Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

UN chief calls for review of biofuels policy

with 6 comments


The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, has called for a comprehensive review of the policy on biofuels as a crisis in global food prices – partly caused by the increasing use of crops for energy generation – threatens to trigger global instability.

It is also becoming noticeable here as the price of rice and pasta have been rising. Of course in wealthy countries like ours it is unlikely to cause widespread social upheaval. The article also notes that the environmental benefits of some biofuels seem to have been overestimated.

Biofuels, hybrids and electric cars are not the solution but could be a useful transition mechanism. Sadly, too many see them as a way to keep on trucking. We do not seem to be able to comprehend the extent of the change that is going to have to happen – here – now.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 5, 2008 at 11:14 am

6 Responses

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  1. That’s some good news.

    From that video we saw on electric cars, it looks like a great solution… IN COMBINATION with sustainable public transit.

    Michael Pollan (do a search on for his interview) said we will soon reach a point of realisation — when diabetes and obesity cause an insane health crisis — that it’s our industrialized food nation that is making us sick. I’d add to that that it’s unsustainable, too.

    This is, at least, not so bad a seasonal time for this to be happening as local produce is starting to allow more variety which should make it easier to reduce pasta and bread intake.

    Have people forgotten that there’s a variety of rice native to Canada?

    Erika Rathje

    April 5, 2008 at 1:13 pm

  2. This is why I fear the potential success of the electric car experiment that is about to unfold in Israel. It would simply be a quieter business as usual and would only delay a peak in oil and continue to make our destructive society possible for a little while longer.


    April 5, 2008 at 1:16 pm

  3. Erika

    You forgot heart disease – third horseman of our health apocalypse. And as discussed here not so long ago all three strongly correlated to car use – or rather the consequence of car use physical inactivity. Transit users at least walk to and from the bus stop.

    And I must admit that the rush of endorphins I get from cycling – even though it may be chilly and blustery – has been brightening my days recently.

    Stephen Rees

    April 5, 2008 at 1:21 pm

  4. We have to completely move away from oil-fueled cars. Let people who want and can afford to keep and run their fancy sports cars pay the price if they can get their mitts on gasoline. I wonder if it’s possible to retrofit an ordinary car to be an EV?

    Oh yes, that’s right. I don’t doubt it. Exercise makes us feel good, wakes us up. I wonder if the people who walk/run/bike even a little on their way to work have less reliance on caffeine? My only coworker who bussed still drank coffee but I have my doubts she sprints for the bus every morning 😉 I get a rush from running up the gigantic escalator at Granville Station and I used to do that 3 or 4 days/week! A simple way to stay fit.

    I’m gonna get off my butt for a bit.

    Erika Rathje

    April 5, 2008 at 2:51 pm

  5. there`s a lot of yak about bio-fuel ,eco-density-more people here -more people in the usa- more in asia -africa etc etc etc— when I was a little guy-40 years ago ther was about 3.6 billion people on earth—–now there is about , 7 billion!——-some real pros need to sit down and figure out how many people certain areas can support! and by support I don`t mean for a few years –I mean forever! india`s population is so young,they are gonna go from 1 billion people to 2 billion in a decade! we can`t just keep going forward mindlessly —-one day maybe when we hit -8 billion–9 billion –maybe 10 billion—- we will realize,hey theres not enough food!——–and powerfull countries will have to decide who lives and who dies——I don`t want to make that choice, do you?——-so thats why I don`t believe in eco density!—the mother earth ship is full! signed……………………billy your dinner is in the gas tank

    grant g

    April 6, 2008 at 9:32 am

  6. Using food crops to run cars and trucks is a mistake that is already having worldwide repercusions — and it’s just the beginning of this madness. Leaders should instead try to limit the production of biofuels to celulosic ethanol (wood + agricultural waste, switchgrass) with the replantation of trees and preservation and rebuilding of agricultural soils taking precedence over all else.

    Ethanol should be distributed for use in buses, commercial transport (with food transport taking priority) and agricultural use. Ethanol is not a carbon-free substance, but if limited to the above sectors and coupled with a large national urban public transit building program, it could result in a net reduction of overall national GHG emissions and help farmers maintain and even increase food production despite peak oil.


    April 7, 2008 at 1:26 pm

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