Thursday, April 12, 2007

More ethanol jeopardizes food security worldwide

I have previously mentioned the plans to locate an ethanol plant in El Salvador, as part of a joint project with Brazil and the US. Although the plant planned for El Salvador will process sugar cane, US ethanol plans focus on the use of corn. This demand for corn for fuel is driving up the price of basic foodstuffs for the poor throughout the world, according to the International Monetary Fund.

A very thorough description of the ethanol/food costs tradeoff appears in Foreign Affairs, in an article titled How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor. I recommend the article to anyone who wants to explore the issue. Here is one passage from the article:

The World Bank has estimated that in 2001, 2.7 billion people in the world were living on the equivalent of less than $2 a day; to them, even marginal increases in the cost of staple grains could be devastating. filling the 25-gallon tank of an SUV with pure ethanol requires over 450 pounds of corn -- which contains enough calories to feed one person for a year. By putting pressure on global supplies of edible crops, the surge in ethanol production will translate into higher prices for both processed and staple foods around the world. Biofuels have tied oil and food prices together in ways that could profoundly upset the relationships between food producers, consumers, and nations in the years ahead, with potentially devastating implications for both global poverty and food security.

It is not clear what benefits an ethanol plant in El Salvador will bring to the country, a point well made in this blog post by Carlos. (in Spanish). But helping to facilitate a world ethanol economy may only threaten food security with few benefits for the environment or consumers outside of the richest countries.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Okay, this is very important considering that in Latin America morre than 50 percent of the population lives in poverty and break their goddam backs working everyday so some schumck can get rich out of their labor (or transnationals, like Chiquita Brands, prime producer of Blood Bananas... man, will the ghost of United Froots ever end?) so they can at the VERY LEAST fetch for their lunch, dinner, or whatever 1 meal they can eat, which typically cosnists of something made out of corn. Tortillas and shit. And now, this grand plan of making biodesiel out of something tons of Latin Americans depend to survive will undoubteldy double the prices of the flour, corn, and whatever just so some person up north or in dumb countries like this can fill up their gas guzzlers?... this will make hunger rise, and everyone knows you can't reason with famine, can you? Oh, by the way, Fidel Castro has some nice articles on this issue. I recommend reading them if you haven't.

Not only that, but in countries like this were the superb government hands out Natural protected areas to some dudes so they can exploit, allow canadian mafias with their mining companies harass comunities so they can poison our water reserves with their cyanide mining (which if Im' not mistaken is banned in COlorado... Umm, I can only wonder why?), and some oligarchs are urbanizing like maniacs, planting their black gold (coffee) in protected mountains, can you imagine the environmental impact this will caus in stupid countries like this one? The mass deforestation, and stuff (not only in countires like this, but in places like Borneo, Amazons, or any forested place being cut down to satisfy the worlds need for this "green fuel")? Not really sure about the process of making the etanol and whatever gasses it may emit, but all I can say that USA chose El Salvador well, its very own guinea pig. Nothing that USA "offers" or decides for El Salvador, will ever ever be refused by the brownnosing mafia in goverment... How else will they ever retain their narcobusiness protected?

El-Visitador said...

I've actually enjoyed the latin media circus and political blogs in the last couple of weeks.

Bush comes to Latin America, talks ethanol: all of the sudden, biofuels are officially b-a-d.

Back in Feb 27th, before Bush, I condemned the U.S. ethanol policy that has raised Salvadorean corn and pork prices here at Tim's.

It did not look as people were very incensed back then, but then of course, they hadn't thought of blaming Bush yet.

- * -

More background on the inhuman U.S. policy of burning food as fuel here.

Larry said...

For the record, this lefty raised the food vs. fuel concern back then.

Here's another thought, by the way. Anon writes, "Not really sure about the process of making the etanol and whatever gasses it may emit."

As a homebrewer and beer lover, I can tell you. Fermenting sugars to produce alcohol produces CO2--a greenhouse gas. (Though I still favor producing beer, as long as its good quality beer! Homebrewers are also great recyclers!)

Larry

HODAD26 said...

right on home brewer fan!
again, only HEMP is the solution
www.earthpeoplefoundation.org for links and info and real data

Anonymous said...

Making ethanol from corn is not good economics; however, ethanol from sugar cane is a much better deal. Ethanol from sugar cane is 8 times more efficient than from corn. The Brazilians are doing reseach hoping to increase it to 10 times. In Central America it would make sense to do ethanol from sugar cane because it would create jobs and decrease the dependence on petroleum.