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High oil prices do not mean greener energy

Over-priced oil could have negative impact on environment 

The Guardian's environment editor, John Vidal,  poses an interesting question: are rising oil costs really good for the environment?

Vidal's piece comes as some environmentalists have trumpeted the idea that

the oil shock will boost renewable energy development and promote energy efficiency. On this front Vidal notes Honda increasing production of hybrid cars and huge increases in inquiries about solar water heating.

Set against this is the possibility of increased coal use and the development of bio-fuels, something that is well on its way to becoming a major eco sin in the eyes of strident campaigners who blame rising food costs on increased land use for bio-fuel production.

Interestingly, just as rising oil costs are being blamed on 'peak oil' and not the more likely explanation of investors fleeing the flaky, post-bubble stock market for the commodities market, the food price issue is not simply a question of arable land being given over to fuel production. Since 1981 the area of land given over to grain  (732 million hectares) has been rapidly shrinking as a response to oversupply. By 2002 it had fallen to 656 million hectares. The amount of land that has been retired from farming dwarfs the amount given over to bio-fuel.

Last modified on Tuesday, 27 May 2008 11:44