Are biofuels starving the world's poor?

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  • rnoble Pendleton, OR
    Jan. 14, 2013 12:52 p.m.

    We are entering a new era on energy which should see the abandonment of bio-fuels from food sources. With the new Lexus which is able to charge without a plug and the already designed and proven solar electric roads there should be a move to combine the technologies. I realize it is still some years away but definitely doable.

    Jan. 11, 2013 11:16 a.m.

    The big issue with ethanol and engines is not with automobile engines, which UtahBlueDevil rightly notes are designed to accommodate ethanol. It's the small engines that take a beating. I had an edger and a trimmer that were incapacitated when the ethanol dissolved the fuel lines and dumped their tanks of gasoline on the floor. Then there's the lawnmower, the tiller, the leaf blower, the chain saw, and the generator. The small-engine repair people must love it, but I hate it.

    My small-engine shop has a different kind of stabilizer that's supposed to somehow neutralize the ethanol - can't remember what it's called.

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    Jan. 11, 2013 11:05 a.m.

    Ok... first comment here wasn't published, but I actually work in this industry, and I can tell you many of the numbers being thrown around here are totally bogus... so are many of the quotes such as the one from the mechanic. Probably true about older cars, but newer ovehicles are engineered to handle new fuels. GM used to make a big deal about it (flex fuel), but that "feature" is standard on any new car. I also doubt the 5 MPG difference quote. 5 or 10 percent, yes... probably true.. but unless the dude is getting already 100 mpg, the thermal BTU level of ethanol blend is not 20 to 25% less than normal gas. Gas has a BTU/GAl rating of 114,000... pure ethanol is 76,000... but blended ethanol\gas you buy at the pump has a rating of 111,800 - not that much differentf rom normal gas. Diesel tops them all at 129,500.

    That said, I am not a big fan of the whole corn to fuel thing. I do see huge social issues with the program, but other sources are being developed.

  • AT Elk River, MN
    Jan. 11, 2013 10:14 a.m.

    The link I clicked to see this article was something like, "Are biofules unintentionally starving the world's poor?" It's an interesting question. The far more interesting question is, "Are biofuels intentionally starving the world's poor?" Look, it doesn't take a genius to recognize that taking millions of acres out of food production will put upward pressure on food prices. If you're in a policy-making position, you have to recognize that food prices will rize and that this will have very real impact on poorer people. Perhaps, the policy makers are disciples of Bill Gates' philosophy that we need zero population growth and that starving poor people, although regrettable, is worth it in order to reduce population. Perhaps policy makers are in the pocket of big agra (just kidding, of course they're in the pocket of big agra). I wonder if big agra benefits from higher corn prices? So, is a regrettable consequence different from an intentional consequence? Just a hunch here, but I'm guessing that maybe the "intentionally" question is pretty relevant...

  • Brave Sir Robin San Diego, CA
    Jan. 11, 2013 9:45 a.m.

    Ethanol is the worst "green" idea that's ever been come up with. It takes 1.4 gallons of diesel fuel to produce and distribute a gallon of that to 1.1 gallons of diesel fuel to produce and distribute a gallon of gas. And it has the happy side effect of pushing up food prices worldwide.

    Ethanol exists for exactly one reason: Because Iowa has the first presidential caucus.

  • aceroinox Farmington, UT
    Jan. 10, 2013 8:43 p.m.

    I second the above comments. In addition to the various problems mentioned:
    - Gas with ethanol gets worse gas mileage. Switching to ethanol-free gas boosted my mileage by 5 mpg.
    - Ethanol gas is harder on both car engines and small engines. A small-engine mechanic quoted in a Popular Mechanics article "estimates that as much as 75 percent of [his repair] work is not due to normal wear and tear, but results from the use of ethanol, which can cause rust and carbon deposits inside the engine, dissolve plastic parts and more."
    - Gas with ethanol goes bad after a month or so. Most of us know that when we put our lawn mower away for the winter, if we don't drain the gas out of it, or treat it with Sta-bil, it will cause problems come spring. With non-ethanol gas, I don't have that problem.

    Oh, and guess what--we're headed to 15% ethanol gas!

    The D News won't let me use a link, but to find stations pumping ethanol free gas, google it and pick the first result, pure hyphen gas dot org...seems to have the most complete listing.

  • Max Charlotte, NC
    Jan. 10, 2013 5:22 p.m.

    Only if you are a complete economic illiterate do you not understand that channeling away food for the production of fuel will mean less food for human consumption. The price of the remaining food is then bid up and those who can least afford it go without. I mean,Duh!

  • windsor City, Ut
    Jan. 10, 2013 5:17 p.m.

    "Are biofuels starving the world's poor?'

    At least those fuels that use corn and other potential human food.

    Only those who have not seen starving people could think otherwise.

    A better option is the idea of a USU guy on using the grass and weeds that grow on the verges and medians of the nations roads and highways to be converted to biofuel.

  • RG Buena Vista, VA
    Jan. 10, 2013 5:09 p.m.

    To add a bit to the great comments of DanO, W Gronberg, and Screwdriver: Al Gore pushed hard for biofuel and then actually admitted a year or 2 ago that he did it just to get the votes of the corn lobby, and admitted that it is bad policy. I was surprised that he would admit such a thing, but I wasn't surprised at Al Gore's hypocrisy, which we have known about for a long time. It continues to this day with his making $500 million selling his TV station to Al Jezeera.

  • Screwdriver Casa Grande, AZ
    Jan. 10, 2013 4:44 p.m.

    True environmentalists never wanted the program in the first place since the farmers still use more diesel producing the ethanol than they create.

    It was always fake environmentalism that was really just the corn lobby looking for handouts.

    My solar panels make more than enough electricity for an electric car. My hybrid is nice but I'm looking to go 100% electric very soon.

  • William Gronberg Payson, UT
    Jan. 10, 2013 4:41 p.m.

    In the modern world OFTEN the solution too one major problem creates new problems that were not intended. Government and business both need to be more farsighted.

  • DonO Draper, UT
    Jan. 10, 2013 4:00 p.m.

    The whole corn-to-ethanol "program" is arguably the biggest political boondoggle ever foisted on the American people. It certainly is bad enough that we turn food into fuel. But we not only are forced to use ethanol by government mandate, we also are forced to subsidize its production with our tax dollars. It also has been argued, very persuasively, that the production of ethanol uses at least as much...if not than it saves. Then, of course, there are the tariffs that prevent the import of less expensive ethanol produced with non-food materials. In short, there is nothing good that can be said about this whole food-to-fuel fiasco.