Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bio-Fuel Balls Up

When I first moved to America - which was only ten months ago - corn-on-the-cob was available from our local supermarket for 19 cents an ear.

These days, it's approaching European prices - $1.99 for two ears.

Part of this is because corn's not in season at the moment. Another major influence has been the big push into the production of biofuels.

I've written about it before. Most biofuels aren't really a viable replacement for petrol yet - especially the ones derived from corn. For a start, it takes just as much energy to produce biofuel from corn as the fuel actually generates. If the original source of energy is coal, oil or petrol-based, a gallon of 'clean' ethanol has actually generated as much greenhouse gas as a gallon of regular gasoline.

Secondly - wasting corn in the production of an inefficient petrol substitute removes it from the food chain, reducing supplies of a staple feed crop. This dramatically increases the price of corn-based produce in the shops. That effects everything from my corn-on-the-cob to all the supermarket foods laden with high fructose corn syrup (which includes everything from extended-life bread to 'all natural' soda drinks.)

This has effected all of us - but my expensive ears of corn are nothing compared to the effects food-inflation is having on the rest of the world. All across the globe, the very poor are finding it increasingly difficult to feed themselves as they face what the World Nation's Food Program call a 'food price tsunami.'

It's about time we stopped blithely following the climate-change trend and actually looked sternly and objectively at the whole picture.

Most biofuels are not efficient. More research has to be done to produce an efficient and sustainable alternative to gasoline (my brother mentioned that, in the future, genetically modified enzymes could be used to turn seaweed into fuel.)

Until a decent alternative has been found, we should stop wasting vast amounts of money (and food crop) on producing overpriced ethanol, which does nothing to protect the environment.

There are entirely viable, clean and efficient energy solutions out there. It just seems that nobody's willing to invest the time researching them - especially not when a short term 'solution' like corn-based biofuel is making us all feel like we're doing something positive to prevent climate change.

Really, all that's doing is directing money into the pockets of farmers and politicians who are more interested in making a quick profit than actually doing anything constructive to save the environment.

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