Dhe World Food Program of the United Nations is the most important helper in need for the hungry around the world. The organization, which was rightly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its beneficial work, distributed a total of four million tons of food last year and thus saved 90 million people from worse.
The same amount, around four million tons of grain, could also be available to feed the world’s population if German drivers stopped using E10 petrol. And if there were no more biofuel in the diesel sold at Germany’s gas stations, there could even be another 3.5 billion liters of rapeseed oil.
The amounts are huge. The agricultural economist Matin Qaim from Bonn, director of the Center for Development Research there, calculated them for the FAS. These are rough calculations with a few simplifications. But its foundation is stable. It is the most recent available data on the local annual consumption of bioethanol and biodiesel, which accounts for up to 7 percent of commercial diesel: around 1.5 billion liters of ethanol and around 3.5 billion liters of biodiesel. To make ethanol, you have to process as much wheat as grows on around 500,000 hectares. That is more than five times the area of Berlin. And for the diesel as much rape as grows on 2.5 million hectares. That is roughly the area of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
Africa before famine
This begs the question: if food prices are rising like they have been recently, if the war in Ukraine is jeopardizing the wheat supply in large parts of Africa, if experts like Matin Qaim are expecting up to 100 million additional starving people in the near future – then it will still be responsible for burning masses of grain and cooking oil in engines?
Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke from the Greens made a decision months ago. In the future, she wants less of the harvest to end up in the tank and more on the plate. In official German, of course, that means something different. It is about a “capping limit for the share of conventional biofuels from cultivated biomass in the total energy in transport”. Ideally, this share should fall by almost a third as early as next year, and if possible it should be eliminated entirely by 2030. The people in her ministry are working flat out on a draft law for this. The FAS has found out: On July 13, in ten days, the topic will be on the agenda of the federal cabinet.
Anyone who stops reading here will assume: Sure thing. Nobody can have anything against Lemke’s suggestion.
But where are the 1.5 billion liters of petrol and 3.5 billion liters of diesel supposed to come from if they are no longer produced in biorefineries from grain, rapeseed and other agricultural products? In Russia, the most important oil exporting country in the world, hardly anyone would want to transfer more money into the war chest than is absolutely necessary.
And what was the justification for adding biodiesel based on rapeseed, soybeans or sunflowers and bioethanol made from wheat, corn or sugar beets in 2009, when the rules for this were drawn up? With the fight against climate change, of course. And that is no less urgent today than it was then.
The ministries have different views
So it is that the environment, agriculture, finance and economics ministries still have different views on how to proceed with biofuels. Once the topic was even postponed in the cabinet’s appointment calendar.