Ethanol Subsidies Kill Forests and People and Scar the Planet

In the Washington Post, two prominent environmentalists have an editorial, “Ethanol’s Failed Promise,” which explains how ethanol subsidies and mandates are destroying the environment and fueling hunger and violence worldwide.   “Turning one-fourth of our corn into fuel is affecting global food prices. U.S. food prices are rising at twice the rate of inflation, hitting the pocketbooks of lower-income Americans and people living on fixed incomes.  .  .Deadly food riots have broken out in dozens of nations in the past few months, most recently in Haiti and Egypt. World Bank President Robert Zoellick warns of a global food emergency.”

Moreover, note Lester Pearson and Jonathan Lewis, “food-to-fuel mandates are leading to increased environmental damage. First, producing ethanol requires huge amounts of energy — most of which comes from coal. Second, the production process creates a number of hazardous byproducts, and some production facilities are reportedly dumping these in local water sources.  Third, food-to-fuel mandates are helping drive up the price of agricultural staples, leading to significant changes in land use with major environmental harm. Here in the United States, farmers are pulling land out of the federal conservation program, threatening fragile habitats. . .Most troubling, though, is that the higher food prices caused in large part by food-to-fuel mandates create incentives for global deforestation, including in the Amazon basin. As Time Magazine reported this month, huge swaths of forest are being cleared for agricultural development. The result is devastating: We lose an ecological treasure and critical habitat for endangered species, as well as the world’s largest ‘carbon sink.’ And when the forests are cleared and the land plowed for farming, the carbon that had been sequestered in the plants and soil is released. Princeton scholar Tim Searchinger has modeled this impact and reports in Science magazine that the net impact of the food-to-fuel push will be an increase in global carbon emissions — and thus a catalyst for climate change.”

In Human Events, Deroy Murdock explains how rising food prices resulting from ethanol have forced Haitians to literally eat dirt (dirt cookies made of vegetable oil, salt, and dirt), caused tortilla riots in Mexico, and fueled violent protests in unstable “powder kegs” like Pakistan and Egypt.

We previously wrote about the unsavory politics that led to this crisis, the rioting it has caused, and the starvation that countless people across the globe face as a result.  Finance ministers and central bankers are now calling for an end to ethanol and other biofuel subsidies and mandates in an effort to prevent enormous loss of life.