Thursday, April 10, 2008

Grain-Based biofuels Promote Hunger


The rush to reduce the western world's dependence on oil and reverse the most recent trend in global warming (the previous warming cycle took place between 110,000-125,000 years ago) by turning grain into fuel seems to be at least partially responsible for the big runup in grain prices on world markets.

As a result, food riots have broken out in countries that rely on grain imports and soon millions of people who are not already starving will join the many millions more who are.

On the American home front, many farmers are jumping at the opportunity to make some money by bringing marginal land under cultivation thereby increasing the potential for damage to river and lake systems due to increased runoff, while others are withdrawing fallow land from a federal conservation program designed to protect native population of plants and animals.

While I understand that the things that affect the price of grain are manifold and cannot be reduced to a single effect, I don't doubt for a nanosecond that grain-based biofuel production is probably at least as important as rising fossil fuel and fertilizer costs in driving up the cost of grain. I'm not fundamentally opposed to biofuels as an alternative to imported oil. But it seems crazy to be using food that could be used to feed people and livestock as transportation fuel.

My bottom line? I don't like grain-based biofuel.

9 comments:

Scotty said...

Amen, Brother. I'm not opposed to biofuels either, but food based ones don't seem to make sense either long or short term.

I am not an expert, but in observing the rise in food costs locally I would assume that increases in prices would be spread pretty evenly. But grain and corn (and related things like eggs and milk) seem to by rising faster in a way that looks like it's a separate phenomenon. Imported goods are getting a similar spike due to the decreased value of the dollar.

Just how it seems to me.

Scotty said...

I meant pretty even rises if only based on petroleum costs. Sorry.

Tags said...

How about oil pressed from algae gathered in the Gulf of Mexico dead zone caused by Smithfield Foods effluent?

Linda said...

A great article on the ubiquity of high fructose corn syrup in our food and the new love affair with ethanol can be found at Grist (http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2006/2/2/52324/18981). The economic burden always goes back to the taxpayers....

Scotty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scotty said...

Oh tags, you missed it by that much, and I missed the obvious answer - Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Feral Kids. Tina Turner in chain mail. A city powered by pig poop. It's not ethanol - it's methane!

I can smell it now!

Ulla said...

I agree! I have heard that filling up with ethanol a big SV only once, could feed a person for a whole year. It is immoral to waste food, when people starve. I did a blog entry yesterday about this.

Egaeus said...

So I guess it's good to have Celiac Disease these days?

I'm not a big biofuels fan myself. I don't think that we should be burning food and using cropland for fuel, especially since it's being grown unsustainably, which uses *up* the cropland. Biodiesel made from used cooking oil isn't bad, but believe it or not, there aren't enough McDonald's restaurants out there to completely replace gasoline.

Bob del Grosso said...

Egaeus
Say it isn't so! Not enough MacDonald's fryer oil to replace gasoline? F me.