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Brazil’s biofuel blues

Clearly, there are grounds for concern that an over-hasty rush to convert farm land to biofuels could have a negative impact. This is particularly true in the case of the highly subsidised and inefficient nascent US biofuel industry.

However, the apparent decision of the UN special rapporteur specifically to include Brazilian sugar cane, where the process of conversion is much more efficient, in his proposed moratorium has worried Brazilian diplomats.
Brazil is the world leader in this process, and a moratorium “to evaluate its social and environmental impact and its human rights implications” is seen as potentially very harmful to the Brazilian economy.

A vigorous debate is currently taking place within Brazil about the social, economic and environmental impact of biofuels. The rural landless movement MST has come out strongly against them. However, many Brazilians are proud of their government’s attempts to promote the use of ethanol, which is more environmentally friendly than petrol, and convinced that the economic benefits can be used to fund poverty reduction strategies.

Greenpeace Brazil, for example, has given a guarded welcome to a controlled increased in biofuel production, while warning that care must be taken to prevent further erosion of the Amazon by soya bean farming.

Other environmental activists, including George Monbiot, favour the moratorium, however. His argument is, essentially, that biofuels provide western governments and consumers with an excuse to put off the more painful measures needed to curb their carbon emissions.

The Guardian

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