Letter from South America.


An open letter was sent yesterday to the European Parliament, The European Commission, The Governments and Citizens
of The European Union, in which several networks from Latin American countries expressed their “deep concern over the policies that are probably to be adopted to favour the use and import of biofuel as an alternative to fossil fuels, whose disproportionate use is one of the main causes of global warming”.

They point out;

· Increasing use of individual automobiles and their associated oil consumption as one of the main causes of global warming, and biofuels might appear to be a positive alternative. However, serious negative impacts are being experienced by the people and natural resources of the South.

· Europe will never achieve self-sufficiency in the production of biofuel from national production of energy crops. The EU Biofuels directive being announced by the EU Commissioners next week, will drive a massive market expansion in biofuels in Europe that will come at the expense of lands on which the food sovereignty of Southern countries depend.

· While Europeans maintain their lifestyle based on automobile culture, the population of Southern countries will have less and less land for food crops and will loose its food sovereignty. We will have to base our diet on imported food, possibly from Europe.

. Energy crops grown in Latin America for the European market will increase the level of destruction of the rainforest in Argentina, of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil and Bolivia and of the Mata Atlântica in Brazil and Paraguay

· Genetically modified soybean crops, that are already being planted, affect the health of surrounding populations, where the levels of cancer and other diseases associated with agro toxic chemicals used on these monoculture plantations are increasing day by day.

· Sugar cane plantations and the production of ethanol in Brazil are the business of an agricultural monopoly using slave labour, and oil palm plantations are expanding at the expense of forests and the territories of the indigenous and other traditional communities of Colombia, Ecuador and other countries, increasingly geared to biodiesel production.

The decisions on the EU Biofuels directive being made by the EU commissioners on January 10th are critical to the future of many in the Southern nations. The Latin American networks appeal to the governments and people of the European Union countries to seek solutions that do not worsen the already dramatic social
and environmental situation of the peoples of Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Alert Against the Green Desert Network,
Latin American Network against Monoculture Tree Plantations,
Network for a GM free Latin America,
Oilwatch South America,
World Rainforest Movement.

This entry was posted in Biofuels, Climate change, Economics, Energy, Food & Agriculture, Nature & Conservation, People, Politics & Policy initiatives. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Letter from South America.

  1. matt says:

    Response from citizens of the ‘north’ (?);

    We the people of the north will endevour to tear the needles from our veins that feed the hunger & obsession for useless consumer goods, that causes excessive consumption, waste & environmental destruction at the expense of other peoples and species. This obsession does not feed our souls, provide us with any spiritual meaning or, reason for existence. We are morally corrupted . We are however beginning to realise that to save our environment is ultimately about redeeming ourselves and securing our childrens future.

    There. Can we do it?

    (I’m not laying my bets just yet. Especially as people of the ‘east’ & ‘south’ are fast catching us up with their consumption trends.)


  2. earthpal says:

    Poignant words Matt.

    Yes, the whole biofuel thing is a real dilemma on so many different levels isn’t it.

    If replacing fossil fuels with another type (in order for us to continue our excessive lifestyles) means destroying the carbon sinks then someone somewhere has got their wires crossed. How counterproductive is that??

    Incidentally, David Miliband apparently believes we can source biofuels without trashing the rainforests but the clear reality is that the biofuel targets set by the government means that market forces will dictate that we take the cheapest and quickest options so I’m afraid the rainforests will be trashed if we forge ahead to reach our targets.

    Some more reading for you here: http://www.biodieselrealitycheck.com/

  3. matt says:

    Wow earthpal, that’s a very interesting and useful link! Thank you.

    I’ve only recently found out about the problems linked to biodiesel production. My very own ‘reality check’! And most of the population haven’t even cottoned on to the big push for biodiesel yet, let alone the issues attached to it.

    Some issues really do move fast don’t they. No wonder the general public get bewildered!

  4. inel says:

    The EU have issued a Press Release today, entitled “Promoting biofuels as credible alternatives to oil in transport”


    which says:

    “While most biofuels deliver significant savings in greenhouse gas emissions, it is possible to produce them in ways that do not do this, or that cause other environmental problems. The Commission proposes the introduction of an incentive/support system to avoid this and to encourage the development of “second-generation” biofuels.”

    and later adds:

    “The most common biofuels today are biodiesel (made from oleaginous plants such as rapeseed and sunflower) and bioethanol (produced from sugar and starch crops such as beet or cereals). These two liquid transport fuels have the potential to replace diesel and petrol on a large scale. They can be used in the engines of modern cars (unmodified for low blends, or with cheap modifications to accept high blends) and distributed via existing infrastructures. Research is under way to develop “second-generation” production techniques that can make biofuels from woody material, grasses and some additional types of waste.”

    I must admit to being a bit bewildered: I see the push for biofuels as being more of a locally sourced solution providing opportunities for farmers in Europe as well as the 2nd-generation requirements encouraging technological advances in Europe. I hope that an effective incentive/support system is introduced to deal with the concerns of the Latin American NGOs and populations. Otherwise, we are just transplanting problems from one part of the planet to another.

    I would still like to see pressure on the US catch up immediately (!) with Japan and Europe on the development and supply of super fuel-efficient vehicles, while the biofuels work goes ahead …

  5. inel says:

    P.S. This is what the EU is good at, and should be applauded for:


    “Inefficient and expensive energy firms will face legal action over their behaviour, the European Commission’s competition office has warned.

    The comments were part of a report into Europe’s energy markets, which added that splitting supply, generation and distribution would boost competition.

    The Commission’s competition czar Neelie Kroes said the report would make “uncomfortable reading” for some firms.

  6. matt says:

    Hi inel

    Yes the biofuels debate, young as it is, is moving at a pace from the starter blocks. Biofuels, certainly at a local & regional level can have a part to play but, I think I’m comng to the conclusion that it can only be on a smaller level. Otherwise we use up land that should be firstly producing food. More mono-cropping reduces biodiversity as well.

    If we import from the tropics or sub-tropics we are likely to be contributing to forest destruction. And lastly the demand for various crops as a biofuel resource forces the market price of those crops upwards, making food more expensive and no-one wants that, least of all southern nations!

  7. earthpal says:

    Matt, like yourself, I’m having a bit of a reality-check too as the biofuels issue unravels. I would have to agree that biofuels need to be produced locally to avoid buying it from former rainforest land but I’d like to see these ‘kinder’ biofuels totally replacing fossil fuels. I guess this is unrealistic given the size of Britain and the lack of land.

    People should be more aware of the disadvantages of some imported biofuels because for many, biofuels are the enviro-saviour they’ve been waiting for.

  8. matt says:

    The last generation was sold the idea that nuclear would be so cheap & clean that all our energy problems would be solved. That never happened & no government in the world has resolved the waste issue. But back then NGOs basically didn’t exist & certainly weren’t as powerful with a global reach. Today they are and they are able to hook into public opinion via this revolutionary communication tool called the internet. I think this is why the biofuels debate is able to move at such a pace!

    Just 50g of enriched plutonium provides the same amount of energy as 3000 tonnes of coal. I hazard a guess that a hell of a lot of acres of rapeseed would need to be planted to match oil’s energy output. There in lies the problem for biofuels.

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