BP has announced that it is planning to spend $500 million to set up a biofuels research centre that will be attached to a major US or UK university. BP says the centre – which will be called the BP Energy Biosciences Institute – will focus on improving the efficiency of existing biofuels; developing new technology so that more of a crop can be used to make biofuels; and developing new high-energy species of plants.
But what does BP mean by “high-energy species of plants”? It means biotech plants. Last week, the US Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) announced that BP had become a member.
BIO’s President Jim Greenwood said that “BP is the first major integrated energy company to join BIO, signalling an important shift in fuels production that will couple biotechnology with the use of renewable agricultural feedstocks”.
Steve Koonin, BP’s Chief Scientist adds “BP and its more than 100,000 employees operating across some 100 countries are pleased to become members of the Biotechnology Industry Organization”.
So here is the conundrum: BP is trying to portray itself as a green oil company – part of that campaign is to promote its use of biofuels. Yet biotechnology is not seen green at all and has huge environmental and health implications – OK you are not eating biotech biofuel plants but the ecological costs will be huge, including cross-contamination and superweeds.
BP cannot be green and be biotech at the same time: that is the bottom line.