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Jane’s Warns Pursuit of Biofuels Brings New Global Security Risks

16 July 2007

Jane’s Intelligence Review reports that while biofuels offer many advantages for producing countries, the potential long-term environmental degradation and increased competition for land and water resources means it cannot be viewed as a risk-free alternative to non-renewable fuels.

Anna Gilmour, an independent analyst for Jane’s Intelligence Review, says greater use of land for biofuel production will inevitably mean a reduction in land for food crops at a time when the rising global population is putting increased demand on food and water supplies.

While there is clearly a growing demand for the conversion to biofuel production it could also expose governments to rising social unrest, as food prices rise and poorer members of society reap few benefits from the new ‘wondercrop’.

Apart from the social unrest and job losses, the expansion of this industry has the potential to increase internal conflict between governments and non-state armed groups in countries such as Colombia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

—Anna Gilmour

Efforts to clear new land for biofuel production will be strongly opposed by non-state armed groups who may view it as a challenge for territorial control, resulting in action and subsequently more unrest.

Jane’s Intelligence Review reports that Columbia is an example where the potential security risks are more complicated, as large tracts of supposedly unused land are actually used for illegal cultivation of coca plants, from which cocaine is extracted. With most of Colombia’s non-state armed groups heavily dependent on the lucrative cocaine trade, efforts to repurpose this land towards biofuel production would be strongly opposed on several fronts.

Jane’s Intelligence Review says that while environmental concerns pose long-term risk in the form of climate change, the most pressing risk will come in the form of heightened competition for land, food and water resources.

Jane’s Information Group is a leading open source information provider and conference organizer on defence, international risk and national security to governments, militaries, industries and academia around the globe.

Resources:

July 16, 2007 in Biodiesel, Biomass, Ethanol, Fuels, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (34) | TrackBack (0)

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Comments

What a dumb thing to say, I mean it brings new global security risks, but they're balanced out by getting rid of the old ones(ie. wars over oil) so in the end there's no more risk than there was in the beginning.

Life is a risk -- get over it!


blah blah blah, EVERYBODY PANIC , blah blah blah

Hah! Their example of a country at "increased" risk is Colombia, which has been a war torn disaster for decades. We need a Jeopardy episode: what cash crop causes all those woes for Colombia? Biodiesel and ethanol, of course! Ridiculous.

Use...electricity...

If bio-fuels were lucrative enough I sure hope Columbia does start growing bio-fuel plants in cocaine farms.

Expert so-called. I think land use is always under
consideration; that's why researchers propose crops, like miscanthus, that can be grown on marginal croplands. In other words, they are addressing the fears that this Jane's analyst has in advance of her warnings. If Algae pans out, one doesn't have to impact croplands, either.

Biofuels --- full speed ahead.

We need Second Generation Biofuels, now. Even without the security risks, there are now major food risks as well. And the price of soybean oil for biodiesel has risen to record levels, so it's affecting the viability of other biofuels.

why is everyone so negative...it angers me!

Please use soybeans for biodiesel all you want...it is unsuitable as a food source (especially if it is one of the main protein sources). Just don't take land away from viable food sources.

I like the skyscraper greenhouse concepts I've seen...expensive to implement but capable of mass producing a large amount of food in a relatively small square of land as the acreage goes up each floor rather than spreading out.

We will assuredly see more war over clean water in the future than we will see war over land for fuel production. If we use solar in large amounts and wind energy and wave power, will there be wars over light, wind and shoreland?

When too much food crop land is used to produce feedstocks for biofuels, the price of food will rise above the affordable level for many.

Hungry people can choose to starve and die or to revolt and fight.

One billion people can die of starvation and not to many of us would cry as long as we can ride our gas guzzlers.

Revolts and ongoing fighting will affect the security of many including us.

Patrick: LOL .. no tofu for you? Seriously, do you have an example of a "high rise farm"? Curious to know how they get enough light on each floor.

To anonymous last poster: I can accept that there is such thing as overdoing it, but think about it this way: how much land that could be used to grow plants for staple food is currently devoted to:
* animal feed or livestock ranges
* trees or bamboo for wood, paper, etc.
* rubber
* cotton
* coffee
* wine grapes
* cocaine, heroin, pot, etc.
etc. etc.

Whenever I read something about how biofuels will create a Soylent Green scenario, I'm reminded of the fact that all this stuff is currently grown on farmland around the world, yet we're still here.

NeilPackrat:

I believe Patrick is talking about this:
http://nymag.com/news/features/30020/index1.html

I assume they'd have to have glass floors as well as glass walls.

We need EV's charged by solar, wind and tidal electric power plants.

'Nuf said.

re: skyscraper farm: very cool .. I'm all geeked out. (I like the idea of food without pesticides and herbicides)

I'm surprised at the amount of uncritical cheerleading for biofuels that is going on among commenters to this post. When are supposedly educated pro=green folk going to get it that biofuels are not necessarily pro-environment or "green". It's like saying, in another context: "goody! Let's have more agriculture!".

The only "green" biofuels are ones that have been eco-certified...a certification which has not yet been implemented. Why don't you guys turn your enthusiasm for biofuels into pressing for eco-certification for biofuels?

Here is link that describes the beginnings of this process:

http://alwayson.goingon.com/permalink/post/13739

Start the movement for this and I'll join it...otherwise electric rules!

Janes Intelligence Review is from the Janes Fighting Ships people - a defense industry trade publication with a vested interest in... armed conflict. 'Nuff said.

Neil, my friend, you live in the World leading center for production of pesticide/herbicide free greenhouse vegetables. Lower Mainland (Vancouver region) greenhouses acreage is about half the size of whole US greenhouses, with whopping productivity per square metre of: tomatoes 73 kg, 160 cucumbers, peppers 27 kg, and lettuce 200 heads. Total yearly production is: beefsteak tomato – 269 million kg, vine tomato – 299 million kg, bell peppers – 19 million kg, long English cucumbers – 31 million cuces, butter lettuce – 2.5 million heads. 75% of the harvest is sold to US, and some even to Pacific Rim.

From this overview:

http://www.agf.gov.bc.ca/ghvegetable/publications/documents/industry_profile.pdf

“BC’s greenhouse vegetable growers are recognized as world leaders in utilizing advanced technology in biological pest control and computerized climate control systems.”

“The most common form of heating is natural gas fired hot water boilers. Liquid carbon dioxide and carbon dioxide extracted from boiler flue-gas condensers are used to supplement carbon-dioxide levels in the crop. Crops are grown hydroponically in soiless media (mostly in sawdust growing medium) with drip fertigation systems that provide an efficient water/nutrient supply.”

And that is not counting-in our marihuana grow-ops…

Andrey: I've only ever noticed the hot houses out by Tsawwassen. Considering how little arable land there is left in B.C. it's good to hear. I'm not so thrilled to hear that they rely on NG, since we started exporting it from B.C. supplies don't look quite so reliable.

In case ya didnt notice, since 9/11 weve developed at least one more layer of donut-chomping, CrownVic-drivin "security". Most of which will never catch a "perp". To say nothing of our soldiers.

Does anyone feel safer? Cocaine and now heroin have never been cheaper/more abundant with this hoax "Global War on Terror"/Drugs/Poverty/Sustenance/Agriculture////. Me thinks we can handle the biofuels.

BEV+wind+solar=freedom

Michael: great point and thanks for the link.

I do not think they are being negative about biofuels. They are just drawing attention to the potential risk.
Biofuels are coming, the future will be much brighter if we can assess the risk ahead of time.

Jane's doing their job - please don't shoot the messenger.

Scary thing is all the USDA and DOE reports on biofuels specifically DO NOT cover emmisions from soil/fertilizers/deforestation. (Especially N2O emmisions)

I suggest people look up page 8 and 9 on this policy paper. BioFuels can easily be more of a climate threat than all of the oil and coal combined.
http://www.tni.org/detail_pub.phtml?know_id=188

When you have less developed countries like Brazil and Indonesia surpassing the UK and India in emmisions (2004 and 2001 respectively) it's time to pay attention.
http://greyfalcon.net/palmoil
http://greyfalcon.net/soy

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