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G8 leaders seek sustainable use of biofuels

by Staff Writers
Toyako, Japan (AFP) July 8, 2008
The Group of Eight powers on Tuesday agreed to explore ways to reduce the impact of biofuels on food prices amid concern they may be hurting the poor and adding to global warming.

Biofuels, derived from organic materials such as palm oil and sugar beet, were once seen as a promising way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming by cutting the use of fossil fuels.

But some experts have warned that current biofuels policy could push up grain prices and cause greenhouse gas emissions rather than savings.

Biofuels were a hot topic among leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States huddled in this spa resort in northern Japan, a senior Japanese foreign ministry official said.

"Some leaders said it's necessary to study the (effect of the) use of biofuels and ethanol in particular," he told reporters.

The G8 leaders pledged in a statement to "ensure the compatibility of policies for the sustainable production and use of biofuels with food security."

They vowed to "accelerate development and commercialisation of sustainable second-generation biofuels from non-food plant materials and inedible biomass."

The British government said Monday it would slow the expansion of biofuels following a report that found they might increase greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to food price rises.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick said on the sidelines of the G8 summit that there was "no doubt" that the use of biofuels has had an effect on food prices.

"For the corn production globally, the use of corn ethanol in the United States has, I think, taken two-thirds or three-quarters of added marginal production," Zoellick said.

He said there was a good argument to be made for the development of second-generation biofuels produced from the inedible parts of plants.

South Africa, which was invited to expanded sessions of the G8 summit, last week introduced a policy of excluding maize from the production of biofuels.

"We think there needs to be an international framework on biofuels," Marthinus Van Schalkwyk, South Africa's environmental minister, told reporters.

The aid agency Oxfam said one tank of corn-based ethanol for a sports utility vehicle could feed a poor person for a year.

"The G8 leaders do not seem to get it," Jeremy Hobbs, executive director of Oxfam International, said in a statement.

"The facts are clear: G8 biofuels policies are 75 percent of the problem, yet the leaders barely mention them and blithely continue to burn food in their cars," he said, referring to a leaked World Bank report saying biofuels have caused world food prices to increase by three quarters.

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Britain to slow adoption of biofuels
London (AFP) July 7, 2008
The British government said Monday it would slow the expansion of biofuels following a report which found they could increase greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to food price rises.

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