SHIVA, Vandana. Biofuels - "these false solutions will increase the climate crisis while aggravating and deepening inequality, hunger and poverty"

Vandana Shiva (born  November 5, 1952) is an Indian environmental activist, ecofeminist, physicist, author of several books and  author of over 300 papers in leading scientific and technical journals (see: ).

Dr Vandana Shiva condemning food crop-based biofuel, stating that “these false solutions will increase the climate crisis while aggravating and deepening inequality, hunger and poverty” (2007): “Another false solution to climate change is the promotion of biofuels based on corn and soya, palmoil and jatropha…

Global production of biofuels alone has doubled in the last five years and will likely double again in the next four. Among countries that have enacted a new pro-biofuel policy in recent years are Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Columbia, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mexico, Mozambique, the Philippines, Senegal, South Africa, Thailand and Zambia.

There are two types of industrial biofuels - ethanol and biodiesel. Ethanol can be produced from products rich in saccharose such as sugarcane and molasses, substances rich in starch such as maize, barley and wheat. Ethanol is blended with petrol. Biodiesel is produced from vegetable only such as palm oil, soya oil, and rapeseed oil. Biodiesel is blended with diesel…

The diversion of food for fuel has already increased the price of corn and soya. There have been riots in Mexico because of the price rise of tortillas. And this is just the beginning. Imagine the land needed for providing 25% of the oil from food.

One tonne of corn produces 413 litres of ethanol. 35 million gallons of ethanol requires 320 million tons of corn. The U.S. produced 280.2 million tons of corn in 2005. As a result of NAFTA, the U.S. made Mexico dependent on U.S. corn, and destroyed the small farms of Mexico. This was in fact the basis of the Zopatista uprising. As a result of corn being diverted to biofuels, prices of corn have increased in Mexico.

Industrial biofuels are being promoted as a source of renewable energy and as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, there are two ecological reasons why converting crops like soya, corn and palm oil into liquid fuels can actually aggravate climate chaos and the CO2 burden.

Firstly, deforestation caused by expanding soya plantations and palm oil plantations is leading to increased CO2 emissions. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 1.6 billion tons or 25 to 30 per cent of the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere each year comes from deforestation. By 2022, biofuel plantations could destroy 98% of Indonesia's rainforests.

According to Wetlands International, destruction of South East Asia pert lands for palm oil plantations is contributing to 8% of the global CO2 emissions. According to Delft Hydraulics, every tonne of palm oil results in 30 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions or 10 times as much as petroleum producers. However, this additional burden on the atmosphere is treated as a clean development mechanism in the Kyoto Protocol for reducing emissions. Biofuels are thus contributing to the same global warming that they are supposed to reduce. (World Rainforest Bulletin No.112, Nov 2006, Page 22)

Further, the conversion of biomass to liquid fuel uses more fossil fuels than it substitutes.

One gallon of ethanol production requires 28,000 kcal. This provides 19,400 kcal of energy. Thus the energy efficiency is -- 43%.

The U.S. will use 20% of its corn to produce 5 billion gallons of ethanol which will substitute 1% of oil use. If 100% of corn was used, only 7% of the total oil would be substituted. This is clearly not a solution either to peak oil or climate chaos. (David Pimental at IFG conference on "The Triple Crisis", London, Feb 23-25, 2007)

And it is a source of other crisis. 1700 gallons of water are used to produce a gallon of ethanol. Corn uses more nitrogen fertilizer, more insecticides, more herbicides than any other crop.

These false solutions will increase the climate crisis while aggravating and deepening inequality, hunger and poverty.

Real solutions exist which can mitigate climate change while reducing hunger and poverty.” [1].

[1]. Vandana Shiva,”Food, forests and fuel: from false to real solutions for the climate change”, ZSpace, 13 December 2007: .