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Al Fin

Al Fin

Al Fin runs a number of very successful blogs that cover, energy, technology, news and politics.

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Biofuels Could be the Savior of Sub-Saharan Africa

800 million people live in Sub-Saharan Africa and a third of them don’t have enough food. By 2050, an estimated 1.95 billion people will be trying to live off the land in that region. Even if everyone in Sub-Saharan Africa were only to be fed as inadequately as they are today, the region would need to more than triple its food production over the next 40 years. For everyone on the continent to have enough to eat, food production would have to more than quadruple. _NYT

Biofuel Crops

SubSaharan Africa is desperately in need of industries which will provide both work for the people, and crucial international trade for hard currency. Africa's oil and minerals industries tend to be run by outsiders, with most of the profits going overseas, and settling in the Swiss accounts of top government officials and cronies.

According to many scientists, Africa is custom-made for the coming biofuels revolution.

Dr. Lynd and Dr. Woods suggest that a growing bioenergy economy can be the key to driving this agricultural boom. Land is relatively plentiful in Africa, they write, and land for crops and land for fuel will not necessarily be in direct competition.

On marginal lands that cannot support agriculture in any case, they see great potential for biofuel crops, which require less water and nutrients. Africa’s vast land resources could also make the continent a competitive exporter of biofuels, which could bring in money for the basic infrastructure needed to transport and process food, they argued. It could also provide an economic incentive for rehabilitating degraded lands, the thinking goes.

...In an interview, Dr. Woods pointed out that it’s “always easier to think of problems than it is to think of solutions.

“It’s thanks to the demonization of bioenergy,” he said, “that companies are afraid to potentially tarnish their public image by exploring the potential that bioenergy offers Africa.” _NYT

Most people who demonise biofuels have not bothered to keep up with research and development in the rapidly changing field. They tend to look at ten-year-old data on corn ethanol production, and base their calculations and projections upon obsolete technological systems. Such approaches typify the mediocrity rampant in modern academia, thanks to a politically correct dumbing down of academic standards, and a destructive tendency to abort healthy debates prematurely -- declaring winners on the basis of ideological criteria.

The fertile land and abundant workforce of Africa are already in place. There is a need for modern agricultural, business, and land management expertise. But the greatest need now, if African biofuels are to prosper, is to find a way around the massive infrastructure-of-corruption which rules in virtually every SS African state.

One danger is that corrupt leaders -- for a price -- will allow foreign companies to set up huge plantations which will strip the land, with no provision for future fertility and long-term production. Another danger is that farmers with government or NGO grants -- but without guidance or skills -- will try to grow crops which are not appropriate for their soil and climate.

The biofuels potential for SS Africa is large, and promising well into the future. If managed properly, the land of SS Africa can feed even larger numbers than at present, and provide them with a decent income at the same time.

By. Al Fin


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  • Anonymous on June 30 2011 said:
    What a gorgeous conclusion, beginning with "if managed properly...." I could say the same thing about the U.S. George W. was not a kleptocrat, nor did he need to run off to Paris or London every month to do his business, but even so he bungled the management of the U.S. Try to guess what will happen if kleptocratic rulers and their kleptocratic foot soldiers get their hands on the income from successul investments in biofuels.

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