The Obama administration has roundly refused to scale back on its relentless buoying up of the biofuels industry, despite the clamorous criticism of almost everybody except the ethanol lobby; once the supposedly ‘environmental’ zealots of our bloated federal bureaucracy and their cronyish friends have decided on a policy, that’s just all there is to it, and no, we really do not give a damn about the real-world unintended consequences.
Well, leftists and rent-seekers, here are some unintended consequences: We are already dealing with inflated food prices in the United States because of the government’s mandate that we use a certain portion of ethanol in our fuel (nevermind that the we are essentially being forced to buy a politically-favored product we do not want to use that has no proven efficiency or carbon-reduction benefits anyway), but Americans’ food expenditures as a portion of their income are often relatively small compared to the rest of the world. In less developed countries, the effects of these polices can be nothing short of devastating. The NYT reports:
Recent laws in the United States and Europe that mandate the increasing use of biofuel in cars have had far-flung ripple effects, economists say, as land once devoted to growing food for humans is now sometimes more profitably used for churning out vehicle fuel. …
With its corn-based diet and proximity to the United States, Central America has long been vulnerable to economic riptides related to the United States’ corn policy. Now that the United States is using 40 percent of its crop to make biofuel, it is not surprising that tortilla prices have doubled in Guatemala, which imports nearly half of its corn. …
In a country where most families must spend about two thirds of their income on food, “the average Guatemalan is now hungrier because of biofuel development,” said Katja Winkler, a researcher at Idear, a Guatemalan nonprofit organization that studies rural issues. Roughly 50 percent of the nation’s children are chronically malnourished, the fourth-highest rate in the world, according to the United Nations.
The American renewable fuel standard mandates that an increasing volume of biofuel be blended into the nation’s vehicle fuel supply each year to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and to bolster the nation’s energy security.
Should this effect perhaps give pause to our magnanimous policy-makers? …Nahhh:
Those keeping score of the pro vs. against biofuel camps can add another point for the advocates since the federal government has agreed to divert more funds towards the expansion of biofuels. Specifically, the US Department of Energy (DOE) will award more than $10 million to five products designed to speed up technology related to converting biomass to fuel.
The largest grant, at $2.5 million, will go to California-based Novozymes, which (for you chemistry buffs out there) finds enzymes that can “deconstruct” biomass into fuel-worthy material. Washington State-based Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Texas-based Texas AgriLife Research will each get as much as $2.4 million for their biofuels projects. California-based Lygos and Maryland-based J. Craig Venter Institute will also get DOE funds. Read the DOE’s press release below.