Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The ethanol fallacy

By Donald Sensing

My long-time readers know that I have opposed corn-produced ethanol from the beginning.

Now the analysts at Popular Mechanics add to the argument: "The Ethanol Fallacy: Op-Ed."

The idea is so appealing: We can reduce our dependence on oil—stop sending U.S. dollars to corrupt petro-dictators, stop spewing megatons of carbon into the atmos¬phere—by replacing it with clean, home-grown, all-American corn. It sounds too good to be true.

Sadly, it is.
Yep. The biggest problem?
It would take 450 pounds of corn to yield enough ethanol to fill the tank of an SUV. Producing enough ethanol [from corn] to replace America’s imported oil alone would require putting nearly 900 million acres under cultivation—or roughly 95 percent of the active farmland in the country. Once we’ve turned our farms into filling stations, where will the food come from?
A very good question. Here's the answer:
This week, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation will announce the lowest global food reserves in 25 years, threatening what it calls "a very serious crisis". Even when the price of food was low, 850 million people went hungry because they could not afford to buy it. With every increment in the price of flour or grain, several million more are pushed below the breadline.

The cost of rice has risen by 20% over the past year, maize by 50%, wheat by 100%. Biofuels aren't entirely to blame - by taking land out of food production they exacerbate the effects of bad harvests and rising demand - but almost all the major agencies are now warning against expansion. And almost all the major governments are ignoring them.
Get the irony? Global petroleum reserves are at an all-time high, while global food reserves are at one of their lowest levels in the modern era, yet we're reducing the amount of food we grow in order to use less oil. And it's not even working. Read the whole PM article.

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