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October 26, 2007

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference U.N. Rapporteur Calls for Moratorium on Building Biofuel Plants Using Food Feedstocks:

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Brad Bannister

Biofuels are not that giood of an idea - they drive up the price of farming and still create carbon emission as well as prop up internal combustion engines. The article on my link is why we can't see any real economic support for renewable energy yet - but why we should.

mhh

The debate on food distribution for poor countries and food aid seems to have shifted. For a long time the problem with food production in poorer Southern countries was that heavily subsidized grains from the US and Europe crowded out local production and drove local farmers out of business. This created the famine-aid-famine vicious cycle. The world has plenty of food, it is the distribution and the distortions of rich country subsidies which creates huge problems. Now people like the UN are focusing on biofuels as a bogeyman, but the enormous subsidies are a much bigger problem. It's just political suicide to suggest that rich farmers shouldn't continue to get subsidies. Meanwhile the poor ones are driven out of business because they live in countries that can't affort to subsidize them. And now it's the fault of biofuels.

johnbo

I assume when Jim says, “The Energy Blog supports…..” this is his own personal position. Jim, perhaps something like “I support….” would be more honest.

The UN is the Bureau of Bureaus buried in politics and tainted with run away corruption. It is handicapped with vastly different ideologies pushing in all directions.

Overpopulation is clearly the root cause of food shortage, not biofuels. I agree with mmh that subsides, though well intended, cause more harm than good in the end. Something like JFKs Peace Corp of education for the ignorant is the best help. Show them how to farm and let them develop. Some of the poorest farming areas in the third world are in a great position to supply biofuel and raise their own economy. That’s what the UN should get behind… not condemnation of successful people but intelligent support of the unsuccessful. Give them education not subsidies. Most of what comes out of the UN is up side down.

brian hans

Here here mhh!

Give a man a fish and he becomes your economic b!tch. Teach a man to fish and democratize the world (small d).

qwed

Arrogant patronising son ........ mhh.Overpopulation of Europe and the USA are the problem we eat almost all of the world's food and dump the overproduction in the south. It is the fact that western so-called developed countries make money out of food aid (or at least it is a WTO busting domestic subsidy) that is the main problem. They don't need us to tell them how to farm or develop, let's face it we ___ed us up and we are doing the same to the rest of the world exporting our arrogant ideas.

Jules

< Overpopulation of Europe and the USA are the problem we eat almost all of the world's food...>

Do you have any idea just how stupid that statement is? Europeans have not overpopulated Europe. Quite the reverse, in fact. Many european countries are having problems with low birth rates. As for the United States, its population level would be relatively stable if not for the fact that it takes in immigrants from around the world. And no, the USA doesn't "eat almost all of the world's food". In fact, it is one of the world's largest exporters of food. So what's your excuse of the day for hating western society? The fact that western societies used to export food too cheaply or the current rise in exported food prices? Geez, you libs are never satisfied. Go eat some granola and hug a tree. You are only embarrassing yourself here.

bigTom

The first 80% of mhh's comment mirrors my thinking about most food aid, but I do think the biofuels fad could endanger food supplies for the worlds poorer inhabitants. Presumably we won't stop developing countries planting energy crops on land unsuitable for food, that would be a good thing. But we in the rich world need to be careful we don't end up pricing the less fortunate out of a meal just to fuel our cars.

Ty

Jean Ziegler’s moratorium should be on all the overweight people in the world. He would advocate that they skip every other meal. And instead, all the food that went into those skipped meals would be shipped to places where people were actually hungry.

J.B.

If there’s 800 million people going hungry in this world, then why hasn’t the UN helped them grow their own food? Why hasn’t the UN intervened where corrupt regimes are causing poverty in their own countries. Instead of insisting that countries like the United States should be obligated to feed the world. The U.S. is a sovereign country and does not need someone like Ziegler trying to play God. It can do whatever it wants with its corn and wheat. Besides, last year only one out of five bushels of corn went to make ethanol, and out of that came several other bi-products. Nobody starved as a result. Many countries are going into debt to buy foreign oil, whereas they prosper from producing their own fuel. The majority of commercial crops have a negative impact on the environment, not just corn and the ones Ziegler advocates banning. You are making the false claim that corn ethanol is responsible for rising food prices, when the biggest factor is skyrocketing fuel prices based on higher oil prices. And that makes everything, including agriculture and food, more expensive. Explain to us why the UN does nothing to control the price fixing Cartel that is manipulating the price and supply of crude oil, causing hardship in third world countries and involuntary servitude for all of us. Its time for the UN to regulate OPEC, not the biofuel industry. Explain to us why the UN allowed the United States to invade Iraq, destroy its infrastructure and force Iraqi oil off the market - While world oil inventories doubled in price. The immediate answer to corn ethanol is sweet super sorghum and tropical maize, which consume one third the water and fertilizer and generate 2 to 3 times more biofuel. After the sugary juice is squeezed to make ethanol, the fiber provides animal feed and biomass fuel. In Asia, sweet sorghum cassava, and other biofuel crops are pulling people out of poverty. These are first generation feedstocks that are here now, with no further research needed. Third world countries, are struggling to buy over-priced imported oil. We should help them make their own biofuels and stimulate their economies - not suppress them.

Amsterdamned

Overpopulation is clearly the root cause of food shortage, not biofuels

Aside from the global inequalities in food distribution, there are actually quite a large number of causes for food shortages over the world, such as a very large and still quickly growing population, recent failed harvests on a large scale, but biofuels production is also certainly a big part of it.

The price of grain on the French exchange doubled since last year, but the population has only increased a small percentage since last year. Clearly then, overpopulation isn't the (sole) cause of the most recent rises in (some) food prices.

bigTom

"The price of grain on the French exchange doubled since last year, but the population has only increased a small percentage since last year"

Clearly the price supply-demand curve is not gently sloped for many commodities. We have seen that with oil. If demand exceeds supply by a mere 1-2% consumers are bidding against each other, and prices can rise significantly. Recent experience would indicate that a couple of percent change in supply(or demand) can change market prices by a factor of two. Food would seem to be similar.

We have to be careful about running towards the first solution (corn ethanol), when by waiting two or three years cellulosic ethanol will be doable. I clearly hope this can be accomplished in ways that benefit the poorer regions. Of course political power is concentrated in the hands of those who already have money, and they are mostly concerned with their own future, not that of the less fortunate.

Simmons

That guy has said some pretty crazy comments before, but I actually think he might be right this time.

Harvey D

We have been fortunate to enjoy low cost subsided over-produced food for many years. Grain ethanol will quickly put an end to that.

When food cost goes from an average 15-20% of the family earning to 30-40+% in USA-Canada, cuts will have to be made somewhere else.

The family food bill for low earning groups may soon go above the affordable level.

What will we come up as solutions?

Kit P

Beans and rice!!! It is always good to have a plan just in case something bad happens. There is not a shortage of high quality food.

averagejoe

Well Harvey, it won't be next year. The USDA is predicting a world record corn crop in the U.S. It further predicts that corn exports will rise by 11% for the 2007-2008 Ag accounting year.

The U.S. wheat crop for next year is forecast to increase by 10 million metric tons. The USDA expects next year's wheat exports to rise by approximately 25% compared to 2006-2007. World wheat production is projected to reach 617 MMT, up from 594 MMT in 2006/2007.

If I were you, I'd wait a bit longer before making the doom and gloom predictions. Better to wait five years. By that time the extent and nature of the interactions between the food and biofuels markets will be a lot clearer.

Harvey D

averagejoe;

The interaction between ethanol vs food will not take 5 years. It has started with a bang in 2007. Pasta, bread, pizza, cakes, and beer prices are going up in expectation of more demands. Will it slow down or increase in the next 5 years?

Unless we do as China did (put a freeze on first generation ethanol plants) the ethanol plants coming on board in 2008-10 should contribute to significant food price increase during the next 3 years.

Oil at $100+/barrel will make grain ethanol production very tempting and profitable.

Farmers will automatically sell to the highest bidders and produce what the market wants.


Supply and demand will dictate the price.

averagejoe

Pizza?!! Say it ain't so. $5/gallon gas vs. cheap pizza. Hmmm... I'll have to ponder that one.

Sam

The U.N has become a tool for our enemies their attempts at derailing America from becoming energy independent is further and definitive proof. Fact is we have over 1.03 billion acres of farmland in the U.S. How much is actually used? Less than 300 million acres and how much of that is subsidized by the Gov't to NOT grow crops on? We can easily designate 150 million acres of land for designated energy crops and it will have NO impact on food supplies and will produce 4.5 billion tons of biomass if planted with miscanthus. This could easily produce 500 billion to 675 billion gallons annually of NexGen Biofuels from BTL fischer tropsch technology. Keep in mind we only consume 318.8 billion gallons of oil in the U.S. now. Often the environmentalists are the ones who actually cause the most damage to the environment and to our energy security through their efforts to block viable options i.e. nuclear power and nexgen biofuels. We are in a global war and our #1 priority should be to eliminate foreign oil imports and eliminate the export market for oil that empowers our enemies such as the islamic countries and russia to hold the world hostage and worst of all empowers the islamists to purchase or build nuclear weapons which they will smuggle into U.S. and europe and israel and they WILL use them if they get ahold of them. Mass production of Biofuels/BTL/CTL,PHEV's and EV's and Nuclear power combined with our current oil production and current oil imports from allies we can become the worlds largest exporter of energy, which will bankrupt our enemies and provide our allies with the oil that they need and would that they would otherwise purchase from the islamists and communists. Do you want China to forge stronger alliances with the islamists and the russians or depend on us for their energy imports? Which will guarantee peace? The author of the energy blog should be ashamed that he supports the U.N. and outlawing biofuels.

Reality check

"Oil at $100+/barrel will make grain ethanol production very tempting and profitable."

Are you kidding? Do you understand the fossil fuel inputs into grain farming?

Let's try this instead:

Oil at $100+/barrel will make grain ethanol production INCREASINGLY EXPENSIVE and UNprofitable UNLESS PROPPED UP BY EVER-INCREASING SUBSIDIES.

Harvey D

reality check;

With oil a bit over $94/barrel and probably over $100 by year end, We will soon see the impact on grain ethanol production cost.

Will it be a one to one deal? I doubt it because there are many other direct and indirect cost involved.

Cost to produce second generation (cellulosic) ethanol and other agofuels from plants using less (or no) fertilizer should not be so affected by oil price.

J.B.

The Efficiency of Ethanol and Integrated Bio-fuel Refineries

The efficiency of corn ethanol varies from one farm to the next and from one refinery to the next. For example, some farmers are making their own biodiesel by growing soybeans, which fix nitrogen into the soil for their next corn crop. Or, farmers take cheap, local biofuels and blend them into the fuel of their vehicles and farm machinery. Some farmers are pumping irrigation water with solar panels. Some ethanol refineries are now replacing natural gas with onsite co-generation plants, burning local biomass, to generate production power and process steam/heat. Some plants are installing windmills and solar concentrators to supplement production power. One company, GS CleanTech, is equipping corn ethanol plants with a process that extracts the corn oil from the distillers grains, and thereby reduces the drying time. The corn oil is then converted into biodiesel. This biodiesel can then be traded back to the local farmers who supply the ethanol refinery with corn. This changes the efficiency numbers significantly. It also decreases the amount of fossil fuels that are being used to make ethanol. Even the first generation ethanol industry is evolving, and consequently, efficiency studies become outdated. Also, they are not based on data that is out of the box. In fact, they are not based on specific field data, based on actual farms and refineries. Instead, past studies have been based on assumptions for average farms and average refineries, using outdated production processes. They do not reflect the sweeping changes that are being made. The corn ethanol efficiency studies upon which some of you are basing your arguments are inaccurate and obsolete.

There are revolutionary changes taking place, as ethanol producers compete to make biofuel for the lowest possible cost and the highest possible profit. Farmers and refiners are fully aware of their vulnerability, if they continue to use fossil fuels. They are already shifting to renewable alternatives.

Take note of the term “Integrated BioRefinery”. There is one new integrated biorefinery in particular, that stands out as a new model and may impact the entire ethanol industry. XL Dairy Group, Inc. has integrated a dairy farm with a dual biofuel refinery in Vicksburg AZ – about 100 miles West of Phoenix. (Search: xldairygroup Vicksburg.)

This is a 2,300 acre dairy farm that fractionates corn, distills ethanol from the starch, extracts the corn oil to produce biodiesel, feeds the high protein distillers grains bi-product to 7,500 onsite dairy cows, produces milk from them, and converts the cow manure to production power and process heat. This state of the art plant is totally self-powered and DISCONNECTED from the GRID. Their intent is to develop algae to replace the corn, and convert the algae to biodiesel, ethanol, and feed for the cows. This facility cost $400 million US to build, and generates $180 million per year in revenue – not your typical ethanol plant - but a model for what’s to come. The company claims an energy efficiency ratio of 10 to 1:

Academia should do a new study on this one Integrated Biorefinery – based on actual data in the field – not old data and assumptions.

The evolution of biofuels involves integrating biorefineries with dairy farms, poultry farms, feedlots, algae installations, waste management systems, biomass burn co-generation plants, landfills, coal burning power plants co-firing biomass and algae pellets, and sewage disposal plants - with the added benefit of eliminating sources of methane now being released into the atmosphere.

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