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By Steven Milloy
April 17, 2008
Food riots caused by rising food prices have erupted around the world. Five people died in riots in Haiti --
perhaps the first of many casualties yet to come from the current fad of being “green.”
Food riots also broke out in Egypt, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Ethiopia. The military is being deployed in Pakistan and Thailand to protect fields and warehouses. Higher energy costs and policies promoting the use of biofuels like ethanol are being blamed.
“When millions of people are going hungry, it’s a crime against humanity that food should be diverted to biofuels,” an Indian government official told the Wall Street Journal. Turkey’s finance minister labeled the use of biofuels as “appalling,” according to paper.
Biofuels have turned out to be a lose-lose-lose proposition. Once touted by the Greens and the biofuel industry as being able to reduce the demand for oil and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, biofuels have accomplished neither goal and have no prospect of accomplishing either in the foreseeable future. The latest research shows, in fact, that biofuels actually increase greenhouse gas emissions on a total lifecycle basis.
Add in that taxpayer-subsidized diversion of food crops and food crop acreage to fuel production has contributed to higher food prices and reduced food supply, and biofuels turn out to be nothing less than a public policy disaster.
The situation is not likely to get any better any time soon as cutting the farm subsidies and tariffs on sugar cane-based ethanol imports that have fueled the ethanol craze seems to be yet another third-rail of U.S politics.
Biofuel proponents hope the reliance on food crops to produce biofuels is temporary and they point to a future where non-food biomass (like corn stalks and grasses) is used to produce so-called cellulosic ethanol.
But in addition to the fact that the technology for producing cellulosic ethanol on a cost-effective basis is nowhere near ready for prime time, the greenhouse gas footprint of cellulosic ethanol is likely to be far worse than corn-based ethanol. It’s one thing to transport relatively compact corn kernels to be processed into ethanol; it’s quite another thing to transport bulky biomass.
The biomass bulk problem would require that a multitude of cellulosic ethanol plants be built around the country -- a project that could be quite costly and difficult to locate given the phenomenon of NIMBY-ism and the problem of plant emissions making it more difficult for states to comply with federal air quality standards. States that don’t meet those standards don’t get their much-needed federal highway funds.
Food riots are only the tip of the Green iceberg. We might also expect energy riots to erupt one day.
The plain fact is that the world has an ever-growing population that needs more and more energy. But the greens are doing everything they can to constrict the world’s energy supply.
As the Sierra Club campaigns to shutdown our coal-fired electricity capabilities, the Natural Resources Defense Council campaigns to prevent nuclear power from taking its place. The demise of coal-fired power and the blockage of increased nuclear power will necessarily increase the demand for, supply constraints on and prices for natural gas.
But then again, Earth First! is perhaps helping to alleviate the need the looming natural gas crisis by campaigning against power plants that use the fuel. In a recent campaign against a South Florida power plant, an Earth First! Campaigner stated that the environment ought not be threatened “so that people can fuel their greedy energy desires.”
“Just say No to electricity,” seems to be the bottom line of eco-think.
Even wind power is becoming more and more politically incorrect.
Environmentalist-friendly Maryland governor Martin O’Malley announced this week that wind farms will not be allowed on state lands because they are eyesores. Considering eco-activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s long-standing opposition to a wind farm off the coast of his family’s Hyannis Port, MA compound and environmentalist concerns that wind farms kill wild birds, it seems that the future of wind power is quite uncertain.
The environmentalist effort to tie our energy policy knots is already producing results.
The availability of electricity in the Washington D.C. area is so fragile that Maryland officials are already planning for summertime rolling blackouts starting in 2011. California officials are so concerned that a recent state legislative proposal would have provided local utilities the power to control thermostats in new homes and businesses. Although this effort failed, it’s not that hard to imagine that, one day, all homes will have their electrical use controlled by local utilities -- no doubt run by your local Green energy czars.
Millions in the developing world have died and continue to do so from the Greens’ campaign against the use of pesticides like DDT. Nothing less should be expected from their new campaign that threatens global food and energy production.