From: Thomas Wagner, Associated Press
Published January 26, 2007 12:00 AM

Report Warns of Obstacles to Sustainable Biofuels Sector

LONDON -- The benefits of biofuel made from beets, sugar cane and other crops may be weakened if the sector continues to expand without controls and trade agreements, an environmental think tank said on Friday.

As more developing countries follow Brazil's lead in promoting biofuels, trade agreements and some form of regulation are needed to make biofuel solutions work, said Annie Dufey of the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development.

It raised concerns in a report ahead of the three-day European Renewable Energy Policy Conference that begins in Belgium on Monday.

There is currently no multilateral agreement on whether biofuels are industrial or agricultural goods or an international forum for dealing with the trade.

"This lack of coherence and coordination could lead to biofuels solving a specific problem but simultaneously creating several others," she said.

Without controls and planning, small-scale farmers in developing nations might find themselves squeezed out of the biofuel sector's profits by larger companies, she said. The crops could also aggravate deforestation and stretch water supplies without careful crop selection and planning.

Biofuels have been promoted as a means of creating jobs and wealth in developing nations and cutting greenhouse gases in the industrialized world.

President George W. Bush won cautious praise in Europe and Asia on Tuesday for using his State of the Union address to urge reduced dependance on oil and to back alternative energy sources in the U.S.

Bush, who rejected the Kyoto accords, proposed reducing gasoline consumption in the U.S. by 20 percent during the next 10 years through tougher fuel economy standards and mandatory production of more ethanol and other alternative fuels.

Bush has also promoted biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol, which can be made from wood chips, switchgrass and corn-plant parts such as stalks and leaves.

Source: Associated Press

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