Biofuel Production in Brazil

Source: NIPCC

Walker, R. 2011. The impact of Brazilian biofuel production on Amazonia. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 101 (4): 1-10.

In a thought-provoking article recently published in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Robert Walker of Michigan State University’s Department of Geography writes that “although biofuel represents a renewable and ‘green’ energy,” it has what he rightly calls “a downside,” the potential problem being, as he describes it, “the impact of growing international biofuel demand on Amazonia.” Therefore, focusing on Brazil, and “given the explosive growth of Brazilian agriculture, and notable effects on forests within its national borders,” he seeks to answer the question: “How will global demand for Brazil’s land-based commodities, including biofuel, impact its tropical forest in the Amazon basin?”

In an attempt to answer this important question, Walker “describes recent agricultural expansion in Brazil and its emergent landscape of renewable energy.” And using a form of rent theory, he goes on to frame “a concept of landscape cascade and shows how Brazil’s expanding landscape of renewable energy is impacting forest areas at a great distance,” after which he “considers recent projections of demand for Amazonian land out to 2020, given growth of Brazilian biofuel production and cattle herds.”

The determined researcher, who describes himself as a quantitative economic geographer, says his projections indicate that “more Amazonian land will be demanded than has been made available by Brazilian environmental policy,” and he goes on to discuss the likely “discursive dismemberment of Amazonia and how this articulates with efforts by Brazilian politicians to increase the region’s land supply,” pointing out that “agricultural intensification holds the key to meeting global demand without degrading the Amazonian forest, a landscape unique in the world for its ecological and cultural riches.”

Once again, it appears that a proposed “cure” for global warming may well be far worse than the “disease.”