I found this article from BBC News pretty interesting. The UN is currently working on a resolution to counter rising food prices, and Latin American is holding out because of its language regarding biofuels. Brazil produces ethanol from sugarcane, and is one of the leading producers of biofuels in the world. Delegates from the region are apparently worried that the resolution will add to the “demonising” of biofuels.
Here’s the offending passage from the resolution, as quoted in the article:
It is essential to address the challenges and opportunities posed by biofuels, in view of the world’s food security, energy and sustainable development needs.
Seems spot on to me. Simple economics dictates that biofuels will drive up food prices. Land that might be used for producing food gets converted to producing biofuels, reducing the amount of food produced in total. The supply goes down, and the demand remains the same. Add to this the fact that a lot of fossil fuels are burned in the production and distribution of biofuels, and I for one begin to wonder exactly how they alleviate any problems.
Would Brazil lose any export income if it went back to producing sugarcane for food? I don’t know. Biofuels seem to me to be nothing more than a way for politicians and governments to look like their doing something about climate change and the energy crisis, when in fact it’s more of a hindrance than a help.