The Biofuels Deception: Going Hungry on the Green Carbon Diet

REVIEWS, 5 Nov 2018

Okbazghi Yohannes | Monthly Review – TRANSCEND Media Service

The Biofuels Deception: Going Hungry on the Green Carbon Diet by Okbazghi Yohannes; ISBN: 978-1-58367-702-5; October 2018; 344 pp.

There is by now no question among informed people that the Earth is undergoing severe climate change—soon to become catastrophic, if humans don’t take drastic measures to stop it. Heroically into the fray steps the biofuel industry, announcing to millions of anxious consumers that this eco-crisis can be averted if only they turn away from fossil fuels, to the saving power of synthetic bioproducts. But, although eliminating fossil fuels is essential, the manufacture of biofuels has far more to do with sating profit-hungry corporations than with saving the Earth.

Combining meticulous scientific narrative with devastating economic analysis, The Biofuels Deception argues that the seemingly innovative, hopeful campaign for “green energy” is actually driven by bio-technology industries and global grain-trading corporations. These corporate players are motivated by a late-capitalist need to cope with a crisis of accumulation; they have no real interest in mitigating climate change, alleviating poverty, or even creating “clean” energy. In fact, the manufacture of biochemical, bioplastics, and biomaterials, writes Okbazghi Yohannes, portends horrific contradictions and disastrous consequences for nature and society. Actually confronting climate change and the rampant inequality it engenders, Yohannes says, requires two steps. The first is to understand the driving socioeconomic forces behind the biofuels industry. The second is to unravel the tapestry of deceit itself. This book is a necessity for any scholar or environmental activist interested in seeing beyond corporate chimeras to actual environmental solutions.

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Okbazghi Yohannes catalogues, with precision and prescience, the harmful effects of the “Geoeconomics of Biofuels” production and global poverty. The Biofuels Deception—masterfully assembled, intellectually enriching, and skillfully narrated—defines the numbing side effects of cold sciences, mobilized for the capitalization of biofuels, which results in the retrenching of Third World poverty and “capital accumulation” for transnational conglomerates.

—Tseggai Isaac, Professor of Political Science, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla

This book provides a powerful challenge to the claims by the biofuel-biotechnology industrial complex and its corporate intellectuals that the production of biofuels enhances global security in food and energy and mitigates global climate change. It counters such a claim with rich empirical evidence that shows how the competition between the production of food and biofuels harms global food security, worsens poverty and the plight of the global poor and does little to reduce climate change. Beyond challenging the prevailing dominant vision, it advances the development of a counter epistemology of agro-ecology, which is a crucial precondition for advancing food and energy security and climate change reduction. It is an essential read for people interested in the relations between the production of biofuels and food and energy security, global poverty, and global warming.

—Kidane Mengisteab, Professor of African Studies and Political Science, Pennsylvania State University, University Park

Yohannes offers a comprehensive assessment of the complex social, political, and ecological relationships associated with biofuel development. From the Green Revolution to the Gene Revolution, from agrofuels to bioplastics, capital is systematically robbing the world, undermining environmental sustainability for the sake of private riches. The Biofuels Deception unmasks the corporate interests furthering the commercialization of nature, illuminating how agrofuel development contributes to food shortages, climate change, and soil and water degradation. It contributes to our understanding of the larger system and the planetary emergency that we must confront.

—Brett Clark, Associate Professor, University of Utah; author, The Tragedy of the Commodity and The Ecological Rift

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Okbazghi Yohannes is Political Science Professor Emeritus at University of Louisville in Louisville, KY, and author of Eritrea: A Pawn in World Politics.

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