Is the corn used to produce ethanol motor fuel causing a massive increase in undernourished people in the world? A posting in the Energy Tribune suggests that using corn to produce ethanol is doing just that. Their posting is based upon an Earth Policy Institute study which states that the grain consumed for the production of ethanol in 2009 was enough to feed 330 million people for one year at average world consumption.
I am always made a little uneasy by Organizations that can come up with numbers of starving people or homeless people or people without insurance. Often they are advocates of something just as World Wildlife Fund is, among other things, a creator of lots of global warming “facts”. There is a comment that follows the posting in the Energy Tribune that makes some pretty good sense too, about why you might want to question the total numbers of people that could have used the corn for food.
However, the concept that the supported price of ethanol fuel can outbid food uses for the available corn seems very logical; thus it seems likely to have some effect on the amount of corn that was not available for food use. I expect the various interest groups will begin to battle this out and we will learn more in time. Some excerpts from the Energy Tribune blog follows:
The US, says the think tank:
is far and away the world’s leading grain exporter, exporting more than Argentina, Australia, Canada, and Russia combined. In a globalized food economy, increased demand for food to fuel American vehicles puts additional pressure on world food supplies.
From an agricultural vantage point, the automotive hunger for crop-based fuels is insatiable. The Earth Policy Institute has noted that even if the entire US grain crop were converted to ethanol (leaving no domestic crop to make bread, rice, pasta, or feed the animals from which we get meat, milk, and eggs), it would satisfy at most 18 percent of US automotive fuel needs.
When the growing demand for corn for ethanol helped to push world grain prices to record highs between late 2006 and 2008, people in low-income grain-importing countries were hit the hardest. The unprecedented spike in food prices drove up the number of hungry people in the world to over 1 billion for the first time in 2009. Though the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression has recently brought food prices down from their peak, they still remain well above their long-term average levels.
The full posting, including graphs can be read by clicking here. Be sure to read the interesting comment (probably by an etoh fuel advocate) at the end of the posting.