Will Biofuels cause Peakfood?

February 25, 2010 · Filed Under competition from biofuels · Comment 

ActionAid has produced a report called “Meals Per Gallon: The impact of industrial biofuels on people and global hunger,” which says that EU companies had taken millions of acres of land out of food production in Africa, central America and Asia, to grow biofuels for transport.

They say that most industrial biofuels are made from agricultural crops grown in developing countries on land that should instead be used for food production.  The charity believes that the 2008 decision by EU countries to obtain 10% of all transport fuels from biofuels by 2020 was having a disastrous effect on poorer nations. 

Report author Tim Rice said: “Biofuels are driving a global human tragedy. Local food prices have already risen massively. As biofuel production gains pace, this can only accelerate.”

At www.peakfood.co.uk we are against those biofuels with a poor energy balance – where the input of fossil energy is nearly as great as the energy in the resulting biofuel. Some US ethanol from corn comes under this category. We are also against destroying rainforest to plant with oil palm. Burning that massive carbon store will never be made up by the CO2 savings made by producing palm oil.

However, it is important that we reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, especially in farming itself. We need to work on developing a sustainable farming system that collects solar energy both for food and fuel if we are to feed the growing population in a future where oil will become scarce and expensive. 

We will need to produce cellulosic ethanol and biogas from plant residues. Brazil now makes millions of gallons of ethanol from sugar cane residue very efficiently.

 Farmers on arable land in developing countries perhaps need help so that they can find ways to produce both food and fuel in a way that does not harm valuable soil.

But most important of all is that both the developed and developing worlds innovate to reduce consumption of all fuels thereby slowing global warming and oil and gas depletion.

Biogas from Waste

February 21, 2009 · Filed Under climate change · Comment 

Has the government at last realised that it is crazy not to extract value from so called waste?

At the moment the UK produces over 12 million tons of food waste each year, most of which ends up in expensive landfill. In addition, animal manures are often treated as a nuisance at intesive livestock units.

Speaking at the National Farmers Union conference last week, Farming Minister Jane Kennedy announced plans to use manure, food waste, and slurry to create heat, power and fuel for transport, using anaerobic digestion.

A biogas task force is being set up to build upon the NFU’s vision of 1,000 biogas plants on farms by 2020. Ms Kennedy said that waste material could produce enough heat and power to run more than two million homes – helping to prevent dangerous climate change by providing a renewable energy source as well as reducing our relience on landfill.