April 21, 2013

Is Your Gas Tank Burning Food? ~ Geoffrey Withnell

I got upset again this morning while filling my car’s gas tank.

No, not at the price—although, that is upsetting enough. What upset me is the little sign, “Fuel from this pump contains up to ten percent ethanol.”

Why would that upset me? Doesn’t “gasohol” reduce our dependence on imported oil? Doesn’t it help the environment by reducing emissions? Well, these things may or may not be true, but to me, they are beside the point.

The point is—we are burning food!

Currently about 40 percent of the United States corn crop is used to create biofuels. Not because gasohol is cheaper than gasoline (per vehicle mile it is slightly more expensive), but because the federal government subsidizes its use. The main beneficiaries of this subsidy are of course large agro-corporations. They benefit again with the higher prices they receive for the remainder of the crop due to the reduced supply.

This chart shows what has happened to world corn and soybean prices:

Chart and data from Steve Goreham, Exec. Director of the Climate Science Coalition of America

The price has more than doubled.

To most of us in the United States, that’s not really a big problem—although, I’m not happy about paying higher prices for much of the food I buy so that agro-corporations can have a higher profit margin. But those are world prices.

There are quite literally children in subsistence economies going hungry, so we can reduce the amount of gasoline we burn in our cars.

Please, think about this. Surely, there is a better way to help the environment than burning food!

Geoffrey Withnell is a defense industry consultant in the Washington DC area.  He has been married to his wife Michele for 41 years, and they have 4 children and 14 grandchildren. He enjoys square dancing, Celtic music, Scottish heavy athletics, and reads science fiction and mysteries. He’s also a super-amazing guy (editor’s note).

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Ed: T. Lemieux & B. Bemel

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