Patterico's Pontifications


Save the Planet, Starve the World

Filed under: Environment — DRJ @ 10:51 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Merchants like Costco and Sam’s have rationed sales of some rices this week, and that has brought heightened attention to the possibility of world food shortages. Today’s New York Sun reports that food shortages, especially shortages in corn and grain production, may eclipse concerns about global warming:

“The campaign against climate change could be set back by the global food crisis, as foreign populations turn against measures to use foodstuffs as substitutes for fossil fuels.

With prices for rice, wheat, and corn soaring, food-related unrest has broken out in places such as Haiti, Indonesia, and Afghanistan. Several countries have blocked the export of grain. There is even talk that governments could fall if they cannot bring food costs down.

One factor being blamed for the price hikes is the use of government subsidies to promote the use of corn for ethanol production. An estimated 30% of America’s corn crop now goes to fuel, not food.

“I don’t think anybody knows precisely how much ethanol contributes to the run-up in food prices, but the contribution is clearly substantial,” a professor of applied economics and law at the University of Minnesota, C. Ford Runge, said. A study by a Washington think tank, the International Food Policy Research Institute, indicated that between a quarter and a third of the recent hike in commodities prices is attributable to biofuels.

Last year, Mr. Runge and a colleague, Benjamin Senauer, wrote an article in Foreign Affairs, “How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor.”

“We were criticized for being alarmist at the time,” Mr. Runge said. “I think our views, looking back a year, were probably too conservative.”

One of the problems with many global warming advocates is their unwillingness to discuss the feasibility of their solutions. The general tenor of the discussion seems to be “No price is to great a price to pay to save the planet.” But the fact is that a price can be too great, especially if the solution starves the neediest peoples of the world.



47 Responses to “Save the Planet, Starve the World”

  1. Start limiting the use of their private jets and then the advocates will start paying attention to the cost of the solutions.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  2. The truly frightening aspect of our current ethanol policy is that the results we are seeing now were obvious to anyone who thought about it for more than a few seconds, but Congress and the President implemented it anyway. These are the same people who want to implement comprehensive legislation to almost eliminate CO2 production in the next 50 years. The catastrophe that will result if they get their way is unimaginable.

    ROA (14f8af)

  3. What you don’t realize is that the economic problems you cited for the US are the INTENDED consequences of those who say they want to save the world. Controlling CO2 is great, but if they can find a way to control oxygen and water, they’ll be ecstatic.

    Ken from Camarillo (245846)

  4. daleyrocks,

    Private jets may have to pay 65% higher fuel taxes in the near future if Congress approves this legislation. Unfortunately, commercial airline travelers may have to pay higher fees, too.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  5. a price can be too great, especially if it starves the neediest peoples of the world.

    i don’t agree. there are too many people in our earthcage, and the competition for finite resources is what is causing food shortages and regional conflicts. a depopulation phase would correct our numbers to a lower, sustainable base. if famine doesn’t get them, pestilence will, and that could spread over here much more easily. starving children on other continents deserve our compassion, but if we let them drive our policy with no brakes on population growth, this problem will only return again and again. i don’t know if biofuels are the answer to cleaner, lower-carbon renewable energy, but it doesn’t seem fair to blame starvation on the people exploring this possibility.

    assistant devil's advocate (59908c)

  6. ADA, that’s exactly the kind of silly thinking I guess we’ll just have to deal with somehow.

    We know for a fact that the Earth has been MUCH hotter. We know it’s had tons more pollution (if you’re going to count things like CO2 as pollution).
    We know that there are places on Earth that are too cold to live.

    We know that if the Earth gets a lot hotter, we can move to the poles… nature will adapt too. It’s really quite simple.

    Not to mention that we probably are totally unable to affect the temperature much, the Earth is as likely to be cooling as it is to be warming, etc etc etc.

    To starve the poor on the 1 in a trillion chance that we will kill everyone on the “Earth-cage” is murder.

    Jem (4cdfb7)

  7. so, which pole are you moving to? at least the antarctic has a land mass with a few penguins. if you end up sharing it with some of a billion east indians, be sure to try the penguin curry; considering that penguins eat a lot of fish, it should be way different from chicken curry. at the other pole there’s no land, but you can live like the kevin costner character in waterworld.

    nature will adapt too. you really don’t know a great deal about nature, do you? the earth is as likely to be cooling as it is to be warming, yeah, that’s why glaciers and polar ice are expanding and spring comes later every year, tee hee. i’m not proposing to starve the poor, just wondering where the limits are of my obligation to feed the poor. what are you doing to feed the poor, jem?

    assistant devil's advocate (59908c)

  8. Iowa caucuses kill!

    A lot of this corn-to-ethanol nonsense is driven by Iowa corn farmers and the politicians who pander to them in order to be considered Presidential contenders. If the Iowa caucuses were not the first in the nation, corn-to-ethanol would not be such a problem.

    Perfect Sense (b6ec8c)

  9. Are oil and coffee the same to you?

    A commodity?

    Veggies, bananas, pork bellies?

    To me oil is a utility, treat it as such or we will be paying 9$ a gallon by Dec!

    Electricity will still be 8-11 cents a KWH. Oh how that industry must be salivating eh?

    Natural gas will also make some claims so your fall heating bill will be close to your house payment, the electric utilities will not be far behind the rush to profits beyond dreams either.

    Enjoy the horizion.

    TC (d16524)

  10. DRJ – I meant actually limit use, not make them pay a higher price.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  11. Until those talking about the perils of global warming agree to the widespread use of nuclear power, they won’t be taken seriously.

    Pigilito (5d4652)

  12. First, we should stop paying farmers for not growing food. The saving should then be returned to the taxpayers. Then we should stop allowing illegal immigration. The money saving should once again be returned to the citizens, not spent on another government project. Then we should start building more nuclear power plants, just in case we need them to charge up the batteries on our electric cars. Once we have developed a sustainable system, we can help the rest of the world replicate it.
    Big government wants all the power but has done precious little to show that they deserve it. We may have a crisis on our hands, but most of the worlds governments don’t act like it.

    I’ll believe it is a crisis when the people who say it is a crisis start acting like it is a crisis.

    In crisis mode or non-crisis mode, they want higher taxes and more control. It makes me question their motives.

    tyree (b95461)

  13. The alcohol based energy concept is a good one to get started on. The thing about food is every year we get a new crop. Once the “weeds into alcohol” plants start up in a few years we can throttle back on the “food into alcohol” production lines. My local utility already get 10% of our electrify from biomass, we can do better.
    Drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico would help feed the poor, as would drilling off the coast of Malibu, CA.

    tyree (b95461)

  14. good call tyree

    Dr T (340565)

  15. The coming ice age will solve some of this. Since ice ages come rapidly, unlike global warming, we only have to hold back the nuts for about five more years. We should have a good idea in another year whether we are at another minimum. As you can see, we are at a low point. The next question is whether it will be a “little ice age” or the real thing. The comments on this physics blog are interesting.

    Mike K (b9ce3e)

  16. #6 Jem:

    To starve the poor on the 1 in a trillion chance that we will kill everyone on the “Earth-cage” is murder.

    That’s exactly what it is. It is not “silly thinking.” It isn’t concern for the plight of the planet, nor for the wild creatures of the Earth, or even for the fate of peoples less fortunate.

    It is the belief in the primacy of oneself over all else in Creation, that makes that individual the apex of all in the universe and the sole arbiter of how resources should be allocated and other’s lives should be lived. That makes a single selfish person judge and jury over who shall live and who shall die, be they human or animal.

    And there is no remorse in evidence, even now when the horrors of the Nazi ovens are known, the horrible deaths suffered by those condemned to starvation by Stalin and Mao, butchered in Cambodia and Rwanda, even those killed by a fragile flying insect in Africa or blinded in Asia because naysayers would prevent us from assuming the mantle of G-d in a manner they disapprove of by improving rice with a method they don’t like.

    It is murder, and they are unrepentant.

    EW1(SG) (84e813)

  17. “The thing about food is every year we get a new crop.”

    With new effort.

    stef (513533)

  18. Fascinating insight stef.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  19. i am amused to see ew1(sg) denounce the belief in the primacy of oneself over all else in creation in his penultimate paragraph, then go on to denounce the naysayers preventing him from assuming the mantle of god. for the record, he has carte blanche to play god as long as it doesn’t impact my interests. perhaps we are all tiny fragments of god, but i’m from the head end and jem, to be sure, is from the arse end. now go forth and multiply and consume those god-given resources, secure in your faith that god will take care of your grandchildren, perhaps by showering manna and barrels of crude oil from heaven.

    assistant devil's advocate (3d2593)

  20. Rationing… that is what we were first talking about, isn’t it?

    Just got a notice of rationing from the Civilian Marksmanship Program that 30-06 ammo, will be rationed to 10-cs/year/individual.

    One of the two items mentioned is ammo on “en-bloc” clips for the M-1 Garand, which is essentially a collectors item, but is still a good go-to rifle.

    I wonder what has happened in the last 60-days that would spike demand in such a manner?

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  21. DRJ…
    Did my previous comment on this thread get stuck in a filter???posted @ 10:35pdt +/-

    [EDIT: It did and it’s now comment 20. It was probably due to the link. I’ve learned the filter is very protective when it comes to links.

    Thanks for mentioning it because I don’t regularly check the filter for comments. — DRJ]

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  22. Thanks DRJ, that’s what I thought happened.
    Boy, can’t be linking to any of these RW quasi-govt sites now, can we?

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  23. The links that almost always get caught in the spam filter are the US government websites. I’m not sure why that is, but it regularly happens.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  24. BTW, ada @ #5…
    Your comments are really disappointing, I thought you were better than that!

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  25. “Your comments are really disappointing, I thought you were better than that!”

    drew: you really didn’t did you? He actually didn’t go as far as I expected him to.

    Lord Nazh (899dce)

  26. I observed in past comments ada’s mis-guided rhetoric; but, I give everyone the benefit of doubt until the go over the edge – that was over the edge (there be dragons there).

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  27. i remain unwilling to sacrifice the environment to save the most marginal, precarious human in it (and quite a few more marginal, precarious humans were born just in the time it took me to type this) because i know that doing so will make things much worse for the marginal, precarious humans of the future. chief seattle had it right “the earth does not belong to us. we belong to the earth.”

    assistant devil's advocate (3d2593)

  28. It is fair and appropriate to ask how many politicians who advocate the failure that is E-85 are making money from it by way of the taxpayer in the form of subsidies.

    Thank you for your time.

    The Outlander (972d5f)

  29. #27…
    Well, in that spirit I would say:
    From the Earth we came, to the Earth we shall return!

    You First.

    Another Drew (a28ef4)

  30. Heh! Exactly. To roughly quote Xrlq, “Those advocating sacrificing humans for the benefit of the planet would make their point much better by jumping off a tall building”.

    nk (284b49)

  31. #19:

    then go on to denounce the naysayers preventing him from assuming the mantle of god.

    If that’s how you read that, I suggest you return to elementary school and work on reading comprehension.

    However, one needn’t work hard to understand that you don’t really give a rat’s ass about anybody but yourself.

    The rest of the world be damned.

    EW1(SG) (84e813)

  32. To clarify,

    ada #27, just when exactly will we receive the news of your noble sacrifice to Earth Our Mother? For my part, I pledge to take the garland (Stetson panama) off my head while sacrificing to the gods (sending them up the smoke from my lamb chops on the grill) and state solemnly, “I knew he was begotten mortal”.

    nk (284b49)

  33. ADA, your overblown rhetoric notwithstanding, there are analyses of projected global warming that predict more arable land after warming, not less.

    I’m looking forward to the reactions of the third world when they realize that the environmentalist elite is as willing as you express to let them die for their quasi-religious beliefs in the environment. Don’t look for me to bail you out of that pickle.

    SPQR (7a788c)

  34. ADA,
    “i’m not proposing to starve the poor, just wondering where the limits are of my obligation to feed the poor. what are you doing to feed the poor, jem?”

    I’ll tell you what I’m doing to feed the poor. Trying not to burn food to power my internal combustion engine.

    The eco-freaks who banned DDT weren’t proposing to kill a million Africans every year for the last 35. Yet that is exactly what has happened. Actions have consequences, something that enviro-loons fail to grasp.

    Global government was a “solution” in search of a problem. Voila! Global Warming. Peddle your pseudo-religion somewhere that’s buying. The jig is almost up on this scam.

    Chris (8270f7)

  35. Nobody that actually cares about global warming is stupid enough to think that ethanol solves the problem. We’re more than willing to discuss the feasibility of our solutions, it would help if you stopped misrepresenting what those solutions are.

    Levi (76ef55)

  36. I think I get it. People like algore and levi here don’t give a rat’s ass about the environment or starving people. It’s all about control and money. If these limo liberals believed their horsesheet maybe they’d be walking the walk. I hope that those cretins who worship at the altar of the goracle have to pay some stiff price for their heresy. That goes for McCain, Gingrich and Bush also on the so-called right. How many starving 3rd worlders would fat liberal lion feckers like Gore’s and T. Kennedy’s bloated corpses feed? What really cracks me up is that Algore is ready to drop $300 million on more propaganda to push his agenda (naturally not his own dough though). And since it is all “settled scientific consensus” we can brook no opposition to the self-aggrandizing elitist swine.

    madmax333 (fb7809)

  37. We’re more than willing to discuss the feasibility of our solutions, it would help if you stopped misrepresenting what those solutions are.

    And that, Retard Boy, is why an Anti-Global Warming faction exists: You are proposing solutions to a problem not yet proven to exist.

    NASA is on record as falsifying critical Global Warming data, despite their efforts to downplay such a revelaton. That woud be critical data that scientist used to create their models. Not to mention that even if they had correct data, no one in the history of the planet has solved an x-factor called the effects of precipitation, which is why the average weather forcast on local news get paid so much to be consistently wrong.

    It’s not us misreperesenting here. You are misrepresenting the Global Warming issue because you, Algore and The Consensus(tm) can’t prove it exists.


    Paul (266a05)

  38. I refer those worshipping at the goracle altar of political correctness to the citations and arguments laid out in Michael Cricton’s book and also the Politically Incorrect Guide to science. Naturally the mental mutants personified by media apologists such as Time can only beat the litany of hogwash drums for the Nobel laureate algore’s tainted and biased “findings”. I rank his Windbagness right up there with those other exalted “Peace” winners Carter and mass murdered Arafish. I understand what Gore gets out of the consensus- adulation by the left and plenty of $$$, but what do the Levis of the world get? Besides their fallacious liberal talking points and false gods to praise?

    madmax333 (123c3d)

  39. Lots of rice at my local Costco on friday. (4/25)
    Several people were buying 5+ 50 lb bags, though.

    Marshall (19f225)

  40. There aren’t any problems with rice where I live but we aren’t big rice-eaters here.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  41. #35:

    We’re more than willing to discuss the feasibility of our solutions

    Again with the dishonesty.

    No, you are not willing to discuss “feasibility,” when you aren’t even willing to admit that there isn’t a problem requiring human intervention! Climate change has been recurring long before the existence of man, and will continue after we’re gone~and there isn’t jack squit that we can do to change that. At least, not until we can control the output of the Sun, and that’s not going to happen in your lifetime.

    Further, who are you to decide what the optimal climate should be, anyway? How many more millions of people have to die to satisfy your desire to control the uncontrollable?

    EW1(SG) (84e813)

  42. Radical eco-freaks would rather have starvation becuase they have fallen for this over population and population bomb poppycock of PAUL ERHLICH the fact is GREENPEACE is the biggist bunch of radicals around SCREW GREENPEACE

    krazy kagu (9b5a2f)

  43. This may have already been addressed, but ethanol can be made out of more than just corn or other food; you can make it out of grass or “virtually any carbon-based feedstock — including biomass, municipal solid waste, and a variety of agricultural waste”. Most bio-fuel cars can also run on methanol, which can be made out of nearly anything, including trash. This seems to me to avoid much of the ethical concerns that we’re feeding cars instead of children. It doesn’t avoid all of it, because if we grow grass to make ethanol, the land used could presumably have been used to grow food. I wrote about this on my blog here.

    Tragic Clown Dog (fb9f16)

  44. If you’ve looked at the toxicity of Methanol, you would know that it is completely unsuitable as a consumer fuel. Just rubbing your hand across an exhaust pipe will get you enough baddies to make your day go to hell if you touch your mouth.
    When Methanol was the proscribed fuel for “Indy-Car” racing, everyone was warned to not touch anything having a Methanol residue without wearing gloves.
    BTW, they weren’t being green: Methanol was used because (1) it wasn’t taxed by the ATF guys as was Ethanol; (2) Alcohol was used because of its’ infinite octane rating, allowing the use of VERY high compression ratios; (3) Because of its’ purity, it left very little combustion residue in the combustion chamber of the engine (minimizing fouling of plugs), and mixtures could be richer than normal, allowing the alcohol to be used as a cooling medium for critical internal engine parts, such as pistons and valves.

    But, we could use Methane gas, just as some fleets use CNG & Propane – the Brits had ovens on the back of taxi’s in WW-2 that converted trash to Methane.

    But, inducing food-shortages just so some eco-crazies can feel good about themselves – that should be criminal!

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  45. The biofuels market is an international market now so ending subsidies to US farmers will save us money but won’t end the food shortages created by this market, especially now that the players are large.

    Is anyone here seriously proposing to tamper with this new market in any way other than to end US subsidies to its farmers?

    EdWood (2886ca)

  46. Subsidies should be ended, as should the import restrictions (taxes) on foreign ethanol, and government mandates on use.
    Let the market work

    Another Drew (f9dd2c)

  47. Then the follow up question is: A lot of people are troubled by this new market… It makes the price of food go up at least temporarily making people in developing countries go hungry, it increases the amount of land in production making enviros who were protecting land via a conservation subsidy to framers tear out thier hair, it also increases demand on water resources,etc.etc. So if people are truly concerned about the unintended consequences of this new market, what do you do? Invest in a more efficient energy source to make the ethanol market as transitory as possible?
    Do commentors here believe that the only proper response to a market that you, personally don’t like is with your money?

    EdWood (06cafa)

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