Here’s a dumb energy idea – fight climate change by chopping down forests to grow biofuel crops:


Increasing production of biofuels to combat climate change will release between two and nine times more carbon gases over the next 30 years than fossil fuels, according to the first comprehensive analysis of emissions from biofuels.

It seems obvious that this is a really dumb idea, but that is just what international corporations and some really bad leadership in Africa are planning.

Africa appears to plunge from one corporate nightmare to another. Just as we begin to come to terms with the colonially-sponsored corporate conquest of our oil resources, along comes a new wave of ‘green’ companies turning fertile African lands to Northern ‘gold’. Senegalese president and agrofuel promoter Abdoulaye Wade has called this ‘a new revolution in Africa’. Others have likened it to ‘the new scramble for Africa’.
. . . large tracts of arable land are being sold off to the highest bidders with little regard for the repercussions on local populations livelihoods and food security.
. . .
A recent study published by the Africa Biodiversity Network (ABN) provides compelling evidence from Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Benin that the misguided scramble for projects could lead to an environmental and humanitarian disaster on the continent. For instance, Timothy Byakola reports that a plan is underway to convert a third of Uganda’s prime rainforest reserve, Mabira Forest, into agricultural land on which sugarcane will be planted for ethanol production. According to Byakola, President Yoweri Museveni has vociferously supported this controversial project, ignoring community opposition to it. The consequences of the deforestation of 7,100 hectares of one of the key water catchment sources for the Nile River and Lake Victoria, and the implications for the communities around Mabira which depend on the forest as a source of livelihood, are potentially enormous.
. . .
As with carbon trading, the agrofuels issue brings climate justice questions to the fore. In 2004 climate change activist George Monbiot warned that rising demand for biofuels will result in competition for food between cars and people. ‘The people would necessarily lose: those who can afford to drive are, by definition, richer than those who are in danger of starvation.’ He goes on to argue that the reason Northern governments are enthusiastic is because they don’t want to upset car drivers. He argues that biofuels ‘appear to reduce the amount of carbon from our cars, without requiring new taxes. It’s an illusion sustained by the fact that only the emissions produced at home count towards our national total.’

Grain prices, particularly maize and wheat are shooting through the roof. People are already going hungry in a number of countries as a result. And the switch to biofuel crops damages protein supply, driving up the price of animal feed, as well as the price of staple food crops. Food aid is dropping because the budgets alloted to it are fixed, but the price of the food is going up. At the same time, the biofuel “miracle plant” jatropha is growing on huge plantations. The reason jatropha was supposed to be a good idea is because it is tough enough to grow in arid and marginal lands. Instead, it is being grown instead of food. As the paragraph above points out, poor people will starve, and rich people will drive, fueled by the food taken from poor people’s mouths.

The governments of the poor countries will use their armies trained and equipped by the US and other rich countries, to control political dissent. Rich governments will be happy because they don’t have to pass unpopular regulations or raise taxes. The people in the rich countries will tut tut comfortably about how those poor people don’t know how to govern themselves. And even if biofuel contributes more to global warming than does fossil fuel, rich countries will meet their carbon targets, and won’t worry. It is probably a good thing the poor are always with us (Matthew 26:11) that way we can continue to rip them off and avoid any sacrifice or inconvenience to ourselves.