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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 4th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

On photo of rape-seed plants, it says “Biofuels are responsible for 75 percent of recent food price rises, according to a secret World Bank report.”

Food and fuel crises pushing world into ‘danger zone’, says World Bank’s Robert Zoellick.

LEIGH PHILLIPS, for the EUobserver, July 4, 2008.

As the head of the World Bank warns world leaders that the planet is entering the “danger zone” with millions thrown into extreme poverty by the twin food and fuel crises, a leaked report from his organisation shows that biofuels have pushed up global food prices by 75 percent – a much bigger role in the disaster than previously thought.

In a letter to Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, ahead of next week’s G8 summit, and copied to other G8 leaders, World Bank president Robert Zoellick has called on them to act immediately to address the “man-made catastrophe” of soaring food and oil prices.“What we are witnessing is not a natural disaster – a silent tsunami or a perfect storm. It is a man-made catastrophe and as such must be fixed by people,” he said in the letter.

There has been an 82 percent rise in food commodity prices since 2006, with the crisis worsening since April, Mr Zoellick warned.

This has pushed an additional 100 million people worldwide into extreme poverty, he said, noting that some 41 countries have lost three to ten percent of their GDP from rising food, fuel and commodity prices since January 2007. Over 30 countries have been hit by food riots, as the impact of the crisis reaches the household level, said Mr Zoellick.

He described the current situation as an “unprecedented test” for the international community and called on wealthy countries to stump up €6.4 billion ($10 billion) in immediate short-term emergency aid for the countries hardest hit by the crisis.

Over the medium term, an additional €2.2 billion ($3.5 billion) is needed for agricultural supports and social programmes for the poor in a further 50 countries, he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Zoellick’s organisation has produced a confidential report leaked to a UK newspaper that says that the rush for biofuels, particularly by the EU and US, is responsible for 75 percent of the rise in global food prices.

Until now, the US has claimed that biofuels policies have resulted in only three percent of the rise in food prices, while European Union officials have repeatedly claimed their policies have had a “negligable” impact, without attaching any percentage.

Other international institutions have assigned considerably more blame to such policies. The UN Food and Agriculture organisation says that biofuels explain 10 percent of recent price rises.

The International Monetary Fund puts this figure at 30, the same number reached in assessments from the International Food Policy Research Institute.

“Without the increase in biofuels, global wheat and maize stocks would not have declined appreciably and price increases due to other factors would have been moderate,” the report says.

EU and US leaders have argued that it is not biofuels, but rather higher demand from India and China as incomes there rise, alongside increased oil costs and droughts in parts of the world such as Australia.

The World Bank report, produced by Don Mitchell, a senior economist at the institution, argues that emerging economies are not to blame. “Rapid income growth in developing countries has not led to large increases in global grain consumption and was not a major factor responsible for the large price increases,” reads the report, adding that droughts in Australia have had a marginal impact.

Higher energy and fertiliser prices were responsible for an increase of only 15 percent says Mr Mitchell, while biofuels have been responsible for 75 percent of the price rise of 140 percent between 2002 and February 2008.

This happened in three ways, the report explains: the diversion of grain from food to fuel; the encouragement of farmers to set aside land for biofuel production; and the speculation in grains.

The report also says that other estimates of the role of biofuels have come to smaller estimates because they analysed the crisis over a longer period. Mr Mitchell instead studied food price rises month by month.

Separately, international development NGO ActionAid on Tuesday (1 July) published a report that claims that the “biofuels juggernaut” is responsible for leaving some 290 million people hungry or at risk of chronic hunger.

Additionally, on Thursday at a Brussels conference hosted by the French EU presidency, John Holmes, UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, called on the EU to “look again” at its target that would see biofuels to fuel 10 percent of vehicles by 2020.

www.SustainabiliTank.info has argued for a long time that agricultural-land set-asides were invented to “support” prices of the commodities. The bio-fuels can thus safely be produced from putting back into production those already existing set-asides.

If the World Bank would like to do something for the world’s poor, it would start helping those poor directly with microcredit type of lending rather then seeking out large corporate-based government credit-seekers. Go out and study Malawi – learn how help comes only for those that are ready to help themselves – not their Mugabe kind of despots. Zoelick, Don Mitchell, and George Bush are doing disservice to humanity by not laying bare a reality study and instead talk of symptoms rather then the underlying cancer. US and EU agriculture have caused the destruction of autonomous production in places like Africa – first by underselling them, then by keeping them dependent of “benevolent” hand-outs when teaching to fish is much more important then shipping away free fish. NGOs’ help has also been misconstrued so it makes the philanthropists feel good by having around dependent poor – why in the world don’t you go to Malawi and learn how to make a whole country independent? Why don’t you not simply say to Africa – if you do not get rid of your Mugabes we will not dish food to you anymore. Without your Mugabes we are ready to come help you organize your self-help – and by god – we are really intent to help you this time.

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In total 15 EU states (out of 27) have nuclear power plants, accounting for nearly a third of electricity generated in the EU. So, 12 States do not have nuclear plants, but being part of the European grid get their electricity from such plants anyway.
Support for nuclear power in Europe growing, says commission survey
RENATA GOLDIROVA, from Brussels, for the EUobserver, July 3, 2008

Although nuclear energy continues to be a “strongly” divisive subject in the European Union, support for the controversial source of electricity generation has grown “significantly” over the last three years, a new European Commission survey suggests. A “permanent, safe solution” to managing radioactive waste seems to be the decisive factor when it comes to a possible shift in opinion about nuclear energy.

Should such a solution be found to safely storing the waste, some 39 percent of people say they would change their mind about nuclear energy, according to the poll released by the commission on Thursday (3 July). { What about the decommissioning of these plants when time has come for their closing? Do you have any solution for this problem ? }

Dutch, Belgians, Lithuanians, Britons, the French, Slovenians and Finns are the most open to new arguments. Half the opponents in these countries would change their view regarding nuclear energy should a solution to waste be developed.

However, 48 percent of Europeans – mainly in Austria, Greece, Bulgaria, Portugal and Germany – would stick to a firm No irrespective of any solution to waste. Eight percent are convinced there is no solution to be found. The European Commission itself stopped short of saying what a permanent and safe solution should be, saying it instead is promoting expert discussion on the issue.

Brussels has recently set up a high-level group designed to establish common criteria on ways how radioactive waste should be treated. One of the possible methods discussed has been “geological storage facilities”, currently used in Finland, the commission spokesperson said.

He also referred to a piece of EU legislation on radioactive waste that “is still on the table of the council [representing EU capitals] and has not been addressed”.

According to the survey, 93 percent of Europeans say a solution for high level radioactive waste “should be developed now and not left for future generations”.

In general, some 44 percent of Europeans express support for nuclear energy, while a nearly identical number, 45 percent, oppose it. The figures represent quite a shift in views compared to 2005, when 37 percent of people were in favour and 55 percent were against nuclear power.

There is a clear link between the level of citizens’ support and whether their home country operates nuclear power plants. The Czechs, Lithuanians and Hungarians are most in favour.

Currently, 15 EU states have nuclear power plants – something that accounts for nearly a third of the electricity generated in the EU.

The current European Commission, under the leadership of Jose Manuel Barroso, has not shied away from supporting the nuclear path, a controversial option in many parts of Europe. Brussels says that nuclear energy has a role to play in meeting the EU’s growing concerns about security of supply and CO2 emission reductions.

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