Now the Independent newspaper has launched into biofuels with a front page lead in today’s paper. The biofuel bonanza is set to reach a landmark this week the US President, George Bush, arrives in Brazil to kick-start the creation of an international market for ethanol that could one day rival oil as a global commodity.
The expected creation of an “Opec for ethanol” replicating the cartel of major oil producers has spurred frenzied investment in biofuels across the Americas.
But the Independent argues that a growing number of economists, scientists and environmentalists are calling for a “time out” and warning that the headlong rush into massive ethanol production is creating more problems than it is solving.
“The ethanol industry has been linked with air and water pollution on an epic scale, along with deforestation in both the Amazon and Atlantic rainforests, as well as the wholesale destruction of Brazil’s unique savannah land.
Fabio Feldman, a leading Brazilian environmentalist and former member of Congress who helped to pass the law mandating a 23 per cent mix of ethanol to be added to all petroleum supplies in the country, believes that Brazil’s trailblazing switch has had serious side effects.
“Some of the cane plantations are the size of European states, these vast monocultures have replaced important eco-systems,” he said. “If you see the size of the plantations in the state of Sao Paolo they are oceans of sugar cane. In order to harvest you must burn the plantations which creates a serious air pollution problem in the city.”
The American economist Lester R Brown, from the Earth Policy Institute, is leading the warning voices in America: “The competition for grain between the world’s 800 million motorists who want to maintain their mobility and its two billion poorest people who are simply trying to stay alive is emerging as an epic issue.”
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