In our previous post, “Earthly Heating,” we noted that because we want to limit CO2 emissions, carbon neutral biofuel plantations crowd out food crops, and in the inner recesses of mega-cities of earth’s equatorial regions, food costs more, and the poor starve. This is an over-simplification.
It is true that biofuel crops may raise the price of food, since at a commodity level, whenever a biofuel crop replaces a food crop, there is a lesser supply of food and this will increase the price of food. But increasing the price of food may allow small landowners to profitably grow food again to make a decent living, and biofuel as a cash crop will bring currency and wealth into equatorial countries.
Biofuel has the potential to disperse somewhat the currencies that flow today only to nations with oil. Biofuel can enrich economies throughout the tropics, and elsewhere, and this rising wealth can make it easier for nations to buy food. After all, it is impossible for biofuel to turn food into a global commodity, that happened long ago. So if biofuel crowds out food crops and increases the price of food, more indigenous food producers will arise.
Biofuel, more than anything, must be certified to have no negative impacts on forests, especially tropical forests. In tropical regions, or in any forested area, an appropriate mitigation for growing biofuel or biofuel harvesting might be to reforest twice the area of any new biofuel zone. In arid regions, where the land is completely denuded, biofuel plantations probably don’t require mitigation, they are more likely to be a good unto themselves.
The more we reforest deforested areas, and only grow biofuel where there once were deserts, the more the rains will return, climate will be moderated, and droughts will disappear. These thoughts should inform biofuel certification.