Unsustainable Tensions

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation (OECD) met on Tuesday and Wednesday this week with ministers, government representatives, scientists, businessmen, and NGOs to discuss a report that evaluates the damaging effects of biofuel for the world.
Currently, many politicians push biofuel subsidies with the argument that this energy source will reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The OECD adds in its study that biofuel expansion creates unsustainable tensions while only reducing energy-related emissions by a maximum of 3 percent. This small improvement comes with big expense.
To prevent one ton of carbon dioxide, the United States spends $500 dollars on alternative fuel sources, an expenditure that accumulates to over $7 billion a year. Across the Atlantic in the E.U., costs can rise to almost 10 times what the U.S. spends. Money saved by not funding subsidies could be spent on research for second-generation fuels that use waste products.
Lesser known costs of the production of ethanol for example are increased food prices and damage to natural habitats. In July, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations exalted that prices it pays for maize in some countries have raised 120 percent while this could easily reach a 170 percent increase within the next three years.
Speaking to the Guardian, Lester Brown, President of the Worldwatch institute, argues that you cannot have your maize cake and eat it too: “The competition for grain between the world’s 800 million motorists, who want to maintain their mobility, and its two billion poorest people, who are simply trying to survive, is emerging as an epic issue.”
In reference to climate change the OECD report further explains: “when acidification, fertilizer use, biodiversity loss and toxicity of agricultural pesticides are taken into account, the overall environmental impacts of ethanol and biodiesel can very easily exceed those of petrol and mineral diesel.” In addition they claim “as long as environmental values are not adequately priced on the market, there will be powerful incentives to replace natural eco-systems such as forests, wetlands, and pasture with dedicated bio-energy crops.”
The OECD proposes that rather than pay for biofuel subsidies, governments should enforce carbon taxes as a means to reduce greenhouse gases – because once left to the market, they predict, new incentives for efficient technologies will develop.

Financial Times
The Guardian

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