Bob's Links and Rants

Welcome to my rants page! You can contact me by e-mail: Blog roll. Site feed.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

No food for oil

Four items to consider:

Mexicans protesting rising tortilla prices. From AP:
Some 75,000 unionists, farmers and leftists marched to protest price increases in basic foodstuffs like tortillas, a direct challenge to the new president's market-oriented economic policies blamed by some for widening the gulf between rich and poor.

Since taking office Dec. 1 after a disputed election, President Felipe Calderon has drawn his greatest criticism for failing to control the largest price spike in tortillas in decades. Tortillas are a staple of poor Mexicans' diet.

The national uproar has put him in an uncomfortable position between the poor and some agribusiness industries hoping to profit from the surge in international corn prices, driven mostly by the sudden explosion of the U.S. ethanol industry. A free-market advocate, Calderon has said he does not want to return to direct price controls enforced by many former Mexican presidents.


From Richard Crowson (Kansas).

Ethanol gets White House boost:
President Bush's call to increase the renewable fuel standards five fold over the next decade confirms that the demand for corn, ethanol and eventually other non-grain fuel sources will continue to soar, ethanol industry leaders said last week.
Livestock and Global Warming (from the People's Food Co-op Newsletter)
The Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has released a report stating that livestock animals are responsible for one-fifth of the pollution responsible for global warming. Gases from manure and animal flatulence, removal of forests to make way for grazing land, and the energy used in livestock farming are tied to 18% of the greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. Urgent action is called for to remedy the situation. The report also noted that livestock farming has increases water pollution, and that nearly 70% of Amazonian rainforests have been turned into grazing land.

I became a biofuels advocate almost three years ago. My old car had died, and I was shopping for a "new" one. I tried to find a used Prius or Insight on the used-car web sites, but the pickings were very slim and expensive. I went to the Earth Day Fair in Ann Arbor, and got to talking to the people promoting biodiesel. It turned out that there were far more used Volkswagen diesels on the market than there were hybrids, and I ended up buying a 2001 Golf TDI. I immediately filled it with biodiesel, and continue to run it on biodiesel whenever I can. I believe that biofuels have a role to play in a sustainable future.


Anyone who thinks that we can just replace all the oil with biofuels and continue motoring like crazed maniacs (Americans) is insane. (Yes, I'm talking about you, George.) By far the most important step we can take--to prevent global warming, endless oil wars, and that vastly overrated threat called "terrorism"--is to cut our energy use drastically. Serious trade-offs need to be considered. For instance, a huge amount of farm land could be freed up for biofuels if everyone ate less meat, which would help with the global warming problem as well. Better yet, the current "globalized" economy could be totally dismantled and replaced with an economy (or better yet many economies) which places the feeding of poor Mexicans (and billions of others) ahead of the profits of agribusiness. Simply switching from oil to biofuels is abandoning one false god for another, and will lead to equally disastrous consequences.