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Brazil’s President Defends Biofuels

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Brazil’s President Defends Biofuels

April 18, 2008; Page A11

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva made an impassioned defense of biofuels, denying that their production contributes to food scarcity and rising global prices.

He also sharply criticized industrial countries for subsidizing agricultural output, which he blamed for undermining the competitiveness of developing nations and reducing world production.

“Biofuels aren’t the villain that threatens food security,” he said at the start of a Latin American meeting of the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization. “On the contrary…they can pull countries out of energy dependency without affecting foods.”

Brazil is the world’s leading exporter of ethanol, and the world’s No. 2 producer after the U.S. While Brazil makes the biofuel from sugar cane, corn-based ethanol dominates U.S. production.

Mr. da Silva’s speech Wednesday was seen as a response to a U.N. report released Tuesday that called biofuels a “crime against humanity,” for diverting food crops toward fuel production as a global scarcity deepens and food prices rise. The report said farmers world-wide must reduce dependency on fossil fuels and better protect the environment, as riots erupt over food shortages in the Caribbean and Africa and hunger approaches a crisis in parts of Asia. It recommended an international moratorium on incentives for producing and marketing biofuels.

Meanwhile, senior executives from oil-and-gas giant BP PLC said Thursday that biofuels have a role in the energy mix, but they must not compete with food crops or be environmentally destructive.

“Biotechnology will play a pivotal role in improving environmental sustainability,” BP Chairman Peter Sutherland said at the company’s annual general meeting in London. “But it has to be conducted in a manner that does not disrupt food supply chains…and is not damaging the environmental sustainability of agricultural land.”

Chief Executive Tony Hayward said BP will focus on “the next generation of biofuels, which will be based on more efficient molecules and will not be derived from food crops.”

Mr. Sutherland also acknowledged that some biofuels’ claim to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions was questionable. “There is evidence that some forms of biofuel which allege to improve the environment, don’t actually do so,” he said.

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