Energy production: For whom?

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Energy production: For whom?

Today we have technologies for the use of new clean sources of energy, but, the usable and indispensable energy for human subsistence, for the production of food, continues being exclusively that which comes from photosynthesis.

There is a euphoria in the production and use of biofuels (basically produced from corn, oil plants, tubers, sugar cane …). It’s a renewable energy, it uses photosynthesis, it comes from the sun, it’s free … IDEAL, and could even help mitigate the effect of climate change, which has among other causes the use of fossil fuels.
This argument is the one that is present in the vast majority of web pages about biofuels but, even if it is true, it does not consider the complexity of the human system that must be coordinated with the complexity of the environmental system. We do not refer to human activity, but to a previous event to its internal activity: to its optimal physiological functioning thanks to the energy it receives through its diet.

Today we have technologies for the use of new clean sources of energy (solar, wind, marine, fusion? ….) and even technologies to extract minerals from the moon and other planets, but, the usable and indispensable energy for the human subsistence, for the production of food, remains exclusively that which comes from photosynthesis.


And here the point of reflection appears: a dilemma appears. The arable land surface is limited, a competition appears: cultivate to produce energy for the citizen or for his machines ?. This proposal has already generated conflicts due to the increase in food prices: in Argentina beef, in Mexico corn, in Italy pasta … these are some specific examples. It is not intended to say that biofuels are responsible for the famine, but they do represent a factor to be taken into consideration in this complex model that is the global food system.

For all these reasons, the news published in La Vanguardia on April 29th is to be welcomed: “The euro camera puts limits on crops for biofuelsthe plenary session of the European Parliament approved yesterday to limit from 2017 the use of traditional biofuels from crops such as corn, wheat, beet or rapeseed, despite the criticism of most of the groups that see the measure insufficient. The new norms that still have to receive the final approval of the member states of the EU, try to discourage the use of biofuels that come from crops, and encourage those more advanced, such as those that are made from waste, algae, or straw.”

Excellent news, which dignifies our politicians and especially the working group that has produced the document. An equilibrium document that concomits the social reality with the advances of the technique.

Biofuels? Yes. But let’s not try to save the planet without its passage. Photosynthesis is essential to produce food, this is its main function through the appropriate plants. Let’s not target edible species to biofuels. Perhaps, it is easier and more profitable initially, to generate them from food ingredients, develop new agricultural but not food sources will be somewhat more expensive but not in the long run, and will contribute to the possibilities of a better functioning of the world food system, and all this, with the necessary help of research and biotechnologies.

The European Parliament has given hope, through an intelligent resolution, to achieve balances on complex issues, and to solve them we must coordinate imagination with innovation.