Just Say No To Biofuels

| Thu Aug. 7, 2008 9:50 PM EDT

The Kenyan courts are considering doing just that. A judicial review is weighing whether or not to halt the first stage of a US$370 million biofuel project that aims to replace up to 50,000 acres of coastal grassland with irrigated fields of sugarcane.

The project is based at the Tana River Delta on the northern Kenyan coast. It's opposed by environmental groups Nature Kenya, the East Africa Wildlife Society, and nomadic pastoralists, reports ENN.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai doesn't like it either. "We cannot just start messing around with the wetland because we need biofuel and sugar."

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The Kenyan biofuels project promises to generate up to 34 megawatts of electricity a day from sugar refining. Plus up to 5 million gallons of ethanol a year from molasses.

But a report commissioned by Nature Kenya in May found that the developers' plans overestimated profits, ignored fees for water use, ignored pollution from the sugarcane plant, and ignored the loss of income from wildlife tourism.

Beware slippery economics. They impoverish us all.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.