Thursday, January 24, 2008

“UN Warns of Biofuels’ Environmental Risk”

Apparently, Dr. Obvious has made a house call to the UN. From the AP:

“BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — The world's rush to embrace biofuels is causing a spike in the price of corn and other crops and could worsen water shortages and force poor communities off their land, a U.N. official said Wednesday.

Speaking at a regional forum on bioenergy, Regan Suzuki of the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization acknowledged that biofuels are better for the environment than fossil fuels and boost energy security for many countries.

However, she said those benefits must be weighed against the pitfalls — many of which are just now emerging as countries convert millions of acres to palm oil, sugar cane and other crops used to make biofuels.,‘Biofuels have become a flash point through which a wide range of social and environmental issues are currently being played out in the media,’ Suzuki told delegates at the forum, sponsored by the U.N. and the Thai government.

Foremost among the concerns is increased competition for agricultural land, which Suzuki warned has already caused a rise in corn prices in the United States and Mexico and could lead to food shortages in developing countries.

She also said China and India could face worsening water shortages because biofuels require large amounts of water, while forests in Indonesia and Malaysia could face threats from the expansion of palm oil plantations.

‘Particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, land availability is a critical issue,’ Suzuki said. ‘There are clear comparative advantages for tropical and subtropical countries in growing biofuel feed stocks but it is often these same countries in which resource and land rights of vulnerable groups and protected forests are weakest.’

Initially, biofuels were held up as a panacea for countries struggling to cope with the rising cost of oil or those looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The European Union, for example, plans to replace 10 percent of transport fuel with biofuels made from energy crops such as sugar cane and rapeseed oil by 2020.

But in recent months, scientists, private agencies and even the British government have said biofuels could do more harm than good. Rather than protecting the environment, they say energy crops destroy natural forests that actually store carbon and thus are a key tool in the fight to reduce global warming.”

I strongly suspect that Ms. Suzuki hasn't won many friends in the farm lobbies in either the US or Europe with this piece of work.

So, it’s bad for the environment and bad for the poor. Wasn’t all of this go green stuff supposed to make us all rich? What’s this about costs? Nobody ever mentioned those at The Church of Everlasting Environmental Crisis.

That anyone is now stopping to perform even rudimentary cost benefit analysis is a measure of considerable progress. Of course, applying cost benefit reasoning is bad for the Mr. Gore’s hysteria franchise. In his role as Televangelist of Global Warming (keep those government subsidies coming!), cost benefit analysis has to be considered anathema.