Biofuel production 'is harming the poor'

A A A

The production of biofuels is fuelling poverty, human rights abuses and damage to the environment, Christian Aid warned today.

The charity said huge subsidies and targets in developed countries for boosting the production of fuels from plants such as maize and oil palm are exacerbating environmental and social problems in poor nations.

And rather than being a "silver bullet" to tackle climate change, the carbon emissions of some of the fuels are higher than fossil fuels because of deforestation driven by the need for land for them to grow.

According to a report, Growing Pains, by Christian Aid, industrial scale production of biofuels is worsening problems such as food price hikes in central America, forced displacement of small farmers for plantations and pollution of local water sources.

But with 2.4 billion people worldwide currently without secure sources of energy for cooking and heating, Christian Aid believes the renewable fuels do have the potential to help the poor.

The charity highlights schemes such as the growing of jatropha in Mali, where the plant is raised between food crops and the oil from the seeds is used to run village generators which can power appliances such as stoves and lights.

The report argues that talking about "good" or "bad" biofuels is oversimplifying the situation, and the problem is not with the crop or fuel - but the policies surrounding them.

Developed countries have poured subsidies into biofuel production - for example in the US where between 9.2 billion dollars and 11 billion dollars went to supporting maize-based ethanol in 2008 - when there are cheaper and more effective ways to cut emissions from transport, the report said.

The charity said biofuels production needed a "new vision" - a switch from supplying significant quantities of transport fuel for industrial markets to helping poor people have access to clean energy.

The report's author Eliot Whittington, climate advocacy specialist for Christian Aid, said: "Vast sums of European and American taxpayers' money are being used to prop up industries which are fuelling hunger, severe human rights abuses and environmental destruction - and failing to deliver the benefits claimed for them."

He said the current approach to biofuels had been "disastrous".

"Policymakers should urgently rethink their entire approach to biofuels, to ensure that only crops and fuels which will achieve their social and environmental goals receive government backing."

He added: "Christian Aid believes that the best approach to biofuels is to grow them on a small scale and process them locally to provide energy for people in the surrounding countryside.

"This can also increase rural people's incomes and has the potential to actually increase soil fertility and moisture retention, without compromising people's food security."

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...