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Bioenergy > "Voices"

This page provides voices, views and perspectives on biofuels and bioenergy - from commentators, bloggers, editorials, civil society, and others.

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"...[T]here are challenges on the feedstock front. Bottom line, jatropha, camelina and algae are still emerging feedstocks, soy and canola are pricey, waste oils & greases are tough to find at scale, and palm is politically radioactive."

-- National Biodiesel Board CEO Joe Jobe, quoted in Biofuels Digest, 7 February 2011.


"The blender's credit and import tariff on foreign ethanol have distorted the corn market, creating needless volatility in the cost of animal feed...."

-- Joel Brandenberger, president of the National Turkey Federation, quoted in Left-Right Coalition Responds to Senate Vote on Ethanol Tax Credit, 6 December 2010.

"Whether you call it biomass or simply chopping down trees, it’s still deforestation."

-- Franz A. Matzner, "climate legislative director for the Natural Resources Defense Council," quoted in "New Rules May Cloud the Outlook for Biomass", 9 July 2010.

"As the leading grain exporter and ethanol producer, the United States is in the driver’s seat. It needs to make sure that efforts to reduce its heavy dependence on imported oil do not create a far more serious problem: chaos in the world food economy."

-- Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute, in "Cars and People Compete for Grain," 1 June 2010.

"[E]ven if you disagree on the threat posed by climate change, investing in clean energy jobs and businesses is still the right thing to do for our economy."

-- United States President Barack Obama, remark from Obama Announces Steps to Boost Biofuels, Clean Coal, 3 February 2010.

"If we could supply cheap, clean-burning cook stoves to the large portion of the world that burns biomass, we could address a significant international public health problem, and at the same stroke cut a major source of warming."

-- Lakshman Guruswami, professor of international law at the University of Colorado quoted in World’s Pall of Black Carbon Can Be Eased With New Stoves, 8 March 2010.

"The bottom line is this: I am convinced that America can win the race to build a clean energy economy, but we're going to have to overcome the weight of our own politics. We have to focus not so much on those narrow areas where we disagree, but on the broad areas where we agree."

-- United States President Barack Obama, remark delivered at a meeting with U.S. governors on energy policy, 3 February 2010.

"Given what we know about algae production pilot projects over the past 10 to 15 years, we've found that algae's environmental footprint is larger than other terrestrial crops."

--Andres Clarens, Assistant Professor in University of Virginia's Civil and Environmental Department; quoted in Engineers Find Significant Environmental Impacts with Algae-Based Biofuel, Offer Alternative to Production in Newswise, 21 January 2010.

"Our research shows that native grassland is being converted into cropland at an alarming rate throughout the Prairie Pothole Region."

--Greg Fogel, co-author of the study Corn Ethanol and Wildlife: How increases in corn plantings are affecting habitat and wildlife in the Prairie Pothole Region (PDF file), quoted in 13 January 2010 press release by National Wildlife Federation.

"You could say the entire biofuels industry has had a rough year."

--Robert McCormick, principal engineer at the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, quoted "Bad year for biofuel ends on a dour note", 1 January 2010 in the Washington Post.


”Thousands of farmers in Tanzania could face eviction from their lands by multinational organizations promoting the cultivation of biofuels.”

--Abdallah Mkindi, of Envirocare, quoted 8 October 2009 in The New York Times Green Inc. blog.

"Copenhagen will be dominated by false solutions like biofuels and carbon trading".

--Peter Polder, a Dutch activist, quoted 21 July 2009 in Activists reveal plan to storm Copenhagen climate summit in The Guardian. Polder is part of a "network of radical green groups" that is "planning to disrupt the international climate change meeting in Copenhagen in December".

"If we run our cars on biofuels produced in the tropics, chances will be good that we are effectively burning rainforests in our gas tanks".

--Holly Gibbs, "a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment", quoted 14 February 2009 in Biofuels Boom Could Fuel Rainforest Destruction, Researcher Warns in Science Daily.

"The biggest potential for biofuels does not lie in filling jet engines and SUVs, but in improving access to modern energy services to the more than 2 billion people who depend on unhealthy and inefficient forms of energy".

--Julia Matron-Lefèvre, Director General of IUCN, quoted 21 January 2009 in "Don't wait to produce renewable energy sustainably, urges IUCN" (press release).


"Biofuels are the most damaging choice we could make in our efforts to move away from using fossil fuels....

....We should be spending to promote energy technologies that cause significant reductions in carbon emissions and air-pollution mortality, not technologies that have either marginal benefits or no benefits at all."
--Mark Z. Jacobson, professor at Stanford University, quoted 17 December 2008 in RenewableEnergyWorld.com.

"Simply put, I think ethanol won in this election and I feel very good about where we’re heading.

--Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President, American Coalition for Ethanol, quoted 5 November 2008 in Ethanol Producer Magazine, responding to the election of Barack Obama.

"Politicians talk about strict standards, but rainforests are still being ripped up to fill British petrol tanks. Biofuels targets must be scrapped."

--Kenneth Richter, Friends of the Earth's Biofuels Campaigner, quoted in an FOE Press Release

"Once, biofuels were seen as the salvation, and all of a sudden they are the devil."

--Maria Celina de Azevedo Rodrigues, Brazil's ambassador to the European Union. [1]

"Time and again the government has been warned that their policy of targets [for biofuels] without safeguards is madness....When will it admit it has got this wrong and bring in proper sustainability criteria for biofuels?"

--UK "shadow environment secretary Peter Ainsworth" quoted in UK 'should end biofuel subsidies'

"What we’ve found with Miscanthus is that the amount of biomass generated each year would allow us to produce about 2 1/2 times the amount of ethanol we can produce per acre of corn".

--Professor Stephen P. Long of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, 30 July 2008 [2]

"Political leaders seem intent on suppressing and ignoring the strong evidence that biofuels are a major factor in recent food price rises....While politicians concentrate on keeping industry lobbies happy, people in poor countries cannot afford enough to eat."

--Robert Bailey, policy adviser for Oxfam, 3 July 2008 in Guardian article, "Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis".

"“[I]ncreased political interference puts upward pressure on price and could eventually cause shortages in countries least able to cope. To demonstrate leadership, the United States should lift its tariff on Brazilian ethanol that now shelters the U.S. (corn ethanol) industry."

--U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (IN), 1 July 2008 in a Wall Street Journal blog.

"We made a series of mistakes by not adopting a sustainable energy policy, one of which is the subsidies for corn ethanol"..."Besides, it is wrong," [to tax Brazilian-made sugar cane ethanol] “which is much more efficient than corn ethanol.”

--U.S. Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain, arguing against domestic corn ethanol subsidies and import tariffs on sugar cane ethanol. Obama Camp Closely Linked With Ethanol, 23 June 2008 in the New York Times.

[Embracing ethanol] "ultimately helps our national security, because right now we’re sending billions of dollars to some of the most hostile nations on earth."..."It does not serve our national and economic security to replace imported oil with Brazilian ethanol"

--U.S. Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama, expressing support for domestic ethanol subsidies and tariffs on imported ethanol from sugar cane. Obama Camp Closely Linked With Ethanol, 23 June 2008 in the New York Times.

"Instead of trying to find 'good' biofuels, we should be asking 'why biofuels at all?'"..."Investment in biofuels yields fewer returns than investment in transportation alternatives."..."Devoting these [biofuel] subsidies to public transportation and smarter growth would do much more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, fuel use and costs to consumers".

--Kate McMahon of Friends of the Earth, 18 June 2008, in a response to Vinod Khosla's op-ed article All Biofuels Are Not The Same in the Washington Post dated 16 June 2008.

"Rising food prices are of course a concern, but principally blaming ethanol production is illogical"..."If corn ethanol had not paved the way, and our renewable fuels standards did not exist, I would be far less inclined to invest in cellulosic ethanol. But if we reduce renewable fuel mandates, as some suggest, we are likely to reduce investment in next-generation cellulosic fuels"

--Vinod Khosla in an Op-Ed in The Washington Post, 16 June 2008, "All Biofuels Are Not The Same".

"The only biofuels that can justifiably be advocated are the second-generation varieties such as algae that do not entail appropriation of land meant for the cultivation of grains."

--Editorial in The Hindu newspaper, India, 9 June 2008,"Feuding over food and fuel"

"There is mounting scientific evidence that the use of energy to produce agrofuels, the use of water, the use of arable land is destructive to the environment, a threat to food security and feeding into speculation on the market."..."I am calling...for a freeze in any new investments in that kind of agrofuel which is directly competing with food."

--Olivier De Schutter, an independent U.N. expert on the right to food.[3].

"Nobody understands how $11 to $12 billion a year of subsidies in 2006 and protective tariff policies have had the effect of diverting 100 million tonnes of cereals from human consumption, mostly to satisfy a thirst for fuel for vehicles."

--FAO head Jacques Diouf, 3 June 2008, at the opening of the U.N. food summit in Rome.[4]

"The production of fuel from basic food commodities is, in fact, unjustifiable. But it is the United States that uses corn for biofuel, which is then no longer available for food..."

--Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, President of Brazil, quoted 10 May 2008 in Spiegel Online ('We Want to Join OPEC and Make Oil Cheaper').

"As well as being bad for the environment, biofuels from palm oil are a disaster for people."

--Hannah Griffiths, Friends of the Earth biofuels campaigner, quoted in the Guardian (Biofuel demand leading to human rights abuses, report claims)

"If you're trying to mitigate global warming, it simply does not make sense to convert land for biofuels production....All the biofuels we use now cause habitat destruction, either directly or indirectly."

--Joe Fargione, The Nature Conservancy (quoted in AFP article)

"You can’t look at a bottle of ethanol and tell how it’s produced, whether it’s sustainable. You have to know: Was the crop produced on farmland or on recently cleared forest? Did the manufacturer use energy from coal or nuclear?"

--Ronald Steenblik, Research Director of the Global Subsidies Initiative, 22 January 2008 (Quoted in the New York Times")

"It is a complete lie to advertise palm oil as sustainably produced - it has devastating impacts on the environment and on local communities."

--Friends of the Earth's Biofuels Campaigner, Hannah Griffiths, 9 January 2008 (quoted in press release, "'Sustainable' palm oil advert false, says Advertising Standards Authority")


"...biofuels can cause deforestation directly, if land is cleared to grow them, or they may cause deforestation indirectly, if increased demand for crops leads to deforestation in some other location. Depending on how you count, this deforestation may cause biodiesel to have 6-20 times MORE GHG emissions than regular diesel. It’s a big dilemma for all biofuels coming from developing countries."

--Barbara Bramble, National Wildlife Federation, 13 December 2007, from the NWF blog "Larry Schweiger's View"

"Bio-fuels produced from food crops like corn have the least potential of 18 technologies for reducing carbon emissions over the next 25 years."

--Finding of a "survey of 1,000 climate decision-makers and influencers from across 105 countries conducted by GlobeScan, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the World Bank". (Source: Put biodiversity at centre of climate debate, says new experts survey (IUCN press release), released 10 December 2007.)

"We're cutting down forests now to grow sugarcane and palm oil for biofuels and our forests are being hacked into by so many interests that it makes them more and more important to save now....Biofuel isn't the answer to everything; it depends where it comes from."

--Jane Goodall, from "Jane Goodall says biofuel crops hurt rain forests," Reuters, 26 September 2007.

"Yes, ethanol subsidies are a scam. Yes, we should drop our trade barriers and let Brazilian sugar cane wipe out American corn. Yes, we need solar power, conservation, and efficiency. But don't give up on biofuel. It just needs time to grow."

--William Saletan, from Food Fight - The case for turning crops into fuel, 7 July 2007 in Slate.

"I don't believe that sugar and corn could possibly carry the weight of transport."

--Sir Nicholas Stern, head of the UK's Stern Review of the economics of climate change, advocating concentrating biofuels production on crops that would not compete with food production. "The key thing is to grow it on marginal land, [of] which [there] is a lot in central Asia, western Brazil, around the Sahara, and in parts of Indonesia," he said.[5]

"It should be pointed out that the much-criticized EU biofuels target of 10% by 2020 can also be achieved by reducing the consumption of fossil fuels in the transport sector and thus automatically increasing the share of biofuels without actually increasing their absolute amount."

--From The Challenge of Sustainable Bioenergy: Balancing climate protection, biodiversity and development policy - A Discussion Paper by Gerald Knauf, Jürgen Maier (German NGO Forum Environment & Development), Nikki Skuce (OneSky - Canada) and Annie Sugrue (CURES Southern Africa).

"We aren't paying enough attention to the green lost to the Treasury ... in stimulating ethanol to make the environment greener"

--Robert Reischauer, president of the Urban Institute and former director of the Congressional Budget Office talking about the cost of US subsidies for ethanol, from No free ride: Biofuel development could cost U.S. billions, 9 June 2007 in The Madison Times.

"Beer drinkers across the country will get upset when beer prices will rise even further in the fall. We are therefore demanding that government stop its subsidies for biofuels immediately."

--Walter Koenig, head of the German Brewer's Assocation, from Biofuel boom jacks up price of beer in Germany 29 May 2007 from the China Post.

"It would be ironic -- worse than ironic -- if the government allowed the conservation revolution in biofuels to sabotage the conservation revolution in farming."

--Editorial, Don't sacrifice land for ethanol, 6 May 2007 from the Star Tribune, talking about the possibility of releasing US farmers without penalty from their Conservation Reserve Program contracts to grow corn for ethanol.

"That was the point of doing it. To show people that biofuel is not like some wimpy feminine car, like a hybrid."

--California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on why he appeared on the MTV show "Pimp My Ride", where they converted a 1965 Chevy Impala to run off of biodiesel, from Schwarzenegger drives home 'biofuel is sexy' message, 16 April 2007 from theage.com.au.

"The issue is not ethanol as an additive. The issue is the U.S. empire wanting to substitute gasoline with ethanol. That's crazy."

--President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela commenting on US biofuel policy from Venezuela to host South American energy summit, 13 April 2007.

"...[I]f we succeed in creating a market for biofuels, only to see that success accelerate the destruction of forests or other sensitive habitats around the globe, we will have failed."

--Stephen Ladyman, UK Minister of Transportation, speaking on the importance of sustainability standards in developing a biofuels industry, 30 March 2007 from Biofuel Review.

"The sinister idea of converting food into combustibles was definitively established as the economic line of foreign policy of the United States."

--Fidel Castro, talking about US biofuel policy in an article in the Granma newspaper, 29 March 2007, as reported on the BBC.

"If we want to save the planet, we need a five-year freeze on biofuels"

--George Monbiot, 27 March 2007 from The Guardian.

"Sugarcane producers are promoting slave labor."

--Vanderlei Martini,head of a state chapter of the radical Landless Rural Workers Movement in Brazil discussing working conditions on sugarcane plantations, 21 March 2007, from Leftist Brazilian President Silva slammed for calling ethanol producers 'heroes' in the International Herald Tribune.

The "cane producers who were seen 10 years ago as agribusiness bandits are becoming national and world heroes because everybody is paying attention to ethanol."

--President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, 19 March 2007, from Leftist Brazilian President Silva slammed for calling ethanol producers 'heroes' in the International Herald Tribune.

"This ethanol binge is insane...This talk about energy independence and wrapping yourself in the flag and singing God Bless America—all that's going to come at a severe cost to another part of the economy."

--Paul Hitch, president-elect of the National Cattlemen's Beef Assn (NCBA), 19 March 2007 from Ethanol's Growing List of Enemies in Business Week.

"Bush needs to give up the corn and stay on the grass"

--Chris McGowan, discussing the relative benefits of corn and cellulosic ethanol, 15 March 2007 from the Huffington Post.

"We all feel incumbent to be good stewards of the environment. It just so happens that ethanol and biodiesel will help improve the quality of the environment in our respective countries."

--United States President George Bush, commenting on the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the United States and Brazil to advance cooperation on biofuels; from Biofuel review, 9 March 2007.

“We want ethanol to become a global commodity, and for that to happen, Brazil can’t be the only producer.”

--José Luiz Oliverio, vice president for operations at Dedini Industries, Brazil’s leading manufacturer of equipment for sugar cane and ethanol mills from U.S. and Brazil Seek to Promote Ethanol in West from the New York Times, 3 March 2007.

"...jatropha is the little plant that could lift African farmers from lives of poverty and the continent into a fuel oil producer... It could, however, go the way of the emu farm: just another expensive farming fad that went bust instead of boom."

--Karen Palmer from Weed's biofuel potential sparks African land grab in the Washington Times, 21 February 2007.

"There can be no sustainable energy system based on monocultures."

--Almuth Ernsting from Biofuel Watch's “The global blueprint for a biomass economy” Report, January 2007.

"Perhaps we will know the true price of water only when corn syrup is more expensive than oil."

--Andy Mukherjee from Biofuel craze is water madness 9 February 2007 from The Standard: China's Business Newspaper.

"No matter how high (corn) prices go, what will need to change isn’t the amount of corn acreage available or even the size of the enormous harvests we are already getting. What will need to change is the size of our appetites."

--New York Times Editorial, 6 February 2007. The abundance of cheap corn and oil have created an American economy used to cheap food and fuel. But now that we are trying to get both food and fuel out of the same land, some fundamental changes are necessary.

"It's no longer viable to use palm oil to make biodiesel."

--John Hall, managing director of commodity trading firm Peter Cremer from Asia biodiesel makers hedge risks 30 January 2007 from The Standard: China's Business Newspaper. According to Hall, increasing prices of commodity feedstocks, like corn, palm oil and soybeans, combined with falling oil prices will make it difficult for biofuel producers to compete.

"If folks want to produce E85, more power to them. It's not our product, I don't think the federal government would ever make the cattleman and the beef processors sell tofu."

--Charlie Drevna, vice president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association from Bush's ambitious biofuels goals hinge on cellulosic ethanol, E85 (subscription required in Greenwire, 24 January 2007. One of the major challenges to attaining the ambitious 35 billion gallon renewable fuel target in President Bush's Twenty in Ten initiative will be developing a distribition system for ethanol...and gaining cooperation from the oil companies that run the gas stations.


"An ethical economy of energy crops can only begin with the creation of an ethical economy, an ethical agriculture, an ethical society, and an ethical culture."

--In Ethics of Biofuels, Sharon Astyk in Energy Bulletin (28 December 2006) writes: "Taking the long view means changing our ways of eating, changing our economy and our trade, and most of all, changing our agriculture and creating a generation of new farmers, educated in sustainable agriculture

"It's time for a blunt international debate on the wisdom of biofuel."

--In Feeding the Beast, Tom Philpott of Grist.org (13 December 2006) writes: "With food prices rising and environmentally sensitive land in the U.S. and the global south alike going under the plow to plant fuel crops, it's time for a blunt international debate on the wisdom of biofuel."

  • Noting that "more and more food is being devoted to fueling the nation's 211-million-strong auto fleet," Philpott joined the "food-versus-fuel" debate, asking "Can U.S. farmers keep filling the nation's bellies as they scramble to fuel its cars?"

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