The need to find an alternative source of energy to power the world, while having a reduced impact on the environment, is one that has become increasingly stark over the last decade.
With soaring oil prices, a need for energy independence, and the effects of global warming, governments in developed countries like the US and UK have enthusiastically supported the biofuel industry, in the hope that it will prove a an effective source of energy.
However, the benefit of biofuel comes at a significant cost. With the worst droughts hitting the US in 50 years and with food shortages hitting poorer parts of the world, in particular the Sahel area of west Africa, should we really be using up food in order to power our first world technologies?
The biofuel industry accounted for 2.7 percent of the world’s fuel use in transportation, in particular ethanol and biodiesel. The EU currently produces the most biofuel production, accounting for 53 percent of the world’s output.
Whilst the growth of the industry reflects people’s desire to move towards more sustainable sources of energy, it seems wasteful to use up food that could otherwise be given to those that severely impacted by famine.
The US is one of the world’s largest food producers, but policymakers have swung their support behind the biofuel industry in the hope that it will free them from a reliance of importing energy from abroad.
The UN has called on the US to stop biofuel production as a result of drought that has destroyed crops across the country. The UN’s Food and Agriculture director general, Jose Graziano, told the FT: “The worst drought for 50 years is inflicting huge damage on the US maize crop, with serious consequences for the overall international food supply.
“The situation reminds us that even the most advanced agricultural systems are subject to the vagaries of the weather, leading to volatility in supplies and prices, not just on domestic markets, but also internationally.”