Over the past several years, industrial-scale production of biofuels (liquid fuels derived from corn and other crops, such as palm, canola, and soy), has expanded at a phenomenal rate around the globe. Largely prompted by the dual crises of climate change and a dwindling oil supply, politicians in the European Union (EU), the United States, and other developed nations have legislated minimum requirements for biofuel use and have heavily subsidized the industry (Giampetro & Mayumi, 2009; Lynas, 2008). Broad consensus around the benefits of this alternative fuel source existed until 2008. Public opinion began to shift when dramatic increases in food prices led to rioting and social unrest in over thirty developing countries around the world (Tenenbaum, 2008, p. 256). Critics of the industry point not only to the impact on food commodity prices, but to evidence that biofuels actually increase fossil fuel use, and put additional stress on water and land resources needed for food production (Pimentel, et al., 2009, p. 9).
In her recent work, Conquest, author and activist Andrea Smith describes how environmental arguments are made to justify coercive population control measures against indigenous women. She names this process “the greening of hate” (Smith, 2006, p. 71). There are striking similarities between Smith’s argument and the ways in which biofuels are promoted as a viable alternative to fossil fuels. Industrial-scale biofuel production has devastating impacts on global health and equity. Environmental arguments are marshaled to support the industry’s expansion in spite of their harmful effects on food security and the environment. The burgeoning biofuels industry represents a “greening of greed”.