Tuesday, 10 July 2007

The darker side of the biofuel ‘green’ revolution

Biofuels have been touted as the green alternative to petrol for some time now. A number of governments, ours included, have set targets for the uptake of biofuels in the next few years as a means of reducing their countries CO2 emissions. Unfortunately in doing this they have opened the door to unscrupulous and unethical businesses to exploit both the planet and people. Just one example of this is taking place in Uganda. The Mehta sugar corporation wants to expand its sugar cane plantations for biofuel production.

This may sound like a good thing, but that is far from the truth. The Mehta sugar corporation wants to expand its operations into the Mabira Forest Reserve. At the moment the reserve is protected by law due to its importance to the country’s eco system, the forest is home to 300 bird species and many rare primates, and the forest stores CO2.

The Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni said that handing the forest over to the Mehta group would create jobs and boost the competitiveness of the sugar industry in the area. Again the conflict between the environment and the needs of the economy area at odds. Can there ever be a convergence of economic need and environemntal need? I think there can, but the element of greed has to be removed from the equation. I believe there can be compassion and ethical conduct in business. There have been protests against this in Uganda, and in April three people were killed at a demonstration. The push for biofuels is creating the conditions for exploitation of the world’s forests and increased hunger in the developing world as more agricultural crops are sold for biofuel production, creating food shortages and inflated prices.

Is the West’s drive to convert to biuofuels actually going to reduce the global levels of CO2 or is it merely reducing emissions from some countries so they can meet their targets and increasing emissions in others? The overall net effect may be a rise in CO2 emissions if we’re not careful.

[Via The Independent]

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