D1 oils responds to the Monbiot in the today’s Guardian

D1 Oils’ chairman (Ron) Lord Oxburgh has responded to the Guardian Newspaper’s columnist George Monbiot’s piece on 12 February about biofuels today , you can see the full text of the exchange on in the comments on this post D1 oils says Jatropha is different in Bali.

Monbiot is a journalist who makes part of his living out of writing things that people will want to read (like me). Oxburgh is a business leader trying to develop a profitable business. One has to write for his readership, the other has to keep the shareholders happy.

For those of you who don’t know the Guardian (once a newspaper, now also an online newsservie that I have read pretty solidly since I was 18) its readers have been variously described as people who knit their own yoghurt and people who know how the world should be run but don’t stand a chance of running it. Neither of which are fair.
The Guardian has always questioned the establishment much more than other UK papers (which are mostly written for the establishment),and been solidly Green. Monbiot’s writing taps directly into that vein of environmental activism which confirms the prejudices of that section of the Guardian’s readership. That’s one of the hallmarks of good journalism, giving the readers what they want.

The problem for Oxburgh, and the more sensible end of the Biofuels market, is that there is considerable disquiet in the world about the price of food because of the huge proportion of crops that are now being used as biofuels. The US market for ethanol is likely to use around 31% of the corn crop this year, according to Joseph Glauber, the USDA’s chief economist in a speech, just over a week ago.There have been well publicised complaints by the United Nations that the rising price of food makes it harder to feed the starving in the third world. These are good news stories, because they are easy to understand, the pictures are emotive and they involve people.

They are the result in shifting markets for commodities and the weather. If the price of grain remains high then more farmers will start to grow it. There will be work to improve yields and technology to use other parts of crops. All of which Oxburgh says along with a nod to using the waste generated by society, which I like. Monbiot seems to be locked into a zero sum game, though his worries about using cellulose which would normally be ploughed back into the soil as a fuel source chime with me. But the gist of Monbiot’s stance is that there have to be winners and losers, that might not be the case.

I think that there is much to commend in D1 Oil’s approach. The company seems to be offering a genuinely sustainable alternative to biofuels based on edible crops. It is helping to create wealth in the developing world and is helping to build a reciprocity of supply and demand between the developed and the developing world, which if both sides are treated fairly can only be a good thing.

George, please note :used chip fat may not be the only sustainable biofuel.

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2 Responses to D1 oils responds to the Monbiot in the today’s Guardian

  1. Clay 29 February, 2008 at 4:12 pm #

    Hey, Simon–Is “giving the people what they want” specifically a “hallmark of good journalism” or more generally just good business? Because I think good journalism requires a disciplined approach to satisfying your public. People often have conflicting desires, and you, as a journalist, must choose which are yours to satisfy. For example, their desire for good news or affirmation may conflict with their desire for useful information.

    Okay, I’m getting dizzy up here on the soapbox.

  2. Biofuelsimon 4 March, 2008 at 11:44 am #

    Hi Clay, Maybe it would be better to say giving them information that they will accept without playing to the lowest common denominator.

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