Today we have two more news articles assailing ethanol biofuel.
The first article from the Telegraph.co.uk opens with this statement:
“We drive, they starve. The mass diversion of the North American grain harvest into ethanol plants for fuel is reaching its political and moral limits.”
In other words, each time you fill your vehicle with a 10% blend of ethanol, you’re causing a poor child in another part of the world to starve to death.
Next, The New York Times proclaimed that because of ethanol biofuel, “… the higher prices are leading to riots, political instability and growing worries about feeding the poorest people.”
The Times goes on to cite the recent riots in Haiti as an example of the instability that the biofuel craze has created.
But what is the real cause of the riots in Haiti? As it turns out, it’s because of the price of rice. And what does ethanol production have to do with the price of rice anyway? Virtually nothing!
As a general rule, rice is grown in areas that are not conducive to growing corn. The main exception is here in the United States where in some locations, corn is being substituted for rice, but this is just a small percentage of total acreage. As a consequence, our total rice production is only down by roughly 15 percent, which is merely a drop in the bucket when compared to total global production.
So what’s really causing the high rice prices? We know it’s not because of a shift in acreage to corn so there has to be some other factor. This article from the Guardian.co.uk explains it well. They say:
“Rice is the staple food for more than half the world’s population. This is the second year running in which production – which increased in real terms last year – has failed to keep pace with population growth. The harvest has also been hit by drought, particularly in China and Australia, forcing producers to hoard their crops to satisfy local markets.”
As we can see, consumption is outpacing demand, and not only that, countries are hoarding the stuff, which is causing prices to increase further.
This ridiculous linkage of ethanol production to world rice prices is but a precursor of what’s to come. The rallying cries against biofuel are only going to get louder. In the New York Times article I linked to earlier in this post, they clearly show that public sentiment is rapidly turning against biofuels. In the rush to assign blame, ethanol has been made to be a scapegoat because it’s an easy target.
The ag industry needs to wake up and start defending itself against these unjust claims. While there is no doubt that biofuel production has caused an increase in food prices, biofuel’s share is only a fraction of the total. This is the story that needs to be told. The facts need to be presented before we lose biofuels altogether.