10 01 28 Cars Eat Food

Cars Eat Food                    by Jack Heppner

 Only gradually is it dawning on us in the 21st century that cars, and other motorized, transport vehicles, eat food. Ever since I heard the statement, “Cars eat food,” a few months ago I have done a lot of thinking about that reality.

 I gained some helpful perspectives by reading Vandana Shiva’s book, Soil Not Oil. She claims that production of biofuels has doubled in the past five years and is likely to double again in the next four. By 2017, the USA is expected to produce 35 billion gallons of biofuel. And at least two dozen other countries around the world are revving up their production of food for fuel from agricultural products as well.

 Paul Wolfowtiz, former World Bank president, is declaring this to be an environmentally friendly way to add to the world’s energy supply and in a way that is carbon neutral. He also says that it is a good way to provide income and employment for poor peoples of the world. 

However, many people are calling these assertions into question.

 One of the major consequences of the move to draw oil from food products is a rapid rise in deforestation around the globe. For example, it is estimated, that if present trends continue, by 2022 biofuel plantations could destroy 98 percent of Indonesia’s rain forests. Destroying forests, and even scrubland, releases massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. When this is taken into account, oil produced from such plantations pollutes the atmosphere at least ten times as much as petroleum does.

 Growing food for fuel on conventional farmland, claims Shiva, is not a much better option. “For each fossil fuel unit of energy spent producing corn ethanol, the return is 0.778 units of energy, 0.688 units for switchgrass ethanol, and 0.534 for soybean diesel.” So it is clear that producing food for fuel is not carbon neutral.

 Furthermore, it has a devastating effect on the food security of the world’s poor. With governments encouraging the production of biofuel from food through subsidies coming from the public purse, less attention is paid to global food suupplies. You might say that food security is eaten up by the cars we drive.

 Long before this ethanol frenzy, subsidized American corn was being dumped in many third-world countries. This had the effect of pushing millions of farmers off their land – not able to survive because of “free” trade agreements that had been forced on them by the global banking system. Now, with the spike in corn prices because of rising demands of the biofuel industry, corn has been priced out of reach of most of the world’s poor. Is it any wonder that there now are a billion hungry people in our world.

 It is becoming increasingly clear that biofuels are not the solution to rising energy demands. It will be important for the human race to find a way to reduce energy demands and to begin using other more sustainable forms of energy.