The head of the World Bank has said that soaring food prices are causing hardship and starvation for poor people worldwide, and implied that at least some of the blame lay with Western governments' efforts to encourage biofuel use. "While many worry about filling their gas tanks, many others around the world are struggling to …
To quote the great one, (P)Rick from The Young Ones.
"He's bloomin' right you know!"
Instead of turning 10% of the increasing consumption of hydrocarbons into "renewables", having a goal of having the amount of hydrocarbons burnt be 10% less in coming years than it is currently projected to be?
Then we don't have to argue over relative efficiencies nor push food prices through the roof.
Or maybe this is all about putting a crimp in China's style. And sod the other net importers who can't afford it. Or maybe it's the other way around and is a 2nd World plot to drag the decadent West's living standards down to their level.
No need for conflict
There's no need for there to be any conflict between food and fuel production. Biofuel can be manufactured just as easily from the *inedible* parts of plants. You have to grow the plant anyway for food, so you may as well use the parts you can't eat to manufacture fuel.
A population will grow to a size relative to the food available.
Too many people? And I suspect this is bollocks.
They're vague on the countries they're referring to, so I'll pick one with a historically disastrous food situation:-
"Ethiopia's poverty-stricken economy is based on agriculture, accounting for almost half of GDP, 60% of exports, and 80% of total employment. The agricultural sector suffers from frequent drought and poor cultivation practices. Coffee is critical to the Ethiopian economy with exports of some $350 million in 2006, but historically low prices have seen many farmers switching to qat to supplement income." - from the CIA worldfactbook.
So, 60% of exports and 80% of the population are in farming, just fill me in on the way in which farming is harmed by high food prices?
Little economics teaser for you...
If the price of coffee doubles, is Ethiopia a) Worse off or b) Better off?
This is like saying that the high prices of CPU's is making it difficult for Intel to do any adding up.
(The bollock icon)
too many people
All countries should have a 2 children per couple rule with fines for extras. then we can all eat and you petrolheads can drive also! Duh!
And fossil fuel powered cars run on human joy do they?
Way past time for everyone to unbunch their underpants, and start growing hemp again.
in diesel engines. cheaper and easier than any other "biofuel" scheme. you can add 20 to 50% of oil in the regular gasoil, and it's better for the engine than regular gasoil. The problem is, Texaco don't get money from that. They don't get much from ethanol either. Which might shed a new light on Zoellick's position.
And let's face it, all actions by the world bank so far tended to increase poverty and hunger in developping countries.
Oxfam can go fish
If anything can lead to recovery of 3rd world food crop production this will be it.
During the last 20 years a large portion of the 3rd world has forgotten how to farm and manufacture. We simply dump all of our leftover food, 2nd hand clothing, used electrical goods, etc as kind "charity donations". To add to that in many places multiple levels of local mafia, corruption and crime have grown along these aid channels. If this is what it necessary to take them down i am all for it. Where is the closest biofuel fourcort? I will have a full tank of dat please...
Me coat, with the "stop killing 3rd world industry by dumping our leftovers" sticker on it.
To hell in a hand basket
Why don't they invent nuclear reaction engines for cars, then we may even be able to time travel and stop the mess from starting once they get the flux-compacitor working.
What about beer consumption...
Obviously people at the World Bank dont own ethanol cars... I bet they drink beer though!
There are all kind of statistics that show the grain consumed in beer production could easily feed the world many times over, but they are not attacking that.
@JonB, Ethiopia has one other problem...
War. The country has been at war, with itself or Eritrea or Somalia, on and off, for the best part of thirty years. Most of the famines there were caused by people being driven off their land, armies stealing all the food or the work-age population getting slaughtered. And not down the pub, either. My dictum tends to be, when there's a problem, look for the man from the government. In this case the men from the government are carrying guns and stealing your son, but in other cases...
Of course Ethiopia might be in a much better position if it weren't for the protectionism of the US and the EU, both of whom prefer to see third-world farmers starve so they can protect their own farmers from having to actually compete in the world marketplace - and of course CAP finally achieved its stated goals and reduced our surpluses just at a time when we *really* need them. Ohio is 100% behind biofuels in the US, and France is pushing it here. Both are demanding more subsidies. There's that government interference again. C'est la vie.
The Biofuel boondoggle is just the icing on the cake, coming at a time when world food production has actually taken a slight dip (largely because of rising fuel costs, consequently causing a double pressure on food prices). I mean, who thought it would be a good idea to use *food* as *fuel*? What *idiot* came up with that? Oh wait, it was the government. How silly of me. And there's that man from the government again...
Paris, because even she's smart enough to know that you don't use bread to heat your home and you never, ever trust the government to feed you.
"Little economics teaser for you...
If the price of coffee doubles, is Ethiopia a) Worse off or b) Better off?"
As I understand it, the price of coffee hasn't increased quite as much as theat of cereal crops has.
This is because:
A) You can't make a decent biofuel from arabica.
B) Coffee-growing conditions are quite far removed from cereal-growing conditions.
Coffee is not in competition with maize, so does not benefit from an increase in the price of basic food crops.
In fact, coffee is technically a luxury good.
Little economics lesson for you:
When the price of essentials goes up, disposal income goes down.
As disposable income goes down, so do the prices of luxuries.
We have encouraged our poorer neighbours to base their economies on luxury cash crops. Which won't make them cash now. Or feed them. We are b*st*rds, basically.
Somebody is way wrong
The comments above seem a little naive. The problem is that the short term quick buck route means that any avialible food material will be sold to the highest bidder. That is standard capitalism, where short term profit is put before long term investment, note the quick fix ethanol as opposed to the longer more expensive methanol or biodiesal. Possibly in ten years the system might work out a equilibrium but until then the poor and helpless will starve the rain forest gets smaller and the planet gets warmer (but the suppliers of ethanol get richer).
I thought that was for drinking, not for cars. Stop them from runing Friday nights (or afternoons if you work for El Reg).
Biodiesel is ridiculously easy to make. Go to your local McDogfood, nick the used cooking oil (they LOVE to not have to pay for disposal!), and run it through a coffee filter. BAM! Biodiesel.
It requires no modifications to a diesel engine to run biodiesel. My old garage manager used to use it in his 2007 Ford F350, and he actually got BETTER mileage than using traditional #2 diesel. And far cheaper, with diesel at $4.859 a gallon at our fuel station.
The rich make the market scarce with export bans on rice and other food products and it was the rich in the oil market with fake supply issues that drove us to this in the first place.
Robert Zoellick should know all about this kind of thing as he is one of the richest.
IT seems he would like farmers to go back into debt so that his rich friends in the banking industry can go back to making gobs of money.
Hmm... seems Ford was also into the nuke biz... or wanted to be :)
It's the NWO's plan to starve the poor by using bio fuels! Get your tin foil caps ready! LOLZ
At last someone in the higher money spheres realizes that. Food crops for biofuels means less crops for actual food. There are plenty of schemes that don't require using the edible part, or even plants altogether, like that "cow crap" natural gas scheme in California.
Contrary to what the previous AC suggests, what will really happen is that farmers will ditch actual food crops and substitute them with biofuel crops, thus *reducing* the food supply. Coffee and tobacco plantations have already done their fair share of reducing food crops, as well as cannabis/coke plantations; farmers see these as more profitable options than actual food crops.
Get me a biowaste biofuel processor and that would definitely be a good option. Make one that can process human sewage and we'll get an added plus of cutting down on pollution as well!!!
Conservation is not the answer
`Instead of turning 10% of the increasing consumption of hydrocarbons into "renewables", having a goal of having the amount of hydrocarbons burnt be 10% less in coming years than it is currently projected to be?'
There's a fundamental problem with energy conservation, in that there is only ever so much of a saving to be made. There is a limit beyond which you can go no further. You can find a shortcut that will knock ten minutes off a journey, and another that will knock five minutes off that, and maybe even a third that knocks another two minutes off but once you've found the quickest route, there are no more short cuts to be found anywhere.
Making the energy we have got last a bit longer is a laudable goal and there's no reason not to do it, but by itself it is insufficient. We need renewable energy sources because the world's demand for energy is never, ever going to decrease.
@A J Stiles
True but since those methods are uneconomical, the "big companies" wouldn't bother and it's back to ethanol and the starving millions !!
@Pierre - that's because the World Bank is an American-run organisation that is for the benefit of the Americans. It is better to take a look at what the Asian Development Bank, the African Bank and, now, the Latino Bank are doing !! Starved peons cannot work hard for their multi-national massas !!
@Oxfam can go fish - Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll sit on the river bank, drinking beer all day !! :-)
ethanol is stupid
It ends up being a worse polluter than conventional gasoline in terms of toxicity of output. So what if it outputs slightly less CO2? Last time I heard plants like CO2, and tree-huggers like plants, so therefore, why do tree-huggers hate CO2? WTF?
It has no benefit, will just end up killing roadside vegetation and joggers, and inflates the cost of my cheese! Stupid Bastards!
What about the economy?
So many comments about politics, but none about economies. I tried the E85 fuel in a couple of my cars and found that the fuel economy took a decided dip (5%+) and the get-up-and-go had got-up-and-went. I switched back to the real stuff a bit sharpish!
"This is because:
A) You can't make a decent biofuel from arabica."
Incorrect. Actually, a professor at the University of Nevada, Reno has determined a method of making biofuel from coffee grounds. They are actually ideal because they contain a pretty fair amount of natural oil.
Carts pull the horses in the developed world
Correct observations above of developing world economies are tending to confuse causes with effects. (I'll spare the Grauniad my ire).
Follow the money. First, the USA has been dumping foodstuffs into developing countries at prices at which the farmers there cannot compete in the open market, and so are driven out of agriculture. Second, the terms of reciprocal arrangements mean that developing countries are forced to produce for export rather than for the domestic population, so as to procure dollars to repay foreign loans.
I wonder what the World Bank has to do with all this - not.
So what's the plan?
Are we going to ban bio fuels? Becuase if farmers can make more money selling crops for fuel rather than food that's the only way to stop them.
It seems the issue is not biofuels being inherently evil (much as I know the reg despises anything that may be good for the environment) but that the increases in oil prices have made previously unprofitable crop uses the cheaper option.
Its how i would do it
Too many people in the world already, bit of starvation based depopulation, disease, war and famine will sort it out and reduce C02 levels.
@Its how i would do it
"Too many people in the world already, bit of starvation based depopulation, disease, war and famine will sort it out and reduce C02 levels."
Well, starting with you, perhaps.
@Its how i would do it
> bit of starvation based depopulation, disease, war and famine
Starting with, presumably, those countries whose tiny agricultural sectors have no hope of feeding them like, well, Great Britain? Be careful whatyou ask for...
cause we wont need cars anyway cause soon we will be the oxen pulling the cart of our lizard lords and masters.
No good deed goes unpunished...
It is the law of unintended consequences. Usually governments invent "good deeds" and we go from there.
Oh, goody. E85. Now what was the price of that corn tortilla?
>The comments above seem a little naive..That is standard capitalism, where
>short term profit is put before long term investment, note the quick fix ethanol...
That's beyond naive.
Ethanol had nothing to do with capitalism and market forces.
It got it's start in dunderheaded environmentalists.
Back 20 years ago they required oxygenators in the fuel in certain parts of the U.S. to reduce pollution. The industry chose the cheapest one -- MTBE. Which is a water soluble carcinogen. Ok, that wasn't smart.
So the laws started to change that said no more MTBE -- you need Ethanol instead!
Problem was...you don't need oxygenators today. Advances in the computer controls for the cars address the problems that chemical additives like MTBE or Ethanol are meant to address. But dunderheaded environmentalists wouldn't accept fuel with oxygenators.
Then the farm lobby -- about as warped as you can think of from capitalism with a large number of federal programs and subisidies that muck with the market -- realized that having 10% of the fuel supply be ethanol was a way to increase farm profits...and they took up the cause of requiring Ethanol everywhere, not just where oxygenators had been needed twenty years ago for pollution control.
Big oil's response? Shrug their shoulders. Ethanol can't be mixed at the refineries, nor pumped by existing pipelines. And you need a lot more of it the MTBE to achieve the same effect. So they bought the extra tanker trucks, barges, and rail cars...and removed petroleum storage capacity at terminals to store ethanol instead, and did all the other steps to meet the law requiring ethanol to be used -- much more expensive, but they don't really care, they just add on the standard 15% profit to whatever it costs them to produce the fuel.
That Ethanol has a lower energy content which means you need to consume a few percentage points more fuel to drive as far...oh well, oil companies get to sell more fuel, too. Oh, that of course stresses a refining and distribution network already maxxed out driving up costs to constrain usage somemore...
Ethanol has nearly nothing to do with capitalism. It has to do with out-of-date environmentalists who like to make nice incomes going by continously suing somebody for something, combined with a farm lobby that would make Karl Marx proud. Plus politicians that pander to both of those groups, and healthy dose of bureaucrats who enjoy their government jobs in [agriculture|environmentalism], and corporations that just shake their head at stupidity and simply tack on their pre-determined profit margin to whatever the cost of producing goods are...even if substantial parts of those costs had nothing to do with their own decisions or how they would have made investments in a free market.
@jonb , sadly you really do not know much about Ethiopia and it's long history do you , for it has been at war with it's neighbours and fighting over resources for almost as long as recorded history itself , from ancient Egypt to virtual open warfare from the Seventh Century AD with a variety of Moslem controlled Empires to the present stupidity currently funded by the Yankee wankers for a price as they are being bled dry in both Somalia and Ogaden at the same time from ten thousand paper cuts !
As for the World Bank , it has and always will be a ploy to encourage poor third world nations to squander their limited resources very cheaply at one cent in the dollar to the prime beneficiary the US of A for it to function as country !
What price a choice indeed , for we have rigged the market and scales for the pure benefit of only one country to the exclusion of every one else , but even comedians like the Liverpool(Anfield) born Alexei Sayle , can be very cutting about the continuing failure of the World Bank to address any real issues in the so called developing third world !
"I tried the E85 fuel in a couple of my cars ..."
No further comment.
Paris, because there are a couple of cars too many in Paris as well ...
"that's because the World Bank is an American-run organisation that is for the benefit of the Americans."
That was exactly my point. Ethanol is BAD for World Bank because Texaco doesn't get money from it. Recycled (or brand new) oil in unmodified diesel engines is BAD for World bank (and for most of "Western" govs) because Texaco, Shell and company can't make money out of it. Lobbying at its worst. I must mention here that putting 20 to 50 % oil in your diesel engine actually helps your local colza producer, which re-equilibrates "world economy" because we don't need to flood third-world countries with our heavily-subventionned excedents anymore. Still the World Bank (and consorts) will never agree to that, because it goes against their very aim, which is to get as much money from developping countries as they can. And that implies the need to keep them "underdevelopped".
We need a new source of oil
Energy cost saving?
I always understood that it cost a lot of fossel fuel energy to grow crops. So much so that making food directly from fossel fuels was considered. More fossel energy goes into growing crops than you get out of the crop.
Any benefits from cleaner burning fuels and lower CO2 are lost when you look at the full picture. It's similar to zero emmission Hydrogen cars. Water is an emmission, and so is the CO2 released by the electricity generating grid used in the release of hydrogen from water.
You mean, eat the extra children? I think Jonathan Swift had a few good recipes, must dig them out...
Too many people in the world already, bit of starvation based depopulation, disease, war and famine will sort it out and reduce C02 levels.
The Barstard from the Bush
Its people that cause the problem, more or less…
More people eat more food and take up more space giving less space available to grow food. Result, we all eat Soylent Green.
Then there is the cost of transportation, as rising fuel prices drive up the cost of food (and just about everything else) and the oil industry admits to record breaking profits. But let’s leave that rant for later…
Why fire? Burn everything, that will solve the problem!
It's all about the meat.
Food shortages have little (if anything) to do with grains being turned into fuel. Look at rising consumption of animal protein in India and China. 2 Billion people are switching from maybe eating meat monthly to doing it weekly (or daily). We could switch to 100% ethanol and still have less impact than that consumption landslide.
Cattle and other ruminants consume about 5 times the resources to raise per ton as basic foodstuffs. It's simple math - as the third world adopts a more affluent diet, there will be food shortages. Dwarf wheat and other innovations (GM crops anyone?) have kept the lid on that pressure cooker for years, but we're reaching the limits of current tech. At least, until we work out the Soylent Green angle...
Biodiesel is more difficult?
No. Just no. I work for an environmentalist organization (we do electronic waste disposal), and we operate a fleet of stonking huge trucks that get 5 miles to the gallon on near-$5/gallon diesel and have saddle tanks that you could store dead bodies in. This situation was naturally at odds with our mission. So we made some friends in the local restaurant and snack food production industries, built a "small" refinery (about $25,000 investment), and now we produce enough biodiesel at the cost of something like $0.05 per gallon in consumables to feed a fleet 3 times our size.
The only problem comes when we have to send a truck outside range from our facility and run it on regular diesel.
We've also received a visit from the police because our neighbors (read: The town council) were concerned that we weren't participating in the mandatory local recycling program... Nevermind the gigantic "WASTE DISPOSAL" and recycling logos painted on the side of our vehicles. Unfortunately that program is mandatory in the sense that you "must participate in the program" and not "must recycle" - so we stick the stupid little bin out on the curb once a week with one aluminum can in it, and the rest of our waste goes onto our own trucks. But that's another issue.
The actual complaint, as far as I can understand is the following - "Don't do biodiesel, developed nations, because then you can't give away food you weren't going to use."
Since when is charitable government self-evident truth? I don't think that saving the environment (ethanol might not be actual saving, heck, it might pollute more, but for the purpose of the argument I'm assuming it's eco-friendlier than burning crude) for everyone is a worse goal than helping nations that by no means can help themselves.
If the charitable ability of the developed nations deminishes for any reason, why is it assumed that these nations are doing something wrong? In fact, the food surplus of EU is a beurocratic joke, and one that will find solution in the ever increasing openenness of the market.
So if we stop overproducing, or use the overproduced crops for something else; then we are all biggots who don't want to help our fellow man in dire need. I guess there is no pleasing some people, then.
As false as it gets
What does this guy think third world countries produce? Spaceships?
No, they produce mostly basic commodities, in particular food.
Yes, producing Ethanol from potential food sources reduces the availability of food, but the causes for people starving are not related to food scarcity. In fact, there's enough food in the world to overfeed the whole world. No, hunger cause is poverty. These starving populations simply cannot afford food. Why? Because what they produce is not as highly valued as other things.
Raise the price of food and these populations will have to pay a higher price for food (which amounts to perhaps 50% of their cost of living) but also raise the amount of their whole income by the same proportion. Net result, they have more capacity to acquire food and be well fed.
Now, I still think that making Ethanol is stupid, but not because of the reason mentioned. It is stupid because there are much better energy sources available, and the internal combustion car is dying anyway.
@ David , re Biodiesel
Are you ready to be held liable when someone reads your comments and does as you say?
"It requires no modifications to a diesel engine to run biodiesel."
This quote is correct in most cases and I have no argument with it.
"Biodiesel is ridiculously easy to make. Go to your local McDogfood, nick the used cooking oil (they LOVE to not have to pay for disposal!), and run it through a coffee filter. BAM! Biodiesel."
This quote is just wrong and will kill most Diesel engines.
What you have after running it through a coffee filter is clean used cooking oil.
The problem with running an engine on cooking oil is that it is much thicker than Mineral Diesel or even BioDiesel. As it's thicker the fuel pump has to work much harder, you are more prone to clogged injectors etc. Also it solidifies at much higher temperatures that Diesel so in cold weather you are trying to inject butter into the engine.
Diesel engines can run on clean oil if you convert them to heat the fuel before it reaches the pump/engine.
To convert it to BioDiesel you need to react it with Lye and Menthanol which strips most of the glycerine (a handy by-product of this process) and water out of it.
You also get a ready supply of soap from the used Lye.
The scary truth
There is a self correcting mechanism for overpopulation, it's called famine, disease, pestilence and war.
You know – the four horsemen.
Welcome to the apocalypse.
The high value of biofuel crops is leading to deforestation in Brazilian rainforests to grow biofuels. It is likely that we are nearing a 'tipping point' where the rainforest is no longer able to generate the rainfall it needs to sustain itself and so will collapse.
I think that's what they call irony.
Eat beef and starve a child
While ethanol might use up some grains that could otherwise be used to feed a starving child, so too could the grains that are wastefully converted into excess quantities of beef in feedlots.
There is no real grain/soy/whatever shortage. Instead, various consumptions rise to consume the production. When a new consumer emerges then other consumption needs to adjust.
The major buffer between production and consumption is the production of feedlot animals using the surplus grain/soy.
I'm not a vegetarian. Animals-as-food make a lot of sense, but raising them feedlot style does not. There is a lot of land, for example hill country, that cannot be used agriculturally except by running cattle and sheep etc. Traditionally animals have been used to convert waste and marginal resources into food: a few pigs and chickens fed on scraps etc, but now we use prime agricultural land to raise grains and soybeans to raise feedlock animals.... and for those that have eaten both: grass fed beef really does taste better.
Feedlot animal production, however, is extremely wasteful. The food input is many times the food output. Raising one food unit of feedlot output to give a Westerner an extra heart attack could feed many tens of starving kids.
What really screws things up are the various agricultural subsidies that encourage inappropriate production and consumption models.
The trick to making ethanol is to not use grains but instead use grasses and sugar cane etc. These don't compete for the same land as grain production (the optimum land for grain/soy != optimum land for grasses/sugar cane).
Well, well, well
I'm not a specialist on energy, but sometimes I get pissed off with the poor and untrue discourses people, which we hope to be well informed, do. Ethanol cars run on misery? As far as I know, there is no "misery" in the developed world. So, what is it about?
Well, here some points:
- ethanol production is inefficient in North America and Europe. Does it take place from food production? Certainly yes. There. Whatever it is for, fuel or food, the crops are financed with heavy subsidies anyway. The only way food get to poor places is from donations! Well done! Great way not to feed misery!
- Brazil has been producing ethanol for 30 years, from sugar cane. This month the comsuption of ethanol has been larger than gasoline. Cars run on 100% ethanol or whatever the mix of ethanol and gasoline you prefer. An uninformed person would say: You are destroying the Amazon forest! Bullshit. We have huge areas occupied by cattle that still can be used for agriculture. The Amazon issue is totaly another discussion...
- What about other poor countries? Just like Brazil itself, it has never been a problem of land, but of public policies of distribution. And, as a matter of fact, Brazil is "giving away" technology to other countries to produce ethanol. Not because we are the nice guys, but as a market strategy to make ethanol worldwide viable.
Now, is it a food issue? Well, here we go again! A new environmental/human rights bullshit, to sell the idea that initiaves like the Brazilian one are stupid, wrong, as a practical way to convince legislators in the consuming centers (oh! would it be the rich countries?) to adopt restrictions to what could be a source of income to poor regions. Let's just pretend it is about about food, ethanol and environment.. and forget about subsidies, market access restrictions, and where exactly the pockets are going to be filled with money...
@AC & heystoopid Ethiopian food production.
From the world food porgram:-
Facts & Figures
Land area: 1,104,300 sq km
Climate: Tropical monsoon with wide topographic-induced variation
Terrain: High plateau with central mountain range divided by Great Rift Valley
Food Production: Cereals, pulses, oilseed, sugar cane, potatoes, quat, hides, cattle, sheep, goats
Right, my coffee point was (I thought obviously) fascetious, the shortage of food production in ethiopia isn't actually relevant in this context, the point is that it is a country with an economy dependent on agriculture, such an economy is better off from high food prices (whether at war or chanting at a hippy tree hugging love in).
Similarly to the obvious statements that ethiopia has spent a significant time at war, the growth of food prices actually has broader causes than bio-fuel alone.
The growth of wealth in India and China has meant that people who previously existed on the bread line, can now buy more food, so they do. Oil prices, and as has been observed in numerous other Reg articles farming uses rather a lot of fuel, have gone up.
The bottom line is that it's time to hand out condoms with the food parcels.
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