Power Production: May Wheat be Burned as Fuel?

Power Production: May Wheat be Burned as Fuel?

Klaus Rösler - November 01, 2006

P r a g u e – May wheat be burned as fuel? Keith Jones (Prague), Rector of the International Baptist Theological Seminary (IBTS), believes this is ethically appropriate as an interim solution during the search for better forms of power production. IBTS is strongly interested in enviromental questions and repeatedly organises conferences offering a Christian perspective on matters of ecology. Jones responded to a question from the European Baptist Press Service (EBPS) that the issue of power production must be viewed from a global perspective:

“Wheat is similar in characteristic to many of the biomass fuels being used by environmentally-concerned people as a real alternative to non-renewable fossil fuels.” Yet it is not as environmentally-friendly as wind, solar, hydro electric and wave power. But wheat can play an important role in preserving stocks of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal.

According to Jones: “In Europe, where there is surplus production of food because of European Union agricultural policy, it can be judged ethically reasonable and appropriate

to use wheat and other renewable wood pulp and biomass fuels in place of fossil

fuels.” Those with ethical concerns in view of those parts of the world without sufficient food, need to remember two important factors. Jones states: “Firstly, the transportation of food from the First World to the Two-Thirds World inflicts its own environmental damage and is not simply a positive thing to do, except for emergency relief.“ Secondly, and more importantly: “We need to help the Two-Thirds World become self-sufficient in basic foodstuffs.” Jones notes that wheat is not a staple foodstuff in many parts of Asia and Africa. The wealthy nations could help farmers in the Two-Thirds World best by writing off their countries’ debt. These farmers could then turn to “growing locally-appropriate food for consumption by their own populations” rather than assisting their economies to pay debt interest by producing food for the international market. Jones adds: “Campaigns such as ‚Make Poverty History’ and the ‘Micah Challenge’ have these objectives.”

In a globalised world, Christians are called to “face interlinking themes of justice”: “We must cancel the debt of the 40 poorest nations.” In addition, we should encourage governments and power producers to move to renewable energy sources. In such a scenario, the use of biomass fuels and the burning of locally-produced wheat for an interim period is “a reasonable

ethical and environmental option". IBTS is run by European Baptist Federation (EBF).

These questions directed at IBTS result from an inner-church controversy in Germany. Friedrich Weber (Wolfenbüttel), Bishop of the Evangelical Church of Brunswick, had spoken out in favour of the burning of wheat if it involved surplus or low-quality supplies which needed to be kept out of the human food chain. Weber had noted that the market price for edible wheat had since 1999 dropped below the price paid for wheat as fuel. Yet Alfred Buss (Bielefeld), head of the Evangelical Church of Westphalia, rejects the usage of wheat for power production. “If we burn the symbol of bread, then we should not be surprised if people no longer care about anything.”