Food security stalls China’s quest for new energyAugust 23rd, 2010 - 10:34 am ICT by IANS
Beijing, Aug 23 (IANS) Corn-based ethanol fuel could help reduce vehicular emissions in China but high production costs and large population have hindered its growth in the country, say experts.
China launched a pilot project in 2004 to produce ethanol fuel in an effort to cut emissions from vehicles that depend on traditional fuels like petrol, and advance the development of new energy.
But to make one tonne of ethanol fuel three tonnes of corns is needed, costing 8,000 yuan (about $1,170), while cost of petrol is much less, said Zhang Yafei, an analyst with Cinda Securities Co.
Moreover, converting corn into ethanol fuel would threaten China’s food security, especially when it is hit by natural disasters, said professor Li Xinhua of Shenyang Agricultural University, People’s Daily reported Sunday.
Droughts and floods have also raised concerns about grain supplies and stoked the debate whether China should allow production of ethanol from corn, Li said.
With 20 percent of the world’s population and just seven percent of the world’s farmlands, China is facing increasing pressure to feed its 1.3 billion people, as industrialisation and urbanisation gradually nibbling away the cultivatable areas.
“I think the time for massive production of corn ethanol will only arrive when China’s corn output doubles,” Li said.
His comments came after China’s largest association of private petroleum firms urged the top economic planner National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) to halt the ethanol project.
Zhao Youshan, president of Petroleum Flow Committee of China General Chamber of Commerce, said such projects should be blamed for corn price hikes seen during first half of the year.
“On one hand, some regions face a decline in grain output. On the other hand, demand from ethanol fuel producing companies boosted corn prices,” Zhao said.
“Perhaps use of non-grain feedstock for ethanol plants will be the solution to China’s dilemma in developing renewable energy,” said Li.
China is world’s key corn producer and consumer and its annual production and consumption exceed 150 million tonnes.
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