Friday, August 31, 2007

China Wants Allies to Consider Biodiesel

China has quietly asked Cuba and Venezuela to consider tempering their harsh criticism of biofuels to allow for certain kinds of biodiesel production.

Energy industry sources say China wants its two allies to be open to production of biodiesel if it is conducted without harming the environment, encouraging monoculture, or raising food prices. In the Chinese view, this translates into support for making biodiesel--an alternative to petroleum-based diesel--out of recycled cooking oil and vegetable oils that are ideally both sustainable and inedible.

China has based its biodiesel production strategy on use of recycled cooking oil (also known as waste vegetable oil) and oil pressed from jatropha plants, a hardy, inedible perennial that can be grown on marginal lands with the potential for preventing and perhaps even reversing desertification.

Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have been trying to rally international opposition to the growing biofuels industry by feeding the fuel vs. food debate.

In a series of articles in in the Cuban Communist Party daily, Gramma, Castro condemned "the sinister idea of converting food into fuel" as "international genocide" and a "massive euthanasia on the poor."

Given its restive rural population, which has been left behind by the country's meteoric economic ascent, China is sensitive to suggestions that its embrace of biofuels could make life worse for impoverished peasants.