Biofuels: whom will they profit?

Project description by stefano valentino
Open

What we want to do

Our team intends to investigate and recount the effects of biofuels expansion and whether the measures taken both by governments and by the world of business ensure that biofuels production and use go in the right direction.

Our goal is answering the complex crucial question: does bioenergy really contribute to boost sustainable development and to fight climate change both in the North and in the South, and to which extent public and private decision-makers are concretely acting to tackle this dilemma?

 

How we can work together

We’re constantly looking for specific issues, cases and initiatives concerning different countries and places across the planet.

Join our collaborative community. Contribute with information and comments on what happens around you. We’ll use your material to enrich our research and documentation activities.

Promote and support our common project, to help involving as many people as possible and gathering the resources needed to carry on our collective work.

Thanks to you and to all other participants, we’ll produce multimedia updates and regularly spread them through news outlets, in order to raise awareness among the general public in the long term.

 

Why the project is important

Western economies rush for “green oil” through expanding biofuels feedstocks farming, both at home and in developing countries. 

The EU is pursuing the goal of replacing 10% of its oil consumption with renewable fuels by 2020. The U.S. wants to reach the threshold of 15% by 2017.

These ambitious blending targets were set in order to reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and energy dependence by replacing conventional fossil fuels with cleaner fuels produced from vegetable feedstocks: namely, bioethanol (for gasoline blending) and biodiesel (for diesel blending).

Those targets cause an increase of the global demand for biofuels. Since rich countries run out of land to grow enough feedstocks, in order to meet their domestic demand they need to import large volumes of vegetable oil from developing countries where under-used arable areas are widely available.

This potentially ensures steady profits for those who invest in this new business. However, because biofuels tend to compete for the same lands with food crops, they have often been linked to record grains prices, farmers evictions and rising hunger. There are also fears that they could increase, rather than decreasing, greenhouse gas emissions as a result of carbon release due to the deforestation needed to make room for the plantations, the production of the required fertilizers and pesticides and the transportation up to destination markets.

Experts’ analysis and experiences from the field show a controversial scenario: biofuels may bring either benefits or disadvantages to local communities and to the environment, depending on how and where they are produced and used.