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Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Death by ethanol

When Fidel Castro began intensive polemicizing a month ago (his latest contribution here) about the dangers of massive conversion of crops to the production of ethanol for fuel, and predicted the death of three billion people, many people no doubt he was talking about some distant future (or just talking nonsense). After all, the use of ethanol for fuel in the United States, the major fuel consumer of the world, is barely in its infancy.

Of course three billion people haven't died yet. But the effects are already beginning to be felt:

Corn will be scarce in Guatemala in the coming months due to the huge demand in the United States for ethanol production, which is buying and hoarding massive amounts of the grain.

In the last six months, a bushel of corn (56 pounds), doubled its price on the US market, from $4 to $8 US because ethanol producers consumed 86 million metric tons, 5 million over the figure planned.

Although to date there is no biofuel production using grains in Guatemala, the prices have also begun to increase, up as much as 73 percent.

As a result, many producers believing prices will go even higher are making huge purchases of animal fodder, which will affect the availability of corn for human consumption.

The Meso-American Food Security Early Warning System (MFEWS) alerts that high prices and shortages will affect lower-income families from June to August, when the second harvest of the year has not even begun.

For Dr. Ricardo Navarro, president of the Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technology, this is just the beginning of the negative effects for the region due to the massive ethanol production promoted by the United States.
Update: A related article by Noam Chomsky.

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