Monday, July 7, 2008

How well would you understand food if you were paid to know?

USDA Secretary of Agriculture Edward Schafer was wrong by more than 90% when he told a U.N. emergency food that biofuels were only responsible for 2-3% of the increase in food prices. According to the International Monetary Fund, the real figure is nearly 30%.

This is from a good fact sheet from the Organic Consumers Association on biofuels:


  • The amount of grain it takes to fill an average gas tank with ethanol would be enough to feed a person for a year.
  • If the US stopped growing food and converted its entire grain harvest into ethanol, it would satisfy less than 16% of its auto­motive needs.
  • The majority of US biofuels are produced from pesticide intensive genetically engineered crops (soy, corn).
  • Increasing portions of biofuels are now produced by mon­ocultures of soy and sugar cane in Latin America and palm oil in Indonesia and Malaysia, which have led to massive deforestation, the loss of invaluable biodiversity, and mas­sive outputs of Greenhouse Gases
  • Increasing fuel efficiency by just 3% would reduce US dependence on foreign oil more than all of the agrofuels combined, yet more than 500% more taxpayer money is spent on subsidizing ethanol than energy conservation, mass transit, solar, wind, and fuel-efficient technologies combined.
Are biofuels innately bad? No way! But why are we subsidizing big agribiz instead of developing non-food sources of biofuel production?

1 comment:

Bill Dusty said...

Ethanol was a well-intentioned idea that quickly went bad. Using a food source as a fuel source was ill-advised from the start, but this particular biofuel is nearing becoming a fiasco.

The strange thing is, no matter if you're liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, the vast majority of folks I've talked to, listened to, or read has pretty much had the same opinion: Ethanol is bad.

Not only does it hike food prices, but the fuel itself is bad for engines.

It's an idea that should just be junked so that we can move on with other ideas. But for some silly, frustrating reason (not wanting to admit a mistake? Too much money invested in it?) we just can't seem to rid ourselves of it.