Planet Gore

Bad Company for Biofuel Critics

Robert Zubrin is having none of the food-for-fuel stuff, and pointedly reminds us of other opponents of increased U.S. ethanol production in “Freedom’s Enemies Hate Biofuels.”

Venezuelan petrotyrant Hugo Chavez has renewed his denunciations of biofuels. According to an Associated Press story dated April 26, 2008:

“Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says a U.S. push to boost ethanol production during a world food crisis is a ‘crime.’

The socialist leader says he’s concerned that so much U.S.-produced corn could be used to make biofuel, instead of feeding the world’s poor.

Chavez says the corn needed to fill an average car with ethanol would be enough to feed seven people for a year.”

Actually, since a bushel of corn yields 2.8 gallons of ethanol, the corn needed to fill a 20 gallon SUV tank is 7 bushels, which at the current market price of $5/bushel, costs a total of $35. According to Mr. Chavez, then, the cost of feeding one person for a year is $5. With oil hitting $120/barrel, Mr. Chavez’s government this year will receive about $88 billion in revenues taxed from the rest of the global economy, while the OPEC governments collectively will tax the world to the tune of $1400 billion.
(Omitted from Chavez’s analysis is the fact that the ethanol program has actually stimulated corn production so much that, after the part used for ethanol is taken away, the net US corn harvest available for food and feed is up 34% since 2002. Furthermore, contrary to claims in many articles, this has not been done at the expense of soy or wheat production. In fact, U.S. soy plantings this year are expected to be up 18% to a near record of 75 million acres, wheat plantings are up 6%, and overall, US farm exports are up 23%. Much more can be produced as demand requires, since of 800 million acres of US farmland, only 280 million are actually being farmed. This is why – $5 per person per year feeding price aside –  the entire Malthusian conceit underlying Chavez’s fuel vs. food argument is nonsense.)

But my question remains: Is Obama still on board?

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