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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Contrarian View: How eco-friendly are bio-fuels ?

George Monbiot has this hard hitting view on bio-fuels. In fact he calls them "Worse than fossil fuels". While the solutions may seem luddite to most of the population, there is an essential truth in the view that he takes. Unfortunately the Genie does not go back into the bottle so we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Worth a serious read though. Monbiot's other recent atricle on the Omega 3 food chain and its impact on human intelligence is also worth a read. Looks like those food fads (Eat fish and become brainy) had some basis after all :)


  1. I had a quick browse and am puzzled. How does this tally with the Karve article below or with
    "One Taluka studied produced 100,000 tons a year of surplus agricultural residues available for biomass energy production. In conjunction with energy plantations and energy crops this could produce the energy equivalent of 30 million litres a year of petroleum products, filling local energy needs and creating 30,000 local jobs." from
    Is Monbiot talking about big business plans and the others about using what is already there and developing a bit more? I have no expertise in this are. Just happenned to notice something about biofuels a few days ago and then your site through your posting in Atanu Dey's site. If you can clarify without too much effort it is fine. Otherwise pl. do not waste your time.

  2. Monbiot's concern stems from competion for land than anything else. The economics of the world is difficult for us to see beyond the oil regime.
    He talks about arable land being used in large scale for Palm oil in malaysia and sugar cane in Brazil.
    We are talking of Jatropha and Pongamia oils here at home and do you see a local pattern of crops that can fuel a local economy?
    As for the next concern on arable land, What I saw in Kancheepuram District last week is agricultural land abandoned since menfolk find better pay in neighbouring factories. Vast tracts abandoned and very small oasis of cultivation by the not so abled left at home.
    The dramatic changes will happen only when we go over the oil curve in the next few years and we change the way we look at life dramatically.
    The five rupees hike has not changed anyone one bit. The traffic jams are the same in blr if not worse.

  3. The seeming contradiction raised by gaddeswarup is the moot point in the entire debate. While the methodology of Dr.Karve and his ilk is to reuse available agricultural wastes for power or heat genertation, Monbiot looks at the usage from the developed countries point of view. The users targeted by Dr.Karve are at the bottom of the pyramid wheras Monbiot is speaking of the very top. Ultimately the point is that bio fuels are the future and at the current consumption levels will lead to industrial farming for the same. Which is non sustainable. In fact most of Monbiot's views stem from palm oil as the base crop. IAC the point irrespective of the species grown is that we have to curb consumption. There is no magic wand that will allow us to wish away climate change, desertification issues etc irrespective of the source of the fuel if we do not cut our consumption.

  4. Thanks for the clarification. Just noticed this long article on the politics of ethanol in the US: