Biofuels Causing Famine


This is what happens when the government distorts markets with subsidies, mandates and protectionism.

Recent laws in the United States and Europe that mandate the increasing use of biofuel in cars have had far-flung ripple effects, economists say, as land once devoted to growing food for humans is now sometimes more profitably used for churning out vehicle fuel.

In a globalized world, the expansion of the biofuels industry has contributed to spikes in food prices and a shortage of land for food-based agriculture in poor corners of Asia, Africa and Latin America because the raw material is grown wherever it is cheapest.

Now that the United States is using 40 percent of its [corn] crop to make biofuel, it is not surprising that tortilla prices have doubled in Guatemala, which imports nearly half of its corn…Roughly 50 percent of the nation’s children are chronically malnourished, the fourth-highest rate in the world, according to the United Nations.

“To make things worse: evidence suggests that the corn ethanol program, for the sake of which callous greens condemned the world’s poor to higher food prices, is a failure even on environmental terms and fails to reduce greenhouse gasses,” writes Walter Russell Mead. “We’re betting that this news won’t dent greens’ self-confidence.”

I’m not even sure how behind biofuels the green movement is these days. It seems they’ve started abandoning ethanol, for instance, leaving Big Agriculture as the last big supporter.

Because let’s be honest, if ethanol were ever really about the environment and secure energy (and not making lots and lots of money for certain well-connected agriculture interests) we wouldn’t have protected the domestic ethanol market with sky-high tariffs on imported ethanol.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • SigFan

    Well to the greenies that’s a twofer. So called green energy and fewer CO2 exhaling bipedal life forms polluting Gaia. Algore must be proud.

  • splined

    Help the poor by driving out of your way to avoid ethanol.

    • sbark

      …….so maybe we should drive out of our way to avoid beef ……with its 3.5 bus of corn needed to make 1 pound of beef, especially when we have poultry and pork which can convert corn to meat at about half the corn needs.
      ……that would help the poor and the rich…..

      • Bat One

        This guy would sure appreciate it.

      • splined

        So according to you sbark in order to grow 1000 lbs of beef it takes 3500 bu of corn at $6.5/ bu costing a total of $22750. 1000 lb cull cows cost approx. $700. Granted 1000 lb cull cows do not yield 100% beef , but obviously beef ranchers are not spending $22750 for corn to grow 1000 lbs of beef. I don’t suppose you have heard beef growers are using other types of feed to grow beef. due to insane corn prices.

  • LibertyFargo

    It is kinda funny. I have friends in the liberal Pacific NW and when I talked about corn-based ethanol they chuckle. Even some liberals know it is stupid to put food in your gas tank. But then again… we don’t want to hurt farmers… (sarc)

  • WOOF

    Poor Guatemalans problems are that they have no money,
    no land and no say.
    There’s plenty of food.

    • sbark

      right………the worlds poor are poor mainly because they are living under some form of Leftist Govt……….

      • WOOF

        Guatemala is run by capitalists now being challenged and morphing into Narco Capitalists. We’ve been killing leftists in Central America since at least 1954.

        • kevindf

          Who is “we?”

          • WOOF

            “We have met the enemy and he is

          • kevindf

            Speak for yourself.

          • WOOF

            Your tax dollars speak for you and me and those guys behind the tree.

          • kevindf

            Do they pay five times more in state income taxes than federal income taxes, too?

          • borborygmi

            whine, proof, k proof.

          • WOOF

            They’ll be happy to pay when allowed to emigrate.

        • sbark

          oohhh you mean like HUgo Chavez—Obama’s and most of hollywoods iconic role model.

  • sbark

    35 million acres tied up in the CRP program is the reason for any Gore’esque starvation claims
    The ultimate “paid not to plant” Govt program, which is now 30 plus years old.
    If anything bio fuels is bringing massive acres out of crp back into production, more than offsetting the 20% of a corn crop ethanol is taking up.

    focus ones economic illteracy on that program

    • borborygmi

      If you like to hunt it is nifty.

  • kevindf

    Why do Obama and his fellow travelers insist on slapping away “the invisible hand?”

  • Lynn Bergman

    “Spikes in food prices” and “a shortage of land for food-based agriculture in poor corners of Asia, Africa and Latin America” are MYTHS associated with environmentalists’ concept of “Indirect Land Use Change”, a flawed theory not supported by empirical evidence. Along the same lines as “global warming” and “fracking”.

    Ethanol production requires just 3% of the world’s grain supply and less than 2% of the world’s total ariable acres.

    Factors such as energy costs, market speculation, global demand, and weather conditions have FAR GREATER influence on FOOD PRICES than corn’s use to make ethanol, as reports by the UK and the World Bank have confirmed.

    Replacing known carcinogenic MTBEs in gasoline with home grown ethanol is one of the finest examples of environmental stewardship in our country’s history.

    • splined

      2012 US corn acreage was 96 million acres. 40% of this is 38.4 million acres. 38.4 million acres used to grow food for human consumption would go a long ways in feeding the worlds starving people..

  • igx

    The only one that will ever be viable is algae based bio diesel.

    People need to realize the global oil market is NOT a free market, it’s 90% controlled by incompetent kooks, so we really do need an energy policy and SOME central planning.