Friday, January 3, 2014


The inevitability of fossil fuels running out sooner or later has been staring humanity since the last few decades and man has been constantly endeavoring to find alternate fuels from sustainable sources. While energy from solar, wind, ocean waves and geothermal sources can become viable one day, they are still not yet commercially viable as of now. As the modern world is heavily dependent on energy for practically every thing in the day to day life, one cannot imagine a situation where world is starved of sufficient energy to prevent major disruption. Renewable energy sources like cereals and plant oils are now being considered a satisfactory substitute to automotive fuels from petroleum base but no one seems to be concerned too much about the likely repercussions such diversion of food materials will have on the supply of adequate foods to the starving millions in the continents of Africa, Asia and South America. Here is a critical commentary on the present situation in countries in Europe where plant based fuels are compulsorily to be used in admixture with petroleum fuels to spare the fossil fuel resources as much as possible.    

"In 2008, the EU set a target for renewables to comprise 10% of transport fuel by 2020, most of which would come from so-called first generation biofuels made from sugar, cereals and oilseeds. Subsequent studies have underlined the potential environmental damage caused by some biofuels, particularly biodiesel, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the estimated €13bn EU biofuel industry. In the latest salvo, Friends of the Earth said in a report that palm oil use had increased much more than predicted and was now at 20% of the biodiesel mix. "Palm oil is driving mass deforestation, wildlife loss, community conflicts, and accelerating climate change," said Robbie Blake, biofuels campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe. "It is alarming to find that palm oil use in European cars is sky-rocketing, and will only increase further, unless MEPs put a halt to increasing biofuels. Drivers are unknowingly being forced to fill up with a fuel that is destroying rainforests, communities and the climate." Biofuels have also been blamed by the IMF and others for contributing to a rise in food prices as crops are used for fuel instead of food".

If a future food catastrophe is to be avoided it is imperative for wealthy countries in Europe and America to ban use of food crops for manufacturing automotive fuels. What is reprehensible is that these countries have surplus foods which they are using for fuels without bothering  to think about the plight of millions of people who are starved for foods in many poor countries. It is time to evolve a global consensus to stop using food materials for fuels and in stead make the surplus available to those in need of them at affordable prices. There are alternate technologies now in the pipeline that can derive energy from non-food biomass materials or produce oil from algae through bio-tech route.   


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