IMF: Fuel from food a “very bad idea”
posted at 8:45 am on October 23, 2008 by Ed Morrissey
The International Monetary Fund has learned a lesson from its flirtation with biofuels, one that Barack Obama still has ignored. Turning food into fuel for cars not only takes sustenance from the people who can least afford it, it also wastes a tremendous amount of water. In short, biofuels are a “very bad idea”:
With many developing nations experiencing deep shocks and citizen unrest due to rising food and fuel prices, plenaries and breakout sessions during the Program of Seminars addressed causes, effects and solutions.
Commitments by members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to reduce carbon emissions through alternative fuels development, while well meaning, have exacerbated the global food crisis and contributed to world-wide water shortages, said Nestle chief executive Peter Brabeck-Letmathe.
The resulting drop in agricultural productivity has led to price increases, he said. “Water scarcity will be the most constraining element,” to additional production, he predicted. Replacing fuel with biofuel is “a very, very bad idea.”
Replacing even 6 percent of total fuel usage with biofuel would require doubling agricultural production to maintain current output. “Where are you going to get the land and the water for this? This is irresponsible policy,” Brabeck-Letmathe said. If the US alone would reverse its policy to replace fuel with biofuels, food prices would stabilize, he stated.
That’s not likely to happen in an Obama administration. Obama has pledged support for ethanol production, exactly the kind of biofuel that the IMF opposes. Corn ethanol is one of the least efficient forms in terms of energy consumption, but Obama has lost none of his enthusiasm for it. Small wonder; he has close advisers like Tom Daschle and Jason Grumet, both of whom work for corn-ethanol producers.
John McCain opposes corn ethanol, but not biofuels entirely. He is in the same global-warming mindset that has led so many nations towards biofuels as an alternative to gasoline. Unfortunately, that leads to two critical issues for human habitation: food production and water consumption. The growth of food for non-food purposes uses a lot of fresh water, which isn’t an unlimited resource. Normally, people recover some of that hydration in the food they eat, but instead cars burn it and it goes to waste.
Eventually, we will run short of arable land and fresh water to grow the crops that feed our cars instead of our mouths, and food prices will rise astronimically. We already saw this dynamic in 2008, and the reaction of governments was to pull back exports and keep food within their countries. This will lead to massive starvation and violent unrest. If you thought Islamic terrorism was bad, wait until two billion people realize they’ll starve to death because we didn’t want to drill for oil off the coasts or build nuclear plants for electric cars.