Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Biofuels and the Global Food Crisis

A look at the causes, effects and solutions

A few days ago, during the FAO summit, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe said biofuel is not the cause of the world food crisis; he countered that using biofuels will eliminate the deadly results of global warming.

Causes and Effects:

To put our hand on the real causes and effects of this food crisis, I had to turn to some researches and statistics.

According to Gallup (a global research-based consultancy), even before this current crisis, affording food was a challenge for many. In Africa, in the past 12 months, about 54 percent did not have enough money to buy food they needed.

This percentage could not be considered as a big number in Africa. But when we know that an African country such as Liberia had about 79 percent that did not have enough money to buy food they needed, so we are really faced by a serious problem.

That's in contrast to Europe which didn't have more than 35 percent that had problems about buying foods; that's in Maldova.

According to the World Bank, the world's poor spend an average of 50 percent to 75 percent of their income on food; which could explain why food inflation hits them the hardest and the most. At least, that's one of the causes.

But saying that biofuels are the only cause of this crisis, is not true in my opinion. That's because we still have several major causes such as:
1. World population growth.
2. Global Warming.
3. Petroleum price increases .

- World population has grown from 1.6 billion in 1900 to an estimated 6.6 billion in 2007 while world agriculture is decreasing for industrial means.
- The rise of earth temperature leads to a sea level rise of 110 to 770 millimeters between 1990 and 2100 which will destroy many agriculture lands.

- Even the rise in the price of oil has in some instances doubled the costs of fertilizers within the six months before April, 2008.


In China, the government is making a biofuel that gives a capacity for about 16 percent of the nation's passenger cars; while in Europe, the European union has set the goal that for 2010 that each member state should achieve at least 5.75 percent biofuel usage of all used traffic fuel.

But in 2006 in the United States, president George W. Bush said in the state of the union speech, that the U.S. should replace 75 percent of imported oil by 2025 by alternative sources of energy including biofuels.


It seems while the world's poor spend an average of 50 percent to 70 percent of their income on food, so education should take a serious place in their lives, at least to know how much should they spend on food and other needs.

We should also increase the capacity of global agriculture, to co-exist with industries. While what is really happening now, is using agriculture just for industrials means.

It also seems that family planning should take place, not only in the third world countries, but also in the developed ones. That will be too hard without the existence of developed and modern scientific education specially in Africa and the Arab world which lag in science and education. Maybe it will take time, but it is necessary to save the future of our planet.
Most of the major places on earth that are full of oil, are also full of unnecessary wars to control that oil, which led to the rise of its price within the whole world. Maybe if Barak Obama had the chance to be the next American president, it will be much possible to end these wars.

We can see that it is a network that is all inter-connected.

The question is, are biofuels really useful during this current crisis?

Return to President Mugabe when he mentioned that biofuels are safe and could decrease the global warming. It is very clear that global warming is a major cause of current crisis and also future crisis.

So in my opinion, world governments should have a futuristic view; they should fight against the causes of global warming, rather than the effects, which is the crisis itself. Maybe this will cost us a lot, but it is necessary, and it also could be considered as necessary evil because it could cost us some lives.

But if paying some lives is necessary to save future lives, so it should happen. It is a risky war.

So if the biofuel is a weapon for fighting against global warming, so let it be.

Also, it is well known that there are several alternative fuels. One of them has been totally forgotten; which is the Alcohol fuel which has been used throughout history. It is a type of fossil fuels which is found within the top layer of the earth's crust.

It is easier to get than oil because it exists with larger capacities around the globe, and it is also safer for global warming.

We can also use the power of winds. It is limited, but it can co-exist with other types of fuels.

Finally, it seems that there are many fuel alternatives against global warming, but what is needed is such a futuristic view like the President Mugabe had, to know real causes and future effects, to help us to determine which way we should seek to help humanity using the lowest possible costs.

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