Food or Fuel?

If you read the news headlines at all, between the economy, housing crisis, and food issues, it’s all starting to sound like the Black horse of the Apocalypse.


But it’s this headline that I thought was a no-brainer even when this started:

When they started to grow corn for the sole purpose of fuel, and even though I am no rocket scientist, I saw that as trouble. Forgetting for a moment that not all environmentalists are even sure that growing corn for fuel doesn’t consume MORE energy in the long run, it just seemed unwise.

It’s one thing to use the wastes from corn for fuel, it’s quite another for it being the only purpose.

An estimated 30% of America’s corn crop now goes to fuel, not food.

“I don’t think anybody knows precisely how much ethanol contributes to the run-up in food prices, but the contribution is clearly substantial,” a professor of applied economics and law at the University of Minnesota, C. Ford Runge, said. A study by a Washington think tank, the International Food Policy Research Institute, indicated that between a quarter and a third of the recent hike in commodities prices is attributable to biofuels.

Last year, Mr. Runge and a colleague, Benjamin Senauer, wrote an article in Foreign Affairs, “How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor.”

“We were criticized for being alarmist at the time,” Mr. Runge said. “I think our views, looking back a year, were probably too conservative.”

“It takes around 400 pounds of corn to make 25 gallons of ethanol,” Mr. Senauer, also an applied economics professor at Minnesota, said.

Mr. Senauer said climate change advocates, such as Vice President Gore, need to distance themselves from ethanol to avoid tarnishing the effort against global warming. “Crop-based biofuels are not part of the solution. They, in fact, add to the problem. Whether Al Gore has caught up with that, somebody ought to ask him,” the professor said.

A Harvard professor of environmental studies who has advised Mr. Gore, Michael McElroy, warned in a November-December 2006 article in Harvard Magazine that “the production of ethanol from either corn or sugar cane presents a new dilemma: whether the feedstock should be devoted to food or fuel. With increasing use of corn and sugar cane for fuel, a rise in related food prices would seem inevitable.” The article, “The Ethanol Illusion” went so far as to praise Senator McCain for summing up the corn-ethanol energy initiative launched in the United States in 2003 as “highway robbery perpetrated on the American public by Congress.”

In Britain, some hunger-relief and environmental groups have turned sharply against biofuels. “Setting mandatory targets for biofuels before we are aware of their full impact is madness,” Philip Bloomer of Oxfam told the BBC.

The article goes on to discuss how in American stores like Walmart, Cosco, and other food warehouses, they are rationing rice. Still some other countries are having riots about the price and availability for rice.

Converting food to Biofuels is a “crime against humanity” so says UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler.

Ken puts it well:

Extreme environmentalism and global warming hysteria is now having real impact on global food supplies. The cost of food continue to rise in part because of the demand by environmentalists that we use crops and land to produce fuel instead of using our own oil resources. The price of corn and wheat has skyrocketed which have caused the price of livestock, milk, and eggs to rise as well. In the United States we subsidize farmers to grow corn for ethanol. Many farmers have stopped growing other crops to get on the ethanol gravy train which has caused shortages of wheat. It is now more profitable to use corn for fuel than it is to feed people.

More deaths, more poverty, less freedom and liberty are going to be the real effects of global warming, and not because of any rise in temperature but the rise of big government policies, wealth redistribution schemes like carbon offsets, and extreme regulations on every aspect of human behavior. There has never been a time in this country’s history that our freedom were at risk and the scary thing is that so many people are willing to give our hard fought liberties away over the biggest fraud in the history of mankind, that of global warming which is a crime against humanity indeed.


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3 Responses

  1. Rodney Olsen says:

    Great post.

    It’s a tragedy that we value the ‘freedom’ to drive where we want, when we want, more highly than the lives of those desperate for basic foods.

    Instead of seeing the environmental threat and reducing our consumption we somehow think that we can just ‘consume differently’ while others pay the ultimate price.

  2. miranda says:

    So I’m with you in theory, but it does make me wonder why farm fields are being sold left and right here in Wisconsin. Most of the time I remember corn being grown in those fields.
    Incidentally, the fields sold are usually turned into housing developments, even during this big housing crisis.
    What am I missing here? Is this just happening in Wisconsin?

  3. the Grit says:

    Hi Barb,

    Good post, although you’re running a bit behind the curve on this topic 😉 Fortunately, I’m happy to point out that the very reasonable backlash against our rush into biofuels has at least made Al Gore go hide in his lair for a bit! Also, it’s a marvelous example of why Government should keep its nose out of our business as much as possible 🙂

    Hi miranda,

    Keep in mind that our picture of the world is, mostly, a product of the major news media, who seem to have an agenda beyond the accurate reporting of facts. What they are not stressing in the case of the so called “home loan crisis” is that it’s only affecting the idiots among us, both those who borrowed more than they could hope to repay, and those who gave them the loans. Other than that, life goes on as usual. Cities expand as our population grows, and farmland becomes suburbs. These things will find a balance eventually, although it won’t be pretty 🙂

    the Grit

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