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Europe - "let them eat cake..."
Posted by: McQ on Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ah, the old biofuels bamboozle continues apace:
The EU Commission on Monday rejected claims that producing biofuels is a "crime against humanity" that threatens food supplies, and vowed to stick to its goals as part of a climate change package.

"There is no question for now of suspending the target fixed for biofuels," said Barbara Helfferich, spokeswoman for EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas.

"You can't change a political objective without risking a debate on all the other objectives," which could see the EU landmark climate change and energy package disintegrate, an EU official said.

Their comments came amid growing unease over the planting of biofuel crops as food prices rocket and riots against poverty and hunger multiply worldwide.
Because everyone knows that the "political objective" of attaining a smaller carbon footprint is much more important than the reasonable and affordable food prices necessary to stave off starvation in certain areas of the world. And besides, if enough starve, we'll see a much smaller carbon footprint on their behalf as well.

"See", says Europe, "a win-win."
 
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"You can’t change a political objective without risking a debate on all the other objectives," which could see the EU landmark climate change and energy package disintegrate, an EU official said.
Translated: "If people start rationally examining things, they will realize what a waste of time and effort this is and the whole house of cards is going to collapse."
 
Written By: ck
URL: http://
The word biofuels does not distinguish between fuels that are produced from things that would ordinarily be used for food, and those that are produced from generic cellulose which can come from any biomass. Is QandO opposed to all biofuels, or just those that are produced from food? Or perhaps QandO is opposed to gov’t mandates to produce any fuel at all, in which case their snarky post is completely beside the point.
 
Written By: Brad
URL: http://
If you’re asking what "QandO" is opposed to you obviously just dropped by today.

There’s not always a unified front here, unless it’s one that’s generally against stupidity.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Well gee, Brad, instead of just leaving a snarky comment, why don’t you read up on what "QandO" is or isn’t "opposed to" before shooting your keyboard off?

Or is that too much to ask?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
What humans eat are high-energy plant foods. What biofuels need are high-energy plant foods. The overlap is not coincidental; the key word is "energy".

Even a lot of the alternative proposals that aren’t "food" are still food; I saw some links about kudzu being used for biofuels yesterday, and kudzu’s not "food" right? Well... yes, it is. Our culture doesn’t see kudzu as food, but if you ask the human digestive tract, it will happily process pretty much every part of the kudzu as food profitably.
 
Written By: Jeremy Bowers
URL: http://www.jerf.org/iri
Why let the facts get in the way of a good snark...
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
European leaders are aware of the growing body of opinion opposed to biofuels but Dimas has stressed the use of "second generation" biofuels; including leaves, straw and pond algae.

The first generation of green fuels — biodiesel and ethanol— are made from wheat, maize, colza, sugar beet etc, also used for human and animal feed.

However, according to French Ecology Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, the methods for utilising the second generation sources are far from complete.

"That will take 10 to 20 years," she told AFP.
Another quick fix silver bullet bites the dust.

So, now, what do you think many of us are against Brad?
See if you can figure it out.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Gee, is it time for our weekly biofuel bash already? My, how the time flies...

OK, sarcasm aside, I’d like to ask you a few questions, if you don’t mind.

1) What do you consider to be "reasonable and affordable food prices"?

2) What is the history of food prices in the post WWII era up until 2005 or so in real dollars? During what time periods was there "reasonable and affordable food prices"?

3) Let’s go back in time to 2004, when biofuels had no impact on food prices. Given your committment to free markets, what would food prices be like today if all of the agricultural subsidies of the US and Europe disappeared?

4) Given your knowledge of macroeconomics, what would have happened to food quantity in the US had the previous situation been enacted?

5) Now, given your knowledge of macroeconomics, what would happen to worldwide food supply given the above?

6) Again, given your knowledge of macroeconomics, what is the result of higher food prices to the world’s poor, given that most of the world’s poor happens to be agrarian?

7) What do the nations of all these poor people want the US and Europe to do with all their subsidies and, given the answer to #3 above, what do they really want?

8) Given the answer to #7, just how do you think they’re reacting to higher food prices today?

9) Let’s go off on a different tangent. Given your concern for the starvation of the world’s poor, what is a greater cause to said starvation: incompetent, corrupt governments, or lack of food? (*cough*Zimbabwe*cough*)

10) Where are most of these starving poor, in developed, industrial nations or undeveloped third world countries?

11) How are these undeveloped countries supposed to turn into developed countries when the cost of transportation (ie, oil) is so high?

12) What options are available for giving undeveloped countries a low cost, low barrier of entry method of transportation?

Thanks for your time!
 
Written By: Mariner
URL: http://
looker, one question for you:

Who do you trust more, European bureaucrats, or good ole American know-how industrialists?
 
Written By: Mariner
URL: http://
How long till they remake the classic "Soylent Green?"

GREEN GAS IS PEOPLE!!!
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
Nearly spewed coffee on (*cough*Zimbabwe*cough*).

Oh, I didn’t say I trusted European bureaucrats, or American bureaucrats either.

And I trust we’ll come up with something, but I ’see’ that Congress, with it’s mandates on bio-fuel, hasn’t helped matters much....has it?
The quick fix cure-all didn’t cure much of anything.

 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
1) What do you consider to be "reasonable and affordable food prices"?

...prices that the same percentage of people who could afford adequate food last year can afford this year. Not food that has seen rises of anywhere from 10% to 50% over a two year period, driven mostly by competition for foodstocks mandated by government alternative fuel programs.

2) What is the history of food prices in the post WWII era up until 2005 or so in real dollars? During what time periods was there "reasonable and affordable food prices"?

... During time periods when there weren’t food riots like those going on in many parts of the world today.

3) Let’s go back in time to 2004, when biofuels had no impact on food prices. Given your committment to free markets, what would food prices be like today if all of the agricultural subsidies of the US and Europe disappeared?

...I’m willing to find out. More than likely they’d have stabilized by now and again be a commodity. Essentially the subsidy would be replaced in the price and the income necessary to purchase the commodity found in the income increase from the tax cut that used to fund the subsidy.

4) Given your knowledge of macroeconomics, what would have happened to food quantity in the US had the previous situation been enacted?

... it would have been driven by the demand of the market, alternatives would have been sought out where available which would drive competition for business and would have settled the pricing. My guess is we’d be dealing with a pretty stable price structure by now.

5) Now, given your knowledge of macroeconomics, what would happen to worldwide food supply given the above?

... pretty much the same thing. Producers are going to grow what brings them the most money. Competition and alternatives are going to keep pricing at a reasonable and affordable levels or producers aren’t going to produce the product (seems rather foolish to produce a product no one can afford, doesn’t it?).

6) Again, given your knowledge of macroeconomics, what is the result of higher food prices to the world’s poor, given that most of the world’s poor happens to be agrarian?

... well as it has turned out, we’ve had excess crops with which to feed the poor of the world (I always remember the huge wheat sales we used to make to the USSR as an example). The problem you seem not to understand is that slack is being used to make fuel. Additionally some of the basic foodstuff that normally feeds not only the poor, but the rest of the world is also being burned for fuel. Hence there is competition now between the poor and the rest of the world for the very same food stock on top of that which continues to go to fuel.

7) What do the nations of all these poor people want the US and Europe to do with all their subsidies and, given the answer to #3 above, what do they really want?

... I don’t imagine the "nations of all these poor people" give it much thought. My guess is they simply want help feeding their people. We are well able to do that when we’re not diverting food to fuel.

8) Given the answer to #7, just how do you think they’re reacting to higher food prices today?

... the nations? They’re enduring riots. It’s in all the papers.

9) Let’s go off on a different tangent. Given your concern for the starvation of the world’s poor, what is a greater cause to said starvation: incompetent, corrupt governments, or lack of food? (*cough*Zimbabwe*cough*)

...In many cases one is the cause of the other. However, it is irrelevant to those starving. They simply want food. We prefer to burn what they could be fed with.

10) Where are most of these starving poor, in developed, industrial nations or undeveloped third world countries?

... underdeveloped third world countries, of course.

11) How are these undeveloped countries supposed to turn into developed countries when the cost of transportation (ie, oil) is so high?

... Oh, my, can’t ship because of the high cost of fuel? So the answer is to burn food, attain no positive energy advantage or cost advantage for doing so and blame the prevention of their starvation on high fuel costs and lack of food? Heh ... heck of an argument, isn’t it?

12) What options are available for giving undeveloped countries a low cost, low barrier of entry method of transportation?

...what has that to do with feeding starving people? Do you suppose the starving will hang around until we figure that out?

Thanks for your time!

... oh, anytime.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Thanks for your responses. It’s quite helpful in seeing where you’re coming from. Here’s my justification for asking it.

If reasonable and affordable food prices are defined as 2005 prices (before the ethanol boom happened), than that means that anytime before 1998 or so, there was no reasonable and affordable food. If we define it as today’s prices (y’know, the scary high price), then that means anytime before 1985 or so was not reasonable or affordable.

Food prices are still historically low. Food prices have historically fallen over time. Only now are we reversing the trend.

See, the problem with agriculture is not that there’s not enough food, but rather that there’s too much of it. We in the west have become so skilled at agriculture that we can tease vast quantities of food out of tiny stretches of land, far more than we could 50 or even 20 years ago. Thus, we (US and Europe)had the ability to produce a huge chunk of the world’s food for very cheap. But how to cover that market when so many people could make food?

Enter agricultural subsidies, artificially decreasing worldwide food prices. After all, we were overproducing, not underproducing. So the government paid the difference and then dumped a frickload of food on the world market. Prices naturally continued to drop, and third world producers simply couldn’t compete.

Third world countries are forced to rely on commodity markets, and yet they couldn’t compete. Needless to say, low prices, in general, hurt developing nations. And this can be seen in the response developing nations had on US subsidies. Look it up. Trade agreements between us and third world countries wanted us to STOP subsidizing our crops. They enacted tariffs on agriculture that was HIGHER than tariffs on anything else. They wanted higher food prices. Yes, that includes those starving nations.

So, in other words, let me be clear. The general problem with agriculture pre-ethanol was that there was too MUCH food, not too little. And not just enough. But too much.

That’s important, because regardless of what you may be implying, we are not burning all our food. Rather, we are simply raising the possible markets for food. Don’t believe me? As I’m sure you know, the US is the largest consumer and producer of biofuels, and is one of only two countries in which a significant amount of biofuels are consumed. So if biofuels are squeezing world food supply, it should be seen here first above all else, right?

http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/FATUS/DATA/ExportYTD.xls
http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/FATUS/DATA/Historical/2007/ExportYTD.xls

US agricultural exports are increasing.

Let me repeat that just in case anyone missed it. US agricultural exports are increasing. Simple supply-demand here. Prices go up, supply goes up. More people want to farm. Farmers want to use more of their land. More food is available.

As for the world’s poor, there’s no easy answer. But we do know that much of the plight of the world’s poor has been the migration from farms to the cities. Farmers can’t sell their crops because food prices are too low, so they abandon their farms and move to the cities to find jobs. There are no jobs available, and so they live in slums trying to stay alive.

How do you stop this without raising food prices, allowing people to stay in the farms? How does a poor country with no natural resources get by without being self sustaining with their own food?

How sustainable was the 1995-2005 model of agriculture, which was based on giving men fish and not teaching them to fish?

I don’t know what food prices would be in a free market sans ethanol. I do know that the 1995-2005 prices would not be true. There’s absolutely no way that market could be sustained. Would it be as high as it is today (which is still reasonable in long term prices)? I think it’s possible. I think there’d be less agriculture overall though, since in that situation it’s demand limited rather than supply limited. At least with modern agriculture there’s still plenty of food available for everyone, even if not all can afford it. Without ethanol, we would be in a market where there may not be enough food for everyone.

My bit about those last few questions was more long term. There is absolutely, positively no way that third world countries will ever climb out of their hell-hole if oil prices remain in OPEC’s control and other commodity (agriculture) prices remain in our subsidy-heavy control. Despite its problems, ethanol is actually a potential solution to both those problems. If you are truly concerned about the world’s poor, this is a possible long term solution to that problem. Why is that not worth considering?
 
Written By: Mariner
URL: http://
"Oh, I didn’t say I trusted European bureaucrats, or American bureaucrats either.

And I trust we’ll come up with something, but I ’see’ that Congress, with it’s mandates on bio-fuel, hasn’t helped matters much....has it?
The quick fix cure-all didn’t cure much of anything."


I don’t trust either of them, either. And no, I don’t think Congress’ mandates are doing anything worthwhile, and I don’t agree with them. If this blog’s opposition to biofuels was solely opposition to the government’s policy regarding them, I’d have no problem with it. It’s opposition to biofuels in general that I’ll have to argue with =)
 
Written By: Mariner
URL: http://
My opposition isn’t to the fuels, it’s to the artificial market activity the government generated.

I won’t speak for the other commentors and certainly not for the guys who run the place, but my objection is, like AGW & CO2, they grabbed the first thing available that sounded remotely reasonable and could be convincingly pushed on the public mind and ran with it like there was no tomorrow and the law of unintended consequences came into play.

I think the general objection hereabouts is in sync with your objection - that is, the government policy. I doubt you’d find many volunteers here to stand for continued massive reliance on petroleum to power the country. An alternative is needed, but this one, and this method, isn’t it.

No silver bullet here Mr. Ranger.

 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Let me repeat that just in case anyone missed it. US agricultural exports are increasing. Simple supply-demand here. Prices go up, supply goes up. More people want to farm. Farmers want to use more of their land. More food is available.
In the US, but not in the EU. The EU solved the dumping problem by restriction of production by quotas (food or biofuel) and payment to farmers for retiring land from production. That system allows less influence from market forces.

BTW -
See, the problem with agriculture is not that there’s not enough food, but rather that there’s too much of it. We in the west have become so skilled at agriculture that we can tease vast quantities of food out of tiny stretches of land, far more than we could 50 or even 20 years ago. Thus, we (US and Europe) had the ability to produce a huge chunk of the world’s food for very cheap.
Very cheap meaning requiring only several $trillion of taxpayer (US & EU) subsidies & tariffs over that period on top of market prices to cover the cost of production.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/

 
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