Ethanol Lobby: Fuel Trumps Hunger

Here is some food for thought: The amount of grain needed to fill the tank of an SUV with ethanol just once can feed one person for an entire year.

Another hard-hitting fact: The 107 million tons of grain that went to U.S. ethanol distilleries in 2009 was enough to feed 330 million people for one year at average world consumption levels, as stated in an article on Food Freedom’s website.

Still think the federal government’s mandate of ethanol in vehicles is a good idea?

Not only is the federal government’s insatiable appetite for ethanol causing a world food crisis, it has proved itself to be an uneconomical form of energy. An article in the National Review points out, “Ethanol is so uneconomical that Congress supports it three different ways — with a mandate for its use, a tax credit to subsidize it, and a tariff to keep out competitors. Rarely are so many levers of government used to prop up one woeful product.”

Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG), is concerned about the apparent disregard the federal government, especially the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has for the crisis it is causing by enforcing these ethanol mandates.

“The ethanol subsidy, and the mandates imposed by the EPA, has had the adverse impact of driving up the cost of corn,” he says. “In 2008, food aid budgets were brought to the brink, and food riots broke out in the Third World, because corn got so expensive.”

With 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop now devoted to the government-created demand for ethanol, it is no wonder parts of the world are in upheaval.

ActionAid USA is an organization that works to end extreme poverty and hunger in the world and has come out strongly against ethanol subsidies. In a joint press release with other groups against the use of ethanol and ethanol subsidies, Marie Brill, senior policy analyst for ActionAid USA, said, “With predictions of another food price crisis on the horizon in 2011, Congress should be re-evaluating the costs and benefits of converting food to fuel, instead of approving a $6 billion giveaway to the biofuel industry through VEETC. Adding an ethanol subsidy to the tax package will help break the budget, and it won’t give hungry people the break they need. We cannot afford to spend billions fueling hunger by throwing good taxpayer money after bad biofuels.”

But, with a Renewable Fuels Standard already in place and a $6 billion a year subsidy to gasoline refiners who blend corn ethanol into gasoline, it appears food being converted to fuel is a much higher priority to the federal government and the EPA than the lives of those people in Africa who are now starving to death as a result.

The world has already seen the consequences of this ethanol mandate in action. In Tunisia, skyrocketing food prices caused major food riots and have resulted in the starving of poor peasants throughout the world.

An excerpt from the article on Food Freedom’s website sums up well this devastating effect of the EPA-mandated policy.

“This energy legislation requires a five-fold increase in ethanol use by 2022. Some 15 billion gallons must come from traditional corn-blended ethanol. Nothing like combining PhD models and political corruption to cause worldwide chaos. Ben Bernanke and Charley Grassley have joined forces to bring down the President of 23 years in Tunisia. People tend to get angry when they are starving. Bringing home the bacon for your constituents has consequences. In the U.S. only about 10 percent of disposable income is spent on food. By contrast, in India, about 40 percent of personal disposable income is spent on food. In the Philippines, it’s about 47.5 percent. In some sub-Saharan Africa, consumers spend about 50 percent of the household budget on food. And according to the U.S.D.A., ‘In some of the poorest countries in the region such as Madagascar, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, and Zambia, this ratio is more than 60 percent.’ ”

The government’s interference in America’s free markets by favoring those involved in the process of converting corn to fuel is destroying governments and lives around the world.

“Ethanol is not a wise investment for the U.S. to back,” says ALG’s Wilson. “It is expensive to create and transport and is not an efficient form of renewable energy. Furthermore, it is causing a global food crisis leaving people in other nations starving. No form of renewable energy is worth that cost.”

But the EPA continues to be all for it, even recently deciding that vehicles as old as 2001 are able to use the product.

As the world’s hungriest people go on starving America will be driving around in vehicles full of fuel that could have fed them for an entire year.

How’s that for food for thought?

Rebekah Rast is the national correspondent of Americans for Limited Government (ALG) News Bureau. Americans for Limited Government is dedicated to putting the principles of limited government into action. They work with local groups across the nation to promote freedom, limited government, and the principles of the U.S. Constitution. Their goal is to harness the power of American citizens and grassroots groups in order to put the people back in charge in states across the country. You can follow her on Twitter at @RebekahRast.

13 Responses to “Ethanol Lobby: Fuel Trumps Hunger”

  1. Not to mention, ethanol is deleterious to engines, especially older ones. My John Deere lawn tractor requires real petroleum fuel, and I have to drive 15 miles out of my way, into an adjacent county not under the thumb of some onerous government mandate, to get ethanol-free gas.

    But enough of my personal distaste for it – the fact that food is being sacrificed for fuel is unconscionable, especially when we have decades, if not centuries, of easily accessible oil deposits at our doorstep.

  2. It is reprehensible that we take food from the mouths of hungry people to fill our gas tanks. Especially when we know that the production of that fuel is horribly inefficient and produces more pollution than an equivalent amount of coal. Until we can produce ethanol from cellulose waste cheaply and efficiently we should stop this insanity just to satisfy the pipe-dreams of leftists and government bureaucrats for a viable “alternative fuel” to replace petroleum.

  3. For 50 years our government subsidized corn so that our farmers didn’t go broke and so Americans could enjoy cheap food most of the time except for the periodic price spikes all commodities go through every five or ten years. Most politicians and groups like ALG complained about those subsidies supporting the floor farm prices paid by taxpayers to remove surplus corn from our market. To solve that surplus subsidy problem while finding a useful market for the corn surplus, the RFS ethanol program was developed. Surplus? If almost 40% of our corn is routed to ethanol while we still export 20% and still feed our animals and make your corn syrup, that 40% to ethanol must be defined as surplus. Where would all that corn go if it were not for ethanol? To feed poor? So, if you send it to the poor, are you ready to pay for it – 40% of all the corn grown in the USA? Get real.

    When commodity stocks get tight, prices rise. The cure for high prices is high prices i.e. farmers around the world will plant more next season as they always have and always will.

    The USA is not starving anyone and we have not caused some dictators to fall in underdeveloped nations. Mismanagement and overpopulation in poor countries has caused their starvation and political unrest. If current prices are high, that alone acts as an incentive for more underdeveloped nation farmers to produce more. The higher prices and unrest causes dictators to pay more attention to and promote local food production.

    Since when is it my responsibility to feed the poor starving peoples under third world dictators? It is incumbent upon us to create foreign policy which encourages better domestic food production practices in poor nations and discourages lack of government effort to promote their domestic food production.

    I can’t wait until the Blenders Credit, the $0.45 subsidy to the oil industry, is discontinued. While we are at it, why don’t you focus on eliminating all the established energy subsidies (coal, oil, gas, wind, solar, etc.) or do you just focus your hatred on ethanol because Big Oil has created a scapegoat cause for you to follow?

    America’s energy problem is not a minor short term issue. If we run out of energy, our entire economy will collapse. Ethanol is but a minor contribution to the complex group of diverse solutions. However, ethanol is here and now. Don’t tell me about your wonderful cellulosic ethanol that is always just five years away or algae – these technologies have been researched to death for over three decades; they are not economically viable without subsidies at least three fold higher than the corn ethanol blenders credit about which you complain vociferously. You need to give deeper thought to the whole subject rather than merely repeating the untruths and hyperbole being generated by Big Oil public relations lackeys.

    Enjoy your day!

  4. Let the market drive the price of corn, food, and energy. Under our Constitution, that’s the only choice we have, and it’s the best choice. History shows the market can do a much better job of regulating prices and accessability than central planning ever did.

    Ethanol is wasteful, counterproductive, and inefficient; it wouldn’t even exist were it not for our federal government wasting unconstitutional taxpayer dollars on it.

    There is plenty of oil worldwide–and even plenty here, if we’ll start telling the environmental wackos to go pound sand.

    There is no need to waste money on faux “solutions” when plenty of cheap energy is already in our back yard.

  5. This is a very one-sided and simplistic assessment. People don’t go hungry in the world because there isn’t enough food – they go hungry because they have no ACCESS to food, which is an entirely different matter. It is a completely distortion to imply that when people use ethanol they are burning up corn that might have been someone’s meal. Solving hunger problems has a lot more to do with how economies are structured, not how much corn is being turned into ethanol. On the other hand, you do have a point about too much government money being dedicated to support the US ethanol industry. They have cashed in for decades, and the numbers are staggering. In that respect, they should indeed be forced to make their industry more efficient and able to compete in a free market. It makes no sense, for example, to tax a cheaper and better made brand of ethanol out of the U.S. market, which is what happens now – Brazil has sugarcane ethanol, made far more efficiently and with significant positive CO2 reduction numbers in its favor, but they can’t sell the stuff in the US because of a very hefty tariff. The bottom line is that we should get our heads out of the sand and make sure we do our homework before generalizing. All ethanols are definitely NOT created equal, so let’s not bash the product in a wide-ranging way and throw the baby out with the bath water in the process. That would help nobody. Also, people who whine about ethanol being bad for their engines really, truly, do not know what they’re talking about. This is a low-quality scare tactic at best. For those who believe this malarkey, be aware that the same automakers that will scare you about you possibly losing your warranty because of too much ethanol, have been selling tens of thousands of cars in Brazil for decades… Brazil, where since the mid 70s, all gasoline sold in the country includes as much as 25% ethanol! And those Brazilians often drive the exact same cars that you can buy in the US… and automakers would have you believe that going beyond 10% ethanol in the gasoline is a serious problem. The real question is why do automakers do that, when they possess reams of data from decades of real life experience in Brazil, currently the fifth largest automotive market in the world… Why would they say stupid things like “we need more research”? That is the question US consumers should be asking…

  6. Over and above all the arguments about whether there is enough food to go around, will it ruin your engine, etc., there are three basic facts about ethanol that say “ditch it” to me:

    1. It requires more energy to produce it than it yields

    2. It shouldn’t be receiving government subsidies

    3. Without government subsidies, the market would do what common sense dictates and kill ethanol in a heartbeat

  7. Not true, ethanol does not use more energy than it yields. More oil industry disinformation.

  8. The oil industry wouldn’t exist if not for 70 years of federal government subsidies.

  9. Yes it does. Established fact. Claims to the contrary are just more anti-oil industry misinformation.

  10. More socialist anti-oil disinformation.

    You mean tax breaks? Tax breaks aren’t subsidies. Tax breaks allow people and enterprises to keep more of what they earn. Subsidies take money away from some people or enterprises to give to another.

  11. How about let’s not waste the corn on an inefficient and costly energy source at all?

  12. In reality, ethanol from corn comes close to a zero-gain situation – for every unit of fossil fuel burned to produce it, you get 1.4 units of renewable energy back. This is why I said in my original post that we can’t simply dismiss ethanol as if it was all the same stuff, because it is not. With Brazilian ethanol, you get over 9 units of renewable energy per unit of fossil fuel burned to produce it. And yet, we pile tariffs on this stuff and keep it out of the country. That makes no sense at all, as it makes no sense at all to say let’s kill ethanol… I would say let ethanol fight its own battle, including corn ethanol. If it were subjected to market pressures and demands, I guarantee you the industry will do better than a 1.4 to 1 ratio… They’ll have to, because their only other choice will be to shut down. And US taxpayers would save 6 billion bucks a year currently supporting that industry.