Biofuels dramatically increase food prices

According to a recent article on The Guardian, the biofuel industry has been responsible for increasing global food prices by a staggering 75%. The figure has been taken from a confidential World Bank report obtained by the Guardian.

While the report was completed in April, The Guardian’s sources say it has not been published to avoid embarrassing US President George Bush.

I’ve been squawking about using food as fuel for some time now; as have many others. I feel it’s really important for people to understand what’s happening to the environment and to our food as result of ethanol production.

I was all for corn based biofuel back around the time that the USA and the Coalition of the Idiots were invading Iraq as I was only looking at the surface – anything that got us away from fossil fuel and the “blood for oil” wars sounded like a great idea. A kind soul gently pointed out to me the environmental and humanitarian consequences of corn based ethanol and the veil was ripped away.

However, I also think it’s now getting to a stage where we need to differentiate between biofuels. Using food crops to power our gas guzzlers is certainly not on, but there’s been a great deal of research into using other non-food sources such as algae, switchgrass and crop waste that look quite promising.

The danger that all of us who write about biofuel issues face is that we (collectively) could turn consumer opinion against biofuels altogether, and that wouldn’t be such a good thing. While non-food crop based biofuels aren’t *the* answer, they are certainly part of the solution to our energy needs in a peak oil world.

But again, *food* as fuel is not just bad, it’s plain evil and we need to stop this waste right now – so many people are starving or just getting by. People are panic buying and rioting around the world over food prices and shortages.

Yes, there has always been famine, but what we’re seeing now is a perfect storm – peak oil, climate change, water shortages and the ethanol industry combined could generate famines the likes of which we have never seen; not in a hundred years – now; it’s happening right now.

While the biofuel industry is certainly not the sole culprit of increased food prices, I tend to agree with United Nations food expert, Jean Ziegler, who said last year that converting food crops to fuel is a “crime against humanity“. For example,  It takes over 26 pounds of corn, currently the most popular biofuel stock, plus a ton of energy and water to produce 1 gallon of ethanol.

These cartoons say it all.

We simply have to get over the idea of being able to scoot a couple of hundred yards to the store in our cars. It’s not just about energy and how we source it, it’s about how much we waste – and a key to living green is using less; of everything.