The shift to the use of renewable resources is escalating as the price of oil continues to rise. The production of agrofuels is seen as one way to bring more energy self sufficiency to oil-dependent economies. The European Union has set a goal of agrofuels providing 5.75 percent of Europe's transport power by 2010 and 10 percent by 2020. US production of ethanol from corn and other crops continues to increase resulting in rising commodity prices. The International Food Policy Research Institute has estimated that the price of basic staples will increase 20 to 33 percent by 2010 and 26 to 135 percent by 2020.
The demand for agricultural based energy supplies has resulted in a growing number of calls from the global south against the expansion of agrofuel monocultures. Agrofuels refer to large-scale industrial monoculture production of crops such as soy, oil palm, sugar cane, jatropha, canola etc. for fuels and do not include small scale, sustainably grown fuel crops that benefit local communities, do not employ genetically engineered (GE) varieties, and can be accurately referred to as "biofuels." For more information visit http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/
Could the next generation of ethanol based on prairie grasses and plant waste be more sustainable? The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in the USA is working to rejuvenate rural communities with a more sustainable approach to biofuel production. Visit www.iatp.org
Biopolymers are seen as a potentially greener alternative to petroleum based plastics which are non-biodegradable, have devastating effects on animal and ocean life and for the most part have an inherently toxic life cycle from production system through to disposal. The Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative is a network of organizations working together to spur the introduction and use of biomaterials that are sustainable from cradle to cradle. The Collaborative seeks to advance the development and diffusion of sustainable biomaterials by creating sustainability guidelines, engaging markets, and promoting policy initiatives. Visit http://www.sustainablebiomaterials.org/
Asking the Right Questions About Biobased Materials
Is the product useful to begin with? Is it needed?
Is the source of the biobased material sustainably grown, i.e., the biobased material was not treated with pesticides?
Is the land used for growing the biobased material needed for other uses, such as food production?
Is the manufacturing process clean and adaptable to local manufacturing expertise?
Are genetically engineered organisms used in the manufacturing process?
What additives are used in the final product?
Is there a composting component to the product development? What happens to the product after its use?