I have been looking into biofuels in the Middle East recently (see links below), as its an area of ‘green’ development which could be really problematic for the water and food-scarce region and also because there doesn’t appear to be much realization of the dangers of biofuels amongst many MidEast enviros. One of the biggest problems with biofuels is that it pitches the need for food and the need for fuel against each other, drains important resources used for agriculture and also happens to necessity the destruction of forests to make space for land to grow biofuel crops.
The Jatropha plant, which was once hailed as a great biofuel plant for producing diesel fuel for cars, has attracted my attention as it has been taken up by Jordan recently and also because a lot of research is emerging about its problems.
A study of jatropha biofuel production in Kenya by ActionAid found that the supposed ‘green fuel’ produced six times more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels. This was mainly due to the fact that to grow jatropha, forestland was cut down and carbon emissions locked within were released. Furthermore, despite the popular belief that jatropha grows successfully in semi-arid conditions, to make its harvesting economical then you need to put in more water and fertilizer. As such, many studies have concluded that “if an investment in irrigation and fertilizer is required, why not grow food crops instead.” Thus, the food vs. fuel tension emerges.
You can read more about the dangers of Biofuels in the MidEast here:
Image via Jurvetson on Flickr.