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The Washington-based Worldwatch Institute touts the benefits of the global boom in biofuels for the rural poor in a book released last month.
"Biofuels for Transport: Global Potential and Implications for Energy and Agriculture", says higher prices for agricultural commodities will benefit more of the world's poor than it harms. While the urban poor suffer from higher food prices, the central problem is poverty, not food scarcity, say the report's authors.
Biofuels production rose 28% in 2006 (production of fuel ethanol is up 22% and biodiesel up 80%), leading to a sharp jump in prices for agricultural commodities such as corn.
The report also discusses the negative impacts that large scale biofuels production can have on biodiversity. "It is critical to the stability of the climate that we prevent biofuels from expanding at the expense of rainforests and other valuable ecosystems that store carbon and provide other ecological services," said Suzanne Hunt, who directed the team of 15 researchers that procuced the book.
A technological evolution which would see non-food stocks used for biofuels is key to the sustainability of this form of transport fuel, says the Worldwatch Institute. There are also limits to the extent that biofuels can cover the world's transport fuel needs. "Development of these fuels must occur within the context of a transition to a more efficient, less polluting and more diversified transport sector," conclude the report's authors.