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Biofuels Are Starving Us

by Hank Green on August 23, 2008

FoodRiot Biofuels Are Starving Us
The impact of the rising biofuels market on global food prices is much worse than predicted. According to an as yet unpublished study commissioned by the World Bank, biofuels have caused food prices to rise 75%.

The World Bank completed the study, which has been leaked by the Guardian, at the end of April but has yet to publish it, presumably in deference to Bush’s gung-ho corn ethanol campaign. Another damning study by the British government, due out soon, states that biofuels have “played a significant part in pushing up food prices.”

From the Guardian:

"Political leaders seem intent on suppressing and ignoring the strong evidence that biofuels are a major factor in recent food price rises," said Robert Bailey, policy adviser at Oxfam. "It is imperative that we have the full picture. While politicians concentrate on keeping industry lobbies happy, people in poor countries cannot afford enough to eat."

Rising food prices have pushed 100m people worldwide below the poverty line, estimates the World Bank, and have sparked riots from Bangladesh to Egypt. Government ministers here have described higher food and fuel prices as "the first real economic crisis of globalisation".

President Bush has linked higher food prices to higher demand from India and China, but the leaked World Bank study disputes that: "Rapid income growth in developing countries has not led to large increases in global grain consumption and was not a major factor responsible for the large price increases."

Even successive droughts in Australia, calculates the report, have had a marginal impact. Instead, it argues that the EU and US drive for biofuels has had by far the biggest impact on food supply and prices.

Food prices have risen 140% since 2002. Higher prices for energy and petroleum-based fertilizier accounts for 15% while researchers linked biofuels to a whopping 75% increase.
While no biofuel has yet proven efficacious, the government-pushed corn-based ethanol program is particularly disastrous. The massive amounts of petroleum fertilizer dumped on the fields, eventually running into the ocean, has caused an increase in the Dead Zone; we’re increasing the smog and ozone levels and causing more deaths from asthma and respiratory illnesses; and the energy yield from corn is laughable.

Say you were able to cultivate every acre of Illinois for corn-based ethanol. This is purely hypothetical as it would involve bulldozing Chicago and other cities and towns in the Prairie State. As an Illinois resident surrounded by cornfields, fleeing demolition is not my relocation fantasy.

One of the potentially most productive corn-growing states on the planet would yield about 5.7 billion bushels of corn and 16 billion gallons of ethanol, according to Charles Washburn, professor emeritus at California State University. He has researched the subject over the past 45 years.

The Illinois mega-crop would provide only 0.8 percent of annual U.S. gasoline and diesel-fuel use, Washburn estimates, subtracting the energy it takes to create ethanol.

Of course, U.S. energy consumption isn’t a static beast. Washburn further projects that “a new corn field the size of Illinois would be required to meet our transportation energy growth every seven months.”

Related posts:

  1. UK Bus Line Explores Biofuels, Disses Hybrids
  2. Consumers Fed Up with Ethanol
  3. Ethanol Production is Spreading the Dead Zone
  4. Uses for the SUV You Can’t Afford
  5. Using Food for Fuel Leaves Bad Taste in the Mouths of the Hungry
  6. Recent Posts

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

1 unnamed and un maimed July 28, 2008 at 8:07 pm

Thats un-believable. Good thing the police were to there to prevent things like that from happening.


2 Teevio July 28, 2008 at 8:15 pm

HOLY! I really hope that office gets prosecuted to the fullest extent.


3 Teevio July 28, 2008 at 8:29 pm

From another angle and another ‘arrest’: [url]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWq3TCLepPo[/url]


4 Clinch July 28, 2008 at 8:55 pm

I don’t think it’s fair to call it a random act of violence when you don’t know the context.

I don’t want to over analyse the video, but there are several things thoughts I had while watching, which don’t agree with your baseless claim of random assault.
-No police officer is going to be stupid enough to just randomly attack someone in front of thousands of people (and hundreds of cameras).
-The police looked like the could be waiting for someone (i.e. the guy pushed over)
-The guy looked like he tried to speed up (to get past and away quickly perhaps), but even though it’s difficult to tell from the short clip, it’s obvious that he made no attempt to slow down, even though he was heading for where the officer was walking.

But that’s just what I noticed from just that one video, without knowing any of the context.

It’s unfair to just assume the policeman was in the wrong without knowing the whole story, especially considering all the other crap they have to put up with, for all we know, the cyclist could be a murdering pedophile terrorist, and the officer was waiting for him, after he robber a bank, and escaped on bike, using the ride as cover.


5 Donald July 28, 2008 at 10:25 pm

Clinch has a point, but I really want to know what warranted this. It didn’t look like the officer instructed him to stop or gave any warning short of walking at him and preparing to knock him off. However, given the NYPD’s history regarding Critical Mass (see http://www.stillweridethemovie.com/), I’m not inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.


6 B.J. July 28, 2008 at 11:46 pm

This is such a frustrating sight. I understand that context is needed, but even if there was a valid reason to stop/arrest that person, unless he was escaping a robbery or threatening people, he could have been stopped in a more humane way.

I don’t agree that it looked like he was speeding up to escape, it looked like he was just trying to avoid the cop, something anyone would do if they’re moving 10 miles an hour on a bicycle.


7 Scott July 29, 2008 at 1:36 am

Are you serious Clinch? The cop body checked somebody off of a bike. If he wanted to stop the biker, he could have put his hand up. If you claim there is no context, then don’t try to make some ridiculous American fear mongering context up about terrorists. The cop assaulted this biker, and that is what we can tell for certain from the video. As the biker wasn’t charged with terrorism, rape, or bank robbery in the 26 hours he was in jail, maybe we could even deduce that he was just another critical mass bike rider. The cop should be charged with assault.


8 clinchedBUTThole July 29, 2008 at 2:34 am

Clinch…this [i]IS[/i] america. Innocent until proven guilty right?

Well, for all you know the cyclist could be a murdering pedophile terrorist, and the officer was waiting for him, after he robber a bank, and escaped on bike, using the ride as cover.

But, like Scott said, he wasn’t charged with that stuff while in jail for 26 hours, so good detective work would deduce that he was just a random cyclist…

When you see those shows on tv that show criminals caught in the act, do you ever accuse the narrator of taking the video out of context?

“For all we know, the videos that [i]LOOK[/i] like gunmen robbing a convenience store were really guys collecting donations from the store owner. The clerk is confused about the situation because the owner forgot to mention it to the clerk before going home for the night…”

Please!! That Cop S*cks and it’s documented on video! He is the criminal here!


9 adriel July 29, 2008 at 4:41 am

“The biker, Christopher Long, of Hoboken, N.J., was arrested because he was obstructing traffic in the heart of Times Square, a criminal complaint said. He was charged with attempted assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

The complaint said Long, 29, deliberately steered his bicycle into the officer, causing both of them to fall to the ground.”


I think the most frightening thing here is had it not been for the camera, we might have believed it, and who knows how long this man would have been in jail for?


10 scott July 29, 2008 at 4:54 am

That will show those terrorist murdering pedophile bikers!!! How dare they try and save money, evoke change, help the enviroment, and buck the system by riding a bike instead of driving a car. He probably was on his way to meet with al qaeda to murder some children he just had sex with.

Personally anyone un-american enough to not drive a car and support the good honest oil companies deserves alot more than a body check. Send all those bastards to gitmo.


11 Nosican July 29, 2008 at 9:35 am

Clinch has faded away, feeling like a douche, and hanging his head low. Pity him, for he is but a simpleton, devoid of the basic mental faculties bestowed upon the rest of us by millions of years of evolution.

Cops gonna suffer bad for this. Rider’s gonna get lots of cash. I hope the rider sends cop pictures of him in Tahiti, Hawaii, Vegas, and all the other places he’ll visit with that money.


12 Clinch July 29, 2008 at 2:07 pm

Why would I feel like a douche? My point is still completely valid, that you can’t be certain of something like this without knowing the context.


13 clinchedBUTThole July 29, 2008 at 3:04 pm

^we know the context…

it was captured on film and falsified in the police report.


14 OO July 29, 2008 at 3:47 pm

Last week a pedestrian did the same thing to me. I was riding in the street, with no cars around. She came off the sidewalk right at me and kicked me and my bike knocking me over. She was screaming at me about trying not to hit her, or something. She was screaming at me like I was trying to kill her. I had never seen her before and the area was fairly deserted besides a few car stopped at a nearby stop light (i has just been stopped waiting at that light – I follow traffic laws and do my best to disrupt traffic as much as possible).

After several attempts at my life by vehicle drivers swerving at me and throwing stuff at me, and now this assault, I now ride with a video camera on my bike taping my commute. I delete the file at the end of my ride if nothing happens. But next time something does….. at least there will be a record.


15 OO July 29, 2008 at 3:48 pm

I meant to say I try to disrupt traffic as LITTLE as possible.


16 R. Chaney July 29, 2008 at 9:55 pm

I think I’ll answer one of those ads on the right. Kaplan U. A career in bashing in heads if you bike at me wrong!


17 MarkR July 29, 2008 at 11:28 pm

As a bike commuter, who thinks critical mass is for idiots. I don’t think it was right for the cop to knock him off the bike, but at the same time. I think if the cyclist are blocking intersections, disrupting traffic flow, they should be arrested.


18 scott July 30, 2008 at 1:43 am

The context is pretty clear. Falsified police report saying the biker vered at the officer. The officer making no attempt whatsoever to flag the biker down. The officer being suspended and put on desk duty. Doesnt take a rocket scientist to figure out what happened.

Everyone knows that police officers are always honest, intelligent and never prone to violence. This is why they become police officers to show what good people they are when they could have made far more money being scientists and doctors. Its the same with the brave men and women who join the armed forces, they obviously have better options but they do it to serve our country.

Who knows though you could be right, and we could still find those WMD’s in Iraq.


19 RazorX July 30, 2008 at 6:15 am

The scary part is how they would have gotten away with RUINING this guys life had it not been on video. Make no mistake, being charged with assault on a police officer will F**k up your life. I had a neighbor once who was falsely accused of assaulting a police officer(with his car) so the officer could get an early retirement or something while picking up his parents from the airport. He lost his job, couldn’t get a new one while charges were pending, went through most of his savings for lawyers fees and the cost of living, and was still faced with the possibility of some serious jail time after all was said and done. Scary shit how easily an innocent person can be targeted and ruined.


20 Nosican July 30, 2008 at 10:30 am

Clinch you ignorant simp,

If there were any other charges to file, the cop would have done so. Therefore, your assertion that we do not know the context is invalid.

You ignorant simp.

Clinch is the reason why this country should have professional jurors. With s-for-brains like Clinch on panels, all manor of bad verdicts come down.


21 becky July 30, 2008 at 1:27 pm

no doubt in my mind that this officer made no attempt to stop the cyclist and that his actions were abusive. very glad the incident was recorded as “assaulting a police officer” is quite a serious charge and the video will go a long way to protect the cyclist against the charge.

one thing on the video sparks my curiousity though. if you watch it all the way to the end you’ll notice a woman cyclist who rides over to the scuffle, picks up the fallen bike and begins to ride/walk away with it. why? who is she? what was her part in this scene, before and after? the story seems incomplete to me made glaringly apparent by her easy to overlook part in the video. she seems to show no remorse for the fallen cyclist. was she an undercover cop? who is SHE?


22 becky July 30, 2008 at 1:32 pm

i should clarify- she seems to show no CONCERN for the cyclist.


23 travis July 30, 2008 at 6:51 pm

Regardless of the situation in this video (seems terrible but I don’t know the entire context), traffic laws are there for the safety of bicyclist and drivers. Bicyclists should lead by example if they want to make change, not parade around going through red lights, not signaling, stopping all traffic, and surrounding cars with bicycles, among other traffic infractions. I bicycle, but I don’t break the laws. I’m ashamed of Critical Mass because it makes the bicyclist/driver relationship even worse. Because bicyclists are so fragile against 8000 pound killing machines is exactly the reason why they need to follow traffic laws.


24 gttim July 31, 2008 at 2:55 pm

[i]-No police officer is going to be stupid enough to just randomly attack someone in front of thousands of people (and hundreds of cameras).[/i]

Haven’t you watched YouTube lately? They seem to be stupid enough to do it all the time.


25 Matty Lang July 31, 2008 at 4:16 pm

12 minute video analysis of the events:



26 New Yorker August 1, 2008 at 5:57 pm

The NYPD has a major problem with Critical Mass and cyclists in general. This attitude is clearly coming from somewhere at the top of the department and filtering down. This all started after the 5,000 participant Critical Mass ride at the 2004 Republican Convention. NYPD brass was embarrassed that such an event was allowed to take place on their watch, when they were supposedly in complete control of the city. There have been many incidents like this since then, just a bit less dramatic and not captured on video.


27 velo-city August 2, 2008 at 10:10 pm

What worries me about incidents like these is that a lot of the harmless, law-abiding cyclists that take part in critical mass may shy away from the event, while more aggressive people might join in the spirit of looking for a confrontation with the police.

Personally, I don’t understand why Critical Mass has to take up the entire street, I think it would actually be much more effective as a single file column. It would stay within the law, and extend for miles. I write this having participated in Montreal’s critical mass where the cops were conniving in that the smiled at us and waved us on as we were riding, and then handed out tickets at the end of the ride. It was sick.

Don’t give the cops any excuses. They really can’t be trusted to do the right thing, only what panders to the politically powerful.


28 Ryan August 12, 2008 at 6:44 am

This biker is my friend Chris. He’s an Army veteran, bikes the world and currently works at a farmers market in NYC selling organic produce. Really nice guy. He was chosen at random by the officer, who arrested Chris on charges of assault, claiming Chris attempted to hit him with the bike. Chris suffered some pretty brutal cutes, as he landed on a subway grate. Chris’s charges of assaulting an officer and resisting arrest are still standing. If you would like to become involved, please contact the NY district attorney’s office in Manhattan. Thanks for your attention to this obvious example of extreme policing.



29 Ryan August 12, 2008 at 6:47 am

…and I don’t appreciate the comments of Chris being a murdering pedophile. Please take your own advice and don’t make random speculations about a situation you are ignorant of. I hope I have been able to provide everyone some context regarding the cyclist. He is a nice guy, with no priors. Like I said, Army veteran.


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