The Planet Under Pressure meeting just happened this past week March 26-March 29 2012 in London England. There was a lot of emphasis on biofuels. The main theme was the pressure biofuels will place on both land and water. There were also concerns over food security and global food prices. While the food for fuel debate seemed simple in presentation, in actuality it is quite complex. I didn’t hear any reference on food subsidy or other factors that affect global food prices and global food security. I think there is real debate about the potential of food for fuel.
However the issue of water is a real issue with little room for debate. At this conference there were excellent presentations on water concerns for biofuels. There were several excellent presentations in the Climate, energy and water: a challenge for integrated management planetary boundaries. One of the most dramatic figures on water and energy showed water for energy was deemed more essential than water for residential areas during drought. This has interesting implications for biofuels, which could potentially take a bigger piece of the pie based on another talk.
As we move forward with biofuels we as scientists will have to be sensitive to these ongoing perceptions of biofuels. Greater emphasis is needed on the potential setbacks for biofuels, as resources such as water availability could become more of a tradeoff issue than fuel for food.