Big Oil on biofuels morality

Ah – hark the master of the moral high ground: the chief ethical executive from Royal Dutch Shell has spoken:

Royal Dutch Shell, the world’s top marketer of biofuels, considers using food crops to make biofuels “morally inappropriate” as long as there are people in the world who are starving, an executive said on Thursday.
Shell Says Biofuels From Food Crops “Morally Inappropriate” – PlanetArk, July 7, 2006

Yeah, biodiesel becomes popular and Big Oil finds its soft spot for the poor, starving masses. I would like to see them to produce a single current example where the biofuels cause hunger. Food shortages are usually caused by war, which in turn is often caused by conflict over scarce or valuable resources like oil. If any fuel is “morally inappropriate” it’s petroleum based fuel. Access to oil is the underlying reason for war, oppression and violence. Oil extraction destroys environmental resources and pollutes the earth.

Just ask the Ogoni people in Nigeria if Shell is acting in a “morally appropriate” way in the Niger delta:

Since Shell began drilling oil in Ogoniland in 1958, the people of Ogoniland have had pipelines built across their farmlands and in front of their homes, suffered endemic oil leaks from these very pipelines, been forced to live with the constant flaring of gas. This environmental assault has smothered land with oil, killed masses of fish and other aquatic life, and introduced devastating acid rain to the land of the Ogoni.
Shell in Nigeria: What are the issues? – Boycott Shell, 2001.

Big Oil buys arms for the Nigerian military, which terrorizes and kills anyone critical of the actions of Big Oil in the Niger Delta. A huge portion of Nigeria’s revenues come from oil, but the people who live in the Niger Delta, where the oil is extracted, see nothing of it. Except maybe the guns bought from it. But they are at the wrong end of the gun barrel.

Clearly it would be preferable for fuel and food production NOT not to be in competition. Pursuing ways to make fuel from waste biomass is great. We need to pursue all options that might yield efficient, renewable sources of fuels, and if Shell can come up with a way to make fuel efficiently without competing with food crops for land or resources – more power to them. But to have Big Oil make pronouncements regarding the ethics of fuel production is absurd.

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