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OKIsItJustMe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-08-08 04:42 PM
Original message
Why are we Growing Food to Feed Cars Instead of People?
Edited on Sat Mar-08-08 04:42 PM by OKIsItJustMe
http://www.sundayherald.com/news/heraldnews/display.var...

WHY ARE WE GROWING FOOD TO FEED CARS INSTEAD OF PEOPLE?

News: special report

THE GLOBAL drive for a new green fuel to power cars, lorries and planes is worsening world food shortages and threatening to make billions go hungry. Biofuels, enthusiastically backed by the US, UK and other European governments, have been sold as the solution to global warming. Making fuels from growing crops has been marketed as the way to cut climate pollution while continuing to drive.

But now experts are warning that this could all be a disastrous mistake. Converting large amounts of land to crops for biofuels is reducing food production just when the world needs to increase it.

Last year a quarter of the US maize crop was turned into ethanol to fuel vehicles - and the US supplies more than 60% of the world's maize exports. According to the World Bank, this is putting pressure on countries' precarious food supplies.

"The biofuels surge makes things worse by adding high demand on top of already high prices and low stocks," said one of the bank's leading economists, Don Mitchell. "Ethanol and biodiesel produced in the US and European Union don't appear to be delivering on green promises either, making them very controversial."

...
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Captain Angry Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-08-08 04:48 PM
Response to Original message
1. Good thing that growing all that corn doesn't wreck topsoil or deplete aquifers.

Oh, right. It does.

Stop making us use fuel! Build a better battery, build a lighter car, and away we go.
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Fovea Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-08-08 05:01 PM
Response to Original message
2. The one driver, internal combustion vehicle
must be replaced in most cases. Ideally it must be replaced with a system of public transit that allows 80% of users to get to within a mile of their destination. From there, Electric vehicles and Human Powered transit can take over. Oil crisis deferred.

Mixed agriculture and livestock along with crop rotation traditionally replaced worn soil. It can work again. We are growing too much of the wrong crops. But the food industry needs the economy of scale and uniformity of ingredients in order to make 'food' for us. You know, like ding dongs an shit.
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Vincardog Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-08-08 05:44 PM
Response to Original message
3. Because the oil companies make a lot of money selling fertilizer to make the corn?
Because the oil companies sell a lot of fuel to fuel the farm equipment?
Because the Government has subsidized the Agra Business sector to control the rest of us?
Because it takes more energy to create the ethanol than we get out of it?
Because the fascists running our country will not do anything to solve any of the problems their policies have created but would rather steal billions in the name of solutions?
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Sal Minella Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-08-08 06:03 PM
Response to Original message
4. I dunno. Ask Archer-Daniels-Midland. They'd know.
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DainBramaged Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-08-08 07:32 PM
Response to Reply #4
6. The ethanol subsidies from Washington have caused the shortage
Edited on Sat Mar-08-08 07:32 PM by DainBramaged
This is the gift horse that keeps on giving

http://www.slate.com/id/2122961 /

July 19, 2005

The ethanol subsidy is worse than you can imagine

For the last generation, ethanol has been America's fuel of the future. But there has never been more hype about it than there is today. Green-energy analysts like Amory Lovins, environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council, neoconservatives like James Woolsey, and farm groups like the American Coalition for Ethanol are all touting the biofuel.

Making ethanol, they claim, will help America achieve the elusive goal of "energy security" while helping farmers, reducing oil imports, and stimulating the American economy. But the ethanol boosters are ignoring some unpleasant facts: Ethanol won't significantly reduce our oil imports; adding more ethanol to our gas tanks adds further complexity to our motor-fuel supply chain, which will lead to further price hikes at the pump; and, most important (and most astonishing), it may take more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than it actually contains.

The greens, hawks, and farmers helped convince the Senate to add an ethanol provision to the energy billnow awaiting action by a House-Senate conference committeethat would require refiners to more than double their use of ethanol to 8 billion gallons per year by 2012. The provision is the latest installment of the ethanol subsidy, a handout that has cost American taxpayers billions of dollars during the last three decades, with little to show for it. It also shovels yet more federal cash on the single most subsidized crop in America, corn. Between 1995 and 2003, federal corn subsidies totaled $37.3 billion. That's more than twice the amount spent on wheat subsidies, three times the amount spent on soybeans, and 70 times the amount spent on tobacco.

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Sal Minella Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-08-08 10:39 PM
Response to Reply #6
11. I heard a local Minnesota story on MinnPubRadio with local employee of the ethanol business
mentioning the fifty-some cents per gallon federal subsidy, and my hair stood on end.

I might have heard wrong -- maybe he didn't really say that.
Maybe he understands wrong, and it's not true.
Maybe he just misspoke himself.
Maybe I hallucinated the whole thing.

When people talk about billions I get lost, but if we've got taxpayers paying Archer-Daniels-Midland fifty cents bonus for every gallon of ethanol they produce, when the energy gain is only 1.3::1 on a good day (Brazil's sugar ethanol is 6::1 I believe) -- something is seriously wrong here.

Archer-Daniels-Midland exhibited their moral character a few years back by paying a fine for colluding on lysine prices. They paid the huge fine and life went on. No prob. They never blinked. They don't have to. They're the 800-lb. gorilla.

I hope we can get back to small local food production, and I hope we can get to wind-chargers and/or solar chargers for electric cars, and sooner is better.

I hang out with naturalists, and everybody I know shakes their heads sadly over the ethanol boondoggle. The Salon article is one of the most negative I've seen in print.
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OKIsItJustMe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-09-08 03:43 PM
Response to Reply #11
16. Yeah, apparently he was wrong... it's higher
http://www.iisd.org/pdf/2007/biofuels_subsidies_us_upda...
...

Executive summary

This report updates information on government support for fuel-grade ethanol and biodiesel1 in the United States, originally detailed in the 2006 study commissioned by the Global Subsidies Initiative (GSI) from Earth Track, Biofuels At What Cost? Government Support for Ethanol and Biodiesel in the United States. The analysis reviews market developments over the past year, re-examining the policy environment at the federal level and updating subsidy values based on recent biofuel production and consumption information. State reductions in motor fuel taxes were also re-evaluated. Scores of other state and county subsidies continued to proliferate during the past year but were beyond the scope of this update. Readers should rely on the original report for historical information and more detailed descriptions of programs.

Biofuel subsidies expected to approach US$ 100 billion for the 20062012 period

Total government support for biofuels in the United States reached approximately $ 6.3$ 7.7 billion in 2006, the majority of which was directed to ethanol (see table below). Total support is projected to reach around $ 13 billion in 2008 and almost $ 16 billion by 2014. Under existing policies, the industry will, in aggregate, obtain subsidies worth more than $ 92 billion over the 20062012 time frame. These estimates should be viewed as conservative, given that they do not incorporate many state subsidies now in effect nor the cost of a more stringent renewable fuels consumption mandate.

        Subsidies to ethanol and biodiesel 

Ethanol ...
2006 2007 2008 20062012 ...
Total subsidies ...
($ billions/year) 5.87.0 6.98.4 9.211 Total 6782 ...
...
Per gallon biofuel ...
consumed ($ gallon) 1.11.3 1.11.3 1.11.3 Average 1.01.2 ...
...


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Sal Minella Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-09-08 07:42 PM
Response to Reply #16
19. Ye Gods. So I need to be twice as depressed as I already was about this.
And I'm sure ADM had all these subsidy systems firmly in place before they ever started breaking ground for their ethanol plants.

I tried to open that doc -- got the first page and it looks great but my poor old PC choked up and hung on a 92-page PDF file (not the first time a PDF file has stopped it cold).

Thanks for posting this. It's deeply horrifying, but so many things are, these days.

EXCEPT for the guy who's selling domestic windmills equipped with a small electric car that will travel 40 miles on one charge -- whole works for $20,000. For a long time I've been waiting for SOMEBODY to market a backyard windmill with garage and plugin at the bottom. And (preferably) solar panels facing south for the summer days when the wind doesn't blow but the house air-conditioner needs to run.

Strikes me as ridiculous to build big transmission lines for windfarms -- generate on-site, ferpetesake. (I'm not an engineer, just a cheap Scotsman).
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OKIsItJustMe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-09-08 09:44 PM
Response to Reply #19
23. Remember, that it's not practical for every dwelling to have a dedicated wind turbine
Edited on Sun Mar-09-08 10:09 PM by OKIsItJustMe
(Install Ubuntu on your old computer, that will breathe new life into it.)

Over half of our people now live in urban areas. Many live in multi-dwelling buildings. For a city, a wind farm many miles away makes sense.

For people who live in rural areas, there are economies of scale to be recognized in building large turbines. First, there's the obvious, of only having one large machine to maintain rather than several smaller ones, but then there's the point that the best winds are higher up (where the hubs of large turbines are.)

Finally, there's the matter that some areas are simply better suited to wind generation than others.
http://www.eere.energy.gov/windandhydro/windpoweringame...
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RedEarth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-08-08 06:23 PM
Response to Original message
5. Food security and rising food prices are an "elephant in the room"
Population growth, increasing wealth join climate change as threat to food supplies
7 Mar 08
Food security and rising food prices are an "elephant in the room" that politicians must face up to quickly, said Professor John Beddington, UK's new chief scientific adviser.

In his first major speech as chief scientist, Beddington said the rush to grow biofuels was compounding the problem, and cutting down rainforest to produce biofuel crops was "profoundly stupid."

Beddington, who took over the post from Sir David King nine weeks ago, was professor of applied population biology at Imperial College London. He is an expert on the sustainable use of renewable resources.

He told a conference in Westminster: "It is very hard to imagine how we can see a world growing enough crops to produce renewable energy and at the same time meet the enormous increase in the demand for food which is quite properly going to happen as we alleviate poverty."

Hilary Benn, the environment secretary, said at the conference that the world's population was expected to grow from 6.2bn today to 9.5bn in less than 50 years' time. "How are we going to feed everybody?"

http://www.desmogblog.com/population-growth-increasing-...
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hifalutin Donating Member (370 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-08-08 07:39 PM
Response to Reply #5
9. The price of wheat went up 25% in ONE day
last week, they were discussing world hunger on CNBC, it's only going to get worse, much worse!

The rich get rich and the poor get poorer.
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Ghost Dog Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-08-08 07:35 PM
Response to Original message
7. It's collective sucide. Pachamama strikes back. n/t
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shireen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-08-08 07:36 PM
Response to Original message
8. i've been wondering that too ...
instead of using corn, which is better-used to feed people and livestock, why not use hemp? Opps! Silly me! It looks too much like a certain weed. :eyes:
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NNadir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-08-08 07:52 PM
Response to Original message
10. Because of magical thinking. EVERY renewable program sounds great until
one tries to scale it to an exajoule scale.
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kestrel91316 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-09-08 08:49 PM
Response to Reply #10
21. Yeah. So let's all just abandon all renewable programs and put ALL
our eggs once again into a high-tech megacorporate solution with waste that will be lethal for 100,000 years. That makes perfect sense.
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krkaufman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-09-08 04:02 AM
Response to Original message
12. You wanna grow people to feed cars? Soylent Fuels, LLC? n/t
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GOPBasher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-09-08 05:59 AM
Response to Original message
13. We can produce biofuels on land that can't be used for food.
We can produce biofuels on otherwise useless land. Corn ethanol is a joke, but cellulosic ethanol from waste and switchgrass is good. Better than ethanol, we can make biodiesel from a variety of feedstocks, including the very energy-dense algae. Biofuels aren't bad; using arable where we can grow food for them is bad.
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losthills Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-09-08 10:51 AM
Response to Reply #13
15. There is no such thing as useless land.
If we try to grow our way out of oil dependence, we'll destroy every remaining intact ecosystem and kiss every endangered species goodbye.

And we will still fail, because there is not enough land on earth to accomplish that task. And it doesn't matter what crops you grow, either-- if we attempt to grow fuel then ALL crops will become pegged to the price of oil.

So-called "bio-fuels" are a scam that leads inevitably to rising food prices, food shortages and diminished wildlife habitat.
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GOPBasher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-09-08 06:06 PM
Response to Reply #15
18. I somewhat agree.
Edited on Sun Mar-09-08 06:08 PM by GOPBasher
"There is no such thing as useless land."

I agree, but that's not what I said. I simply said that some land can't be used for growing food, but can be used for growing biofuel feedstocks.

"If we try to grow our way out of oil dependence, we'll destroy every remaining intact ecosystem and kiss every endangered species goodbye."

True, if we try to displace ALL of the oil we use with biofuels, that statement is exactly right. But biofuels can be one piece of the puzzle, along with conservation, fuel efficiency, electrification, mass transit, etc.

"So-called 'bio-fuels' are a scam that leads inevitably to rising food prices, food shortages and diminished wildlife habitat."

I don't necessarily agree. I think corn ethanol is a scam, but I think we can grow, as just one example, biodiesel using algae.
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losthills Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-09-08 09:32 PM
Response to Reply #18
22. It doesn't matter what crop you make it from.
That crop will be more valuable than food, so no farmer will want to grow food. Food prices will then rise to the price of a barrel of oil. Since there will never be enough land to grow both food and fuel crops, and people will be going hungry, there will be a clamor to develope ALL land-- and it still won't be enough. The rain forests will be the first to go...

Think it through. It won't work.
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Fledermaus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-09-08 10:51 AM
Response to Original message
14. Because we can
Why Mexico's Small Corn Farmers Go Hungry

It seems paradoxical to argue that cheap food hurts poor people. But three-quarters of the world's poor are rural. When subsidized imports undercut their products, they starve. Agricultural subsidies, which rob developing countries of the ability to export crops, have become the most important dispute at the W.T.O. Wealthy countries do far more harm to poor nations with these subsidies than they do good with foreign aid.

http://www.organicconsumers.org/chiapas/03 ...





Is the US Killing African Farmers?

Its shocking that the average European cow receives more in government subsidies every day than half the worlds population earns in wages. Propped up by government subsidies, American and European farmers unload cheap goods on the world market at a cost often far below the price of production, leaving farmers in the developing world, not to mention the majority of American family farmers, unable to sell, much less compete.

http://www.consciouschoice.com/2007/03/tho ...





US 'dumping unsold GM food on Africa'

Two leading international environment and development groups accused the US yesterday of manipulating the southern African food crisis to benefit their GM food interests and of using the UN to distribute domestic food surpluses which could not otherwise find a market.

In response to criticism by senior US officials that they have been playing with people's lives by encouraging countries to resist GM food sent as aid, Greenpeace and Actionaid also accused the US government's overseas aid body of offering only GM food when conventional foods were available.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2002/oct ...





Mountains of Corn and a Sea of Farm Subsidies


Published: November 9, 2005
RALSTON, Iowa, Nov. 4 - As Iowa finishes harvesting its second-largest corn crop in history, Roger Fray is racing to cope with the most visible challenge arising from the United States' ballooning farm subsidy program: the mega-corn pile.

Soaring more than 60 feet high and spreading a football field wide, the mound of corn behind the headquarters of West Central Cooperative here resembles a little yellow ski hill. "There is no engineering class that teaches you how to cover a pile like this," Mr. Fray, the company's executive vice president for grain marketing, said from the adjacent road. "This is country creativity."

Trucks wait to unload corn at elevators in Templeton, Iowa. The current system encourages the production of more than the country can use.

At 2.7 million bushels, the giant pile illustrates the explosive growth in corn production by American farmers in recent years, which this year is estimated to reach a nationwide total of at least 10.9 billion bushels, second only to last year's 11.8 billion bushels.

http://artsci.wustl.edu/~anthro/articles/0 ...


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tom_paine Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-09-08 03:53 PM
Response to Original message
17. Because we are shortsighted primates, long overdue for extinction
and within the next 5,000 years, extinct is what we surely shall be, probably a lot sooner.

The primate genome is rife with evolutionary dead ends. The Discount Rate, as GliderGuider has mentioned, and our propensity to surrender to the sociopaths in our midst who constantly seek to harness us for their own nefarious power and pleasure (see the 1st link in my sigline if you are interested in reading more). Our apparently limitless capacity for denial of unpleasant truths, as well as the ease with which psychology, marketing, advertising and PR one-hundredfold magnifies the powers of the sociopaths within our populace to harness and enslave us...

...there's more, but why bother?

"We teach our boys to drop fire on women and children, but their Generals won't let them write "fuck" on their airplanes, because it's obscene."
--Col. Kurtz. "Apocalypse Now"
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kestrel91316 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-09-08 08:44 PM
Response to Original message
20. Well, ultimately this policy will lead to fewer people.
So I would imagine that might have something to do with it..........
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