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Our comment: Biofuels DO harm the environment enormously. Palm oil plantations destroy habitats completely, for instance. The biofuel craze and the vain hope to find "so-called second-generation fuels" are part of the endeavours to maintain the status quo of modern fossil fuel based society. This is an illusionary goal. We have overshot the earth's carrying capacity and the one thing we must do is reduce, in all quarters and rapidly. 11SEP2007
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OECD slams biofuels subsidies for sparking food price inflationAndrew Bounds in Brussels, Financial Times 10 Sept. 2007, page 1. (Copyright notice)
Governments need to scrap subsidies for biofuels as the current rush to support alternative energy sources will lead to surging food prices and the potential destruction of natural habitats, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development will warn today.
The OECD will say in a report to be discussed by ministers today that politicians are rigging the market in favour of an untried technology that will have only limited impact on climate change.
"The current push to expand the use of biofuels is creating unsustainable tensions that will disrupt markets without generating significant environmental benefits," say the authors of the study, a copy of which has been obtained by the Financial Times.
The survey says biofuels would cut energy-related emissions by 3 per cent at most. This benefit would come at a huge cost, which would swiftly make them unpopular among taxpayers.
The study estimates the US alone spends $7bn (£3.4bn) a year helping make ethanol, with each tonne of carbon dioxide avoided costing more than $500. In the EU, it can be almost 10 times that. It says biofuels could lead to some damage to the environment. "As long as environmental values are not adequately priced in the market, there will be powerful incentives to replace natural eco-systems such as forests, wetlands and pasture with dedicated bio-energy crops," it says.
The report recommends governments phase out biofuel subsidies, using "technology-neutral" carbon taxes to allow the market to find the most efficient ways of reducing greenhouse gases.
The study, prepared for the OECD's round table on sustainable development, will be discussed in Paris today and tomorrow by ministers and representatives of a dozen governments, including the US. Also attending will be Ángel Gurría, the OECD secretary-general, scientists, business representatives and non-governmental organisations.
The survey puts a question mark over the European Union's plan to derive 10 per cent of transport fuel from plants by 2020. It says money saved from subsidies phasing out should fund research into so-called second-generation fuels, which are being developed to use waste products and so emit less CO2 when they are made.
Adrian Bebb, biofuels campaigner with Friends of the Earth said: "The OECD is right to warn against throwing ourselves headfirst down the agrofuels path."
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
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