Archive for May 19th, 2007
Washington is consumed with “ethanol euphoria.” President Bush in his State of the Union address set a production goal for 2017 of 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels, including grain-based and cellulosic ethanol, and liquefied coal. Given the current difficulties in producing cellulosic ethanol at a competitive cost and given the mounting public opposition to liquefied coal, which is far more carbon-intensive than gasoline, most of the fuel to meet this goal might well have to come from grain. This could take most of the U.S. grain harvest, leaving little grain to meet U.S. needs, much less those of the hundred or so countries that import grain.
The stage is now set for direct competition for grain between the 800 million people who own automobiles, and the world’s 2 billion poorest people. The risk is that millions of those on the lower rungs of the global economic ladder will start falling off as higher food prices drop their consumption below the survival level.