Going Green

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Energy vs Food Debate Continues

This article is both alarmist and misleading.

More of U.S. grain crop to be consumed by family car

By Tom Doggett

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Almost a third of the U.S. grain crop next year may be diverted from the family dinner table to the family car as fuel, putting upward pressure on food prices, a leading expert warned on Tuesday.

Grain prices are near record levels as the United States produces more ethanol, now made mostly from corn, to blend with gasoline and stretch available motor fuel supplies.
Farmers, hoping to cash in, are...(complete article

Yes, ethanol has an impact on food prices. So does gasoline, diesel and electricity prices. Tractors and combines run on diesel, so do the trucks and trains used to transport the products, irrigation water is usually pumped with electricity, feed/food mills are run by electricity -- everything that makes us productive requires fuel in some form.

The fact that 1/3 of the corn crop is used for ethanol production is not the only thing affecting food prices. Yes, corn is the primary feed crop that allows the U.S. to be a leading producer of meats. The co-products of ethanol production are being fed to livestock.

Does the use of ethanol in our gasoline lower the overall price of fuel? Currently it probably doesn't have a great impact. There is only a slight gain in energy from the amount of energy required to produce corn and corn ethanol to the amount of total energy gained from that production. The primary gain is in the feeding of the co-product to livestock (it is energy -- energy that is converted through biological processes into food -- which is a source of energy to humans). It is ALL about energy. The energy that we take into our bodies as a steak was once sunshine which is the result of a nuclear reaction millions of miles away!

Drought, floods, and other natural disasters, as well as the growth of many emerging economies such as China and India, are greater factors on the price of corn than is the use of corn to make ethanol in the U.S. American farmers gear up production to meet rising demand reflected in higher prices. Yes, it puts upward pressure on food prices -- but it isn't the use of corn to make ethanol that is the issue -- it is the demand for energy that is ultimately creating the upward pressure on food prices.

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