Friday, April 25, 2008

Next Bubble: Hunger?

Could the Global Warming alarmists be falling behind as the Global Hungerians begin to encroach on their emotional territory?

Here’s the scenario: food prices are being driven up—particularly corn—in the quest for cheaper, “greener” fuel that allegedly contributes less to the warming of the planet.

By some accounts, 30% of the U.S. corn crop is now going to fuel, not food production.

The New York Sun is quoting this morning Economics and Law Prof. Ford Runge at the University of Minnesota: “I don’t think anybody knows precisely how much ethanol contributes to the run-up in food prices, but the contribution is clearly substantial.”

The paper also quotes a Washington think tank, the International Food Policy Research Institute, which has determined that at least a quarter of the run-up in commodities prices is directly attributable to biofuels.

Last year, Prof. Runge and Prof. Benjamin Senauer, wrote an article in Foreign Affairs, “How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor.” The pair were criticized as being alarmists then. Prof. Runge now thinks their work was too conservative.

Remember, Ethanol was initially promoted as a way for the US to cut back on foreign oil. Most recently, biofuels have also been teased as a possible way to fight climate change, but the emerging food crisis may be taking the shine off the ethanol apple…er, husk.

Go figure: 400 pounds of corn makes 25 gallons of ethanol. That's a 400/25 ratio. What is that—an efficiency factor of 6%? 400-pounds of corn might not be a very good diet but that’s roughly enough to keep an adult person alive for a year.

(I dunno—I could live on corn tortillas, nacho’s and Dorito’s for a little while. That’s the Yellow food group, right? You also get cornbread in that food group. Twinkies are in the Yellow food group.
They don’t come from corn…but the fructose sweetener does.)

Those climate change advocates (a.k.a. Vice President Al Gore,) are probably going to want to put a little distance between themselves and ethanol now, to avoid tarnishing their efforts against global warming.

I’ve wondered what it would take to wake people up to the insane math that will eventually doom the government-mandated Ethanol Frenzy.

Professor Senauer said it best: “Crop-based biofuels are not part of the solution. They, in fact, add to the problem."

1 comment:

Dan H said...

The ethanol added to gasoline only serves to raise the price. With the ethanol blend gas I put in my car, the miles per gallon is lower when compared to previous formulations. This makes me wonder if this is really better for the environment. Has there been a study to compare emissions per mile for the 10% ethanol blend versus the non-ethanol blend?