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Biofuels Blamed in Global Food Crisis

Posted on Jul 4, 2008
Mexico Food Protest

Mexicans protest in 2007 against rising food prices, a crisis the World Bank believes is spurred by the global push for plant-based fuel production.

While environmentalists and opponents of foreign oil may have found common cause in the use of biofuels, a new, confidential World Bank report estimates that the recent increase in plant-based fuel production has actually contributed to a 75 percent rise in global food prices, sparking riots across the world and pushing millions beneath the poverty line.

This figure greatly contradicts the U.S. government’s finding that biofuels are responsible for only 3 percent of the rise in global food prices.

The Guardian:

Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75%—far more than previously estimated—according to a confidential World Bank report obtained by the Guardian.

The damning unpublished assessment is based on the most detailed analysis of the crisis so far, carried out by an internationally-respected economist at [the] global financial body.

The figure emphatically contradicts the US government’s claims that plant-derived fuels contribute less than 3% to food-price rises. It will add to pressure on governments in Washington and across Europe, which have turned to plant-derived fuels to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and reduce their dependence on imported oil.

Senior development sources believe the report, completed in April, has not been published to avoid embarrassing President George Bush.

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Paolo's avatar

By Paolo, July 5, 2008 at 10:08 am Link to this comment

Patrick Henry, you beat me to the punch.

Using corn for biofuel is madness. Indian Hemp produces many times the oil, as well as wonderful quality fibers for rope, paper, or cloth. The insane War on (some) Drugs is preventing the creation of many useful, if not crucial, industries.

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By Leefeller, July 5, 2008 at 8:22 am Link to this comment

Purple Girl,

FYI:  Not sure how this fits, but they are destroying the jungles in southeast Asia to grow coconuts for biofuel, so said to be part of the global warming problem.  How the hell do we know what is real or truth?

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By dave in madison, July 5, 2008 at 8:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Anyone else find it interesting that the “leaked” article serves to exonerate exactly the agency that is among the MOST responsible for advancing the neoliberal trade agenda, the agenda whose implementation has by itself led to failure of indigenous agricultural production and the importation of international agribusiness food that is much more expensive than that produced locally??

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By Inherit The Wind, July 5, 2008 at 8:13 am Link to this comment

Factory pig farms in North Carolina have HUGE cesspools of pig excrement.  Why aren’t they forced to compost it and make methane?

How much waste from agriculture and the food industry could be distilled into alcohol, biodiesel, and methane?

Why can’t Monsanto put its otherwise totally immoral head into a new kind of crop that’s optimized for ethyl alcohol, so that ordinary feed corn isn’t worth it?

Why aren’t we importing Brazilian cane ethyl alcohol?

Why is ANYONE opposing our doing anything and everything to break our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil?

Food prices didn’t go up 75% because the US is making ethyl alcohol but because George Bush started a concerted effort to destroy the credit of the USA and has, for 7 years, maintained the effort from constant massive deficit spending.  This has destroyed the credit world AND the foundation of the dollar.  With the dollar collapsing inflation sets in for America, and, since we are the 900lb gorilla, it spreads across the world.  THAT inflation is why food prices are up, not because a small portion of feed corn has been diverted to alcohol production.

It’s just another oil company scam to keep us dependent on them and fossil fuels.

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By Purple Girl, July 5, 2008 at 7:49 am Link to this comment

Please! Being a Michigander I see the Con game being played once again. Blame use of biofuels and ignore the Global Warming caused by the Oil & Auto industries kneecapping and hiding innovations we had available decades ago.
Michiganders Screamed for the Big 3 to begin moving towards alternative fuels in the 70’s- at least fuel effeciency vehicles- They refused, the profits were too great to be bothered with what would benefit not only the country’s economy, but the Environment.
Big 3 execs along with those of the Oil industry should be held Criminally liable for their treasonous acts and their Crimes against Humanity.
Want to know what will happen to the country if their Lies are listen too- Look to Michigan, the Canary in the Coalmine, left to die by the industry and by the so called ‘Dems’ who catered to them in back rooms!TREASON,WAR CRIMES AND CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY

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Leefeller's avatar

By Leefeller, July 5, 2008 at 7:31 am Link to this comment

Show me a plan that makes money and I will show you one in the making.  Genetically modified organism the panacea of the people, just ask Monsanto. 

Ingrained thought presented by the powers that be, if it does not make big bucks for the right persons, it is called socialism.  Now for special interestsm we call it subsides. 

Dost not look so good for the common slob on the street, let him watch American Idiot and Fox Not the News.

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By GW=MCHammered, July 5, 2008 at 6:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I blame management. Only they aren’t accepting blame right now. So let’s raid their coffers fully for irresponsible performance on the job and invest in making right. After all, the responsible always clean up after the irresponsible.

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By VillageElder, July 5, 2008 at 6:44 am Link to this comment

There is nothing new in corn based ethanol production.  Many of us sip it from time to time and it was used as a fuel for the early autos.  Rather than encourage new methods of alcohol production the subsidies became another transfer of government funds into corporate profits and payoffs for conservative farm states.

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By whatthe, July 5, 2008 at 6:17 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

No mention of the weather in this report?  Seems kind of strange.  Most people in the biofuels sector have been and continue to push fermentation of stover (green plant material not eaten by humans) and not the grain that people eat.  Most respectable and moral people dont want to waste grain on ethanol.  There is a ton of R&D;going into cellulose based biofuels both in the public and private sector.  Extend this out on the long term and we are going to need ethanol from the green parts of plants.

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By heide, July 5, 2008 at 5:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

they are letting people starve on purpose
theyve let the earth be ruined on purpose
it was known what would happen to our earth ,,burning fossil fuels,,a hundred years ago
the technology for biofuels from hemp has been known all along
not only can hemp provide biofuel but in growing can heal the earth
our government the hypocrisy & lies make me sick
i am more often than not ashamed i chose to be born a human
& especially a human born here in the usa
now i read big pharma is rushing to get patents for cannabis based meds
and cannabis is still illegal,,see something wrong with this pic people?????
its all based on white mans fear,, his need to control everything& what cannot be controlled must be destroyed
slavery has been abolished they say,,liars,,we are slaves of big oil & big pharma,,invisible chains at the neck & ankle,millions in prison because of an herb,wake up my fellow humans & break the bonds that hold u
hemp & cannabis are not evil it is those who would see them destroyed that are
get up get out & get involved ,,make that change be the change u want to see

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By samosamo, July 4, 2008 at 9:36 pm Link to this comment


Because it just showed me that you propose to feed the people of the world with no thought of what the neocon’s agendas are and how they will play out.
And since I tried to get you to read at least one book about a reality of imperialism and you may be a college professor that already knows all there is about how imperialist act then I MAY have made a mistake in trying to bring to your attention to something you are very well aware of.
But something I know you haven’t taken into consideration is the 6.6 billion people on this planet that will make it physically impossible for your plan of feeding the masses even with an acceptable source of protein which is the basic part of a human’s diet. In short on this, the political, religious and economics of this world will not allow for such good samaritanship to succeed unless the money is fast and easy for the big boys.

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By antispin, July 4, 2008 at 9:21 pm Link to this comment

samosamo, why did you pretend to comment on my comment when it is obvious you didn’t read it?

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By samosamo, July 4, 2008 at 9:07 pm Link to this comment


If our imperial aspirations don’t get reversed, then believe it or not, people will starve. I can only direct you to a book, quite depressing reading, by Mike Davis, ‘Late Victorian Holocausts’ which deals with the mid to late 19th century and early 20th century and the British empire’s mad drive for profits where upon 10s of million of mostly indians and chinese starved to death due to the combined effects of the el ninos and the ruthless british control of indian and chinese crops that would not have fed everyone but it would have saved a lot of them but the british manipulated the crops from market to market in india to get the best price and then exported it to england where the fat englanders were well fed at the expense of a whole bunch of poor people.
So compassion is the last thing in any global market plans and money is on the front burner.
Corn for fuel, what shit. Even just making the gas pumps here in the US 10% ethenol drops the miles per gallon significantly to make one have to fill up more often and the price is not changed enough to make a difference. But these people in their mad dash for cash will rip down the forests and grow corn everywhere just to jump on the oil industries tricks to maintain control of our energy needs.
And if you haven’t read Chalmers Johnson’s 3 book trilogy of ‘Blowback’, ‘Sorrows of the Empire’ and ‘Nemesis’ then pick those up and read them. Johnson definitely was and still is in a position to have the knowledge to explain what our government and military are doing in our name.

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By antispin, July 4, 2008 at 12:01 pm Link to this comment

This is a big lie.  Let me quote from David Blume’s
“Alcohol Can Be a Gas.”

“The first thing torealize is that there is no food shortage and none impoending at this point.  Anyone can look at world crop production and see that we produce around twice the calories we need to feed everyonel.  What we do have is a money shortage, since food is a commodity and not a right:  Whoever can pay for it gets to buy it.

Also, there is a gib imbalance in the amount of starch produced in relation to protein (we’ve already mentioned the predonderance of corn in the U.S. agricultural system.)  In malnourishment, the problem is usually lack of protein.  The four biggest crops worldwide are rice, wheat, corn and potatoes.  These grains and tubers can be as much as 75% starch.  Beans, a significant source of protein for athe poor of the world, don’t even make it into the top four crops.

“Whan I studed mushroom cultivation back in the 1980’s, I concluded that we could provide the entire world’s balanced prtein needs just by using 25% of the grain straw that was annually burned off fields, to produce oyster mushrooms.  The fungi efficiently extract protein from the lignified dry straw.  So if we really wanted to feed everyone, even without using a single animal as a food source, it would not be difficult.

“Humankind has barely begun to work on designing farming as a method of harvesting solar enery for multiple uses.  Given the massive potential for polyculture yield, monoculture studies of ethanol production seem almost silly in comparison when viewed from economic, energetic, or ecological perspectives.

“Beacuse the United States grows a lot of it, corn has become the primary crop used in making ethanol in the U.S.  This is supposedly controversial, since corn is identified as a staple food in poverty-stricken parts of the world.  What most of us don’t realize is that 87% of the United States’ corn crop is fed to animals.  In most years, the U.;S. sends close to 20% of its corn to other countries.  While it is assumed that these exports could feed most of the hungry in the world, the corn is actually sold to wealthy nations to fatten their livestock. Plus, virtually no impoverished nation will accept our corn, even when it is offered as charity, due to it being genetically modified and therefore considered unfit for human consumption.

“In addition, alcohol production can vastly improve animal feed.  In making alcohol from grain, all the starch is removed, but all of the protein and fat, some fothe ce3lluolose, and wide array of vitamins and minerals remain, along with yeast afrom fermentation.l This remaining subtance is called distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS), which occupies about on-third the volume of the original corn, since the starch has been removed.

“DDGS has been used as superior cattle feed for more than 100 years.  If you feed 33 poinds of DDGS to cattle instad of 100 pounds of corn, you get 14 to 17% more meat up to 30% faster, with a fraction of the veterinary costs.  (Since cattle evolved to eat woody brush, not grass and grain, up to 80% of the styarch in grain goes through cattle undigested and unused, causing huge health problems in the process.)

“So, fermenting the corn to alcohol results in more meat than if you fed the corn directly to the cattle”

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By niloroth, July 4, 2008 at 9:14 am Link to this comment

hemp is no where near as good as switchgrass, and frankly both suck as far as energy put into growth and processing as opposed to the return on burning the final product.  Add to that the added economic benefits of the hemp crop as a fuel source, and you will have even more farmers growing it for that rather than other crops for food.  bio fuels is a disaster and should be discarded.

The best solution would have been electric cars and nuclear power plants, but the failure of the government and auto industry to push for electric cars, and the misguided and ignorant environmentalist attacks on nuclear power have pretty much killed that .  So instead we continue to pollute, and starve the world, and ruin the planet for out children.

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By PatrickHenry, July 4, 2008 at 8:50 am Link to this comment

Another good reason to legalize Hemp cultivation in all 5o states. 

It’s always been a insult to me as a “free” American that my government can tell me what to grow and not grow, especially a plant grown by our founding fathers which has so many uses.

Billions need to be invested in algae biodiesel now!

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