An Ugly Alternative
In Colombia, biofuels push inspires land grabs, violence
In case you need more evidence that biofuels are not the Big Green Conscience-Easing Solution: a disturbing pattern has emerged in Colombia, where vast palm-oil plantations are taking the place of tropical forests and farmland. Aid organizations working in the area say paramilitary gangs are seizing land for biofuel conglomerates, using threats and violence to evict rural residents. President Alvaro Uribe has pressed palm producers to more than double their acreage in the next four years, and concerned observers say his push has encouraged the illegal seizures. “The paramilitaries are not subtle when it comes to taking land,” says Dominic Nutt of Christian Aid. “They simply visit a community and tell landowners, ‘If you don’t sell to us, we will negotiate with your widow.'” Aren’t you glad we’re washing our hands of that other strife-ridden fuel? Alternative energy is on the docket at this week’s meeting of the Organization of American States in Panama City. So they’ll probably fix all this.