14 April 2008 18:03 [Source: ICIS news]
ORLANDO, Florida (ICIS news)--Biofuels development is not only endangering food supplies but is also jeopardising global water reserves, a Unilever executive said on Monday.
The growing water-supply problems are especially pronounced in developing and emerging countries such as India, China and Argentina, said Guenther Buck, vice president of supply management/bioenergy at Unilever UK.
Buck was speaking at the SODEOPEC (Soap, Detergent, Oleochemicals and Personal Care) conference in Orlando, Florida.
A small amount of ethanol production requires a lot of water, he said.
“One of the biggest challenges to agriculture intensification is the global water availability,” said Buck. “Around 70-90% of the world sweet water is used by agriculture. Water consumption is now growing twice as much as population.”
In Argentina, the lack of water has been putting electricity generation from hydroelectric power plants in jeopardy, Buck said.
Ground water in Peking, China, is said to be dropping everyday while, in India, farmers in Punjab are now drilling 270 metres deep to water grain fields. They drilled 90 metres 10 years ago.
“Clearly, first generation biofuels is not the way forward,” Buck said. “Current biofuels are not cost efficient nor energy efficient and contribute very little to the global energy problem.”
The Unilever official stressed the need to accelerate research in other energy sources such as solar, wind, water, coal and hydrogen.
“We need to convince politicians to re-think the concept of using food grade material for fuel,” Buck said. “Let’s find out what kind of agricultural developments will be necessary to deliver both full plates and full tanks in order to get food price inflation under control and do not endanger global economic growth rates.”
The 3-day conference hosted by the American Oil Chemists Society (AOCS) ends on Wednesday.
For more on ethanol visit ICIS chemical intelligence
Bookmark Simon Robinson’s Big Biofuels Blog for some independent thinking on biofuels
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