• Jun 30th 2010 at 2:53PM
  • 45
Writing over at The Big Money, Dan Mitchell has coined a great new way for people who don't think corn-based ethanol is a good idea to express their dislike:
calling corn ethanol a superior alternative is like saying it's better to chew tobacco than it is to smoke cigarettes-marginally true, but beside the point, and disingenuous in the extreme.
Mitchell says that the ethanol industry is kind of at the end of its rope, "begging" lawmakers for more cash and a bigger mandate (true) "because there's still no natural market for their product."

In the wake of the Gulf oil spill, the ethanol industry saw an opportunity to promote its product and took action. For example, they put up signs that said, "No beaches have been closed due to ethanol spills." Well, if a cleaner environment is the standard, then there are better options than ethanol, too. As Mitchell points out, fertilizer run-off from the Midwest (used to grow the corn) has "been befouling the Gulf for years before the oil leak." So, they might want to be careful with that clean Gulf slogan.

[Source: The Big Money via Biofuels Digest | Image: Jan Tik - C.C. License 2.0]


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 45 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Human existence and movement necessarily has some impact on the environment; NOTHING is zero impact. Tobacco is a voluntary vice; it can be eliminated entirely from a lifestyle. But continued human existence and movement is non-optional for all but the most extreme fringe.

      So equating the damage to the body from alternative tobacco use with the impact on the environment from alternative fuel is disingenuous.

      The question a reasonable adult asks in evaluating a form of motive power is NOT, does it have zero impact, but rather, is it an overall improvement over the status quo, and over rival alternatives?
        • 8 Months Ago
        For more than a decade, all cars in Brazil run on at least E85. Producing all its ethanol from sugar cane with surplus for export, Brazil is proof that ethanol as motor fuel is viable. GM and Ford manufacture cars in Brazil that run on Brazilian ethanol. In Brazil, there is little public controversy about ethanol as motor fuel whereas in US, the public engages in hyperbole about the pollution, efficiency, and ethics of ethanol.

        The difference in public acceptance of ethanol as a motor fuel lies in state ownership of oil in Brazil whereas in US, it is private enterprise. To protect their investment, US oil companies have issue propaganda against the use of ethanol as motor fuel. In Brazil, private enterprises involved in sugar cane-to-ethanol production issue their own propaganda to encourage the use of ethanol rather than gasoline.

        Corn ethanol in the US has been much malign as the cause the water pollution, higher food prices, food shortage, starvation in third world, and even global warming. If such allegations were true, Brazilians should have had several revolutions or been dead years ago.

        • 8 Months Ago
        jeffzekas said, "i would say corn ethanol is more like "medical" marijuana: it is given as an alternative to real solutions, but, in the end, it is just flim flam."

        I agree with what you said above and would add, just like 99% of all pharmaceutical drugs, they do little or nothing to cure the problem but instead make the symptoms more bearable and in so doing sell much more of their product.


        chinb96629, you compare sugar can waste to corn for fuel but many more things are made out of corn than sugar. Yes even many substitute for sugar can be made out of corn. Corn is in everything we eat. When the price goes up it goes up for a whole lot more products than sugar. Subsidies put the Mexican corn farmers out of business.

        • 8 Months Ago
        For the recond, E.J., I meet none of the criteria in your last paragraph, and have no other personal stake in corn or any other alcohol fuel.

        The fact is, you're wrong. Plenty of people support alcohol, ethanol, and corn ethanol, for good reasons.
        • 8 Months Ago
        "The fact is, you're wrong. Plenty of people support alcohol, ethanol, and corn ethanol, for good reasons".

        Lots of people, including me, support alcohol and ethanol from sustainable biomass sources. You keep trying to lump in corn like it's just as viable, and makes just as much sense, when it's completely irrational. Once you remove agribusiness and corn farmers votes, no, 'lots of people' don't support corn.

        When you read all the reports showing switchgrass to outperform corn as a biomass without pesticides and herbicides, by 2x to 3x, how could any rational person choose corn? Much less choose to have tax payers help subsidize the production of that corn?

        The only people who support corn ethanol are people who have a vested interest in the artificially subsidized corn economy.
        • 8 Months Ago
        I would call it highly ingenious. We should not be burning food for fuel...PERIOD. I could see if gas was $30 a gallon, and the rich were hording gallon barrels in their closet, but we're not at that point. Burning food for fuel should be at the bottom of barrel, after everything has been tried and failed. It is the epitome of "disaster capitalism", social reckless under the guise of addressing a problem (and failing at it) while the real motive is to raise food prices (profits), corn profits (more profits), and present something that is HIGHLY UNSUSTAINABLE as a viable solution and alternative to oil.
        • 8 Months Ago
        "So equating the damage to the body from alternative tobacco use with the impact on the environment from alternative fuel is disingenuous."

        What's disingenuous is shifting the focus from corn based bio-fuels to 'alternative fuel'. Nobody's saying biomass produced ethanol isn't a good idea, they're saying corn based ethanol is a bad idea. Corn is just about the most inefficient crop for a biomass you could chose.

        "The question a reasonable adult asks in evaluating a form of motive power is NOT, does it have zero impact, but rather, is it an overall improvement over the status quo, and over rival alternatives?"

        Well if a reasonable adult asks this question, they're then likely, as a reasonable adult, to ask what's the best crop to grow for an ethanol biomass? After a little Google research, they'll realize corn is just about the last crop they, as a reasonable adult, would pick.

        Brazil didn't develop an energy independent sustainable biofuel economy using corn.

        Of course Monsanto doesn't have any patented Roundup Ready Cane seeds, so we'll just have to keep hearing about corn based ethanol for a while.

        But what's truly disingenuous is a shill for agribusiness pretending to be a regular guy interested in green cars.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Try looking at corn ethanol without the subsidies...it doesn't make sense.
        • 8 Months Ago
        "Sigh. Just THINK about this. If that were true, corn ethanol wouldn't be even in the ballpark of being being commercially viable so that its modest subsidy could take it over the top, and other ethanol crops would be beating it hands down. The reason they're all "experimental", require massive research budgets, and need clever marketing via shiny names falsely implying futuristic status like "second and third generation biofuels" is because they're the ones that are take up far more resources (read: dollars and time) to make."

        I don't have to think about it, there's no shortage of people who already have, and no shortage of research from multiple independent sources showing it to be the case. Plain old switchgrass outperforms corn by a factor of 3x. Without any patented seeds, without the need for pesticides, and without the need for herbicides.

        We shouldn't be subsidizing corn for anything, especially not ethanol.

        The only people who think corn is a good biomass source for ethanol production are people who sell patented seeds and support chemicals, or get subsidies to grow it.
        • 8 Months Ago
        E. J. said, "Nobody's saying biomass produced ethanol isn't a good idea, they're saying corn based ethanol is a bad idea."

        E. J., if we weren't using corn for ethanol, rest assured that the same unholy alliance of the oil cartel, Luddites, anti-human Malthusians, anti-agriculture quacks, and the rest would be spreading FUD about and hysterically denouncing whatever other crop we'd be using in its place. Look at what's being done to the Brazilian sugarcane you're so fond of.

        "Corn is just about the most inefficient crop for a biomass you could chose."

        Sigh. Just THINK about this. If that were true, corn ethanol wouldn't be even in the ballpark of being being commercially viable so that its modest subsidy could take it over the top, and other ethanol crops would be beating it hands down. The reason they're all "experimental", require massive research budgets, and need clever marketing via shiny names falsely implying futuristic status like "second and third generation biofuels" is because they're the ones that are take up far more resources (read: dollars and time) to make.

        "Brazil didn't develop an energy independent sustainable biofuel economy using corn. Of course Monsanto doesn't have any patented Roundup Ready Cane seeds, so we'll just have to keep hearing about corn based ethanol for a while."

        The disinformation campaign conducted against Brazilian sugarcane is almost as intensive as the one being conducted against American corn. The climate and soil in Brazil are congenial for sugarcane and that in most of the US heartland is congenial for corn.

        "But what's truly disingenuous is a shill for agribusiness pretending to be a regular guy interested in green cars."

        I'm not a shill for them, but maybe I should apply for a grant. :P

        Look, I have my differences with the corn lobby.

        First, I think their strategy is foolish. They're squandering their limited political capital pushing E15, risking a sweeping anti-ethanol backlash from people that might otherwise have been supportive or indifferent but who fear (largely groundlessly) that their cars will be damaged and who resent being force-fed. It would be far smarter, not just for the country and world as a whole but the corn sector specifically, to advocate that all new cars be fully flex fueled; nobody minds being given a choice, new options. But their lobbyists and consultants are incompetent.

        Second, I favor dropping our tariffs on cheap foreign ethanol; once we are on an alcohol standard, our farmers will have all the business they can handle and then some. I want that "and then some" to go to poor tropical farmers rather than just cause OPEC-style superprofits from artificial scarcity.

        Third, I favor a big push for methanol as part of a one-two punch, methanol and ethanol, teaming up to take down the oil cartel. The first flex fuel cars were methanol/gasoline, but after that generation of engineers and environmentalists died or retired in the 80s and 90s, that torch was dropped and the corn lobby moved in and shifted the
        momentum to ethanol. There's still some anti-methanol FUD rattling around ("it's toxic! it's corrosive!"), and I suspect the corn guys may not be entirely guiltless in that regard.

        I have no beef against corn ethanol, and I think it deserves to be defended against its strange-bedfellows array of enemies and the truckload of falsehood that gets dumped on it from various sinister elements, but I'm not a shill for them.

        I'm just a space nerd, a fan of Mars exploration advocate Dr. Robert Zubrin, who read his book "Energy Victory" and fell into this whole new world of green car advocacy. I also recommend "Turning Oil Into Salt" by Gal Luft and Anne Korin, and "The Methanol Economy" by Dr. George Orlah et al.
        • 8 Months Ago
        i would say corn ethanol is more like "medical" marijuana: it is given as an alternative to real solutions, but, in the end, it is just flim flam.
        • 8 Months Ago
        mapoftazifosho, corn ethanol's subsidies are about 50 cents a gallon, roughly offsetting the tariffs on cheap foreign ethanol. Overall we spend about $10 billion a year on them out of more than 3,000 billion (or 3 trillion) dollars in our annual budget, and $600 billion taken out of our economy by OPEC. Overall, they are a non-issue, and the amount of whining about them is ludicrously excessive.

        The real barrier to ethanol breaking through in the market is not some insanely high inherent price that only massive subsidies can overcome, but rather the simple fact that cars can't use it.

        Since it costs only $130 per car for automakers to add full "flex fuel" capability to gasoline cars - that is, compatibility with ethanol, methanol, and other alcohol fuels, we should just make it a required standard that new cars from now on be flex fueled.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Some of that oil spilled in the Gulf was certainly destined to become diesel for tractors growing ethanol and pesticides to grow ethanol.

      I'd like to see a farm that runs on tractors powered by ethanol that they grow. And no oil-based pesticides either.


      BTW, cut tariffs on imported ethanol grow from sugar cane . . . that is ethanol that actually makes sense.
      • 8 Months Ago
      as many posters have stated, corn is one of the worst choices... it should be noted that this is inefficient on many levels, not just energy converted (there are better bio choices), but also in density (that is m^2 used of land area). A quick calculation would show there isn't enough land area - anywhere - to make this a scalable solution or interesting in any way.

      If only we could make fuel the soylent green method - Polo, you might be on to something there, I wonder if we can add a few posters on this site to the list...
      [the latter was a joke, albeit all jokes have at least a seed of truth in them...]
        • 8 Months Ago
        solas, ethanol alone can't do it, but together with methanol it can. Methanol can be made from any biomass without exception. Today, with no further research.

        If you really want to use dead bodies to make methanol, there's nothing in chemistry to stop you, but I think you'd have a big marketing problem.
        • 8 Months Ago
        [the latter was a joke, albeit all jokes have at least a seed of truth in them...]

        You just pulled a White Goodman from Dodgeball...

        "The hippies finally got something right! Ha-ha! Just kidding. But not really."
      • 5 Years Ago
      That sounds like a problem with corn farming in general. By that logic, all of our food supply is as polluting as corn ethanol. Why single that industry out?

      I'd rather pay ethanol subsidies than pay the cost to import more oil (even if only incrementally). That doesn't make much sense either.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "No beaches have been closed due to ethanol spills."

      As if corn ethanol somehow lessens our need for oil. Corn ethanol requires as much in petroleum inputs as gasoline it displaces. Corn ethanol is not a solution to oil dependence, it's basically a bait-and-switch tactic that benefits big agri-business. To paint oil as the bad guy when your industry is totally dependent on petroleum inputs just shows how corn ethanol is a smokescreen.
        • 8 Months Ago
        polo, I'm not a shill. I'm a real person.

        Read "Energy Victory" by Robert Zubrin and read his other articles, and you'll come around if you have an open mind.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Well every corporate cause needs its shill, and it looks like now we all know why carney comes around.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Matt, the only voices claiming an even or negative energy balance for ethanol are Patzek d Pimentel.

        Patzek is a former Shell executive. And Pimentel is an entomologist, not a chemical engineer or agriculture expert. Like Noam Chomsky, Pimentel is best known for radical writings outside his actual field of expertise. He advocates government efforts to slash the number of people by two-thirds, and the US standard of living by half. He is against all modern agriculture that has saved billions from starvation, and even denounces pet ownership, calling dogs and cats "invasive species" to North America. He claims that up to 40% of all deaths come from chemicals. In short, he is a Malthusian quack.

        Both are isolated, and repeatedly refuted, in the refereed literature.

        Look at this chart - no other modern-day writer on ethanol shares their conclusions about ethanol's energy balance:
        http://www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc/pdfs/43835.pdf (page 4).

        Not only that, they have had the humiliation of their methodology being publicly corrected:
        http://www1.eere.energy.gov/biomass/pdfs/brief_comparison_pimentel_patzek.pdf

        Pimentel's "greatest hit" paper in 2001 was swiftly crushed in 2002 by someone who actually knows the topic, MSU chemical engineering professor Bruce Dale, who exposed fatal flaw after fatal flaw in Pimentel's agenda-driven hackery:

        -Pimentel's corn yields dated from 1992 (and are thus underestimated)

        -Pimentel's figures for energy required to produce ethanol and the ethanol yield dated from 1979, and his figures for energy to produce fertilizer are 1990 world values per the UN - not recent US values (and thus grossly underestimated).

        -Pimentel assumes all corn is irrigated (only 16 percent is, and virtually no irrigated corn is converted to ethanol). FAIL, since Pimentel assigned huge energy costs for ethanol crop irrigation.

        -Pimentel fails to assign any energy credit for the high protein animal feed produced as a by-product of ethanol production.

        The Dale study showed that not only was the energy balance for producing ethanol significantly positive, but the much more relevant metric of the amount of liquid fuel produced vs. expended was enormously favorable - at least six gallons to one, later revised with better data to TWENTY to one. A later study published in Science (you may have heard of it, somewhat influential) heart-staked the Pimentel study corpse yet again by showing the petroleum expended vs. ethanol gained ratio at more than ten to one.

        The Dale study HAS been widely cited in professional literature, but oil-funded think tanks ignore it and spam out Pimentel's ideas into the public debate, doing great damage to the truth, the environment, our economy, and our national security.

        Don't feel too bad - you're just the latest in a long line of the bamboozled.
      • 8 Months Ago
      If corn alcohol is truly like chewing tobacco then bring it on. Horrible analogy if one compares the health risk (and dollars spent) treating the consequences of chewing vs. smoking tobacco. Taken at true face value then corn alcohol must save billions of dollars vs. the alternatives. While I agree with the take on ethanol, hard to take the argument seriously with such a poorly designed analogy.
      Level4
      • 5 Years Ago
      The sooner they come up with a way to efficiently make Hydrogen Energy/Fuel the better it will be and all this nonsense oil dependency/ethanol/EV's smack talk can end...
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Level4
        That will never happen. EVER. No amount of research will change hydrogen's basic properties, which make it totally impractical.

        http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-hydrogen-hoax
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Level4
        Making hydrogen (syngas) is one of the first steps in making ethanol from biomass.

        Carney doesn't ever admit that if you're making ethanol, you've already made H2.

        Alcohols fuels are a stepping stone to a hydrogen economy.
        Level4
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Level4
        and the smack talk continues.....
      • 5 Years Ago
      And natural gas is like filter cigarettes. It is still releasing millions of years of cached carbon into the atmosphere at a slightly lower rate, perhaps, but ultimately deadly nonetheless.

      The whole positive ethanol argument hinges on the fact that it is just recirculating the current carbon load on the planet, avoiding the cached fossil carbon. The problem is that there is already too much carbon dioxide in the environment now and the current environmental warming will continue at the current rate even if we switched to 100 percent ethanol tomorrow. We have to reduce the carbon dioxide load in the environment. Ethanol will not do that. Unfortunately there is not enough land and fresh water on the earth to replace fossil fuels with ethanol. The petrochemical pesticide and fertilizer load for agriculture on that scale will be an environmental disaster, not to mention the destabilization of a world in which the rich nations dump modified foodstuffs into their SUVs while people die of starvation elsewhere.

      Ethanol is just another in a long line of taxpayer funded subsidies for giant corn agribusiness.
        • 8 Months Ago
        "The petrochemical pesticide and fertilizer load for agriculture on that scale will be an environmental disaster,"

        It already is, but hardly known and rarely talked about. There's an entire dead zone in the gulf from current agro-residue runoff.
        • 8 Months Ago
        We can radically expand ethanol production; most of the world ag sector is wildly inefficient, and more than half of US cropland is not cultivated - we even pay farmers not to farm! - and young adults leave rural areas because demand is rising slower than productivity. Also, methanol fuel can be made from inedible biomass such as weeds, trash, sewage, and crop residues (like the corncobs, stems, and leaves from ethanol corn farms, multiplying per-acre alcohol fuel yields).

        Alcohol does not by itself "solve" the carbon dioxide problem but it's a major improvement over gasoline. It buys us time while we expand nuclear power at coal's expense and electric cars improve.

        And it has immediate environmental benefits on more pressing pollution problems such as smog, which today kills 40,000 Americans a year (and a million in China), acid rain, oil spills, etc.
      • 8 Months Ago
      A government that pays farmers not to grow food and people to sit at home and watch television will never kick Archer Daniels Midland off welfare.
      • 5 Years Ago
      +100 on the comment about fertilizer and pesticide runoff into the Gulf.
      • 5 Years Ago
      There are those who peddle the nostrum that the Earth is very Fragile, and that Man is a scourge upon the Earth. They would have you beleive that that it would be better if Mankind went extinct.

      ubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale, true liberals, use to say the measure of a civilization is how it treats its helpless ones, its infants and its infirm elderly. These people have no problem; they advocate murder. Only they rename it Abortion and Eugenically based medicinal untreatment, euthanasia, or "dignified death" .

      But curiously, they never act on their own advice. I never see any one of them comitting hari-kiri, in a noble attempt to improve the Earth, by removing themselves Such actions is what they advocate for other people.
      No, they seem to have a universal prescription for whatever we do. Stop it! ... and give your money to them.

      Curiously, they never answer the queries of how giving money to them improves anything. They just restate that it does.

      In this case synthetic manufactured alohol fuel is now approaching 15% of our current demand, displacing carbon recycled from the depths. First they said that some CO2 molecules are more virtuous, and more green than others, but when tha tnostrum became totally laughable, they condemned ethanols en toto. Because they consider it wrong to do anything, that is not ideal and perfect. Of course nothing is perfect, except ...giving them money.
        • 8 Months Ago
        It's not a matter of which CO2 molecules are more virtuous, it's a matter of where the carbon comes from.

        Was it sequestered deep underground forever (in human terms), away from the atmosphere, away from being able to affect the climate, until we dug or drilled it up, burned it into the air, and thus added NEW additional greenhouse gas that would not have been in the air ever in human history without our intervention?

        or

        Was it already part of the biosphere and carbon cycle, part of the current climate system, and would have returned to the atmosphere on its own regardless of our actions?

        That's the difference.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Actually corn ethanol is like famine-for-profit. It causes global food prices to rise above the cost many poor families can afford. Thats the EU has banned US ethanol. Thats why when ethanol production rose in the US a couple years back people in other countries (including Haiti) were reduced to eating "mud cakes" (literally what they sound like).

      I have a solution. Why don't we grind up the bodies of all the corporate execs, market speculators, and bankers who caused the financial crisis, ferment the resulting fleshy pulp into a fuel, and provide it free to heat poor households. I call that social justice in action.
        • 8 Months Ago
        "blaming high rice harvests on ethanol"

        I meant high rice PRICES.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Carney, just because you don't consider the UN a "trustworthy body" doesn't discredit the report. Unless you can demonstrate sourced facts specifically refuting the reports findings you're up sh1t creek. I don't consider 5 paragraphs of opinionated nonsense a credible response to sourced facts. Stop wasting everyone's time mashing your fingers on the keyboard. We're not even going to read it if thats all your going to do.
        • 8 Months Ago
        polo, the UN is far from what I'd consider an authoritative or trustworthy body. Many of its member states are oil tyrannies, who derive their entire revenue from oil. As I said before, you are echoing the oil cartel's propaganda. Hugo Chavez rants about ethanol all the time.

        The reality is that skyrocketing fuel prices, engineered by OPEC, led to higher prices for all products and commodities, including fuel. The price of energy is a far higher portion of the price of a box of corn flakes than the corn itself. Oil cartel echoes were even blaming high rice harvests on ethanol, when no ethanol is made from rice (although it could be), and Australia and other places had experienced significant drought that drastically reduced the worldwide rice harvest (and rice is a staple of the Haitian diet).

        You claimed that ethanol causes higher food prices. I pointed out that hunger is not caused by inadequate food supplies and my point directly refuted yours, regardless of how annoying you may find that to be. The meme that ethanol causes higher food prices is directly and necessarily dependent on the notion that there's only so much food, usually not enough, around, and that by somehow reducing food production, ethanol production reduces the food supply still further, increasing food prices in the face of constant or rising demand.

        Such zero-sum games are true for the petroleum industry (which sponsors and spreads this lie via oil-funded think tanks, and even high priced DC PR firms such as the one hired by the UAE), because OPEC controls 78% of world oil reserves and can make prices spike by reducing production.

        But they are not true for the world agricultural sector, where there is a huge slack production capacity. Furthermore, as I pointed out, hunger is caused by other factors.

        Kenya, for instance, has a population 50% greater than Saudi Arabia's but earns one-SIXTIETH of Saudi Arabia's foreign exchange earnings, much of which it then has to turn around to to spend on artificially expensive oil. If you're a tropical farmer or fisherman needing fuel for his tractor or fishing boat, or fertilizer, or to pay a trucker a fee to take your product to market before it spoils, OPEC raising the price of oil from $10 a barrel in 1999 to $140 a barrel in 2008 is catastrophic. And Kenya is no basket case - it's not even one of the 50 poorest countries. The impact of OPEC's brutally regressive tax on the world's poor is near-genocidal, which makes men like Chavez a mortal enemy of the hungry.

        It's a shame that so many pundits, pontificators, politicians, and others are either dupes or tools of OPEC.
        • 8 Months Ago
        -polo, you're parroting oil cartel propaganda.

        Idiotic nonsense. The oil cartels want nothing more (well maybe hydrogen) than biofuels to be considered as the most practical alternative to oil, because it is completely and utterly unsustainable and in the end their business model will remain dominant and unchallenged.

        -Hunger does not come from inadequate supplies of food.

        Nice. Drum up a lame straw man and then throw in a few paragraphs of hyperbole that have absolutely nothing to do with what you're responding to. It doesn't really matter that I explicitly said "It causes *global food prices to rise* above the cost many poor families can afford". Notice I said GLOBAL FOOD PRICES, nothing about "inadequate supplies of food. Corn ethanol contributes to HIGHER FOOD PRICES, resulting in hunger in many impoverished countries. This has been thoroughly documented and reported.

        The U.N. says the exact same thing:

        Global food crisis: biofuels threaten hunger
        Saturday, April 19, 2008 - 10:00
        By Barry Healy & Stuart Munckton

        A food crisis, caused largely by skyrocketing prices, has hit dozens of countries across the Third World, while an April 14 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) argues that increasing production of "agrofuels" (the large-scale production of biofuels, using food crops to create fuels such as ethanol) further threatens the world's poor with hunger.

        An Asia-wide shortage of rice — the region's staple food — has emerged in recent months. The Oryza rice industry website reports a World Bank estimate that around 33 countries face potential social unrest because of rising food and energy prices.

        Two of the top three exporters, India and Vietnam, have stopped selling abroad in order to secure their domestic food supply. The world's largest producer, China, needs its 123 million tonnes for its own population. Now, worrying strains are appearing in Thailand, the remaining major exporter.

        Record prices

        Prices on the global rice market have exploded. Thai rice was selling at US$780-$800 a ton on April 4, up from $100 not long ago. But Oryza stated that most exporters in Thailand were no longer offering supplies because they may fail to meet their commitments.

        ABC Radio National reported on April 7 that the price
        of the low quality subsidised rice sold to the poor in Bangladesh has risen dramatically over recent months. Low income Bangladeshi workers are spending most of their pay on rice and eating only twice a day.

        On the same day, the German JungeWelt newspaper reported that
        conflicting pressures are neutralising the benefits rising prices deliver to Thai farmers. For example, fertilizer prices have shot up 400%.

        Also, accumulated debts from previous poor harvests eat into returns and new sowing requires loans at high interest rates.

        Thai farmers now have to guard their fields against thieves. Thai news media are reporting many farmers in tears, showing their fields stripped bare in the night.

        Some Thai farmers are pushing their production past sustainable limits. Instead of leaving their soil to recover after the harvest they are immediately sowing a fresh crop.

        The Bangkok government has responded to the record high prices by supplying five kilogram packets of rice about 30% cheaper for the poor. However, rice mill owners are rumoured to be hoarding stocks to take advantage of future high prices.

        There are all the signs of a major cost explosion in the near future, threatening massive suffering across all of Asia.
        http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/39360

        The Haiti story:

        Haitians Eat Dirt, Cars Eat Corn Redux
        Posted on: January 26, 2010 9:31 AM, by Sharon Astyk

        A couple of years ago, I wrote a post with the above title, about the way that biofuel and meat production in the US was pushing up world food prices. I observed, as has been documented in any number of studies, that when the world's poorest people and the world's richest people's vehicles (or their pets, to their appetite for grain fed meat) compete for food, the cars, pets and rich folk always eat first - the rich come to the table once for their share of staple grains, then three of or four more times for more grains in the form of meat. We then come to the table again for a share for meat for our pets, and now two or three more times for a share for grain for our cars. Only after we have sated ourselves on meat, our pets have done the same and our cars have sated themselves on biofuels do the world's poor get to come and eat a little grain. Or if the grain is gone, or its price risen out of reach, they fill their bellie
        • 8 Months Ago
        polo, you're parroting oil cartel propaganda.

        Hunger does not come from inadequate supplies of food. The US and EU flood the world with a cornucopia - with unsold food rotting, governments buying up and warehousing food to prop up farms, paying farmers NOT to farm to prevent the situation worsening, etc. Third World farmers complain bitterly of being undercut by food aid and by dumped, subsidized, mass-produced produce.

        Hunger REALLY comes from violent conflict, heavy repression, or gross mismanagement that keeps the food out, or that causes or worsens extreme poverty. Ethanol can help with many of these things.

        By de-funding sources of violence-exporting and tyranny-propping extremism such as the Mideast and Venezuela, it helps produce a more peaceful, less repressive world. By dramatically increasing demand for ag produce, it creates more demand than US and EU farmers can meet, allowing rich nations to drop their tariffs walling out cheap tropical produce. This opens up our lucrative markets to poor farmers, letting them abandon subsistence farming or inefficient methods and efficiently grow cash crops, earn hard currency, and enter modernity. By diverting rich nations' massive fuel import spending from oil cartel tyrannies to peaceful tropical farmers, it helps with economic development- the US foreign oil outlay in 2008 was $600 billion, ten times the TOTAL world foreign aid budget of $60 - including US, UN, EU, Catholic Church, Oxfam, etc.

        That's how you beat hunger.
    • Load More Comments
    Share This Photo X