mm429: World Bank: biofuels cause starvation

MUDGE’s Musings

As food prices rise around the world, evidence that the biofuels initiatives are the cause keeps becoming clearer. As the entire issue of petroleum alternatives has become most pressing, the relationship between the diversion of food stocks to fuel stocks has been guessed at, but there have been few firm numbers of the impact.

Today The Guardian seems to have found the smoking gun.

First, a review. We have discussed this topic many times:

Fuel from Food: Just a bad idea all around

mm367: It’s not just a bad idea, it’s a crime
mm360: Global food price crisis: Genocide?
mm298: Nutty Richard Branson flies to Holland on biofuel
mm282: If it sounds too good to be true…
mm260: The other oil shock
mm233: Corn in the news – and not just in Iowa!
mm194: Friedman: Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda
mm193: Fuel without oil, or corn
mm084: Food versus fools –
mm053: The case for turning crops into fuel – Saletan


Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis

Internal World Bank study delivers blow to plant energy drive

Aditya Chakrabortty | The Guardian, Friday July 4, 2008

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The damning unpublished assessment is based on the most detailed analysis of the crisis so far, carried out by an internationally-respected economist at global financial body.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

Hope you didn’t skip over that number. Not the U.S. government’s smug claim that biofuel production only contributes 3% to food price increases. 75%.

Fuel from plant material is definitely a promising approach to the manifest need to find alternative transportation fuel sources. But, the diversion of food crops, and the prime soil devoted to food crops, for conversion to fuel is magnificently wrong, as many have been warning us for some years now. And the outlook for many millions has become dire.

Rising food prices have pushed 100m people worldwide below the poverty line, estimates the World Bank, and have sparked riots from Bangladesh to Egypt. Government ministers here have described higher food and fuel prices as “the first real economic crisis of globalisation”.

George III’s corrupt administration has killed two birds with this one. Biofuels has passed the political test for a viable alternative to petroleum, so his Texas oil puppet-masters are able to dodge the worst of the outcry against skyrocketing gasoline prices.

And most politicians on the national stage of both parties just love subsidizing those Iowa corn farmers.

The Bush administration has tried to pin all the current food price angst on increased demand for both oil and food on India and China, but this World Bank report says, not so fast!

President Bush has linked higher food prices to higher demand from India and China, but the leaked World Bank study disputes that: “Rapid income growth in developing countries has not led to large increases in global grain consumption and was not a major factor responsible for the large price increases.”

Even successive droughts in Australia, calculates the report, have had a marginal impact. Instead, it argues that the EU and US drive for biofuels has had by far the biggest impact on food supply and prices.

And of course, the entire analysis that posits corn based ethanol as a greener alternative to petroleum energy is flawed.

Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis | Environment | The Guardian

Environmentally acceptable, reasonably priced and food-supply-neutral fuel from plant materials is viable. Unfortunately, subsidized ethanol from Iowa corn and Illinois soybeans is none of those things.

Perhaps the fallout from this World Bank report will shed some needed light on this topic, before more millions starve.

It’s it for now. Thanks,


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3 Responses to mm429: World Bank: biofuels cause starvation

  1. Anna says:

    That’s a very interesting article and post. I’m looking forward to the day when someone is brave enough to write an article to say that the main reason for starvation (and many of the other planet’s problems) is due to over-population.

  2. mudge says:

    Hi, Anna,

    That’s a common point of view that over-population is the root of the planet’s food (and all the other) challenges. I respectfully disagree. Yes, there are over-populated regions; these are due mainly to a lack of food and other necessities of life getting to where they’re needed. In other words, it’s a governmental failing, either locally, or internationally. Rather than over-populated, many parts of Planet Earth are under-served. And, efforts to artificially control population, such as China’s disturbing one child mandate, have a deep, wounding flaw, as discovered earlier this year in the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake, where so many of those sole children were killed. Now China is besieged by bereaved parents seeking to have sterilization reversed.

    Thanks so much for contributing to the dialog here!

  3. […] mm429: World Bank: biofuels cause starvation […]

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