Thursday, April 24, 2008

Global warming, ethanol and food riots

Hysteria and panic...History has taught us that these two things often lead to suffering, and the current global warming hysteria is no different. Part of our "avert disaster" strategy includes diverting food crops into biofuels which has contributed to a growing global food shortage. Granted, there are many factors at play in this, but one can't ignore the fact that more biofuel means less food. It's a simple inverse relationship. Here is the latest commentary from Fox News' junk science expert, Steven Milloy:

Food riots caused by rising food prices have erupted around the world. Five people died in uprisings in Haiti, perhaps the first of many casualties to come from the fad of being "green."
Food riots also broke out in Egypt, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Ethiopia. The military is being deployed in Pakistan and Thailand to protect fields and warehouses. Higher energy costs and policies promoting the use of biofuels such as ethanol are being blamed.

"When millions of people are going hungry, it’s a crime against humanity that food should be diverted to biofuels," an Indian government official told the Wall Street Journal. Turkey’s finance minister labeled the use of biofuels as "appalling," according to the paper.

Biofuels have turned out to be a lose-lose-lose proposition. Once touted by the greens and the biofuel industry as being able to reduce the demand for oil and lower greenhouse gas emissions, biofuels have accomplished neither goal and have no prospect for accomplishing either in the foreseeable future.

The latest research shows that biofuels actually increase greenhouse gas emissions on a total lifecycle basis. Add in that taxpayer-subsidized diversion of food crops and food crop acreage to fuel production has contributed to higher food prices and reduced food supply, and biofuels turn out to be nothing less than a public policy disaster.

The situation is not likely to get any better any time soon, as cutting the farm subsidies and tariffs on sugar cane-based ethanol imports that have fueled the ethanol craze seems to be yet another third rail of U.S. politics. Biofuel proponents hope the reliance on food crops to produce biofuels is temporary, and they point to a future where non-food biomass (such as corn stalks and grasses) is used to produce so-called cellulosic ethanol. But in addition to the fact that the technology for producing cellulosic ethanol on a cost-effective basis is nowhere near ready for prime time, the greenhouse gas footprint of cellulosic ethanol likely will be far worse than that of corn-based ethanol.

It’s one thing to transport relatively compact corn kernels to be processed into ethanol; it’s quite another to transport bulky biomass. The bulk problem would require a multitude of cellulosic ethanol plants to be built around the country — a project that could be quite costly and difficult to locate given the phenomenon of NIMBY-ism and the problem of plant emissions making it more difficult for states to comply with federal air quality standards.....



Dan Trabue said...

I'm not sure how much the biofuels rise has to do with global warming. It has more to do with the reality of Peak Oil and the market responding to try to keep our cheap oil.

It's one of the problems with an unregulated market. Rich folk (ie, us) will do what they can to keep "their" cheap oil, even if it results in hunger and death.

No hysteria here. Just a very real problem: We've based the global economy largely on the premise of cheap oil. As that goes away, we are going to face some serious questions and problems.


On Earth Day, I bought a new car.

The good news is that, since my old car had been running for a good 6 months with the “Check engine” light on, I’m probably fouling the air less than I was the day before.

Anonymous said...


The comment you printed on biofuels was very lucid but I fail to discern the connection to global warming. Meanwhile, people are starting to hoard rice causing Costco and Sam's Club to limit rice purchases even though there is not shortage this country but there is one in other parts of the world.

My wife does the grocery shopping in our household except when she is abroad. She advised this morning after we both heard the TV news regarding rice that for the food we eat, our grocery bill had risen 25%. A 10 lb bag of potatoes she bought last week cost $3.50.

Yesterday I heard a piece on NPR about food assistance, like food banks, in PA. The figure cited was that 1 in 11 Pennsylvanians received some type of food assitance in the past 12 months, I think it was.

I for one, am starting to become concerned about both the rising cost of fuel and the rising cost of food.


Dan Trabue said...

And we're the ones who can afford it. Imagine spending 60-80% of your income on food!

Welcome to the third world.

Anonymous said...

To all and sudry on the issue of one particular biofuel.

I live in Colorado where a large part of the forests in the mountains are dominated by mature lodgepole pines. Unfortunately the forests are suffering from an infestation of pine bark beetles which kill lodgepole pines. Already these beetles have killed pines covering an area the size of the state of Delaware. Predictions are that w/in 3-5 years, all of the lodgepole pines in CO will be dead. Consider the wildfire danger of that scenario.

Today I heard about a company in Kremmling which is on the upper reaches of the Colorado River near Rocky Mountain National Park on the west side of the Divide that will turn dead lodepole pines into fuel pellets for domestic and commercial heating. Fuel pellets made from wood by products have been use for > 30 years in some parts of the U.S. but have yet to become popular in CO. I think they will be son.

When God sends you lemons...




To: Doctor John,

I'll post an informative piece re Global Warming on May 1st. reb


In the wake of cataclysmic natural world-wide disasters such as Tsunami, Cyclone, and Devastating Earthquake, it's always been the USA There First With Volunteer Medical Assistance; or a U.S. Aircraft Carrier's Well-manned Surgical Staff, or much-needed Emergency Power Supply.

In The Future, it might be reasonable to expect The O.P.E.C. Nations...To DONATE THE FUEL For These Humane Operations. reb