For the time being, let's keep a neutral stance and look at the WorldWatch Institute's announcement about the major study it commissioned. The study to assess the potential and economics of our bioenergy future was produced by the German Agency for Technical Cooperation - the leading experts when it comes to analysing development issues.
As worldwide fuel consumption continues to rise, experts say biofuels such as biodiesel and ethanol are becoming more attractive energy alternatives.
'Biofuels have the potential to meet a significant share of our global transportation needs,' said Christopher Flavin, president of the WorldWatch Institute.
Such fuels not only aid the agriculture industry but can also enhance trade relations and transportation opportunities, especially in developing countries. But their environmental merits and cost-efficiency are still being debated.
All agree, however, that some sort of alternatives are needed. In his State of the Union address earlier this year, President Bush called for increased support for renewable energy sources, decrying America`s addiction to oil.
The Department of Energy says fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas provide more than 85 percent of energy consumed in the United States; 55 percent of that is imported. But the problem is not solely domestic. Energy crises loom in many countries, particularly developing nations.
A new report by the WorldWatch Institute says biofuels will not only provide better fuel sources for individual countries, but with increased international cooperation can also help foster better trade relations.
The WWI study, which was released Wednesday, was co-sponsored by the German Agency for Technical Cooperation, known by its initials GTZ, and the German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection.
'There has only been limited trade to date, but developing centers would encourage investors to date and the (World Trade Organization) is beginning to explore this as well,' Flavin said.
The United States and Germany, along with Brazil, have expanded their biofuel research and production in recent years. The countries tout the mutually beneficial collaboration among their energy and agriculture sectors. The United States has seen success from producing ethanol from corn, while Brazil continues to use sugarcane to produce ethanol. Germany was the worldwide leader in biodiesel production in 2005 with 2,920 million liters.
'Energy drives the economy,' said Klaus Scharioth, German ambassador to the United States. 'Mobility is an important aspect of any society.'
Germany`s development of conversion centers looks to be a model for other nations. Centers like the GTZ are funded by both government and private investors. The substantial input from both sectors has allowed them now to look beyond their borders to how similar technologies could benefit developing nations, particularly in rural areas. Promoters of the program say expanding fuel production would not only bring jobs to the area, but subsequently increase transportation and bring more infrastructures to the region.
World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz praised the multilateral efforts, agreeing that increasing biofuel industries in developing nations would have positive impacts across the board.
'Biofuel is near the top of our agenda,' he said. 'It`s an opportunity to add to the world`s supply of energy in an environmentally friendly way.'
Wolfowitz also advocated repealing tariffs that were discouraging the international trade of biofuels.
'We should remove unnecessary trade barriers that make biofuels less accessible,' he said.
Expansive benefits could felt domestically as well, especially by Americans in the farm belt.
'Rising costs of oil are a go signal that something has to be done,' said U.S. Undersecretary of Agriculture Thomas Doer. 'Biofuels are great for our national security, our economy, our environment, and farmers as well.'
Doer said he believes that decreasing dependency on foreign sources of oil will positively impact tense foreign relations.
'Many of us look forward to a day we can power our cars with ethanol from the Midwest rather than oil from the Middle East,' he said.
However, some say that scenario is too idealistic. Biofuel production in the U.S. is still in its infancy when compared to countries like Brazil, and the environmental concerns must also be weighed against other perceived benefits.
Brazil`s experimentation with alternative fuels began in the mid-1970s and was largely forced by the government. In a capitalistic society, such a method would not be successful, said Dan Hassey, senior research analyst with the Gold and Energy Advisor.
'The U.S. needs to realize it took Brazil a long time to achieve their success. Sugarcane burns better than corn for ethanol, and they have cheap land, labor and better climates,' he said.
Hassey said he does not believe corn ethanol is cost-efficient and added that environmental concerns are still substantial.
'If scientists work on ethanol, they can add additives where it won`t be as corrosive. Biodiesel, over time, is a good incentive, but you have to get all the car manufactures and infrastructures to adapt. It`s going to take time and a huge amount of investments and governments have to create incentives,' he said.
Klaus conceded that questions remain over which fuels hold the most promise and the adverse impact they pose to the environment, but maintained that biofuels still remain the best answer to America`s oil problems.
Hassey did agree with the WWI`s endorsement of creating biofuel plants in developing countries with appropriate climate and soil conditions.
'Developing countries can not only help their own economies but also if they do it well enough they can export for cheaper than foreign oil,' he said.
But questions still remain over whether political maneuvers will trump genuine incentives abroad.
'The answers are the right political policies, technology and engineering. But as consumers, we won`t see anything take over oil in the next five years,' Hassey said. 'For now, we`re stuck with high oil prices.'