UN Environment head: Focus should be on the right biofuels

The correct types of biofuels must be promoted to successfully combat climate change, unlike corn, which has very low productivity, a senior UN environment official said Tuesday. Plans to expand biofuel production in many parts of the world are coming under closer scrutiny following a recent spike in food prices and fears that the two industries may be competing. «I think it’s a question of making sure the correct biofuels are being promoted, and not others,» Christophe Bouvier, director of the UN Environment Program in Europe, said in an interview with The Associated Press. «There are cases, such as sugar cane in Brazil, for example – provided it’s done correctly, in the right places, with the right sustainable production systems – in which it is part of the solution,» Bouvier said. But he criticized the use of corn, which is favored in the USA. «I think there is… a concern that the investment… in some of the biofuel production in some cases did not go in the right direction,» he said. «I don’t know if corn is dead (as a biofuel)… But certainly this is one of the instances where you can see that productivity is very low… also in which there is a potential competition with staple foods.» US officials have rejected claims that cultivation of biofuel crops is increasing food prices, and cite increasing prosperity in parts of Asia as the main cause – a claim which politicians in India angrily reject. Bouvier was in Athens to attend an environment conference hosted by more than a dozen environmental groups and agencies. He said UN efforts were aimed at encouraging developing countries to move straight to alternative energy methods, skipping the adjustment from traditional production. «We hope to short-circuit the process… so that we can implement new forms of energy immediately as opposed to within 40 years when the impact of climate change would have been close to disastrous in some cases.» he said. «There is a comparison in history,» Bouvier said. «Cell phones in many developing countries have proliferated without going through the pain of extending millions and millions of meters of copper wire, as we have done in Europe.»