Thu, Dec 14, 2006 - Page 9 News List

Cultivating the biomass is vital as an energy crisis approaches

The use of biomass and `energy crops' is an attractive and competitive alternative to the polluting sources of energy that the world is still taking for granted

By Jean-Michel Severino

However, in many places, energy cropping would certainly compete with food crops. Long-term estimates project that over a 50-year time horizon, most of the planet's arable land would have to be used to feed the world and for forest conservation. Thus, areas dedicated to energy production, particularly biofuel, may not reach the level that societies would wish. But, while such competition would reveal new global scarcities, it would also bring higher prices, thereby encouraging producers to increase yields and productivity.

Thus, while cultivating energy would create new constraints, it would also open new possibilities for many economic actors. The farmer and the forest worker could become more involved in the market, the mine engineer could begin to take an interest in crop fields, the banker in plant shares, etc. But, in order to prepare for a scaling up of energy cropping, new policies must be implemented, both in northern and southern countries, in terms of agriculture, land and water management, protection of biodiversity, fuel taxes and information and awareness-raising.

The ancient Egyptians and the Incas practiced a religion of the Sun, believing it to be at the beginning of all life on Earth. Science has since proven this to be the case.

Nowadays, when it has become more important than ever that we embrace renewable resources, we should use the Sun to cultivate our energy, just as our ancestors used it to cultivate their food.

Jean-Michel Severino, a former vice president of the World Bank, is director general of the Agence Francaise de Developpement.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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