Monday, April 14, 2008

Biofuel - A Crime Against Humanity?

Global food prices are soaring due to economic conditions and a worldwide shift from production of food into production of biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel.  Burning our food in a misguided effort to reign in global warming is a "crime against humanity," according to Jean Ziegler of the United Nations.  Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon claims the crisis threatens to wipe out seven years worth of progress in the fight against poverty.  

Calling biofuel development a crime is probably overstating the case.  To qualify as criminal behavior, however, the promoters of biofuels would have to be acting with malice.  I'll give the some credit.  I don't think they are malicious, just very misguided.

The politically correct misguided souls should listen to someone who happens to be particularly knowledgeable about food production, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, who heads Nestle - the largest food company in the world.  According to him, giving "enormous subsidies for biofuel production is morally unacceptable and irresponsible . . . There will be nothing left to eat."

Food riots are already happening around the world and people are starving.  Prices continue to rise.  Still, governments including our own subsidize the production of fuel from food.  It doesn't seem to make much sense.  It makes even less sense when temperatures are falling and the whole biofuel movement is out there to combat the bogeyman of global warming.  

But, then again, when does government intervention into the free market make sense?

(Jean Ziegler is the "UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food," whatever that is.  She and Peter Brabeck-Letmathe are quoted in this article.  Ban Ki-moon's comments are noted in this one.)


Daemon said...

Let's hope the farmers go back to growing for food rather than fuel. Ethenol hasn't been economical from day one, and the current food prices are the critics predictions coming true. I'm all for alternative engergies, but there are better alternatives.
Check this for one example.

St. Louis Conservative said...

Interesting reading indeed. I have no problem decreasing our dependency on foreign oil in ways that make sense. Algae may be worth the effort.

Anonymous said...

If the problem is supply and demand why not increase supply by eliminating programs that pay farmers not to plant. We subsidise and fix prices in many ways and by eliminating this method we save billions in susbidies and increase the supply of food. I haven't heard this discussed but it seems like a big fat "duh" to me.

St. Louis Conservative said...

Good question RW. The answer is that the farm lobby is powerful and big agriculture has a vested interest in free money from the government (read you, me and the rest of the taxpaying public) for not planting crops.