April 25, 2006

U.N.'s FAO to manage International BioEnergy Platform

As new biomass conversion and fermentation technologies are developed, deployment will depend on assessments of the resources and supporting infrastructure of various sites to support them - and to be supported by them.

Fortunately, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization is anticipating the demand for biofuels well into the 21st Century. On May 9th, 2006 it is inaugurating the International BioEnergy Platform (IBEP), a new agency to coordinate bioenergy information and support throughout the global community. Excerpts from their publicity release is below:


U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) sees major shift to bioenergy
Pressure building for switch to biofuels

Under the pressure of soaring oil prices and growing environmental constraints, momentum is gathering for a major international switch from fossil fuels to renewable bioenergy, according to FAO.

“The gradual move away from oil has begun. Over the next 15 to 20 years we may see biofuels providing a full 25 percent of the world’s energy needs,” Alexander Müller, the new Assistant Director-General for the Sustainable Development Department of FAO said here.

FAO’s interest in bioenergy stems from the positive impact that energy crops are expected to have on rural economies and from the opportunity offered countries to diversify their energy sources. “At the very least it could mean a new lease of life for commodities like sugar whose international prices have plummeted,” noted Gustavo Best, FAO’s Senior Energy Coordinator.

One hazard, for instance, is that large-scale promotion of bioenergy relying on intensive cash-crop monocultures could see the sector dominated by a few agri-energy giants – without any significant gains for small farmers. But to date no comprehensive attempt has been made to address the complex technical, policy and institutional problems involved.

Bioenergy Platform

In order to fill this gap FAO has set up an International Bioenergy Platform (IBEP), to be officially presented at the United Nations in New York on May 9. The IBEP will provide expertise and advice for governments and private operators to formulate bioenergy policies and strategies. It will also help them develop the tools to quantify bioenergy resources and implications for sustainable development on a country-by-country basis.

It will further assist in the formulation of national bioenergy programmes, drawing on FAO’s experience in promoting national, regional and global bioenergy development.

“The aim is to help us grow both enough fuel and enough food,” Müller said, “and make sure that everyone benefits in the process.”

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