In order to meet increasing energy demands, ethanol production is now
competing with food production for the world�s farming resources. As a result,
the cost of the crops used to produce ethanol, such as sugar and corn, as well
as the prices of crops unrelated to ethanol production, are becoming
increasingly linked with escalating energy costs.
Ethanol production and industrial agriculture are both extremely energy-intensive
processes that require fixed amounts of oil and natural gas � amounts that will
become less and less affordable as world oil production goes into decline. If
the current unsustainable trend between food and ethanol production continues,
energy and food prices will most likely be locked together until famine forces
a systematic change.
On January 22, Bloomberg
Sugar prices surged to a 24-year high as
more supplies are used for fuel because of soaring energy costs. . . .
Sugar has jumped 92 percent in the past year as Brazil, the world's biggest
producer and exporter, converted more of its crop into ethanol fuel to cope
with record gasoline prices. . . .
"Sugar is going ballistic because of
the oil price," Sam Tilley, head of research at London-based commodities
brokers Sucden (U.K.) Ltd., said.
On January 16, The New York
Early every winter here [in Sioux, Iowa],
farmers make their best guesses about how much food the world will demand in
the coming year, and then decide how many acres of corn to plant, and how many
But this year is different. Now it is not
just the demand for food that is driving the decision, it is also the demand
for ethanol, which is made from corn. . . .
High oil prices are dragging corn prices up
with them, as the value of ethanol is pushed up by the value of the fuel it
replaces. . . .
"We're putting the supermarket in
competition with the corner filling station for the output of the farm,"
said Lester Brown, an agriculture expert in Washington and president of the
Earth Policy Institute. Farms cannot feed all the world's people and its motor
vehicles as well, he said, and the result is that more people will go hungry.
The Times' article concluded with a satirically ignorant quote from Joe Jobe,
executive director of the National Biodiesel Board:
"I think there's a historical shift
underway, not to grow more crops for energy and less for food, but to grow more
He sounds just like "W":
" . . . we can't conserve our way to
energy independence; nor can we conserve our way to having enough energy
available. So we've got to do both."
It might be funny if it wasn't so scary.
is no alternative, or combination of alternatives, that can match the efficiency
and former abundance of fossil-fuel energy. Therefore, the only way to
effectively reduce oil-dependency is to reduce overall energy-dependency. Alone, supply-side solutions only offer more
problems. Growing grain to feed cars and trucks instead of growing food to feed
people is just one example.