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Biofuels and Indigenous Peoples

5 December, 2007

Thailand’s The Nation reports on the impact of biofuels on the world’s indigenous peoples.   Of particular concern is the impact of deforestation and monocropping that the demand for biofuels is producing. Here’s an excerpt:

Indonesian activist Abdon Nababan of the AMAN group said the impact of growing oil palm plantations had seriously hit indigenous people in his country – socially, culturally and ecologically.

“Often, human rights violations occur,” he said.

“The climate pact in Bali must take the rights of indigenous people into consideration more seriously than today. We cannot solve one problem by creating another problem,” said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, chairman of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

GFC’s Lovera said biofuel itself was good if implemented properly. But to promote biofuel for export or for emissions trading would cause huge consequences for indigenous communities and the ecology, he said.

“It will be okay if you promote biofuel in the right place, in communities to replace the use of fossil fuel, but not for export and without the effects on food security in the community, as fuel crops are also food crops. All these conditions could not be met in reality,” he said.

“Carbon trading could be done among real renewable energy industries like wind, tidal and solar, not in the ‘grey’ area like biofuel,” he said.

It’s an important point, I think, that biofuels are not necessarily bad, it’s just the way they’re being used.  I can imagine that on a particular scale they would be very useful, not only to reduce greenhouse emissions but to free certain communities from dependence on the oil economy.  I also think that production of biofuels from waste products of other industries is probably legitimate.  It is the trend towards biofuel crops that is pushing up the price of the world’s staple food products and leading to even greater pressure on forests than was previously the case.

Read the full article.

Jovan Maud

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 6 December, 2007 12:11 am

    Biofuels is one of those buzzwords that many people, sadly, are unaware of its larger impacts. Thanks for posting this, the biofuel market is growing and impacting indigenous peoples everywhere. Another example, from West Papua can be found on the Indigenous Issues Today news blog. We need “clean” energy, not just an alternative “fuel” source.

  2. 6 December, 2007 9:09 am

    Thanks for posting the link Flash. I totally agree, though as I’ve noted in a previous post, biofuels aren’t even good at reducing greenhouse gases. Some estimates have put their production of C02 and other greenhouse gases at about four times that of regular petrol when you take deforestation and other effects into account. So not only are they forcing up the prices of basic staples, leading to every greater deforestation and impacts on indigenous peoples, they’re also doing the reverse of what they’re intended to do.

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