UN urges caution over biofuels

United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon has acknowledged a growing concern over the environmental effects of biofuels.

Speaking in Hungary this week, Ban Ki-moon said:

"We need to be concerned about the possibility of taking land or replacing arable land because of these biofuels."

Ki-Moon also said recently:

“Clearly, biofuels have great potential for good and, perhaps, also for harm.”

Until recently, Ki-Moon has favoured biofuels as a way around the global energy crisis. However, Jean Ziegler, the UN's special rapporteur on the right to food, called biofuels "a crime against humanity" because they raised the price of food and caused starvation in poor countries.

Achim Steiner of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) also recently warned that biofuels may be adding to the problem of climate change rather than alleviating it. Speaking recently on BBC Radio Four, Steiner said that increased demand for fuel crops had led to vast swathes of rain forest being destroyed and that international standards should be drawn up to protect them.

Clive Matthew-Wilson, editor of the car buyers’ Dog & Lemon Guide, has also been a vocal critic of biofuels.

“Every man and his dog is currently coming up with quick fix solutions to the energy crisis and global warming. However, there’s no quick fix to either problem. In the longer term, we’re all going to have to use less energy, and that means smaller houses, less plastic junk that we don’t really need and less wasted trips in our cars.”

“Biofuels currently offer a feelgood factor, and little else. Biofuels globally are driving food prices so high that poor people in developing countries can no longer afford to feed their families. People are currently starving to death so that Western motorists can sit in traffic jams on their way home from work.”

“The fantasy behind biofuels says that it’s going to be possible to continue the Western lifestyle of the twentieth century by changing the fuel used to power it. That’s a bit like a fat person trying to lose weight by switching from hamburgers to french fries. The basic problem is never addressed.”

“Cars are the perfect transport for empty roads and the worst transport for busy roads. The problem is not the private car; the problem is the private car sitting in traffic jams while empty trains roll by.”

“Electric cars and biofuels are like the emperor’s new clothes; they seem great until you look closely. When you check the facts, you’ll find that most of this so-called alternative technology either isn’t economic, isn’t green, doesn’t work, or simply doesn’t exist and isn’t going to exist anytime soon.”

See also: Biofuels Fact Sheet