Biofuels Provide Opportunities for Developing Countries, Says Wolfowitz

At a Capitol Hill conference yesterday to discuss the findings of a new global study on biofuels, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz spoke about the importance of expanding the large-scale production of these fuels—which include ethanol and biodiesel—in a world where 1.6 billion people lack access to basic energy supplies. “Biofuels present an opportunity to build a strong partnership between rich countries and developing countries,” Wolfowitz noted. He commended the achievements of the ethanol industry in Brazil, but warned that while other countries should pursue similar energy independence, success in Brazil does not necessarily equate to success elsewhere.

The new report, Biofuels for Transportation: Global Potential and Implications for Sustainable Agriculture and Energy in the 21st Century, was released by the Worldwatch Institute in collaboration with the German Agencies for Technical Cooperation and Renewable Resources, and sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection. It draws on the latest data from studies around the world and notes that as the world’s biofuels leader, Brazil produced 16.5 billion liters of fuel ethanol, or 45.2 percent of the world's total, in 2005. (The United States came in a close second, at 16.2 billion liters, or 44.5 percent of the total.) Ethanol provides roughly 40 percent of Brazil's non-diesel fuel and 2–3 percent of U.S. non-diesel fuel. Although biofuels currently supply only 1 percent of global transportation fuel, production has doubled since 2001 and is expected to grow even more quickly in the coming years.

Other conference speakers included Thomas Dorr, Under Secretary for Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Klaus Scharioth, German Ambassador to the United States, R. James Woolsey; Vice President of Booz Allen Hamilton and former Director of Central Intelligence; John Podesta, President and CEO of Center for American Progress; and representatives from DaimlerChrysler AG, Iogen Corporation, and CHOREN Industries, as well as Worldwatch researchers.

The report cautions that the large-scale production of biofuels carries significant ecological threats, but notes that with proper governmental incentives the risks can be minimized and the rewards could be great. “Coordinated action to expand biofuels markets and advance new technologies could relieve pressure on oil prices while strengthening agricultural economies and reducing emissions of global warming gases,” says Worldwatch Institute President Christopher Flavin.

For more information on biofuels, see “Biofuels: Miracle Cure or Path to Greater Destruction?” A summary of the global report, which will be released in its entirety later this year, is available.

This story was produced by Eye on Earth, a joint project of the Worldwatch Institute and the blue moon fund. View the complete archive of Eye on Earth stories, or contact Staff Writer Alana Herro at aherro [AT] worldwatch [DOT] org with your questions, comments, and story ideas.