Food in the Age of Biofuels

For several years, advocates of biofuels as a weapon in the fight against climate change have faced off against those who view them as a threat to food supplies. But feeding the planet and helping to fuel its vehicles need not be mutually exclusive objectives.

ROME – Over the past several years, biofuels have become a bone of contention. For some, a renewable energy source produced from organic matter amounts to a magic wand in the fight against climate change. But others view biofuels as an existential threat, because the plants used to create them compete for agricultural land and water that would otherwise be used to grow food.

But this is a false dichotomy. The choice cannot be between food and fuel. We can make good use of both. Given the right conditions, biofuels can be an effective means to increase food security by providing poor farmers with a sustainable and affordable energy source.

In some land-locked African countries, gasoline costs three times the global average, making fuel prices one of the main barriers to agricultural growth. Extending the use of biofuels in these regions could boost productivity and create new employment opportunities, especially in rural areas. The effect could be made even stronger if the additional demand for feedstock created by biofuels was met by family farmers and small-scale producers.

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