Saturday, April 26, 2008

It's Official: Food is Oil

I would not have anticipated ever writing anything with this thesis: Fidel Castro was right.

A couple of years ago, he made it known that the global subsidy of biofuels would lead to an increase in the price of food because of the diversion of grain stocks (such as corn) into fuel production.

It seemed basic economics at the time and he's been proven correct. We saw it in the developed world first in the form of an increase in the price of milk (made from corn, essentially) and subsequently all dairy products.

Now we see it in the form of other grains, like rice and wheat, and there is no obvious end in sight. The craze to invest in biofuel technologies was nothing other than a stall tactic, to prevent investment in real alternative energy sources. While it's nice to re-use things like old fry oil to run your Mercedes or semi, there just isn't enough used restaurant oil to make a dent in our demand for energy.

Instead we've taken the final step in linking our food supply to the energy market: we've decided to invest heavily (and irrationally) in converting our food directly into energy with ethanol and soy biofuel subsidies.

It's not as though there had not previously been a link; oil companies have been powering agribusiness for the last 75 years at least. Petroleum waste products have been productively combined with chlorine and other chemicals to produce a huge number of chemicals that have proved useful as pesticides (and as PCBs, PVCs, and other plastics) and have led to the current abundance of food.

Ostensibly, this is a good thing; however as this has occurred, farming has become big business, and the same corporations that control the chemistry of the food supply (like Monsanto and Exxon/Mobil) now control the food supply itself. There's no monopoly like two monopolies.

If this theses are correct, one of the best things we can do to lower food prices and to promote investment in sustainable alternative energies is to loudly protest the investment in biofuels.

By removing subsidies for biofuels, we 1) direct food back to the food supply, thereby easing prices, 2) promote investment in sustainable alternative energy solutions, 3) agitate the monopoly link between corporate farms and the petroleum products they use, 4) put additional pressure on automakers to seriously consider the development of non-petroleum powered and, certainly, of non-biofuel powered vehicles.

So, I exhort you: help stop the subsidy of biofuel production. If there is a natural market for it, it will stand on its own.

Otherwise all we're doing is making food less affordable, creating agony for countries that can't afford these price increases, and extending the life of the petroleum monopolies.

Certainly new technologies like slow discharge capacitors hold real promise. Let's develop these ideas and show the oil companies that their stranded costs are their responsibility, not ours.

1 comment:

Johnny said...

I'm one hundred percent with you. It's a OUTRAGE that, with all the hunger in the world, food is being wasted in this way.