Ethanol Industry Still Dodging Blame For Role In Global Food Crisis

Ethanol Gas Pump Photo

via UVM Transportation Center

In order to counter claims that ethanol production is a major cause of the global food crisis, the Renewable Fuels Association recently released a report called "Will the Plunge in Grain Prices Mean Lower Food Prices at the Supermarket?". John covered this story earlier in the year when he recognized that media reports were quick to blame ethanol without weighing other factors. On the other hand, Lloyd reported on a World Bank report that blames ethanol as a prime cause for the crisis.

The possible negative effects go beyond this year's food crisis. Below is some insight on ethanol production from two food system watchers, Wayne Roberts and Michael Pollan.In his recent book, The No-Nonsense Guide to World Food, Wayne Roberts takes a broader view of ethanol and corn.

Critics, including most environmentalists in Europe and North America, as well as the peasant organization Via Campesina, maintain that more fossil-fuel energy from fertilizers, pesticides and farm machinery goes into growing ethanol than comes out as fuel to drive cars.

When the debate about ethanol is linked to an analysis of the cheap food system, the friction generated by the ethanol debate comes across as displaced aggression. Whatever the problems with ethanol, wasting corn on ethanol (about 20 percent of the US crop) is no worse than most uses of corn. About half the corn crop is used for livestock feed, used to fatten animals quickly because they fatten too slowly when they enjoy a free-range life munching on the food they evolved to eat - grass.

In an NPR interview about his recent New York Times piece, Farmer in Chief, Michael Pollan also touched on ethanol production.

Between 20 and 30 percent of the corn we are growing is going to our cars. So, we're using a lot of perfectly good food to feed our cars right now. Using good agricultural land to feed our cars is a tremendous mistake. It is behind a lot of, between 30 and 40 percent, of the rise in food prices this year, is the fact that we have put such demand on the corn crop and the soy crop for biofuels.

It seems really green, you're taking a green plant and you're making a fuel out of it, but what did it take to get that green plant to that point? Well, it takes a half a gallon of oil to grow a bushel of corn. So you see that corn plant is already implicated in the fossil fuel economy and it takes about a gallon of fossil fuel to produce [1.2 gallons] of ethanol. You end up getting very little additional energy because it's such a fossil fuel intensive system. If you were using sustainably grown corn it might be a little bit different, but we're not. So, actually, ethanol makes little or no contribution to either saving energy or combating green house gases.

via NPR

via No Nonesense Guide To World Food
via Renewable Fuels Association
More on Ethanol and Biofuels
Ethanol: How the Fuel is Produced, Growing Corn and Other Feedstocks, and More
Ethanol Mandates: The Single Most Misguided Agricultural Program in Modern American History
More Bad News about Biofuels: Land-Use Concerns Nix Benefits
Corn Demand from Ethanol Distilleries Vastly Understated
Renewable Fuel Standards Waiver Request by Texas Governor Denied by Feds
5 Promising Biofuel Feedstocks Roundup

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