Corporate Welfare

Fuel vs. Food or Fuel vs. Forests: Both Eco-Alarmists and Eco-Skeptics Are Worried About Ethanol From Corn

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On the left , perennial predictor of imminent global famine Lester Brown at the Earth Policy Institute warns "Exploding U.S. Grain Demand for Automotive Fuel Threatens World Food Security and Political Stability."  On the right, Dennis Avery at the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues is also worried about the food vs. fuel issue, noting in a recent report:

There are significant trade-offs, however, involved in the massive expansion of the production of corn and other crops for fuel.  Chief among these would be a shift of major amounts of the world's food supply to fuel use when significant elements of the human population remains ill-fed.

But that's not all:

Even without ethanol, the world is facing a clash between food and forests…. Ethanol mandates may force the local loss of many wildlife species, and perhaps trigger some species extinctions. Soil erosion will increase radically as large quantities of low-quality land are put into fuel crops on steep slopes and in drought-prone regions.

However, there is a telling difference between Brown and Avery. Brown wants more government mandates to "solve" the problem, specifically an automotive fuel efficiecy mandate. Avery, on the other hand, argues that "if markets are allowed to discover the winners and losers in future alternative energy sources without government intervention through subsidies and fuel mandates, and with a clear assessment of the trade-offs that may be involved."  As I've asked before, if ethanol makes such economic sense, why does it need federal subsidies or even worse, a California initiative to subsidize venture capitalists?

Disclosure: As far as I know, I own no stocks in any ethanol producing companies. But I do ocassionally drink immoderate amounts of ethanol in the form of Lagavulin.

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  1. I am opposed to ethanol derived from corn as it will drive up the price of my drinks. ;}

  2. Even without ethanol, the world is facing a clash between food and forests

    Bullshit. Modern ag technology has increased productivity enough so that vast tracts of former farmland in this country have reverted to a state of nature.

  3. This also ignores all the development going into creating new breeds of grass that can grow in otherwise unfarmable arid land, as well as being readily converted to ethanol and/or biodiesel.

  4. The problem of world hunger does not, and will not, come down to ‘too little corn’

  5. Haven’t you heard: ethanol is the answer to all our energy problems. Actually it’s the answer to all our problems. Using ethanol will lead us down the primrose path to a modern-day Utopia where there’s a chicken in every pot, two girls for every boy, where men are men, sheep are nervous, the children are all above average, every dog has his day, and life ain’t nothin’ but a funny, funny riddle…

    …at least that’s what they’re telling us here in North Dakota. And they wouldn’t lie to us…would they?

  6. “As I’ve asked before, if ethanol makes such economic sense, why does it need federal subsidies or even worse, a California initiative to subsidize venture capitalists?”

    by the implied logic, nothing should ever need subsidies. I don’t think that is true, and I don’t think that Ron believes that, although he’s free to correct me.

    ethanol MAY make economic sense when the technology is perfected. cellulosic ethanol is probably the way to go.

    any venture capitalists interested in my bio-hydrogen idea and want to fund my research, let me know.

  7. Ethanol–like wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal energy–has a place in the local energy mix…like the “I” states where it’s grown. It’s a local supplement, not a global replacement, to existing energy sources.

    Besides, what are all those beef cows going to eat? Feedlots, not parking lots, are the real competition for corn-based ethanol.

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