Biofuels and the Straw Man

September 3, 2013 |


Is this the most one-sided corporate assassination in the history of bioenergy — ActionAid’s hit job on Addax Biofuels?

We look at the ActionAid manifesto, and the 4200 words of correction (phew!).

As we have presented elsewhere in today’s Digest, technology continues to pour out of labs around the world delivering substantial yield enhancements, that call into question the entire premise of food vs fuels.

There’s another action underway. A protest in the EU designed to sway members of the European Parliament to limit the future of biofuels there. In this case, a “happening” from ActionAid, Friends of the Earth Europe, Greenpeace, and Oxfam — filling a car with people dressed in giant corn costumes to illustrate the premise of “food vs fuel”.

On one level, it’s laughable. The Straw Man premise that there can only be food, or fuel — but not both. You might as well begin with any of the following:

Marriage vs happiness.
Health vs fun.
Truth vs profit.
Work vs play.

But, unlike the above, this one is getting traction from those skilled in the art of framing the argument. With this in mind, ActionAid UK released a report this week focusing on the story of Addax Biofuels in Sierra Leone.

As Addax points out, it was not given the opportunity by Action Aid to review the serious allegations in its report ahead of publication, despite an open-door policy to NGOs and interested observers.

Today, Addax released a red-lined version of ActionAid UK’s Executive Summary with 4,242 words of correction. Here you can download it, free.

It added that its harvesting facts and figures for 2012 and plans for 2013 planting are publicly available and regularly announced in monthly village meetings.

Now — the corrections have not been subjected to review. They may be spurious, they may be 100% true. But let’s consider that any group that is offering 4,242worlds of corrections — virtually an assertion-by-assertion refutation — is more than likely to be getting shaft.

Read it for yourself. Some questions for consideration.

1.  Why, if ActionAid conducted these studies in 2013, are they quoting harvesting figures from 2010 and 2011?

All harvesting facts and figures for 2012 and plans for 2013 planting are publicly available and regularly announced in the monthly village meetings.
The 2012 data show a significant improvement due to Addax bioenergy Farmer Development Programme. This omission is a serious flaw in their narrative and poor science.

2. Why a very public land lease process that took place in 2009/2010, under lots of public scrutiny and international audit is now suddenly an issue for Actionaid, who did not participate in the one year long public and transparent disclosure of land lease documentation and ESHIA in 2009/2010?

3. Why the direct agreements the Company sign with landowners in the area (Acknowledgment Agreements including maps and direct payments to the landowners) are omitted from their analysis? (Addax maintains that the agreements with landowners point to free prior informed consent regarding the land lease.)


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