Food vs Fuel


The BBC webnews today was writing about the drought in Australia and its impact on grain supplies. Seems that Australia, as the second largest grain exporter (after the US) is in the worse drought in a century. A normal wheat harvest would be around 25 million tons but in 2006 they only harvested 9.8 million tons. (thanks, BBC). So global grain stocks are at their lowest level in years. (And whether this drought is part of global climate change or just Australia being screwed over by Mother Nature is besides the point.)

But here in North America we find ethanol projects being launched based on a grain feedstock. Other countries have used sugar cane waste and there has been work done on using switchgrass and other non-food crops. But the capital and subsidies are going into corn-based ethanol fuel processes.

So pardon me, but I am confused. Here we have a growing international food crisis with rising prices and increasing shortages that will likely affect everyone, not just the folks we prefer to ignore in other parts of the world. And yet we are funding and developing projects that will basically be burning food to the exclusion of other alternatives. Has anyone thought this through? Not just their little project but how it affects everything else? Excuse me, but what are we trying to accomplish?

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