But indirect land use change caused by biofuels is forcing rainforest destruction in the Amazon, Southeast Asia and Africa. And it is triggering global hunger and starvation.
If you use farmland in North America to grow biofuels, you’re forcing a farmer somewhere else to clear-cut forest to grow food crops. You’ve effectively cut down a rain forest.
— David Tilman, lead author of the “Land Clearing and the Biofuel Carbon Debt” study published in SCIENCE, February, 2008. Quote is from the March 14, 2008 issue of Newsweek.
We looked at all of the current biofuels that are being made around the world and asked if they were causing native ecosystems to be turned into land that would be used to grow the crop. Essentially, all of them are doing that.
—Tilman, ibid. http://www.newsweek.com/id/110636
Converting rainforests, peatlands, savannas, or grasslands to produce food crop–based biofuels in Brazil, Southeast Asia, and the United States creates a “biofuel carbon debt” by releasing 17 to 420 times more CO2 than the annual greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions that these biofuels would provide by displacing fossil fuels.
The second major biofuels study published in February, 2008 came from Princeton and is titled “Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land Use Change”.
To produce biofuels, farmers can directly plow up more forests or grassland which releases to the atmosphere much of the carbon previously stored in plants and soil through decomposition or fire… Alternatively, farmers can divert existing crops or croplands into biofuels, which causes similar emissions indirectly. The diversion triggers higher crop prices, and farmers around the world respond by clearing more forest and grassland to replace crops for feed or food.
The February 8, 2008 New York Times awarded these studies this headline: “BIOFUELS DEEMED A GREENHOUSE THREAT”.
Let’s not forget the devastating health and social impacts caused by biofuels forcing indirect land use change. In 2007, U.N. Rapporteur for Food, Jean Ziegler, called these biofuels a “crime against humanity” because they rob land from food production and force millions of humans to confront food shortages, hunger and starvation.
This widespread reduction in acreage dedicated to human food production has created global food shortages, raising the prices of food staples beyond the reach of huge numbers of people in poor countries.
Largely because of indirect land use change forced by biofuels, food riots in 2008 broke out in Egypt, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Madagascar, the Philippines and Haiti. In Pakistan and Thailand, army troops were deployed to avoid seizing of food from the fields and from warehouses. In China, exports of rice were frozen because of runs on domestic supplies sparked by soaring prices.
The World Bank study of April, 2008 confirmed that 75% of spiraling global food costs can be attributed to indirect land use change forced by biofuels. This report was so damning and therefore controversial, it was suppressed for several months before being leaked to the press in July, 2008. This controversy and suppression shows how Industrial World governments want to quash accurate information about the devastation being wreaked by biofuels-forced indirect land use change.
The EPA must have unfettered authority to regulate biofuels using best-available science including the effects of indirect land use change.