29 April 2008

Lame Attacks Against Biofuels Continue

Venezuela's dictator Hugo Chavez has emerged as the world's spokesperson for denouncing bio-energy and biofuels--approaches for reducing dependency on petroleum. Enraged that anyone might find a way to reduce demand for oil, the Latin tyrant said the world's poor are going hungry because the US is using maize for fuel. But is something wrong with the math Chavez is using?
Actually, since a bushel of corn yields 2.8 gallons of ethanol, the corn needed to fill a 20 gallon SUV tank is 7 bushels, which at the current market price of $5/bushel, costs a total of $35. According to Mr. Chavez, then, the cost of feeding one person for a year is $5.

...the ethanol program has actually stimulated corn production so much that, after the part used for ethanol is taken away, the net US corn harvest available for food and feed is up 34% since 2002. Furthermore, contrary to claims in many articles, this has not been done at the expense of soy or wheat production. In fact, U.S. soy plantings this year are expected to be up 18% to a near record of 75 million acres, wheat plantings are up 6%, and overall, US farm exports are up 23%. Much more can be produced as demand requires, since of 800 million acres of US farmland, only 280 million are actually being farmed. This is why - $5 per person per year feeding price aside - the entire Malthusian conceit underlying Chavez’s fuel vs. food argument is nonsense. __Source
Chavez' self-interested complaints about biofuels aside, the uninformed cant in condemnation of biofuels is heard far and wide in the world's news media. The biofuels industry is in its infancy and is far too small to be blamed for problems that have been ongoing for centuries and millenia.
Commodity costs are only one component of higher prices at the grocery store. Other factors, such as soaring crude oil prices and fertilizer costs that cut into farmers' profits... [are even more important AF]

Additionally, growing worldwide demand for meat could cause some food shortages if higher percentages of corn, wheat and soy are used to feed livestock. __CheckBiotech
Food is becoming far too expensive to use as feedstock for fuels. Several biofuels companies have already gone out of business due to high food prices. As biofuels feedstocks move from food to cellulose, algae, and other non-edible materials, the rants and ravings of Chavez and his crew will naturally move on to other pet topics.

But always remember: if we run out of all other feedstocks for biofuels, we will always have corrupt politicians . . . and trial lawyers . . . and post-modern liberal arts professors . . . and political activists . . .

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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