Friday, October 12, 2007

Corn ethanol

We Americans seem to have set ourselves on a course for corn-based ethanol, despite ample evidence that corn is not very well suited to conversion to fuel. All this no doubt has a lot to do with the fact that a corn-growing state, Iowa, enjoys an undue influence in American politics and because the big agricultural businesses are powerful. Nature, the very respectable science magazine, proposes alternatives.
The common complaints about biofuels — and they seem to become more common by the day — are that they are expensive and ineffective at reducing fossil-fuel consumption, that they intensify farming needlessly, that they dress up discredited farm subsidies in new green clothes, and that they push up the price of food. All these things are true to some extent of corn-based ethanol, America's biofuel of choice, and many are also true of Europe's favoured biodiesel plans.

Read the entire editorial here.
Rises in corn prices, driven by the ethanol madness, have forced up the price of tortillas in Mexico, where they are the most basic staple of the diet of the poor and important to everyone. Native Mexican corn producers have been wrecked by imported grain under NAFTA, a catastrophe for Mexico in many ways as it has been for the U.S. in many ways, although eminently satisfactory for corporations.

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