FAO cautions nations including India against rapid bio-fuel policies

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New Delhi, Oct 15 (UNI) Alarmed at the rapid increase of liquid biofuel -- threefold in ethanol and 11 times in biodiesel production in past seven years -- United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) today cautioned India and other countries against biofuel-inducive policies to ensure food security and to protect 990 million odd poor and food insecure people in the world.

Many countries support the production of liquid biofuels through blending targets, subsidies, tax incentives, tariffs and research and development (R&D).

In 2006, total support for liquid biofuels was estimated at over six billion dollars in the US and five billion dollars in European countries, said Mr Gavin Walt, FAO representative in India, while releasing the report on ''the State of Food and Agriculture-2008'' here.

Interestingly, the biofuel production costs is higher than fossil fuel, except in the case of ethanol from sugarcane in Brazil.

Feedstocks represented the largest share of the cost of producing biofuels, which led to the sharp increase in feedstocks prices with exception of sugar only.

Ironically, the increasing biofuel production has not ensured the energy security, promising to share only 3-4 per cent of global transport fuels by 2030 and also left a little impact on the pollution control or climate change but threatened the food security to a large extent along with a palpable contribution to the rise of food prices.

That is why, the FAO suggested to the governments world over to go in for policy reforms to reduce the risks of switching over to biofuel production in a big way.

Along with the reviewing the current biofuel policies, the FAO said the focus should be on second generation technologies and reducing trade barriers, besides increasing the investment in agriculture sector, particularly in the areas of seeds, irrigation, infrastructure and sustainable farming practices.

India is yet to start commercially the blending of bio-diesel with diesel but the government decided in pricinple to take up the production of biofuels in 2003. Blending of ethanol with petroleum has been allowed to the level of 10 per cent which does not present a problem to existing engines and equipments.

But the existing installed distillery capacity for productuion of ethanol from molasses in India, could be sufficient only for five per cent blend up to 2016-17 when the demand for petrol has been projected to rise from 10.07 million tonnes in 2006-07 to 1040 million litres.

Ethanol is produced primarily from maize in the US, sugarcane in Brazil and wheat in EU countries. Biodiesel is produced from rapeseed in EU, soybean in the US and palm oil in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Worldwide 59 billion litres of ethnol were produced with the US having a big share with 27 billon litres, followed by Brazil at 19 billion litres and EU and China together at two billion litres.

Biofuels accounted for about five per cent of global cereal use in 2007, and about nine per cent of global coarse grains use, while animal feed acounted for 36 per cent of global cereal use and 60 per cent of global coarse agains use.

Biofuels -- ethanol and biodiesel -- currently grown on two per cent of world's cropland. This share could rise to four per cent by 2030 with highest share of the US and EU.

Greenhouse gas balances also depend on the impacts of land conversion as converting of natural forests or peat land to produce biofuels -- release more greenhouse gases than the annual emission reductions provided by biofuels grown on that land.

Soils, water and biodiversity could also be adversely effected, the report added.


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