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Climate Science: Roger Pielke Sr. Research Group

» Roger Pielke Sr. is now on Twitter!

» 2012 Climate Science Weblog in Review by Dallas Jean Staley – A Guest Post

» The Weblog Is Retiring

» Publication Of “Reply to “Comment On ‘Ocean Heat Content And Earth’s Radiation Imbalance. II. Relation To Climate Shifts’ ” by Nuccitelli Et Al. By Douglass and Knox 2012

» Q&A From A Group Of Retired NASA Personnel And Associates

» The Importance of Land Use/Land Practices On Climate – A Perspective From Jon Foley

» Interview With James Wynn In The English Department At Carnegie Mellon University

» University Of Alabama At Huntsville October 2012 Lower Tropospheric Temperature Analysis

» USA Election Day 2012

» New Paper “Climatic Variability Over Time Scales Spanning Nine Orders of Magnitude: Connecting Milankovitch Cycles With Hurst–Kolmogorov Dynamics” By Markonis And Koutsoyiannis

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» Schmidt’s Histogram Diagram Doesn’t Refute Christy

» Gavin Schmidt and Reference Period “Trickery”

» Objective Bayesian parameter estimation: Incorporating prior information

» Marvel et al.: GISS did omit land use forcing

» Bayesian parameter estimation: Radiocarbon dating re-examined

» Gerry Browning: In Memory of Professor Heinz Kreiss

» Disappearing the MWP at Icefields, Alberta

» New Light on Gulf of Alaska

» Marvel et al. – Gavin Schmidt admits key error but disputes everything else

» A Return to Polar Urals: Wilson et al 2016

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Global Warming News

» House Panel Asks McCarthy: How Is EPA’s Continuing Implementation of the Clean Power Plan Legal under the Stay?

» Carbon Dioxide Fertilization Greening Earth, Study Finds

» What Every Conservative in Congress Needs to Know about the Paris Agreement

» Paris Climate Agreement: What Should a Republican President Do?

» Carbon Capture and Storage: Adequately Demonstrated?

» Renewable Fuel Standard: Fact Checking RFA Chief Bob Dinneen

» Climate Bullies: Dems Ask S.E.C. to Target Shell

» Warren Buffett on Climate Change Risk

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» Will EPA Abide by the Stay?

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Ethanol, Today's Snake Oil, is Starving Poor Children
Admin, Wednesday 25 April 2007 - 22:43:10 // comment: 9 //     printer friendly   //     Font Size - Increase / Decrease / Reset

Ethanol won't solve our reliance on foreign fuels, nor will it help the environment. Now the reports are flowing in that the production of Ethanol using our food crops is driving up the price of food and causing shortages.No Longer Supported
America and Europe may be able to afford this silly experiment of running our cars off of ethanol. But the poor of the world can not. As we convert more of our agricultural crops to ethanol production the price of basic food products climbs. Already the poor in other countries are complaining about the high cost of corn and soy based products. The price of beef and pork have also started climbing as corn is often used as livestock feed, affecting the middle-class budget.

In America Ethanol production is highly subsidized. This allows ethanol to compete at the pump with fossil fuel based gasoline. This subsidizing has the direct affect of driving up the cost food, not only in America but around the globe. The price of corn has doubled in the past 10 years and continues to climb. When the price of food goes up the poor go hungry. Ethanol is expected to consume 26% of this years corn crop and 36% of the 2008 harvest. Corn farms are reaping huge gains from this new demand. On average farms can expect to make 10 times the profit per acre they made three years ago (see “The Great Corn Rush” linked below). No wonder corn farms are lobbying so hard for increased ethanol use.

In Latin America there are concerns that the new higher price available for corn crops is leading to the destruction of rainforests in favor of corn production. It is also leading to higher prices for other food products as farms switch from native crops to corn destined for ethanol production. Much of the corn is grown by large companies and gets exported, thus having little positive benefit to the local population. Tortilla prices have tripled or quadrupled in some parts of Mexico since last summer. In Mexico the tortilla is a main staple food and the price hikes have caused protests and near riots in several cites (“A Culinary and Cultural Staple in Crisis” below).

To make matters worse a lot of evidence shows that ethanol production actually uses more energy than it produces. Several studies have made this clear yet governments refused to listen. A Cornell University study showed that in terms of energy output compared with energy input for ethanol production, the study found that corn requires 29% more fossil energy than the fuel produced. "The United State desperately needs a liquid fuel replacement for oil in the near future," says Ecologist David Pimentel, "but producing ethanol or biodiesel from plant biomass is going down the wrong road, because you use more energy to produce these fuels than you get out from the combustion of these products." Pimentel also found that ethanol costs $2.24 a gallon to produce, compared with 63 cents for gasoline. The reason it currently costs less at the pump is the government is providing substantial subsidizes to farms and producers.

Ethanol fuel has also been shown to produce ozone. Ozone in the lower atmosphere is a known cause of respiratory problems and currently causes up to 4,700 deaths per year. Switching to Ethanol could cause up to 200 more deaths per year. See an earlier article published here title Switching from Gasoline to Ethanol Will Lead to More Pollution and Deaths.

Even the National Audubon Society is against ethanol fuel. “the reformulated-gasoline program has turned out to be a colossal failure, and the ethanol industry has transmogrified into a sacrosanct, pork-swilling behemoth that gets bigger and hungrier with each feeding. Ethanol dirties the air more than it cleans it. Its production requires vast plantings of corn, which wipe out fish and wildlife by destroying habitat and polluting air, soil, and water. Of all crops grown in the United States, corn demands the most massive fixes of herbicides, insecticides, and chemical fertilizers, while creating the most soil erosion.” -- Drunk on Ethanol by Ted Williams in the Audubon Society Magazine.

So why are we going down this road of drunken mass hysteria? Because the American public has been convinced that fossil fuels are bad and will destroy our planet. Corn is obviously good, we eat some form of it almost every day. So they believe the farmers and the ethanol industry when they say ethanol is the key to energy independence and saving the family farm. It feels good even if it makes absolutely no sense from either a financial or environmental standpoint. The ethanol hoax should be put to bed now, before it ends up costing consumers billions and starving people around the world.

References:
  • Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute - “FAPRI-UMC Report #06-07 The biofuel industry is transforming US agriculture. Rapid expansion of ethanol and biodiesel production has contributed to higher prices for corn, soybean oil, and a wide range of other agricultural commodities.
  • TheBeefSite – A New Zealand cattle ranchers trade magazine. “If this (ethanol) expansion continues it is likely that US beef supply will decline and meat protein prices will increase as input costs rise. A recent example of corn prices affecting food prices was in Mexico where the price for tortillas rose 25 per cent in a week. Increases in tortilla prices hurt millions of Mexican households because it is served with every meal. The rapid increase in prices meant the government had to act”
  • The Great Corn Gold Rush – by CNN / Fortune Magazine. “In the span of just eight months, the price of the U.S.'s most important crop - our biggest agricultural export as well as the staple feed for our livestock - has doubled from $2, about where it had been stuck since the late 1990s, to $4 a bushel.” “The feed costs of cattlemen and hog farmers have skyrocketed. Ethanol producers have seen their profits slashed. Food companies are being squeezed and are starting to pass along higher costs to consumers.” “the farmer who was making $27,000 raising 1,000 acres of corn in 2004 is in a position to earn $270,000 from 2007's crop” Any wonder the corn farmers lobby so hard for ethanol!
  • A Culinary and Cultural Staple in Crisis - Mexico Grapples With Soaring Prices for Corn -- and Tortillas by the Washington Post. “Mexico is in the grip of the worst tortilla crisis in its modern history. Dramatically rising international corn prices, spurred by demand for the grain-based fuel ethanol, have led to expensive tortillas. That, in turn, has led to lower sales for vendors such as Rosales and angry protests by consumers.”
  • Cornell ecologist's study finds that producing ethanol and biodiesel from corn and other crops is not worth the energy – Cornell University News Service.
  • Fostering the Tortilla Revolution – Intellectual Conservative. “Will the threat of rising corn prices be enough to force the liberalization of the Mexican oil market? How long can the government stand with tortilla riots? The Mexican government desperately needs the United States to scotch this initiative.”
  • Wall Street Journal - Ethanol Push Adds to Forces Lifting Food Costs



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