U.S. biofuel expansion has cost developing countries $6.6 billion in higher food costs, estimates Tufts University economist Timothy A. Wise in Fueling the Food Crisis, a report published by ActionAid. A 10-minute video interview with Wise about his research is availablehere.
The 2007 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), established by the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), exerts long-term upward pressure on grain prices by diverting an ever-growing quantity of corn from food and feed to auto fuel. This is great for corn farmers but not good for U.S. consumers and harmful to millions of people in developing countries, many of whom live in extreme poverty.
“Commodity prices are a small percentage of the retail price of food in the US” because “we heavily process our food,” notes Wise. In contrast, in developing countries, ”commodity prices are a bigger percentage of the retail price, in part because people buy whole foods more often than processed foods.” Even small commodity price increases ”can have a big impact on local market prices in developing countries.”
Ethanol from corn has been impractical from its inception. Many studies show it requires more energy to get ethanol from the corn field to the car tank than is contained in the product. Much of this energy is diesel fuel. For those concerned about carbon dioxide emissions, there is no reduction from use of ethanol as a fuel. In addition, it is reported that 1600 gallons of water are required to produce one gallon of ethanol. When you multiply that number by the 2011 production of 12 billion gallons of ethanol, you have 20 trillion gallons of water tied up in producing that one product. This is more water than used by everyone living in the United States for domestic home use — washing, eating, and bathroom needs. This type of waste is not tolerable in drought situations.
Ethanol absorbs water which makes it a corrosive material for storage in metal containers. For this reason ethanol or ethanol-gasoline blends are not transported in pipelines. Ethanol is transported in tankers or rail tank cars. Now there is concern about ethanol blends causing corrosion in underground storage tanks (UTS) with environmental problems from leaks. Organizations demanding EPA concerns are discussed in this paper.
After the 2012 election, this monster needs to be addressed by citizens who should demand repeal of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. Tea Party or similar conservative groups should lean on politicians supporting ethanol. One way would be to ask politicians to participate in debates where they show ethanol from corn is worth producing. It is indefensible.
Present biofuels are questionable from a practical and economic standpoint; in particular with the United States vast quantities of transportation fuels in oil and natural gas. Ethanol from corn bears on being criminal.