Brazil was making representations at Doha Round negotiations on liberalising trade in environmental goods, and called for specific products to be slated for expedited tariff cuts based on a request-offer process – with biofuels included.
The talks must “encourage a larger participation of developing countries in this [environmental goods] commerce and must promote their capacity to develop environmental goods industries, argues the proposal (JOB (07/146)). To this end, it advocates “improved market access for their exports of agricultural environmental goods” as a result of the negotiations. Brazil, which is one of the world’s biggest producers of ethanol, said that “biofuels are essentially an environmental good,” suggesting that trade barriers on them should be reduced
Ronald Steenblik, head of research for the Global Subsidies Initiative, which has heavily criticised subsidies for biofuel production, allowed that the Brazil’s blanket qualification of biofuels as environmental goods was “not very nuanced.” Nevertheless, he said that “cane-based ethanol from existing cane plantations has good energy balance and greenhouse-gas mitigation properties.” Given that “many countries have mandated the use of biofuels for environmental reasons, it is right and proper for Brazil to take them at their word, and ask them to level the playing field” between domestic and imported ethanol, he said. Steenblik did caution that the emissions-saving benefits of replacing fossil fuels with biofuels could potentially be compromised if large areas of savanna or forest land were to be brought under cultivation, either to directly produce biofuel feedstocks or to make up for displaced food, fibre or feed production.
Ron has a couple of good points here. If biofuels are to be used then surely it makes more environmental sense to grow them in areas where there are advantages rather in the north, where food crops have to be diverted into their use. Politically, the boot is on the other foot in the EU and US.
I don’t want to run farmers down, I but maybe they should think about growing crops that make economic sense without subsidies.