Greedy Africans are starving our cars
By Paul Driessen
"You've heard of Live Aid? Well, this is Drive Aid," an ardent young man says, as he approaches London pedestrians. "Greedy people in developing nations are eating huge amounts of food that could easily be turned into biofuel to power our cars. African acreage the size of Belgium is being used for food, and we're saying it should go to cars here in the UK. Can we have your support?"
Londoners reacted with disbelief and outrage, the ActionAid UK video shows, and refused to sign his mock petition. The amusing stunt drove home a vital point: Biofuel programs are turning food into fuel, converting cropland into fuel production sites, and disrupting food supplies for hungry people worldwide. The misguided programs are having serious environmental consequences, as well.
Why, then, can't politicians, bureaucrats and environmentalists display the common sense exhibited by London's citizenry? Why did President Obama tell Africans (many of whom are malnourished) in July 2009 that they should refrain from using "dirty" fossil fuels and use their "bountiful" biofuel and other renewable energy resources, instead? When will Congress pull the plug on Renewable Fuel Standards?
Ethanol and other biofuels might have made some sense when Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and established mandates (or "standards") requiring that refiners and consumer purchase large quantities of ethanol and other biofuels. Back then, despite growing evidence to the contrary, many people thought we were running out of oil and gas, and believed manmade global warming threatened the planet. But this is not 2005. Those rationales are no longer persuasive.
The hydraulic fracturing revolution has obliterated the Club of Rome "peak oil" notion that we are rapidly exhausting the world's petroleum. Climategate and other IPCC scandals demonstrated that the "science" behind climate cataclysm claims is conjectural, manipulated and even fraudulent. And actual observations of temperatures, storms, droughts, sea levels and Arctic ice have refused to cooperate with computer models and Hansen-Gore-EPA-IPCC disaster scenarios.
In fact, biofuels and Renewable Fuel Standards cannot be justified on any grounds.
The United States is using 40 million acres of cropland (Iowa plus New Jersey) and 45% of its corn crop to produce 14 billion gallons of ethanol annually. This amount of corn could feed some 570 million people, out of the 1.2 billion who still struggle to survive on $1.25 per day.
This corn-centric agriculture is displacing wheat and other crops, dramatically increasing grain and food prices, and keeping land under cultivation that would otherwise be returned to wildlife habitat. It requires millions of pounds of insecticides, billions of pounds of fertilizer, vast amounts of petroleum-based energy, and billions of gallons of water – to produce a fuel that gets one-third less mileage per gallon than gasoline and achieves no overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Ethanol mandates have caused US corn prices to rocket from $1.96 per average bushel in 2005 to as much as $7.50 in autumn 2012 and $6.68 in June 2013. Corn growers and ethanol makers get rich. However, soaring corn prices mean beef, pork, poultry, egg and fish producers pay more for corn-based feed; grocery manufacturers pay more for corn, meat, fish and corn syrup; families pay more for everything on their dinner table; and starving Africans go hungry because aid agencies cannot buy as much food.
By 2022, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (amending the 2005 law) requires 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol and 21 billion gallons of cellulosic and other non-corn-based biofuels. That will monumentally worsen all these problems.
Equally insane, the Environmental Protection Agency's draft rule for 2013 required that refiners purchase 14 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels. There's a teensy problem: the fuel doesn't exist. A mere 4,900 gallons were produced in March, and zero the other months. So companies are forced to buy fantasy fuel, fined big bucks if they do not, and punished if they get conned into buying fraudulent "renewable fuel credits" from "socially responsible" companies like Clean Green Fuel, Absolute Fuels and Green Diesel.
Ethanol collects water, which can result in engine stalls. It corrodes plastic, rubber and soft metal parts. Pre-2001 car engines, parts and systems may not be able to handle E15 fuel blends (15% ethanol, 85% gasoline), adversely affecting engine, fuel pump and sensor durability. Older cars, motorcycles and boats fueled with E15 could conk out in dangerously inopportune places; at the very least they could require costly engine repairs. Lawn mowers and other gasoline-powered equipment are equally susceptible.
On a global scale, the biofuels frenzy is diverting millions of acres of farmland from food crops, converting millions of acres of rainforest and other wildlife habitat into farmland, and employing billions of gallons of water, to produce corn, jatropha, palm oil and other crops for use in producing politically correct biodiesel and other biofuels.
To top off this seemingly inexhaustible list of policy idiocies, all this ethanol and other biofuel could easily be replaced with newly abundant oil and gas supplies. Amazing new seismic, deepwater, deep drilling, hydraulic fracturing and other technologies have led to discoveries of huge new reserves of oil and natural gas – and enabled companies to extract far more petroleum from reservoirs once thought to have been depleted.
That means we can now get vastly more energy from far less land; with far fewer impacts on environmental quality, biodiversity and endangered species; and with none of the nasty effects on food supplies, food prices and world hunger that biofuel lunacy entails.
We could do that – if radical greens in the Obama Administration, United Nations and eco pressure groups would end their ideological opposition to leasing, drilling, fracking, Outer Continental Shelf and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge development, Canadian oil sands, the Keystone pipeline and countless other projects. We could do so, if they would stop behaving like environmentalist Bull Connors, arrogantly blocking the doors to human and civil rights progress.
This colossal global biofuels industry exists only because resource depletion and climate Armageddon ideologies do not die easily – and because politicians lavish government mandates and billions of dollars in taxpayer and consumer subsidies on firms that have persuasive lobbyists and reliable track records for channeling millions of those dollars back to the politicians who keep the racket going.
The ActionAid UK video has lent some good British gallows humor to a serious issue. As another well-known Brit might say, it is time rein in a global SPECTRE that has wreaked too much human and environmental havoc.
To get that long overdue effort underway, Congress needs to amend the 2005 Energy Policy Act, eliminate the Renewable Fuel Standards and end the taxpayer subsidies.
A few thousand farmers and ethanol makers will undoubtedly feel some pain. A few hundred politicians will have less money in their reelection coffers. However, countless wild creatures will breathe much easier in their newly safe natural habitats – and millions of families will enjoy a new birth of freedom, a new wave of economic opportunity, and welcome relief from hunger and malnutrition.
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power - Black death.