chapter  5
11 Pages

Bioenergy: Neither Golden Solution nor Prescription for Disaster

ByJürgen Maier

There is probably no other energy issue currently being discussed with so much emotion and so little facts as bioenergy. For some years, biofuels have been promoted by governments and legislators in Europe and the US with only few questions being asked about side effects and their actual sustainability. Biofuels rapidly were perceived as the golden solution to climate change and energy insecurity. However, questions are now being asked by a range of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), activists and journalists, often with little consideration for the potential benefits of biofuels or bioenergy, in general. For many NGOs and activists, biofuels almost overnight became the single most important threat to food security, biodiversity and the survival of the rainforests. UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Jean Ziegler expressed it in his usually drastic way:

If there are not conscious efforts to ensure that producing biofuels does not bring greater hunger in its wake, then the poor and hungry will be the victims of these new fuels. For Fidel Castro the case is equally clear: it is a ‘sinister idea to transform food into fuel’. (Ziegler, 2007, p9)

This state of the debate is unfortunate. We urgently need a rational debate about how the immense potential of modern bioenergy can be utilized for a sustainable energy future. If we are to move to a sustainable energy future, we have to phase out fossil fuels and nuclear energy, currently used by the 4

billion people that have access to modern forms of energy. We also have to phase out traditional biomass currently used by the 2 billion people who have no access to modern forms of energy. This daunting task is impossible with solar, wind, small hydro and geothermal energy alone, no matter how much energy efficiency is applied. There is no alternative to a massive utilization of bioenergy in any sustainable energy scenario for the future.