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G8 tackles biofuels amid backlash

Latest update : 2008-07-08

As G8 leaders in Japan discuss the impact of biofuels on the environment and the price of food, governments worldwide are backtracking on pledges to boost their use amid mounting scientific evidence against them. Analysis: Douglas Herbert.

Read the analysis by our Business editor Douglas Herbert: "The biofuel backlash"



G8 leaders seek common ground on biofuels


The Group of Eight powers was to meet Tuesday on biofuels, with concern growing that the rise in their use is helping to drive world food prices higher and add to global warming.
Biofuels, derived from organic materials such as palm oil and sugar beet, were once seen as a promising way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming by cutting the use of fossil fuels.
But experts have warned that current biofuels policy could push up grain prices and cause greenhouse gas emissions rather than savings.
The biofuels issue is "one of the hot topics in leaders' talks on surging food prices and tackling climate change," a Japanese foreign ministry official said. "It is really difficult to reach a clear consensus."
The G8 leaders were likely to issue statements on the food crisis and climate change later on Tuesday, Japanese officials said.
The British government said Monday that it would slow the expansion of biofuels following a report which found that they might increase greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to food price rises.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick said on the sidelines of the G8 summit in the northern Japan city of Toyako that there was "no doubt" that the use of biofuels has had an effect on food prices.
"For the corn production globally, the use of corn ethanol in the United States has, I think, taken two-thirds or three-quarters of added marginal production," Zoellick said.
He said there was a good argument to be made for the development of second-generation biofuels produced from the inedible parts of plants.
South Africa, which was invited to expanded sessions of G8 summit, last week introduced a policy of excluding maize from the production of biofuels.
"We think there needs to be an international framework on biofuels," Marthinus Van Schalkwyk, South Africa's environmental minister, told reporters.
South African President Thabo Mbeki is to attend expanded meetings of G8 summit on climate change on Wednesday, which will also be joined by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Brazil is the world's leading producer of ethanol, which is hailed by advocates for reducing emissions caused by the use of fossil fuels.

Date created : 2008-07-08