Friday, April 11, 2008

Burning Food

Sounds silly when I put it that way but how else can the biofuel industry be described? As an environmentalist I never liked the concept of converting corn into gasoline. From a purely energy concept it is wasteful. When you include fertilizers, tractors, combines, and processing, the conversion of corn to ethanol requires more energy than it creates. There is logic in small scale recycling projects that convert urban waste into fuel. Even if it is energy intensive it has the added benefit of turning waste into a useful product. But with a global population exceeding 6 billion growing food to burn is just stupid.

The biofuel industry has had a funny, or disastrous depending upon your sense of humor, side-effect. Starvation. Food riots have broken out in much of the third world. In Haiti people are slowly starving to death on a diet of dirt cookies. Food prices have climbed out of the reach of poor countries because international commodities speculators have bid up the price of food staples as fuel for wealthy countries.

The numbers are terrifying. One gallon of corn-based ethanol could feed a person for over two weeks. A twelve mile round trip to a fancy restaurant in your macho H2 Hummer deprives 40 children of an evening meal. A 15 gallon tankful of corn-based ethanol consumes more food than the average American eats in seven months.

Soylent Green Is People. Only in a reality more horrible than novelist Harry Harrison dreamt of Soylent Green is not people being turned into food it is people's food being turned into gasoline.

See Also: The biofuel hoax, Future Pundit, Truthout

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