Biofuels Eat People

Why are 2.5 billion people — more than 40 percent of the human race — in imminent danger of famine? The threat is real, but its solutions aren‘t what the United Nations, the Green Lobby, or the Carbon Threat/Greenhouse Gases lunatics want you to believe.

A billion people live on less than $1 a day. Another 1.5 billion people live on $1 to $1.5 a day. For them, any substantial rise in the price of staple grains like rice or wheat is potentially fatal. Yet since January, according to The Economist magazine, global rice prices have soared 142 percent. Last year, global wheat prices rose 77 percent. Why?

The first crucial point to remember is that global harvests have been excellent for the past two years, especially in the leading food producing nations. The United States and the European Union have experienced relatively small declines in grains output and in recent years, Australia somewhat more. But these issues should not have had anything like this impact. Indeed, the Food and Agriculture Organization projects the 27-nation European Union’s wheat harvest will be 13 percent greater this year than last. U.S. winter and spring what planters are also substantially up, The Economist reports.

Second, weather has not been a problem, all the global warming hysterics to the contrary. No significant crop has failed. Lenard Bage, head of the International Fund for Agricultural Development in Rome points out that India successfully feeds 17 percent of the world’s population on 5 percent of the world’s fresh water and only 3 percent of its arable land and India projects a record cereals crop this year.

The biggest problem is, however, that around the world and especially in the United States, grains are not being grown to concentrate on food anymore. Thanks to the Green Nuts and -especially the U.S. grain ethanol lobby — an increasingly large portion of the U.S. Midwest and huge areas of Brazil are being converted to crops to produce ethanol for fuel. The sugar ethanol which is being grown in Brazil is, at least, relatively efficient. But the grain ethanol which has been subsidized to the hilt with billions of dollars by the U.S. taxpayer (largely to make sure that the presidential wannabes of both main parties can hope to look good every four years in the Iowa caucuses) is a pathetic uneconomic joke that wouldn‘t last five minutes in a genuinely free, de-regulated market.

Even parts of the predictably liberal mainstream media are finally waking up. On April 7, Time magazine rightly re-labeled “ethanol, the eco-friendly fuel” as “actually a bio-disaster.” Time pointed out that already one fifth of the entire U.S. corn crop goes to producing ethanol. Yet even if the entire U.S. domestic corn and soy bean crops were turned into ethanol — guaranteeing catastrophic national famine — it would only meet 20 percent of U.S. automobile and truck fuel consumption.

Obviously, the more land in the United States and Brazil that is turned over to growing crops for ethanol fuel, the less will be available to grow crops for food, which is a calculation even Al Gore could understand. That means that the more crops are grown for bio-fuels, the higher the global food price will be driven, as I point out in my recent book “The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Middle East.“

This has had a particularly crucial impact on Brazil, which is the world’s third leading food exporter after the United States and the European Union. And instead of investing big in global agriculture, as it should, global investors have poured $100 billion into bio-fuels by 2010. Richard Branson and George Soros, predictably, are especially big on this. But Time reports that British Petroleum, Shell and the Carlyle Group have also jumped in with both feet too. Hillary Clinton wants to mandate that ethanol be for sale at every U.S. gas station within a decade. (Did she flunk or skip chemistry at high school?)

Global markets are distorted by the environmental frenzy over using up non-renewable fossil fuels, although they are still in great abundance. But going green, with supposedly virtuous renewable fuels grown from crops has been the Greens’ fanatical belief for more than a generation. Both the lady liberal senators from California, Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, want to outlaw coal mining in the United States. Do they imagine for a second that this can do anything but send world oil prices and consequently world food prices through the roof?

The best way to feed 2.5 billion people better and more quickly, therefore, is to get global fuel prices down. And the most immediate and practical way to do that is to vastly increase the use of coal — which is particularly abundant in the United States in states such as Utah and Idaho, as well as the traditional producers like West Virginia and Kentucky.

Third, if you want global food prices to drop, you have to get global oil prices down too. There is no easy way around that. This is because it takes oil – and lots of it – to grow crops, especially the new miracle strains of grain and rice developed by Norman Borlaug that have banished famine in Asia over the past 40 years. They require enormous quantities of industrially produced nitrate fertilizer, and the 100-year-old Haber-Bosch process of fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere (which is 78 percent composed of it) and converting it into nitrates that can be used as super-powerful fertilizer requires enormous quantities of oil.

Here’s the bottom line: If you don’t want 2.5 billion people to starve, then let the free market restore sanity and  realistic priorities to the U.S. domestic energy and agricultural sectors as soon as possible. Annihilate all subsidies in grain ethanol. Open up the Gulf of Mexico to full offshore drilling and scrap the ridiculous remaining environmental taboos and prohibitions on the domestic mining of coal. (The Indians and Chinese are already doing it in full disregard of the sacred but ridiculous Kyoto Protocols.) Pull the plug on the futures market speculation on grain and sugar ethanol. Burst the bubble of politically correct, Green bio-fuels and you remove the shadows of famine and death from 40 percent of the human race.