Jane’s Warns Pursuit of Biofuels Brings New Global Security Risks

Greater use of land for biofuel production will inevitably mean a reduction in land for food crops at a time when the rising global population is putting increased demand on food and water supplies.

Published: 20-Jul-2007

Jane’s Intelligence Review reports that while biofuels offer many advantages for producing countries, the potential long-term environmental degradation and increased competition for land and water resources means it cannot be viewed as a risk-free alternative to non-renewable fuels.

Anna Gilmour, an independent analyst for Jane’s Intelligence Review, says greater use of land for biofuel production will inevitably mean a reduction in land for food crops at a time when the rising global population is putting increased demand on food and water supplies.

While there is clearly a growing demand for the conversion to biofuel production it could also expose governments to rising social unrest, as food prices rise and poorer members of society reap few benefits from the new ‘wondercrop’.

Apart from the social unrest and job losses, the expansion of this industry has the potential to increase internal conflict between governments and non-state armed groups in countries such as Colombia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

—Anna Gilmour

Efforts to clear new land for biofuel production will be strongly opposed by non-state armed groups who may view it as a challenge for territorial control, resulting in action and subsequently more unrest.

Jane’s Intelligence Review reports that Columbia is an example where the potential security risks are more complicated, as large tracts of supposedly unused land are actually used for illegal cultivation of coca plants, from which cocaine is extracted. With most of Colombia’s non-state armed groups heavily dependent on the lucrative cocaine trade, efforts to repurpose this land towards biofuel production would be strongly opposed on several fronts.

Jane’s Intelligence Review says that while environmental concerns pose long-term risk in the form of climate change, the most pressing risk will come in the form of heightened competition for land, food and water resources.

Jane’s Information Group is a leading open source information provider and conference organizer on defence, international risk and national security to governments, militaries, industries and academia around the globe.

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