Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Lester R. Brown: "Book Bytes: Cars and People Compete for Grain" @ Earth Policy Institute

[Excerpt] At a time when excessive pressures on the earth’s land and water resources are of growing concern, there is a massive new demand emerging for cropland to produce fuel for cars—one that threatens world food security. Although this situation had been developing for a few decades, it was not until Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when oil prices jumped above $60 a barrel and U.S. gasoline prices climbed to $3 a gallon, that the situation came into focus. Suddenly investments in U.S. corn-based ethanol distilleries became hugely profitable, unleashing an investment frenzy that will convert one fourth of the 2009 U.S. grain harvest into fuel for cars.

The United States quickly came to dominate the crop-based production of fuel for cars. In 2005, it eclipsed Brazil, formerly the world’s leading ethanol producer. In Europe, where the emphasis is on producing biodiesel, mostly from rapeseed, some 2.4 billion gallons were produced in 2009. To meet its biodiesel goal, the European Union, under cropland constraints, is increasingly turning to palm oil imported from Indonesia and Malaysia, a trend that depends on clearing rainforests for oil palm plantations. ... Click for more.

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