Saturday, October 25, 2008

Food Not Fuel

Despite the unsettled science on global warming cooling, um, climate change, the rush to biofuels has continued- exacerbated in many cases by government subsidies. Using a food product for fuel has led inevitably to a rise in food prices, a rise that has affected the poorest most strongly.

The price of the flat corn bread, the main source of calories for many poor Mexicans, recently rose by over 400%.

And now we have a report on the impact of biofuel- and the outlook is not good-

With many developing nations experiencing deep shocks and citizen unrest due to rising food and fuel prices, plenaries and breakout sessions during the Program of Seminars addressed causes, effects and solutions.

Commitments by members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to reduce carbon emissions through alternative fuels development, while well meaning, have exacerbated the global food crisis and contributed to world-wide water shortages, said Nestle chief executive Peter Brabeck-Letmathe.

The resulting drop in agricultural productivity has led to price increases, he said. “Water scarcity will be the most constraining element,” to additional production, he predicted. Replacing fuel with biofuel is “a very, very bad idea.”

Replacing even 6 percent of total fuel usage with biofuel would require doubling agricultural production to maintain current output. “Where are you going to get the land and the water for this? This is irresponsible policy,” Brabeck-Letmathe said. If the US alone would reverse its policy to replace fuel with biofuels, food prices would stabilize, he stated.

Obama is, of course, a big proponent of biofuels, supporting subsidies for its production.

he has powerful constituencies that help shape his views. And when it comes to domestic ethanol, almost all of which is made from corn, he also has advisers and prominent supporters with close ties to the industry at a time when energy policy is a point of sharp contrast between the parties and their presidential candidates.

So much for change and fighting against all those special interest groups, eh? Well, to be fair, it's worth noting that Obama disappeared references to biofuel from his website over the summer. Trying to hide his stance from voters or is he reneging on the promises he made during the primaries? With Obama, you never can tell.

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