Institute for National and Democratic Studies

Planting Fuel Harvesting Hunger

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Cover copyBiofuel are being promoted as the solution to the climate change, particularly in the post-Kyoto negotiation, and oil crisis.

According to its proponents, biofuels as the renewable energy sources assumed as having such benefits as: reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, reduction of fossil fuel use, increased national energy security, increased rural development and a sustainable fuel supply for the future. European Union Biofuels Directives and the US energy security Act 2007 had drove the promotion of biofuels higher than before. European Union biofuels directive that each member states should achieve at least 5.75% biofuel usage of all used traffic fuel in 2010 and 10 % in 2020 also under the US Energy Independence and Security Act 2007 intend to replace 75% of imported oil by 2025 by alternative sources of energy including biofuels.

Large subsidies from US and EU serve the corporate interest in biofuels investment and production. Markets on biofuels are growing. According to the World Resource Institute (WRI), while fossil fuel still account 95% of the global transportation market, biofuel production is growing roughly 15% per year, a rate over ten times that for oil. Indeed, reports show that biofuel production has been expanding at the breakneck pace in recent years. The two main types of agrofuel are bioethanol and biodiesel is growing rapidly in the last few years.

The wave of investment in agrofuels is restructuring agribusiness itself. New, powerful players are converging into the sector. Cosmetics corporations are selling biodiesel. Big oil is buying up plantations. Wall Street speculators are swinging deals with feudal sugar barons. All of this money circulating around the globe is reorganizing and intensifying transnational structures, linking the most brutal landowning class of the South with the most powerful corporations of the North.

In Asia, governments also use the hype of biofuels in their development policies. Almost all government interested to the biofuel on two aspects; a way to cut costly fuel imports and as an instrument of investment. In Asia, countries are generally separate into two categories; developed and less-developed countries; net oil exporters and net-oil importers; and so on. In East and Southeast Asia, only Malaysia, Vietnam and tiny Brunei are net oil exporters. Other countries, including OPEC member Indonesia, have struggled with several years of high oil bills and volatile crop prices.

At the same time, the food prices were soaring which followed by trade tensions and social unrest in many countries. The EU’s were forced to rethink their ambitious hopes for running its cars and trucks on biofuel. Amidst of the ongoing demand, many of the biofuels that are currently being supplied have been criticized for their adverse impacts on the natural environment, food security, and land use.

EU commission tried to respond the critique by formulating the guidance on sustainability safeguards for agrofuels production. Implementation of sustainability in the context of agrofuel production is clearly far from what UN-Energy had set as the sustainable bioenergy with it connection to development of the poor and marginalized people that burdened by the worst impact of the oil crisis.

All the hype about energy security, rural development, and saving the environment are empty talk because biofuels production and trade, as pushed within the context of corporate interests and driven by narrow profit motivation, in the end only bring to a higher level old problems such as those associated with GMOs and environmental degradation, and the marginalization and exploitation of direct agricultural producers while strengthening the monopoly control of First World-based TNCs in global agriculture. Energy independence can only be achieved if energy resources are effectively controlled and managed by the state, and not by private – especially foreign – corporations that have narrow interests.

The people in Asia will force to pay twice for this misguided “climate strategy”: rapid global warming will threaten the lives of the Asian people and communities. Indigenous and local communities will be disproportionately affected. Land grabbing and displacement are the most highlighted issue on the large-scale agrofuels production in Asia. Wherever plantation took place, whether it’s for palm-oil or jatropha plantation, land grabbing is a common type that used by corporate backed by local-military troops or other states apparatus to consolidate the land. Agrofuel expansion also force to land-use conversion.

The crucial impact of the large-scale agrofuel production is the destruction on the people’s food sovereignty. Monoculture agrofuel plantation makes people and communities in Asian countries cannot exercise and realize their right to access adequate and nutritious food including access to productive resources such as land and capital to produce the food. Right of people and communities also did not been recognized or disempowered to realize their economic, social, cultural and political rights and needs regarding choice of food, access to food, and food production.

Effective state control and management with genuine participation of people’s movements in decision making would prevent the wanton conversion of agricultural lands for biofuels production and ensure that genuine agrarian reform and national food security would not be compromised. It would also ensure sustainability because potential crops that would be used as alternative fuels would be truly developed, including the provision of substantial state support to the direct producers.

Sustainable and pro-people energy security program, including the production of alternative fuels, can be made possible only by a growing grassroots movement that demands government responsibility and accountability. This requires painstaking organizing and education, and coordinated mobilization of farmers, farm workers, indigenous peoples, consumers, and other vulnerable social sectors that have a direct stake in the biofuels debate.***

Written by INDIES

August 23, 2009 at 9:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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