– Why did a Train Carrying Biofuel Cross the Border 24 Times and Never Unload? (Oil Price, Jan 1, 2013):
A cargo train filled with biofuels crossed the border between the US and Canada 24 times between the 15th of June and the 28th of June 2010; not once did it unload its cargo, yet it still earned millions of dollars. CBC News of Canada was the first to pick up on this story on the 3rd of December 2012, and began their own investigation into the possible explanations behind this odd behaviour.
– Biofuels land grab in Kenya’s Tana Delta fuels talk of war (Guardian, July 2, 2011):
Villagers vow to resist as wildlife vanishes and they are driven from their land to make way for water-thirsty crops.
Gamba Manyatta village is empty now, weeds already roping around the few skeletal hut frames still standing. The people who were evicted took as much of their building materials as they could carry to start again and the land where their homes stood is now ploughed up.
Mohamed Abdi, 13, points out where his hut used to be. His was the last of the 427 families to leave. “They told us we would be burned out if we didn’t go,” he said. “They drove machinery round and round the village all day and all night to drive people out. No one understood why, as the village had been there for more than 25 years.”
Read moreKenya Biofuels Land Grab: ‘This land ownership is giving us a headache. We know there are people who have sold our land when it isn’t theirs to sell. They are criminals and we will fight them, with guns and with sticks’ – ‘We lived in paradise, in peace’ ‘Now what? No water, only salty water, land thieves and water thieves, and children with empty stomachs’
Highly recommended article.
An Observer investigation reveals how rich countries faced by a global food shortage now farm an area double the size of the UK to guarantee supplies for their citizens
We turned off the main road to Awassa, talked our way past security guards and drove a mile across empty land before we found what will soon be Ethiopia’s largest greenhouse. Nestling below an escarpment of the Rift Valley, the development is far from finished, but the plastic and steel structure already stretches over 20 hectares – the size of 20 football pitches.
The farm manager shows us millions of tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables being grown in 500m rows in computer controlled conditions. Spanish engineers are building the steel structure, Dutch technology minimises water use from two bore-holes and 1,000 women pick and pack 50 tonnes of food a day. Within 24 hours, it has been driven 200 miles to Addis Ababa and flown 1,000 miles to the shops and restaurants of Dubai, Jeddah and elsewhere in the Middle East.
Ethiopia is one of the hungriest countries in the world with more than 13 million people needing food aid, but paradoxically the government is offering at least 3m hectares of its most fertile land to rich countries and some of the world’s most wealthy individuals to export food for their own populations.
The 1,000 hectares of land which contain the Awassa greenhouses are leased for 99 years to a Saudi billionaire businessman, Ethiopian-born Sheikh Mohammed al-Amoudi, one of the 50 richest men in the world. His Saudi Star company plans to spend up to $2bn acquiring and developing 500,000 hectares of land in Ethiopia in the next few years. So far, it has bought four farms and is already growing wheat, rice, vegetables and flowers for the Saudi market. It expects eventually to employ more than 10,000 people.
But Ethiopia is only one of 20 or more African countries where land is being bought or leased for intensive agriculture on an immense scale in what may be the greatest change of ownership since the colonial era.
An Observer investigation estimates that up to 50m hectares of land – an area more than double the size of the UK – has been acquired in the last few years or is in the process of being negotiated by governments and wealthy investors working with state subsidies. The data used was collected by Grain, the International Institute for Environment and Development, the International Land Coalition, ActionAid and other non-governmental groups.
The land rush, which is still accelerating, has been triggered by the worldwide food shortages which followed the sharp oil price rises in 2008, growing water shortages and the European Union’s insistence that 10% of all transport fuel must come from plant-based biofuels by 2015.
According to the World Bank’s top economist, Don Mitchell, biofuels had been responsible for three-quarters of the 140 per cent rise in world food prices between 2002 and 2008. It was this that last October prompted Jean Ziegler, the UN’s “special rapporteur on the right to food”, to comment that biofuels could only bring “more hunger to the poor people of the world” and were a “crime against humanity”.
Yellow peril: while Britain’s farmers are encouraged to turn their fields over to rapeseed for biofuels, the world food crisis has driven people in Ethiopia to the brink of starvation
Rarely in political history can there have been such a rapid and dramatic reversal of a received wisdom as we have seen in the past 18 months over biofuels – the cropping of living plants, such as soya beans, wheat and sugar cane, to generate energy.
Two years ago biofuels were still being hailed as a dream solution to what was seen as one of the most urgent problems confronting mankind – our dependence on fossil fuels, which are not only finite but seemed to be threatening the world with the catastrophe of global warming.
LONDON (AFP) – Biofuels have caused world food prices to increase by 75 percent, according to the findings of an unpublished World Bank report published in The Guardian newspaper on Friday.
The daily said the report was finished in April but was not published to avoid embarrassing the US government, which has claimed plant-derived fuels have pushed up prices by only three percent.
Biofuels, which supporters claim are a “greener” alternative to using fossil fuel and cut greenhouse gas emissions, and rising food prices will be on the agenda when G8 leaders meet in Japan next week for their annual summit.
The report’s author, a senior World Bank economist, assessed that contrary to claims by US President George W. Bush, increased demand from India and China has not been the cause of rising food prices.
“Rapid income growth in developing countries has not led to large increases in global grain consumption and was not a major factor responsible for the large price increases,” the report said.
Droughts in Australia have also not had a significant impact, it added. Instead, European and US drives for greater use of biofuels has had the biggest effect.
The European Union has mooted using biofuels for up to 10 percent of all transport fuels by 2020 as part of an increase in use of renewable energy.
– Floods may boost world food prices for years
– Floods wipe out US crops
– The Best Farmland in the U.S. Is Flooded; Most Americans Are Too Stupid to Panic
– The Price Of Food: 2007 – 2008
– The U.S. Has No Remaining Grain Reserves
– Nine meals from anarchy – how Britain is facing a very real food crisis
– Time to Stockpile Food?
– Food Riots are Coming to the U.S.
– UN alert: One-fourth of world’s wheat at risk from new fungus
– THE FOUR HORSEMEN APPROACH – FAMINE IS IN THE AIR
A catastrophe for Iowa farmers will not be just a catastrophe for Midwestern Americans. In the Iowa floods, we’ll see more evidence of how the problems of weird weather (climate change) combine and ramify the problems associated with Peak Oil. In this particular case they lead to an inflection point sometime around the 2008 harvest season, which will also be our time of political harvest.
These are not your daddy’s or granddaddy’s floods. These are 500-year floods, events not seen before non-Indian people started living out on that stretch of the North American prairie. The vast majority of homeowners in Eastern Iowa did not have flood insurance because the likelihood of being affected above the 500-year-line was so miniscule – their insurance agents actually advised them against getting it.
The personal ruin out there will be comprehensive and profound, a wet version of the 1930s Dust Bowl, with families facing total loss and perhaps migrating elsewhere in the nation because they have no home to go back to.
Iowa in 2008 will be an even slower-motion disaster than Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Beyond the troubles of 25,000 people who have lost all their material possessions is a world whose grain reserves stand at record lows. The crop losses in Iowa will aggravate what is already a pretty dire situation. So far, the US public has experienced the world grain situation mainly in higher supermarket prices.
Cheap corn is behind the magic of the American processed food industry – all those pizza pockets and juicy-juice boxes that frantic Americans resort to because they have no time between two jobs and family-chauffeur duties to actually cook (note: reheating is not cooking).
NEW YORK — Soaring corn and soy prices on top of rising construction costs and tight credit markets have pushed about a dozen U.S. biofuel plants to file for bankruptcy protection, experts said.
Prices for corn, the feedstock for most U.S. ethanol plants, hit fresh records above $8 per bushel this week as floods this month in the Midwest have caused billions of dollars of crop damage.
“Corn prices are making the feasibility of ethanol plants every day more and more questionable,” said Alex Moglia, president of Moglia Advisors in suburban Chicago, which helps biofuel companies restructure.
Meanwhile prices for soy oil, the feedstock for most biodiesel plants, have been been high on rising global demand for months, making life miserable for most producers. The miserable profit margins have pushed many makers of the alternative motor fuel to run plants at only about half of their capacity.
Moglia said about 12 small to midsize biodiesel and ethanol plants have declared bankruptcy in recent months. Renova Energy LLC, a company that owns a partially built 20 million-gallons-per year ethanol plant in Idaho, was the latest to declare bankruptcy last week. Kansas-based Ethanex Energy Inc declared bankruptcy in March.
“There will be more to follow,” said Moglia. Some plants are restructuring their debt and taking steps to manage risks, but many others are not, he said.
(CNSNews.com) – Weeks before announcing a $300-million, three-year advertising campaign to raise awareness about global warming, Al Gore was conducting a slide show for a group of investors in Monterey, Calif., touting companies such as Bloom Energy, Amryis , Mascoma and other firms that are not household names — yet.
These bio-fuel and green technology firms could be poised to take off, Gore told his audience.
“Here are just a few of the investments I personally think make sense,” he said during the March 1 presentation. “I have a stake in these so I’ll have a disclaimer there.” (See Video)
Gore’s admitted stake in those companies comes from his partnership in the venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB). Gore joined the firm last November, forging a partnership between KPCB and the London-based Generation Investment Management, a firm Gore chairs, and which steers investments in green and “sustainable” companies.
This month, KPCB announced it has invested $500 million into start-up “green growth” companies, and another $700 million into more established greentech, information technology and life science ventures.
The seed money is intended to “grow” the companies so they can be publicly traded. Both funds are closed to further investment. Last week, Generation Investment Management reportedly closed a $683-million “Climate Solutions Fund” to further investment.
The firms, with similar goals, differ in that GIM focuses mostly on public equities, while KPCB focuses on startup or expanding companies that haven’t gone public yet.
But without government action on climate change, some business analysts say green companies backed by KPCB are either unlikely to be profitable or that their growth will be slow.
To Gore’s critics, his financial stake in businesses that could profit from government policies designed to fight global warming demonstrates a motivation other than a selfless desire to protect the planet.
There is a time for food, and a time for ethical appraisals. This was the case even before Bertolt Brecht gave life to that expression in Die Driegroschen Oper. The time for a reasoned, coherent understanding for the growing food crisis is not just overdue, but seemingly past. Robert Zoellick of the World Bank, an organization often dedicated to flouting, rather than achieving its claimed goal of poverty reduction, stated the problem in Davos in January this year. ‘Hunger and malnutrition are the forgotten Millennium Development Goal.’
Global food prices have gone through the roof, terrifying the 3 billion or so people who live off less than $2 a day. This should terrify everybody else. In November, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization reported that food prices had suffered a 18 percent inflation in China, 13 percent in Indonesia and Pakistan, and 10 percent or more in Latin America, Russia and India. The devil in the detail is even more distressing: a doubling in the price of wheat, a twenty percent increase in the price of rice, an increase by half in maize prices.