Billionaire biofuel investor Richard Branson has admitted that his investments in U.S. corn ethanol may have been a mistake, both financially and environmentally. The fuel is not very efficient, results in food price increases and cannot compete with far more efficient biofuels made in the South, unless it is heavily subsidized.
Instead, Branson is now looking at Africa, citing the example of a country like Mozambique, where sugarcane can yield up to 7 times more ethanol per acre.
Biopact is pleased to see an investor like Branson looking at the potential of Africa, instead of sticking to inefficient corn ethanol. Bioenergy and agricultural experts have repeatedly said the continent is waiting for courageous entrepreneurs to help kickstart the Green Revolution there.
Map of long-term sustainable bioenergy potential, based on the QUICKSCAN model; the potential is that obtained after meeting all food, fiber, and forest products needs of local populations first, and without cropping on forest land or protected land (conservation areas).
Africa is the continent with the largest sustainable bioenergy potential. It can produce more bioenergy than all the oil currently consumed world-wide, while providing enough food, fiber and forest products to its growing populations, and without negative impacts on the environment. In fact, bioenergy can help stimulate food production and conservation, by making African agriculture more efficient and productive.
Experts of the IEA Bioenergy Task 40, drawing on a model now also officially used by the FAO, have shown that the region can produce around 350 Exajoules of bioenergy by 2050, if modern agricultural techniques are utilized (see map, click to enlarge; and see previous post). That is around 50 percent more than all oil currently consumed on the planet. Next-generation biofuels produced in Africa can be highly sustainable and reduce emissions substantially (e.g. when based on polycultures of grasses, high yielding woody crops like eucalyptus, or even on first generation crops like sugarcane or sweet sorghum).
On the basis of these findings, Biopact has been trying to convince investors, non-profits, civil society and governments that we can create a win-win situation between the West and the South, by allowing farmers in Africa and Latin America to bring their efficient biofuels on the market (first their own, then global markets). This could help rural development in the poorest regions of the planet, and would be far more efficient than relying on low yielding biofuel production systems like U.S. corn ethanol.
However, this win-win idea requires major policy initiatives, trade and subsidy reform, and investments in modern agriculture and infrastructures in Africa. Perhaps Richard Branson could help kickstart this transformation?
Video: BBC News, February 12 [entry ends here].
energy :: sustainability :: biofuels :: biodiesel :: biobutanol :: ethanol :: biomass :: bioenergy :: Africa ::