There is a growing consensus that the highly touted “fuel of the future” may not be the panacea that we once that it was. Agrofuels, made from large-scale industrial crops, like palm oil, soy, sugarcane and canola, have far more social and environmental problems than benefits. But, let’s get clear on something. Agrofuels are very different than locally and sustainably produced, small-scale, biofuels. Agrofuels are not at all the same thing as the recycled veggie grease that innovative people have been using to fuel their cars, in a sincere effort to reduce their carbon footprint.
Agrofuels are being put forward as a solution to our climate crisis by agribusiness giants like ADM and Cargill, auto makers like GM, and petroleum companies like BP with their own interest and profit motive in mind. They have effectively hijacked the good intentions, true innovation, and essence of family farmers, environmentalists, and communities throughout the world that were pursuing locally produced, small-scale biofuels for local energy needs.
For this reason, Rainforest Action Network along with allies Food First, Grassroots International, Family Farm Defenders, Global Justice Ecology Project, and the Student Trade Justice Campaign, held a press conference on Tuesday (listen to it here) announcing the first official call for a U.S. moratorium on agrofuels. The call for a moratorium is part of a growing movement worldwide which recognizes that there is a need for policy makers to reevaluate the incentives and subsidies which are currently driving a global boom for agrofuels. This agrofuels boom is driving deforestation, climate change, and is linked to human rights abuses from the Gran Chaco in Paraguay to the Brazilian Amazon, to Kalimantan in Indonesia and to Papua New Guinea in the Pacific.
Civil Society groups in Europe launched a similar moratorium over a year ago, and just two weeks ago the EU environment commissioner said that the social and environmental problems caused by agrofuels are “bigger than we thought they were.” As a result, the European Union is now rethinking their agrofuels targets. And in October 2007, Jean Ziegler the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food called for a five year moratorium on agrofuels production citing the rising prices of food worldwide and the impact that this is already having on the poorest people around the world.
We believe that the growing call for a moratorium on industrial agrofuels will help refocus attention on pursuing the genuine answers to our climate crisis, and away from snake oil solutions. One thing is certain: none of the real solutions can or will come at the expense of human rights, the environment, or the world’s most marginalized people, and certainly none should make the climate worse off.