While energy suppliers are touting ethanol as a miracle solution — green, plentiful, renewable, etc. — the actual implications for developing nations are less than wonderful. This issue has became more salient over the past week as President Bush toured Latin America, talking up bio-fuels with the same evangelical zeal that he brings to so many other matters of state. Saulo Araujo, posting on the Grassroots International blog, recently offered these thoughts:
Latin America, especially Brazil, is seen as the potential supplier for the increasing demand for ethanol in the U.S. Some go so far as to say that the coming boom will lead to a new bio-fuel based power structure, a 21st century version of OPEC [Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries]. Far from seeing this as an opportunity for independence and new political power, however, many Latin Americans are concerned that ethanol will be yet another commodity that the U.S. economy controls in the region.
There IS another model of energy development and human development to be considered It focuses on projects that improve the food sovereignty of local regions, develop eco-friendly technologies and improve public transportation. Bio-fuels replicate many of the same power relationships, social inequities and environmental harms as the fossil-fuel economy, especially with respect to developing nations.
For more, check out the report “ The Myth of Biofuels” by Edivan Pinto, Marluce Melo and Maria Luisa Mendonca. “ Brazil’s Ethanol Plan Breeds Rural Poverty, Environmental Degradation,” by Isabella Kenfield, is also worth a look.