Tag Archives: biofuels

Biofuels: Starving the World?

Biofuels are a stepping stone to sustainable energy. Since biofuels still run on with internal combustion engines, it’s an excellent transition away from fossil fuels. The biofuel ethanol is made from corn, consuming great quantities for cars designed for it. However, the drought that has plagued midwestern states in North America have created widespread crop damage. The corn loss drives up food prices.  This was an issue before and it’s an official UN issue now, which I believe to be important in drawing attention to the flaws of ethanol.

In the article above, the UN director of Food and Agricultural Organization urges the U.S. to ease biofuel production for fear that there will be a food crisis. Now the UN really doesn’t hold significant power and functions more as an official mouthpiece for the world community. Most people tend to cite incidents like Rwanda and Iran to disparage their influence. However, it is an official global voice that can’t be easily dismissed.

This may be the first time in human history where we’re afraid of feeding more corn to machines than to actual human beings. It sounds absurd enough to be the plot of a sci-fi b-movie. The unfortunate truth is that we are facing the distinct possibility of a food shortage with this summer’s droughts.  Food is going to rise at least 6% in price. 6% doesn’t sound like much but remember that this accumulates similar to gas costs. With this potential food crisis on the horizon, I think it is important that we start recognizing the limitations of ethanol. The simple truth is that ethanol is not done in its technological journey. One of the biggest concerns of ethanol in the U.S. is the use of land in growing corn as it damages soil in the long term. Also, the amount of carbon dioxide produced is uncertain as there are mixed claims of ethanol cars producing more CO2 and corn fields absorbing enough to make up for the excess.

I’m not disparaging the advances on biofuels because these miraculous innovations are a fantastic transition away from fossil fuel cars and toward a more sustainable future. Right now, ethanol has a lot of valid criticisms at the moment. I point out these problems because critics would try to discourage biofuel advances with ethanol’s issues. I am insisting that we give the technology more time to mature and if we have to halt ethanol production to avoid a food shortage, so be it. But we shouldn’t use this as impetus to come to a screeching halt in advancing the technology. It’s only a speed bump and we’ll be over it shortly.