back to article Biofuels make poor people even poorer

European targets for use of biofuels will make life worse for some of the poorest people on the planet, according to a report from charity Oxfam. In January, the European Commission issued guidelines suggesting that member states should use biofuels for 10 per cent of their transport fuel "budget" by 2020. Oxfam argues that if …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    make up your mind

    These hippies should make up their minds.

    Drown or Starve? Which is it. Or do us all a favour and just kill yourselves now. God damn it.

    Personally I think it's all a crock of shit. But lets feed the filthy poor people in insignificant back water countries hippies. That would be a good start.

    Lets also burn hippies (their fleshy so bio so biofuel).

    No don't build windmills they're ugly.

    No we need to stop using coal it's dirty.

    No we need to not use nuclear becouse it's hard to dispose of.

    No we can't use mobile phones they rot your brain.

    No we can't use biofuels poor retards starve.

    No we can't build hydro power plants the flooding is bad.

    No we can't use tidel stations they hurt teh sea bed.

    We gotta use green power supplies to save teh environment.

    Wah Wah Wah Wah.



  2. Martin Gregorie

    Biofuel bullshit

    Biofuel is a snare and a delusion so long as:

    - only sugars or starch is processed. It might become useful when the entire plant is used.

    - ANY fossil fuel at all is used to make the fertilisers, cultivate or process the biomass, and deliver the fuel

    - food crops are diverted to biofuel production

    In addition, I think it would be reasonable if countries wanting to use biofuel should be forbidden to import the stuff. Otherwise all the tropical forests will vanish, which may well have bad effects on rainfall, CO2 absorption and atmospheric oxygen...... and all the pseudo-green NIMBYs in Europe and America will claim the damage isn't their fault and they themselves are just so green because their Chelsea Tractors burn biofuel.

  3. Jason The Saj
    Thumb Down

    Irksome Stupidity

    Yes, biofuels done wrong = bad, = less food, = numerous other problems. Biofuels done right = renewal fuel source; = lowered carbon emissions; = reduced waste from other pollution sources.

    Presently, at least here in the U.S., we have an issue of over-fertilized water from our sewer processing systems being dumped into lakes, rivers and oceans. This over-fertilization causes a number of issues. Many places in the world are far worse, not even processing the sewage.

    So how do we solve this problem? Why, with Biofuels!!!


    We've all heard of the Alaskan Oil Pipeline. How about the Arizona Sewer Pipeline? Or the New Delhi Pipeline?

    Recent advances have shown great promise in biofuel production from algae & pond scum. Algae is a pretty pervasive easily grown biomass. Many species merely require water and nutrients (ie: sewage). Great mile square shallow ponds could be built in areas with near continual sunlight and warm ambient temperatures. We could pump our sewage to these processing farms. The algae would be grown and harvested and then converted into biofuels (ethanol & bio-diesel).

    Not only would this provide us with a renewable energy resource. It would also help to clean the environment via several methods. First off, we'd be eliminating our sewage waste and solving that particular aspect of pollution. Second, all that algae requires something else beyond water and nutrients - CO2. So these algae farms would be akin to CO2 banks pulling much of the CO2 waste released via combustion back out of the atmosphere. Combine this with an increased use of fuel cells and you could have a net reduction of CO2.


    So whenever I hear about alarmism regarding biofuels, I find myself somewhat irked by these individuals mere 'near-sightedness'.

    - Saj

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where should we get energy then?

    "He explained that the lure of "biofuel gold" is prompting palm oil companies to clear communities from land they have farmed for generations."

    This isn't because of the nature of biofuels though, it's because they'll increase the value of farmland, given that most of the worlds poor are farmers, increasing the value of what they produce would make them richer.

    The issue with corruption in poor countries is to do with the way poor countries are run, it's naff all to do with the biofuel.

    >Zero summery

    No, it's not zero sum because after producing the biofuel there's a mash left over (made of carbon) that is generally plowed back into the fields, thus sinking carbon.

    Ultimately there is no other viable option.

  5. Dunstan Vavasour

    Cash Crops

    The larger problem is that biomass crops will change the balance of power in poorer countries. When local people grow food for local consumption then the default *will be* local consumption unless their crop is physically stolen. When local people grow cash crops (coffee, mange tout, biomass) then money has to enter their country before they can eat. Not only does this mean that they have to enter the world food commodity markets to eat (where, unlike for us rich nations, a swing in price can be the difference between eating and going hungry), it also means that their government can syphon off money much more easily than syphoning off food (be it for altruistic or corrupt motives).

    The globalist libertarian in me thinks that growing cash crops makes sense. The Oneworld Christian in me sees human greed and folly more than outweigh the economic efficiency.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    My old CS teacher used to have an un-PC saying

    In the days before PC became the norm my CS teacher in high school used to say "You cannot have your dick in both hands and your soul in paradise. So, chose".

    We have continuously dumped under-priced and often subsidised grain onto the 3rd world country markets. Doing that according to aid agencies is bad because it kills off indigenous farming.

    We have now stopped doing that because we have found use for that grain. Doing so is again bad according to aid agencies because the 3rd world is starving.

    Sorry it is either, or. You can't have it both ways. Time to chose.

    I say we stop dumping and use the grain for fuel. From now on the 3rd world has to produce at least enough to feed itself. Yeah, this is a bit of a shock awakening for its farmer industry but it has to awaken one day sooner or later. It cannot live off EU, USA and Canada surplus through aid forever.

  7. Graham Marsden

    There's no substitute for rational argument...

    ... and that post at the top from an Anonymous Coward was certainly no substitute for rational argument!

    What good is "solving" a problem if the "solution" is worse than the original problem? (See Australia and Cane Toads for a basic example!)

    There are those who think that Biofuels or Nuclear or so-called "clean coal" or tidal or whatever are some sort of magic wand that, once waved, will allow us to go merrily on our inefficient and polluting way.

    Well, sorry Anonymous Coward, it's not that simple. Whether you believe it to be a "crock of shite" or not, we are overspending our "energy budget" and running up a deficit which is very soon going to come back and bite us in the arse.

    So why don't *you* STFU whinging and instead do something about the amount of energy *you* use?

  8. lucmars

    @ JonB

    No corruption needed, the tax can do this job and more simply the offer of a rent, the perspective of a "better" earning.

    This is in the nature of biofuel since it requires a mass production. So the real point is: do we want to lead the poorest countries in some other culture of rent again?

    Obviously the EU don't care, the real concern is not so much to be green but to rely a little less upon the fuel.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The idea that people are "forced off their land" by a company suggests corruption, or are you sayign it wasn't their land inteh first place?

    >mass production.

    Yes, but it also requires workers in the fields, those who own the fields could get a share of the profit, it doesn't require them to be "forced off".

    That happens because of corruption where the powerful abuse the weak.

    >do we want to lead the poorest countries in some other culture of rent again?

    I'm not sure this question can be parsed properly...

    If by "rent" you mean us buying fuel from them? Surely trade will improve their lot?

    If by "rent" you mean that the farmers will be renting land, that they previously "owned for generations" then either they didn't own the land or it has been ilegally seized. This would be the corruption I was referring to. It would be true if the land were used for growing coffee or pizza ingredients and isn't about biofuel.

    The main driving force behind biofuel is the nut-jobs in the middle east whom we currently have "in some culture of rent" apparently.

  10. Dan Breen


    I'll stick to chucking barely processed WVO into my diesel tank.

    So my Land Rover smells like a chip shop and the only reason I'm doing it is because I'm fed up with £1+ per litre for fuel.

    Between the chicken little carping about the state of the planet and the latest revalations about how EVERYthing we do is going kill us, I say Stuff it all, we've all got to die of something so let's make it interesting for us and the rest of the planet, kill the planet, do your worst and let's see what actually happens.

  11. Luther Blissett


    That the term ""energy budget"" cannot be used without at least one set of quotation marks around it demonstrates how contrived a notion it is.

    The problem with the burning hippies argument, is that it's just as immoral as the over-population argument, even if it is more honest.

    BTW, hadn't these bio-fuel crops better be of the GM variety? After all if *they* are going to maximise their contribution to *our* problem, hadn't we better make sure that *they* are not wasting the opportunity to better themselves because of inefficiencies, government corruption, 3rd world farming methods, belief in demonic possession, etc?

  12. Anonymous Coward

    biofuels will kill 5 bilion poors - or make them rich and kill us?

    World of economy has little to do with humanism. when oil price will get $300 for barell mark biofuel will become much more economical. While rich people of developed world will pay any price for they car journey - isn't it an oportunity for poor peasant to make some profit ? While developed world is not immuned from energy dependency - may be actualy we are those who will dye first in sake of a fuel tank?

  13. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    How to shut the hippies up!

    The hippies (whom seem quite happy to cavort around in highly-un-ecofriendly VW campervans) just won't be happy until we all stop driving cars and start wearing bark clothing. My answer to them is to suggest an alternative to the humble combustion engine, the usual reply being drivel about bicycles "like in China"! What a joke, that would be the China which has the fastest growing car population and the some of the most polluted countryside in the world, then? I then ask them if they realise bikes are made in big factories from steel, which require mining and big and polluting refineries and smelting plants, all which require copious amounts of electricity usually created in coal-fired stations? Or do they want to make bikes out of wood, which will mean industrial-scale tree farming? Finally, silence. At this point the hippy will usually retreat under a smokescreen of Greenpeace propaganda/claptrap/statistics and leave you to watch Top Gear in peace.

  14. the Jim bloke

    poor people get screwed. deal with it.

    If we dont go green, the sea rises and eats their land

    If we do go green, biofuel farms eat there land.

    if we do nothing, some local warlord robs them, rapes them, sticks them in their army and gets them killed.

    if we intervene, some local freedom fighter enlists them in their cause - where they get robbed, raped, stuck in the army, and killed.

    If biofuel farming was providing cash for them - the cash would be stolen by corrupt authorities - including aid groups.

    if they get the bugs out of algae-sourced biofuel, and produce it cheaply, efficiently and locally in the industrial nations, then the do-gooders would be complaining about the poor farmers being deprived of a cash crop.

    Conditions are probably improving for them, but there will always be a spectrum of human "well-off-ness" (happiness isnt the right word here), and while various things can make conditions worse, there isnt an easy simple way to make things better.

  15. Maty

    the end of the world

    /cynic mode on

    I'm thinking of forming a political organization and calling it 'The end of the world party'. It's platform is that nothing is going to stop humans wrecking the plant because they are too greedy and irresponsible. So let's stop breeding, consume the rest of the world's resources in one huge blowout, and leave the planet with a billion years of so to come up with a better idea than humans.

    After all, I've no kids, so why should I care? And after watching all the mummies every day taking their little darlings to school in their SUVs it's pretty evident they don't care either.

    what the hell ... /leave cynic mode on

  16. Ian Sneyd

    The end of the world party

    The end of the world party has my vote...

    and while we're on the subject, if biofuels are the answer then why is there still such a high tax on it in the UK, it's zero rated in Germany.

    I suppose at least we can take comfort in the fact that because it will be kept at the same price as ordinary Diesel in this country we won't be responsible for pillaging the rest of the world... not this time anyway ;-)

  17. Dan Breen

    Hippie's vans and the end of the world...

    In a rare defense of hippies vans, I suspect the amount of pollution older cars vans & 4x4s produce while driving is far less than the pollution created building these new "eco" feindly mini boxes called cars these days with their 5-7 year shelf lives, so in efect, they are better. And remember, for every passenger you have in your vehicle, you cut your individual vehicle derived carbon foot print in half - that's right, spread the blame! Effectively, your 11 seat Land Rover 110 could be better for the envorinment than a SMART car.

    And given that a lot of the "science" involved in this is utter bollocks who can disprove it?

    As for the End of the World party Maty - your ideas interest me, where can I learn more?

  18. Carl Pearson

    Me Like Fire - NOT

    It's about time we stop lighting things on fire just to get from A to B. Or leave the porch light on. Or re-heat yesterday's burrito...

    There's plenty of energy available from the sun, wind, wave action, heat differential between ground & sky; the list goes on.

    Instead of investing billions just to figure out a different way to burn things, why not be as smart as the guys who discovered fire in the first place, and refine these processes which we already know exist?

    Oh, yeah, I remember why. The money those poor, suffering corporations would miss if humans had their own methods of capturing energy, instead of having to rely on some modern day alpha male to dole it out.

  19. Farai


    Biofuel doesn't only mean ethanol-based fuels, as the EU and USA seem to be pushing for. The diesel-based bio-fuel sources are easier, cheaper, and friendlier on the environment, and they leave you with more capable vehicles anyway. New generation diesel engines are getting quieter and quieter, more and more powerful, and more efficient. The major nations are pushing for the ethanol-derived/based fuels and shooting themselves in the foot.

    As for the end of the planet, it's nowhere as close as people make out. We are going through an age where the necessary changes to our environments will naturally take place to counter the problem. Yes there is a problem, i admit to that. Whether its new or variants of creatures or plants that have a greater carbon-sucking capacity, or a few different species of plants re-emerging to counter this, it will happen. Otherwise, the prophecy of human beings being nothing more than a glorified virus on this planet will have come true, and The Borg will come to make us part of the whole, so we may be saved from ourselves.

    Either way, i'm out to make some money, splash it on a gas guzzler or ten and sod the expense! I don't have time to waste attempting to convince humans who never pay attention to anything any of their peers say - i gots me some fun to have!!!

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