The switch to energy crops in the form of biofuels will not be easy, practical and without its share of shortcomings, if the views of an organic farmer from Wisconsin are to be believed.
According to Jim Goodman, a Policy Board member of the Organic Consumers Association, though biofuels have been projected by the US to give agriculture new importance as a producer of energy as well as food and fiber, the disadvantages have not been highlighted.
In fact, supporters of biofuel agriculture avoid mentioning the cost of inputs, the fossil fuels, the environmental damage, the physical toll on animals and humans, and the growing problem of hunger that will accompany the switch from food to energy crop production.
In his article in ENN (Environmental News Network), Goodman marks many disadvantages of biofuels.
In Goodman’s opinion, as an energy source, biofuels are less efficient and no “greener” than oil. Growing them will cause food prices to rise and as a result, the poor will be at an even greater risk of hunger.
In addition, rain forests will be destroyed and become cropland, peasants around the world will continue to lose their land, their food sovereignty, all to feed the world’s appetite for fuel.
As for biofuels being good for the environment, data from the University of Edinburgh shows that biofuels produce high levels of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. In total, they can produce 70% more greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels.
The production of these energy crops would also impact world food supplies and prices. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, biofuel production could push food prices up as much as 20-40%.
The manufacturing of biofuels is also very expensive. It depends on billions of dollars in government subsidies in the form of loan guarantees for the construction of biofuel plants, tax exemptions on biofuels and direct payments to farmers.
According to Goodman, when one considers the industrial agricultural system that is necessary for their production, biofuels are anything but sustainable.
“Costly inputs of fuel, fertilizer and biotech seed will challenge the profitability of Northern (US) farmers, while peasant farmers will continue to be evicted to make room for monocultures of corn, soy, sugarcane and oil palms,” said Goodman.
“Food prices will climb, hunger and poverty will increase and we will be no closer to energy independence or truly renewable fuels,” he added.
“We need energy solutions that will work; tough vehicle fuel standards, new public transportation systems, real renewable fuels like solar and wind and mandated commitments to conservation and recycling,” said Goodman.