Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Biofuels Letter in Deseret News

I sent in a shortened version of my latest biofuels post as a letter to the editor in the Deseret News and it was published last Saturday. Here's the link, and here's the text:

Last November, Jean Ziegler — the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food — called for a five-year ban on biofuel production, stating that diverting corn, wheat and sugar crops to the biofuel industry would cause huge price increases in foods that are staples of the world diet. He even went so far as calling it a crime against humanity. What did the United States do in the face of these warnings? It mandated huge increases in biofuels, of course.

We can already see the consequences of that action. According to the World Food Program, biofuel production is largely to blame for "newly hungry" people in Latin America, Africa and Asia and for food riots in Burkino Faso, Cameroon, Senegal and Morocco.

Corn is so widely used that higher corn prices mean higher prices for just about everything else from meat, eggs and dairy products to hops, malting barley and vegetables.

A child dies from hunger every five seconds. Our country's politicians and environmental activists just made it harder and more expensive to save them.

There were also some interesting comments to the letter, so I'll post them here as well:

Non food stock | 6:06 a.m. Mar. 15, 2008
Research at USU under a USTAR grant is underway that will derive biofuel from aglae rather than traditional food stock. This is the direction that biofuels should take.

Casey | 6:14 a.m. Mar. 15, 2008
Cameron - children are acceptable collateral damage in the environmental movement. How many have died of malaria since the ban on ddt? True to their character, they will accept NO responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Biofuels are the latest "feel good" solution our problems. Don't expect anything to change soon. Unfortunately

michaelh | 6:19 a.m. Mar. 15, 2008
I agree we must stop this bio-fuel madness! This was tried during the Carter administration. It failed then and it is failing now. There is plenty of oil we are not running out we just need to get the madcap insane global warming nut jobs out of the way. They are going to cause a famine and the deaths of millions of people. When a person is insane to the point of being dangerous to himself and society they need to be locked up in a mental hospital. We need to stop being silent and resist the legislation being suggested by the enviro-insane.
Comments continue below

Timj | 6:21 a.m. Mar. 15, 2008
Environmental activists? Excuse me?
Don't blame the biofuel problem on environmentalists. Blame it on politicians, farmers, and gullibles.
None of the environmentalists I know think that turning corn into fuel is a good idea. In fact, many are very vocal about it being a bad idea.
Schweitzer | 7:19 a.m. Mar. 15, 2008

Exactly so. The problem with biofuels is, it takes fuel for the body, and turns it into fuel to drag Main Street with. There may be a few exceptions, where the agricultural source of the biofuel is currently inedible and going to waste, but those are the exceptions that prove the rule.

liberal larry | 7:34 a.m. Mar. 15, 2008
The writer is correct that the production of befouls is distorting the price of global food commodities. In fact, almost all commodities are increasing in price because of the increasing consumption of nations like China and India. This is a natural out growth of the planets over population, there will continue to be a competition for the worlds scarce resourses, you better get used to it because there are limited amounts of the earth's oil, water, precious metals, wilderness etc. and no glimpse of population control in sight.

Lionheart | 8:07 a.m. Mar. 15, 2008
Unintended consequences. Why couldn't this have been predicted. Biofuels take land, water and the net result is not a savings in fuel. The government has been paying the agribusiness to grow these crops and now we are going to have to pay them not to grow them. There are better solutions to the fuel problem.

Dave | 8:50 a.m. Mar. 15, 2008
It seems every time politicians make change, things get worse.

Spanish Fark | 9:16 a.m. Mar. 15, 2008
Dont need to use carn. My truck runs on beer from the Walmarts. At last somebody spells rapporteur right! About time.

bushbot | 10:37 a.m. Mar. 15, 2008
This was a really good letter.... see this is the kind of thing that happens when you start going against the laws of nature and trying to make same sex marriage acceptable... everything gets turned upside down: food as fuel, equal rights for animals... where does it all end ?
@liberal larry:no glimpse of population control in sight? You liberals are truly scary.... and you accuse conservatives of being Nazis.

Casey | 10:45 a.m. Mar. 15, 2008
Larry - I thought that increased consumption in China and India was because of increased economic freedom. People now can afford food instead of starving, and they are choosing to eat. If the government in China would let them they might even choose to have more than 1 child (how can they be contributing to overpopulation with a policy like that?) Economic freedom therefore is not a good thing in the context you seem to be coming from. It means people have more and therefore can conume more. I could be wrong, but that's the way it looks from here.

TeddyR | 10:49 a.m. Mar. 15, 2008
You guys are poorly informed; as stated above, every environmentalist I know is AGAINST food to fuel biofuels projects. Apparently, any old stick is suitable to bash and "environazi" with, whether it's accurate or not.

BBKing | 10:50 a.m. Mar. 15, 2008
Casey is right on the money. Literally tens of millions of people have died from Malaria primarily based on what is now considered faulty research. In any case, we placed a greater premium on birds than people. Period.

Timj, this movement for biofuels was 100% started by the environmentalist crowd. To say otherwise is to ask us to believe the sun doesn't rise in the morning. I remember friends in Utah country trying to get rid of the fuel additive. All but impossible and founght tooth and nail by EPA and their environmental buddies.

You mention the farmers and politicians, you are correct. What is beginning to happen is big business is learning they can make trillions off of all this global warming junk. Literally, we just outlawed the light bulb. How freaking stupid is that?! No more incandecent lightbulbs by 2014 or something. Holy freaking cow!

The UN estimates that in order to stop "Global Warming" it will cost at least $20 trillion. So yes, farmers are buying politicians so they can get a cut of the $20 trillion.

If you folks would use real science we could begin to solve this. No more junk science please.

John | 11:19 a.m. Mar. 15, 2008
Corn is not a source of energy. It requires energy to turn it into a biofuel. How stupid are we going to get?

Crude IS a source of energy. Natural gas is a source of energy. There is really nothing else on this planet that is a viable alternative for our transportation. Every other solution that people offer, requires another source of energy, to create.

Turn out the lights, the party is over.

Lionheart | 11:51 a.m. Mar. 15, 2008
To John: The party is not over, pressure, such as the situation in fuel and world distribution is what brings about immense change. Expect something new and wonderful to solve the problem. Have more trust in human consciousness.

liberal larry | 12:27 p.m. Mar. 15, 2008
It's common knowledge that biofuels are not working well yet, but they may be more realistic when other organic wastes like grasses and wood chips are used to produce fuel. To blame "radical environmentalists" for this is silly. President Bush is one of the leading proponents of ethanol, and he is hardly an environmentalist.

As third world nations become more consumptive, like us Americans, food, and all other commodities will become more expensive. The pie is only so big, the more people we have, the smaller each piece will be.

Did I call conservatives Nazis? I don't think so, at least not recently

RayCharles | 1:40 p.m. Mar. 15, 2008
Perhaps you can list what environmentalist organizations (whose websites we can consult) are pushing biofuels? Your bald assertions aren't making it.
Your comments about DDT are a red flag to any knowledgeable person; it's bunk generated by rightwing radio. DDT laws have always had an "out" clause allowing usage to control mosquitos. Mexico has never stopped using DDT, and has a growing malaria problem. Cite the "faulty research" about DDT; the whole DDT issue alerted people to how chickens come home to roost, if you'll pardon an avian pun. The long-lived toxins that enter the food chain don't only affect pelicans, they wind up in other species at the top of the food chain, including humans.
At any rate, your comments show that you are merely a medium of long-debunked, completely unscientific ravings.

bushbot | 3:05 p.m. Mar. 15, 2008
@LL : just wondering what you have in mind when you write about "population control" Sounds pretty ominous

Paul | 4:32 p.m. Mar. 15, 2008
I guess, in my view, higher prices are just too bad. People in the US are freezing, from lack of heating oil. We have to get free handouts from Venzuela. What is wrong with converting food grown in the US into fuel for US consumption (assuming there is an advantage to do so)? Starvation in Latin America, Asia, and Africa is something that will always occur, given human's rate of reproduction, so we can only do what we can. I would probably get a bit ticked off if the US Government (or the UN) decided it could and should dictate how I use food I grew (again, assuming I was a farmer). Then again, given the amount of subsidies farmers get, maybe the Government should have a say...

liberal larry | 4:33 p.m. Mar. 15, 2008
A lot of factors reduce reproduction rates, I was thinking in terms of availability to free birth control, general resources education for women and girls, monetary incentives to have fewer children. There are lots of ways to have people voluntarily limit the number of kids they have.

bushbot | 5:16 p.m. Mar. 15, 2008
From what I have read about demographic trends the world's population is expected to peak between 2050- 2080 (I can't remember exactly) I do know that even in many historically high reproductive areas the trend is to smaller families.
I believe that lower reproductive rates are more of a threat to stability than higher reproduction .... obviously someone has to pay the overhead costs of Government and infrastructure. I have yet to see a Government spending program ever go away. Once they are instituted they are nearly impossible to end ( e.g. social security)
I know one thing... the people having lots of children will be the ones determining where Society heads in the future.

Lew Jeppson | 6:54 p.m. Mar. 15, 2008
If the United States government had not funded the interstates in the 1950s, the private networks of electric interurban railways (I bet nobody here knows what I'm talking about) would have survived, thrived and expanded. We would have compact housing and compact communities along them. We would have no global warming and no need for biofuels. A look backward can clue us for the route ahead.

Lionheart | 8:58 p.m. Mar. 15, 2008
Dear Lew:

Lots of us don't want to live in human coops and will find a way to escape that grim possibility, therefore, freedom to roam the planet and beyond has led to many advances in human history.

2penniesandchange | 9:53 p.m. Mar. 15, 2008
I'm from Los Angeles, and know EXACTLY what your talking about! Red Car? Yes, we had that once. But the freeways got built by car company subsidies, and the transport of choice switched to cars and not electric trains. Now the Angeleno's are paying the price, while the smart ones move to Utah

Stewart | 10:00 p.m. Mar. 15, 2008
Grow corn for food, get those nuclear power plants built, and let's get on with plug-in series hybrid cars that in most cases will out perform some of the present models. It will take at least a decade to transition.

Sorry, Lew, you're wrong | 11:40 p.m. Mar. 15, 2008
The decline in private interurban rail began long before before the interstate highways came along.

The Pacific Electric "Red Cars" were being taken out of service in the 1930s, and the Rio Grande Southern had taken their trains off the tracks, replaced by the "Galloping Goose" motor railcars. When the US got into WWII, logistics experts discovered that passenger rail miles were only HALF of what they had been at the end of WWI. 40 percent of the country's passenger railway cars had been burned and their iron parts cut up for scrap.

It was significantly less expensive to switch to buses (using public roadways between cities) than to continue maintaining (and paying taxes on) sole-use rail right-of-ways. It's also more versatile and rapidly modifiable.

In fact, it was this decline in rail capacity which prompted the interstate highways in the first place!

The only interurban commuter rail lines which thrived were those with high numbers of "fixed" commuters on the East Coast, and only those with overhead catenary wires to power the trains (no self-motive interurban commuter train or trolley was operating in the US between 1965 and 1989).

Hope the Front Runner is a success!


Anonymous said...

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Ed Darrell said...


1. When DDT was sprayed willy-nilly to stop malaria, it also killed the fish the locals ate. Local people died of starvation instead of malaria.

2. DDT is used where appropriate these days. Malaria increases in Africa are largely due to the parasite's having become resistant to the medicines offered. We thought DDT would save Africa, but it turns out DDT also kills the predators of mosquitoes. The mosquitoes breed faster, and come roaring back. Then the malaria parasite itself becomes resistant to the drugs, and more deaths follow.

Rachel Carson was right, and in those African nations that have adopted her integrated pest management scheme, malaria rates are cut in half.

Who accepts responsibility when the bozos who spray DDT and wipe out the locals food supplies skip away?

Environmentalists have been fighting hunger and disease for the past 50 years in Africa, at least. It's nice others are concerned now. But don't criticize those who did the work in the past, please.

Anonymous said...

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