Bush, da Silva talk ethanol again; charity warns ethanol is a disaster

Over the weekend, President Bush met again with Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, this time at Camp David instead of in Brazil. The location was different, but the topic was the same: ethanol.
Bush said that he is a "big believer in alternative fuels" and that the US is "committed to working with Brazil" on biofuel production. Da Silva, standing next to Bush, said that, "Global warming is a reality that threatens us by land, by the air, and by the water, a dilemma that ironically embraces all of us, no matter where in the planet Earth. The issue is frightening and very concrete, and a problem of today." He said that part of the solution is biofuels. The full public comments from the presidents are available here.

While the presidents talk up biofuels, an international charity, ActionAid, says that the two countries' plan might destroy livelihoods and promote food shortages and "may have severe repercussions on millions of rural poor."

The massive conversion of land from food to fuel crops is not a new topic among our readers, and ActionAid and says that biofuel crop production "has thus far resulted in the concentration of land, resources and income into the hands of the few, the destruction of endangered rainforests, contamination of soil, air and water, and the expulsion of rural populations from their homes."

Quotes from ActionAid representatives are after the jump.

[Source: The White House, Domestic Fuel, ActionAid USA]

"We're talking about unfair trade-offs. Increasing ethanol production through land grabs, reducing the amount of farmland for food crops, and harming the environment will only serve to increase misery," said Celso Marcatto, Food Rights Coordinator at ActionAid Brazil.

"This headlong rush into biofuel production seems not so different from the push to conclude WTO and other trade pacts no matter what the social or environmental costs," said Karen Hansen-Kuhn, food rights director at ActionAid USA.

"The US government should be thinking through a careful approach to biofuels based on diversified production of a mix of crops, including native grasses. The promotion of local ownership and processing facilities, as well as sustainable agricultural practices, is similarly crucial," Hansen-Kuhn added

"The benefits of biofuels cannot be achieved at the expenses of increased food shortages, environmental degradation, and poverty. It seems that social and environmental consequences of sugar cane production are not being taken as seriously as they should. This is quite worrisome," concluded Marcatto.

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