More Ammo Against Biofuels

The BBC today reported that the increased use of biofuels has dragged more than 30 million worldwide into poverty. Certain types of biofuels are responsible for decreased fuel efficiency, increased carbon emissions, higher food prices, and increased poverty. Wow, that sounds like a great deal! Where do I fill up?

From the BBC NEWS Europe:

Biofuel Use ‘Increasing Poverty’

The replacement of traditional fuels with biofuels has dragged more than 30 million people worldwide into poverty, an aid agency report says.

Oxfam says so-called green policies in developed countries are contributing to the world’s soaring food prices, which hit the poor hardest.

The group also says biofuels will do nothing to combat climate change.

Its report urges the EU to scrap a target of making 10% of all transport run on renewable resources by 2020.

Oxfam estimates the EU’s target could multiply carbon emissions 70-fold by 2020 by changing the use of land.

The report’s author, Oxfam’s biofuel policy adviser Rob Bailey, criticised rich countries for using subsidies and tax breaks to encourage the use of food crops for alternative sources of energy like ethanol.

“If the fuel value for a crop exceeds its food value, then it will be used for fuel instead,” he said.

“Rich countries… are making climate change worse, not better, they are stealing crops and land away from food production, and they are destroying millions of livelihoods in the process.”

Opportunity – or crime?

Biofuels are a divisive issue with strong arguments on both sides.

Leaders such as Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva have suggested the biofuel boom provides developing nations with a great opportunity.

He says it creates a profitable export for energy crop producers in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean that could enable them to claw their way out of poverty.

But several aid agencies and analysts have warned of the possible downside of biofuel crop cultivation.

One UN adviser went as far as describing biofuels as a “crime against humanity”.

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A Big Crock of Biofuel

Ethanol has become public enemy number one. Not only do we get lousy gas mileage with corn based ethanol, we get higher food prices too! This problem began in 1994 when a Senate vote on mandated ethanol use was tied 50-50 and broken by Vice President Al Gore. So say thanks to Mr. Gore for the real crisis that is looming….food shortages. The general public is just now becoming aware of the real problems ethanol is causing and support for elimination of mandated biofuels is building from the left and the right.

Ethanol is placing liberals in a real bind. One one hand, they feel the need to try to manipulate companies like Exxon Mobil by forcing them to accept alternative fuel, yet by using these alternative fuels, it drives up the cost of food and disproportionately affects the poor worldwide. So, we can either “save the environment” by ethanol and starve millions worldwide by driving up food prices, or we can just stick with tried and true fossil fuels and keep feeding everyone. Not surprisingly, the same people that demand we use ethanol also oppose drilling for additional sources of oil, including in ANWR. If we had started drilling for oil in ANWR ten years ago, it is possible that oil prices would be considerably lower than they are now. Higher oil prices means higher prices on all the goods we buy and higher transportation costs.

Ironically, corn-based ethanol and other blends of biofuels have been shown to produce substantially more greenhouse gases than regular gasoline. This ethanol issue illustrates a common problem with our representatives in Washington D.C. Too often policies are promoted based off of fads in the public without their consequences being fully studied before being made law. In this case, mandating the use of ethanol was justified under the guise of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The result? Ethanol produces MORE greenhouse gas emissions than regular gasoline, using ethanol drives up the price of food worldwide, and ethanol causes us to use more fuel than we would if we used regular gasoline because of decreased fuel efficiency. If ethanol was really this hidden gem and had huge potential, wouldn’t it be advantageous to big oil companies to research this technology themselves? Yet, ethanol has not replaced traditional gasoline among the private sector by any big energy companies largely because it is a lousy fuel source. Policy makers in Washington have mandated that we use this new technology without researching the true effectiveness or consequences. This is yet another example of the government sticking their noses and their policies where they shouldn’t. It has only resulted in harm to American citizens and businesses with literally no benefit.

Right now, 1/3 of the corn produced in the U.S. goes to ethanol production. It takes 400 lbs of corn to make 25 gallons of fuel. So with that 400 lbs of corn, we can either feed a grown man for a year or we can fill up our car twice. It seems to me that feeding everyone affordably is more important that responding to a global warming “crisis” that doesn’t even have a scientific consensus yet. After all, we can actually prove that people are starving, whereas we can’t prove that ethanol will have any effect on anything climate related.

Now, I’m not saying that all biofuels or all ethanol are lousy fuels, but for now, the ones that are available certainly seem to be. The mandated use of ethanol isn’t solely responsible for the rising food costs worldwide, but is unquestionably a large factor. The farmers and researchers that are beneficiaries of ethanol use don’t want the public to know the truth…that corn-based ethanol is a bad fuel that never should have been mandated in the first place. Corn-based ethanol has been called a “transitional” technology by some, so why are we forced to use it? Because it is a fad that congress has bought into.

Congress needs to do its job and eliminate subsidies for ethanol NOW. But with Reid and Pelosi in charge, we can count on further bad energy policy for the future where more clout is given to environmental fads than actual verifiable research. As long as liberals (Democrats and Republicans) are at the helm, we can be assured that $7 per gallon milk is right around the corner.