Friday, January 25, 2008

The End is Nigh, Part 1

Alex Renton wrote a really interesting article about food price inflation in The Observer last Sunday, speculating that the post WWII era of cheap food in the Western World is ending, due largely to 4 factors – market instability, the growing demand of the ethanol industry for crops previously grown as food, climate change resulting in floods, droughts, etc damaging crop yields, and the growing wealth of Chinese and Indian populations creating a larger demand for meat, which is wildly inefficient to produce in terms of resources.

The one thing we can change quite quickly is the ethanol factor, which is clearly a dead-end. Renton claims that faith in ethanol’s ecological credentials is “largely misplaced” - “Its increasingly voluble critics claim that growing grain and then transforming it into ethanol requires more energy from fossil fuels than ethanol generates.”

Furthermore, “the maize to fill a tank for a 'Chelsea tractor' would feed a family of four for three months. In October the United Nations' spokesman on famine, Jean Ziegler, called the biofuel boom 'a crime against humanity'.”

Ditch ethanol now!

This is clearly a watershed moment, where we are seeing the first effects of global warming on our food supply, mixed up with a clearly mistaken strategy to combat climate change. The imperative is to think cleverer.

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