Chiapas: the state government promotes the expansion of the cultivation of agrofuels

The 14 July conference (@ La Crónica de Hoy)

On Wednesday 14 July there was held the forum “Flight-Plan toward Sustainable Biofuels for Aviation in Mexico” in the International Center of Instruciton (CIIASA) in the Chiapas.  The meeting was arranged for by the organization Airports and Auxiliary Services (ASA), a group associated with the Secretary of Communication and Transportation (SCT) of the state of Chiapas.  In the conference participated Gilberto López Meyer, director general of ASA; Sandra Herrera Flores, sub-secretary of Environmental Fomentation and Normativity of the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT); and Adrián Fernández Bremauntz, president of the National Institute of Ecology (INE).  Juan Sabines Guerrero, governor of the state, also attended and participated in the event.  The objective of the conference, according to López Meyer, was to “integrate the perspectives and talents of the participants”–members of governmental, private, and academic institutions, as well as world experts linked to aeronautical and energy firms–towards the promotion of a larger vision for the use of agrofuels in Mexico’s aviation sector.

During the event, Fernández Bremauntz claimed that replacing hydrocarbon-based fossil fuels with agrofuels for aviation would represent an opportunity to diminish the intensity of greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions in Mexico’s aviation sector, which is estimated to represent some 1.3 percent of the total GHG emissions of the country.  He added that the “proper path is the one that Chiapas has adopted,” given that it is the state that has most promoted the cultivation of agrofuels in Mexico: it has dedicated 50,000 hectares to the production of palm-oil and 10,000 to jatropha.  López Meyer asserted that the expansion of cultivation of agrofuels “would, if carried out, result in a better quality-of-life for the residents of this planet.” The governor, for his part, expressed his wish that the commitment of his government to producing agrofuels be replicated elsewhere; he also claimed that the example set by his government in this sense could serve to check the problems of poverty in Mexico and climate change in general. During the conference were proposed goals that envisioned agrofuels to provide for 1 percent of national demand for the year 2015 (an amount that would entail the production of 40 million liters annually) and 15 percent of such demand by 2020 (or 700 million liters).  The construction of four agro-refineries, as well as the massive expansion of the cultivation of agrofuels, would be needed to meet such targets.

This commitment to promote agrofuels clearly is not just an initiative of the governor of Chiapas.  In a meeting that Sabines Guerrero had with López Meyer at the beginning of July, he recognized that his government’s expansion of agrofuel-production followed from the vision set forth by the president of the Republic, Felipe Calderón; he asserted that the state of Chiapas will always remember President Calderón as the great promoter of agrodiesel.  Carlos Pedredo Rodríguez, president of the Junta of Political Coordination of the state congress of Chiapas and coordinator of the Parliamentary Group of the PAN in the congress, asserted in mid-July that “the experience that Chiapas is undergoing in the use of biofuels [sic] is highly positive.”

Seen from other points of view, however, the commitment of the government of Chiapas to expanding the production of agrofuels, as well as the prospect that such be replicated in other parts of the country, could bring with it serious threats to food security in general, and in particular for those already vulnerable to malnutrition, given that in many cases the cultivation of agrofuels competes with the production of crops destined for human consumption.  It is for this reason that Jean Ziegler, Special Rapporteur for the UN on the Right to Food between 2000 and 2008, came to declare the production of agrofuels to represent a “crime against humanity.”

For more information (in Spanish):

ASA realizes forum of Sustainable Biofuels for Aviation (La Crónica de Hoy, 15 July)

The federal government seeks to incorporate the use of biofuels in aviation (SEMARNAT press release, 14 July)

Chiapas, national example in use of biofuels (Chiapas Hoy, 16 July)

The project of biofuels in Chiapas is the vision of President Calderón: Juan Sabines (La Crónica de Hoy, 3 July)

Chiapas in the vanguard of use of sources of alternative energy: Carlos Pedrero (Chiapas Hoy, 19 July)

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