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01 February 2008 - Another attack on ethanol

Those individuals and organizations who feel that we should continue to get our energy supplies from those unfriendly oil-producing nations in the Middle East are at it again, attacking ethanol and the bio-fuels industry and blaming it for world hunger and all sorts of ills.

The latest charge comes from a familiar source. We’ve heard the name, Lester Brown, many times over the last half-century; he is President of the Earth Policy Institute. He said, and I quote - “The country’s ethanol push is a misguided effort to reduce its oil insecurity. One of the consequences of this enormous shift of grain is that hunger and malnutrition, which were supposed to be declining during this period, haven’t. They are now projecting that the 800-million people living in hunger will number 1.2-billion by 2025.” I’ll wait to see if that prediction is any more accurate than the one he made in the middle of the last century when he said half of the world’s population would be in starvation by 2000.

Brown is blaming the bio-fuels industry in this country for all of that, saying the rapid rise in corn and grain prices during the boom, means that we will ultimately export less grain, harming nations that rely on imports. He said over-consumption by the bio-fuels industry will also imperil the world’s reserve supplies.

On the other side of the issue, supporters of ethanol point out that Brown’s assessment ignores other factors that affect global food supplies and prices and said the report wrongly places blame on the ethanol industry. Matthew Hartwig, a spokesman for the Washington- based Renewable Fuels Association said - “To single out ethanol and bio-fuels and place the blame for all the ills of the world is a terribly myopic approach to a complex issue”.

It is also interesting to note, while farmers were suffering with very low commodity prices over the past couple of decades, Lester Brown never gave credit to American producers for making cheaper food available and helping cut into world hunger.

This may be a narrow view on my part, but I have said it before and I will say it again...If you are against bio-fuels and renewable sources of energy that can be produced in this country, then you are in favor of keeping our troops in harm’s way to protect our energy supplies in the Middle East.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.