17 January 2008
MIRIAM: UNCHECKED BIOFUELS HARM ENVIRONMENT
Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, who will chair the new Biofuels Oversight Committee, warned that unregulated biofuel production can result in environmental destruction, pollution, and human health damage.
“The oversight committee has to ensure that standards are set and enforced, on how the fuels are produced. Different biofuels have different levels of eco-friendliness. If we are smart, we should promote only the right biofuels,” she said.
Santiago said that the New York Times on-line of 15 January 2008, reported that the European Union has drafted a law banning importation of some biofuels from crops grown in forests, wetlands, or grasslands.
In the article “ Europe may ban importation of some biofuel crops,” James Kanter said: “But a flurry of studies has discredited some of the claims made by biofuel producers that the fuels have reduced greenhouse gases…Growing the crops and turning them into fuel can result in considerable environmental harm.”
The senator said that the environmental warning was based on published studies of reputable scientific groups, including: Royal Society, the British national science academy; New Energy Finance at London ; Friends of the Earth; Renewable Fuels Association in Washington ; Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Washington; and Europe ’s Energy Commissioner.
Santiago said her oversight committee will require biofuels to deliver a minimum level of greenhouse gas savings, with the minimum level to be determined by scientists, not politicians.
The senator listed the potential dangers of unchecked biofuels farming, as follows:
Tempts farmers to cut down tropical rainforests;
Uses tractors which consume diesel;
Demands nitrogen fertilizer made with natural gas;
Consumes huge amount of water;
Encourages farmers to convert grasslands, which need to be preserved, into cornland for ethanol production;
Encourages conversion of land to biofuel use although they contain high levels of biodiversity.
Santiago said the oversight committee will prioritize the design of a procedural mechanism that will allow government to track biofuel from origin to use, in order to ensure sustainable practices.
In another development on biofuels, Santiago as a constitutional law expert, warned Congress members to comply with the constitutional provision that: “They shall notify the House concerned of a potential conflict of interest that may arise from the filing of a proposed legislation of which they are authors.”
Santiago also warned Congress members to observe another constitutional provision prohibiting them from holding “any financial interest in any special privilege granted by government,” since the Biofuels Act grants fiscal incentives.
The senator said she is questioning whether certain Congress members might be violating the Anti-Graft Law, which makes it unlawful for any Congress member “to acquire or receive any personal pecuniary interest in any specific business enterprise which will be benefited by any law authored by him.”
Santiago , a former RTC judge, said the penalty for unlawful pecuniary interest is imprisonment from 6 to 15 years, and perpetual disqualification from office.
“If the Congress member hides his illegal interest behind a corporate structure or a dummy, then his criminal liability includes the added crimes of fraud, falsification of public document, and violation of the Anti-Dummy Law,” Santiago said.
Labels: Biofuels Law, Energy, environment, Miriam