Food vs. fuel

A question we need to consider is the wide-spread “food versus fuel” objection to the production of biofuels. Should we use energy and agricultural land to produce biofuels, when we could grow food instead?

Food vs. fuel

As a major player in the ethanol industry, SEKAB must constantly work to ensure that our fuels and chemicals do not compete with food production. Our ultimate goal is to sell only ethanol produced from waste products. In the future, we will not be talking about waste products but about raw materials at different stages.

We should be able to produce both food and bioenergy

There needn’t be any conflict between food production and biofuels. There is no shortage of food in the world – in fact, from a global perspective, there is a surplus of agricultural products. This surplus is unevenly distributed in the world and food shortages are almost always caused by poverty, war and corruption.

The majority of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas and subsist on agriculture. Agriculture in the western world is highly efficient and produces high returns. When our cheap products are sold on the world market, price pressure is so strong that farmers in poorer parts of the world cannot compete and are wiped out.

This means that higher prices for agricultural products could benefit a large number of the world’s poor people by increasing the demand for their products. At the same time, higher demand for bioenergy can boost the market, since many developing countries can provide a product required by Western countries.

A third factor to consider is that there is currently a surplus of agricultural land in the world; huge swathes of arable land lie fallow. Combined with the fact that there is great agricultural potential in many poor countries, this means that the question of food versus fuel is not simple mathematics – but it remains a problem that the industry needs to address.

Bad and good ethanol and various raw materials

Biofuels can be produced from various raw materials, grown in different locations and with different types of input energy. When talking about ethanol, one usually talks about bad ethanol and good ethanol. The right raw materials, the right place and the right input energy produce good ethanol with good climatic characteristics. Our goal is to use this good ethanol in fuels and chemicals.