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BIOMASS FOR FOOD OR FUEL: A WORLD PROBLEM?
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The overuse and undersupply of biomass is currently a serious problem and potentially a greater long-term danger than ready lack of food. Today 14% of the world’s primary energy is derived from biomass (including fuelwood)— equivalent to 20 million barrels of oil/day. Predominant use is in the rural areas of developing countries where half the world’s population lives; e.g., Nepal and Ethiopia derive nearly all, Kenya 75%, India 50%, China 33%, Brazil 25%, and Egypt and Morocco 20% of their total energy from biomass. A number of developed countries also derive a considerable amount of energy from biomass; e.g., Sweden 15%, Canada 5%, and the United States and Australia 3% each. European-wide studies have shown that about 5%–10% of Europe’s energy requirements could be met from biomass by 2000. An especially valuable contribution could be in the form of liquid fuels, now so prone to fluctuating price and supply and to large import costs. The success of alcohol fuel schemes in Brazil and Zimbabwe, for example, with their net energy and economic benefits, needs to be closely analysed.