficiency and environmental impact of biofuels has added to the growing chorus of claims that agriculturally produced sources of fuel are actually less “green” than they claim to be. The study was conducted by the Swiss group, EMPA which stands for the Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology. According to EMPA, while biofuel use produces very few emissions directly, the impact on land use for growing biofuels outweighs the benefits.

The Swiss study comes just days after Oxfam International’s study on biofuels entitled, “Another Inconvenient Truth: How biofuel policies are deepening poverty and accelerating climate change.”* In it, Oxfam points to projected rates of growth for the biofuel industry which they estimate will divert land used for food production and carbon sinks like rain forests into tracts of land for growing biofuel crops. Increased demands for biofuels from the European Union, according to Oxfam, are driving up food prices and contributing to poverty and food insecurity among the world’s poorest.

However, some proponents of biofuels claim there is significant misinformation about the growing industry, intended to serve the interests of big oil. Film maker Josh Tickell has made compelling arguments that contrary to such studies, the biofuel industry does not drive up the price of food, nor does require more energy to produce than it creates.

GUESTS: Ruth Kelly, Economic Policy Advisor with Oxfam, Josh Tickell, award winning film maker whose documentary Fuel examined the oil industry and alternatives to it

*ERRATUM: We erroneously cited Oxfam’s 2008 study. Their latest study is called The Hunger Grains, which can be downloaded here.

Visit Josh Tickell’s website at www.joshtickell.com.

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