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Yesterday I wrote about my first foray into the biofuels market. Seems to be working out pretty well. The five percent mix that is sitting in my oil tank is keeping the house warm. Plus, I am looking forward to the nice rebate check New York State will be sending my way at the end of this year. (For those of you who missed it: My state offers a $.20 per gallon rebate on biofuels. We got 479 gallons yesterday.)

Anyway, I was so excited about the biofuel heating oil, which is made from animal fats, that I completely forgot to blog about another biofuel story — one that’s really important. Late last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report that says that more than a quarter of the corn and grains grown here in the States doesn’t go to hungry people. Instead it ends up in gas tanks. That’s right. It is diverted to ethanol production. Last year 107 million tons of grains didn’t get eaten, they got driven.

I’m really torn on this one. I am absolutely against the use of fossil fuels, and hate the strangle-hold that the Middle East has on us. It would be great to be able to tell the entire region to go suck an egg. Meanwhile, we’ve got more than a billion people going hungry across the world. And that number is from last June. There’s an even scarier number: Every six seconds a child dies from starvation. There’s even a counter where you can watch them die. Sick, but reality. And all that corn that’s being grown? Well, we Americans are paying for it, according to the Environmental Working Group’s Subsidy Database. From the site: “Corn Subsidies in United States totaled $56.2 billion from 1995-2006.” And this is at a time when corn farmers are seeing record profits, according to the same organization. It will be interesting to see, this evening, if President Obama calls a freeze on this wasteful spending along with all the other programs that pundits are speculating might get cut. But even if he did, how do we get more of that corn and grain into the hands of those who need it? How do we keep fossil fuel use down, while still feeding the poor?

This is a topic that can make anyone feel helpless because there’s very little that we the people — remember us, we the people, that whole pesky preamble — can’t really do much to change what’s going on when it comes to setting policies. There are too many politics involved. The subsidies have been in effect forever. The laws calling for more ethanol and cleaner technology are on the books. Everyone is getting fat and happy except those people who are starving. I’d say write or call your senator or local official except I don’t think they can do anything. So I’m asking you, the reader, since so many of you are so knowledgeable: What do we do about this problem? Is it a problem? If so, how do we fix it? Until I get an answer, I guess there’s always Feed the Children, a wonderful charity that spends 91.9 percent of its revenues actually feeding people, according to Charity Navigator.

5 Responses to “Hungry? Should You Blame Biofuel?”

  1. sheri says:

    I am confused about why calling our senators & congressmen & writing to the President won’t work. They can push legislation through requiring car companies to use solar and wind power on cars, Japan has them. Or hydrogen batteries, a car has been in existence for 20 years that runs on hydrogen batteries, it is easy, cheap and amazing! There are solutions, but the problem is people don’t know about them and they don’t have the dollars to pay lobbyists like the corn industry and the oil industry. That is where we the people come in, making our voices louder than the lobbyists. Now, I may be wrong about this in which case I would love to learn more.

  2. kb says:

    I guess I was just feeling helpless when I wrote this. It feels like the lobbyists and the folks who are making money will never change things. Even the traditional media say Pres. Obama will never kill the subsidies, for example, because the lobby behind them is too strong.

  3. Shari G says:

    It often angers me that politicians, even our current president, put their efforts into other things- when there are people still going without food in this country where abundance is our middle name.

  4. Bev says:

    Love your blog and you do such a good job articulating the complexity of using subsidies to support the biofuel market. Thanks.

    I am a little concerned about the part where you wrote, “and hate the strangle-hold that the Middle East has on us.” It sounds like you were blaming a region for the choices we make as a nation to continue to depend on planet killing fossil fuel consumption for our energy needs. I admit it makes me nervous when people say things like that. Perhaps you meant something else?

  5. kb says:

    I absolutely don’t blame a region! I meant to say that we need to stop being so dependent on fuel from outside the U.S. — especially since we have the ability, through renewable sources, to do so.

    You’re 100 percent right. It’s OUR fault as Americans (the government’s, really) that we are in this position.

    Thanks for the post!

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