Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Future not so rosy for biofuels
UNFOA sez unfair to women

Let me put a disclosure right up front... I never saw ethanol as "the future", didn't think it wise but in small local quantities at best. There were many reasons for it.

First, it costs more power to create the dang thing than it yields. If you're trying to "conserve", where does that get us?

Second, there was no way it wouldn't affect food prices, or alter the supply/demand ratio.

Third, I'm no professional farmer, but even I know that you deplete ground nutrients and natural resources with repetitive crops. That's why smart farmers always do crop rotations... to replace nutrients.

To add to all the latest "piling on" negative press ethanol and biofuels have been getting lately, comes the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. And they've added the "unfair to women" handle with their latest study, "Gender and Equity Issues in Liquid Biofuels Production".

It's important to understand that this is not focused on US biofuel production, but also developing nations. This lends more understanding to their cry of foul for women.... that they may have less access to the land ownership.

The study notes that large-scale plantations for the production of liquid biofuels such as bioethanol and biodiesel require an intensive use of resources and inputs to which small farmers, particularly women, traditionally have limited access. These resources include land and water, chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

“Unless policies are adopted in developing countries to strengthen the participation of small farmers, especially women in biofuel production by increasing their access to land, capital and technology - gender inequalities are likely to become more marked and women’s vulnerability to hunger and poverty further exacerbated,” said Yianna Lambrou, co-author of the paper entitled Gender and Equity Issues in Liquid Biofuels Production – Minimizing the Risks to Maximize the Opportunities. “Biofuel production certainly offers opportunities for farmers – but they will only trickle down to the farm level, especially to women, if pro-poor policies are put in place that also empower women.”

The report also goes to the extent that if the biofuel crop is competitive with say firewood and food crops, it can shrink the latter's resources and cause women (who are traditionally responsible for gathering the firewood and food) have to trek further. sigh.... obviously not a US issue. We just hop in our SUV's and "gather" at the local supermart while the cord of firewood is delivered to our doorstep.

The FOA gender'ists also worry about the female managerial work impact as well... as women hold agromanagement positions, and crop rotation can be all but eliminated. So who needs their knowledge when they just plan on repeating the same crop year after year, despite soil repercussions?

What the study did not factor in was a possible creation of jobs and product... i.e. the need for nutrient replenishment and it's production, sale and distribution. But let's not nitpick about their lack of vision here.

Then, of course, they bring up the low-skilled jobs created, and the unequal wages/benefits between men and women working the biofuel crop fields.

Hey.... I'm not making this stuff up, as "out there" as it sounds. But the upshot of the attachment of the gender "foul" label just could sound the death knell of biofuels in a very PC-driven international community.

And, ya know, while I'm LMAO at the study itself, I won't necessarily be unhappy to see the biofuel industry take the hit. In fact this whole ethanol roller-coaster ride that the Bush WH (and it's more than willing accomplice, Congress), has taken us on really just proves once again a simple reality. That no matter what man can think up to slow supposed man-made global warming, it generally causes as many, or more, problems as it solves.

But I sure feel for all those who've already spent big bucks, banking on it's future.

No comments: