[permaculture] The Food Crunch

Marimike6 at cs.com Marimike6 at cs.com
Thu Apr 24 10:46:01 EDT 2008

Harmon writes "Don't you just have to wonder who is behind this massive 
barrage of
dis-information about biofuels causing food prices to go up and food
shortages? Once again, NO FOOD IS LOST in the production of ethanol,
there not only is just as much food left over after the sugars and
starches are extracted in the form of alcohol, but it is much more
nutritious food, healthier for livestock to eat, they average 17% higher
weight gain and and gain it faster and don't get sick like they do with
eating too much grain."

Yup. Spent mash is useful stuff... and that fact is just about ethanol's only 
saving grace. When we consider only the fuel side of the equation, ethanol's 
just a gimmick that's not quite as good as gasoline and quite a bit more 
expensive. Although with the actual costs carefully hidden. Plus, the use of 
natural gas in the distilling process is just another area of consumption we don't 
need right now.

Here's a good article on the virtues of distiller's grain:


But I don't think the waste of perfectly good corn by conversion into fuel 
was the only focus of the article I cited. Mostly, it was about the convergence 
of our fuel needs, water needs and food needs, worldwide. And as price is the 
best indicator of scarcity and demand, I think it sheds some light on just how 
we're now hitting the wall at top speed. The article does cover quite a bit 
more ground than the couple of paragraphs I excerpted, and is worth reading in 
its entirety.


One major point expressed is the fact that as the world becomes more 
affluent, a market is emerging for several billion Chinese and Indians to start eating 
meat-- for the first time ever. And there is that famous conversion factor to 
consider, where ten kilos of grain equals one kilo of meat. Maybe grain 
producing acreage, worldwide, can still be increased a bit... but in the long run 
the numbers don't add up.

But, to address your point that once the fuel fraction is distilled off there 
remains a high grade animal feed, I would suggest that there is still a 
diversion of calories from food use. One can't subtract all the caloric value that 
goes into the ethanol and still have on hand the same number of calories to be 
used for feeding animals.

It would be interesting to see the breakdown of a ton of corn, when (a) fed 
to cattle and (b) distilled, the ethanol subtracted and the remainder fed to 
cattle. In light of the number of arable acres on earth and the anticipated 
number of people with jobs and money, what I take away is the need to start 
weaning people from beef, pork and poultry... in just the same way we're trying to 
wean them away from vehicular travel. Either that or we have to reduce the 
number of people.   

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