Friday, July 04, 2008

Biofuels to Blame for 75% of Food Price Increase: World Bank

Whooee! Well, friends an' foes, I been yammerin' an' frettin' about the world food crisis for a few months, now. When there are 100's of millions of people starving, there are plenty of fingers pointed at the blameholders. Most analysis I've read puts the blame on a combination of factors: high oil prices, increased demand from a rising Asian middle class, severe weather and drought, commodities market speculation, monoculture farming encouraged by World Bank and IMF debt repayment policies and biofuel development. There may be a few other factors, too.

Each of these sectors is getting a black eye over its contribution to high food prices that are killing 1000 human beings each and every hour of each and everyday. And each sector is eager to point the finger at one or more of the other sectors. With that record of finger pointing and claims of innocence in mind, the recent leak of a secret World Bank document must be regarded with some skepticism.

Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis

Internal World Bank study delivers blow to plant energy drive

Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% - far more than previously estimated - according to a confidential World Bank report obtained by the Guardian.

The damning unpublished assessment is based on the most detailed analysis of the crisis so far, carried out by an internationally-respected economist at global financial body.

The figure emphatically contradicts the US government's claims that plant-derived fuels contribute less than 3% to food-price rises. It will add to pressure on governments in Washington and across Europe, which have turned to plant-derived fuels to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and reduce their dependence on imported oil.

Senior development sources believe the report, completed in April, has not been published to avoid embarrassing President George Bush.

"It would put the World Bank in a political hot-spot with the White House," said one yesterday.
(There's plenty more...)

Yeow! Liberal Dalton Ginty sez biofuels ain't a problem. So do the federal Conservatives. So does George W. Bush. Ditto McCain. Ditto Obama. Obama has strong ties to the US ethanol industry.

The biggest proponents of ethanol have been saying it's only responsible for 3% of the food price increase. If that were true, then biofuels would only be responsible for the starvation deaths of 3 million people of the 100 million facing starvation this year. That's 1000 times more than were killed on 9/11. Every year. For biofuel. For fueling gas-guzzling North American living rooms on wheels.

The World Bank's report may be an outright attempt at disinformation. To say that biofuels are responsible for 75% of the increase ( and, thus, culpable for 75,000,000 deaths this year) shifts blame away from the World Bank itself. Previous high estimates regarding the effect of biofuel development on world food prices had placed the estimate at 30%.

While it may be more difficult to quantify, World Bank policies have also had an effect. Third world countries were strongly pushed to develop agriculture for export in an attempt to pay down debt. Countries like Kenya phased out subsistence and sustenance agriculture in favour of growing things like roses for the European export market. In times of low transportation costs, the trade balance allowed Kenya to sell flowers and buy food. Now, Europeans are not eager to pay the exorbitant shipping charges brought on by $140/bbl oil. Kenyans still need to eat but their food production capacity has been converted to flowers.

This latest report is important and while some skepticism is called for, we cannot dismiss the effect of biofuel development on the food crisis that is killing so many of our fellow human beings. At the very least, Canada must stop all crop-based biofuel subsidies and incentives. Even if biofuel development is only responsible for a paltry 3,000,000 deaths per year, we should not be supporting it in any way.

JimBobby

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cross-posting from Rolling Back Tide of Extremism:

It is unfortunate that biofuel has been taken over by the corn lobby south of the border. The corn lobby is incredibly strong and has warped the entire global food industry (e.g. use of high fructose corn syrup in almost all processed food) and now is having a negative impact on the energy sector.

Biofuel does not have to be made with food crops and doesn't have to replace food crops on prime farm land. Not all biofuel is created equal and corn based ethanol is not nearly as good at reducing ghg emissions as other cellulosic-based biofuel.

The NDP (and Bloc) voted against Bill C33 because the bill did not take into account the growing concerns raised by many environmental and food security experts. The Liberals and Conservatives voted down NDP amendments that would have addressed the local and global negative impacts of biofuel production. Unfortunately, thanks to Liberal support, Bill C33 passed.

Denise Savoie (NDP MP Victoria) raised many of the concerns regarding Bill C33 - http://denisesavoie.ndp.ca/page/649.

JimBobby said...

Whooee! Thankee fer the comment. Yer right as rain. Denise Savoie has been beatin' the drum, no two ways. Nobody's listenin' on accounta nobody wants to be reminded that we're part of the problem and the problem is mass starvation. The corn lobby's been workin' overtime tryin' to gloss over ethanol's devastating effects. It'll be dang interestin' to see how they jerk their knees as this "secret" report gets more coverage.

JB