Tuesday, June 14, 2011

FAO's tool weighs pros and cons of biofuels

The costs and benefits of investing in biofuels may become easier for policymakers with a guide launched by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The Bioenergy and Food Security (BEFS) Analytical Framework, released last month has been tested in Peru, Tanzania and Thailand. According to Heiner Thofern, head of the BEFS project, the goal is to help policymakers make informed decisions on whether development of bioenergy is a viable option for their countries and, if so, identify policies that will maximise benefits for the economy and minimise risks to food security. For example, the report found that Peru's natural biomass could meet local energy needs and contribute to poverty reduction by providing cheaper energy and offering new income opportunities. And Thailand, which aims to increase biofuel production to five billion litres by 2022 through its alternative energy development plan, "has the means to realise the government's plan for the development of the biofuels industry in a sustainable manner, without negatively impacting on food security". But in Tanzania, biofuels could pose risks and could hamper food security, according to the BEFS report. Still, with adequate investments and policies, biofuels "can contribute to achieving the country's development objectives of enhancing economic growth and reducing poverty", it said, highlighting cassava as a good biofuel option for the country. Full report available here.

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