The Ultimate Arrogance

I’ve long thought that taking a basic food staple and turning it into fuel for our cars was the ultimate arrogance. The nose-thumbing equivalent, say, of turning down a friend needing a $4 loan and then using that $4 to buy a venti vanilla latte.

“Yes, I know you’re hungry,” we seem to be saying, “and I know you have kids to feed, too. But if I turn all of this corn into ethanol, there’s a chance I could save ten cents a gallon.”

The good news, I guess, is that we’re developing new ways to create ethanol from the solid walls of plants that will be more efficient than the current method, which only uses about 50% of the dry kernel mass of corn. The bad news, which goes largely ignored, is that mileage decreases fairly significantly with E85, thus causing us to burn more in the first place. The rest of the bad news is that the “demand” for ethanol is driving food prices up and creating a food shortage.

You may have already noticed rising rice prices. Some retails stores in the US have begun rationing the amount of rice you can buy. Why? We’re consuming (both eating and burning for fuel) more rice than we’re producing. “For the first time, it’s been clear that we are consuming more rice than we are producing globally,” said Robert Zeigler, head of the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute.

Honestly, it all makes me just want to ride my bike.


  1. As you liberal tree hugging friend who fills his tank with e85 because the Iraq war oil speculation and a crushed dollar has made gas so expensive. I feel obligated to give a few arguments while conceding corn based e85 is an inefficient solution. It is a start to a cleaner fuel and possibly energy independence. A little different take. For years we were and maybe still are paying farmers not to plant. Now we have a tariff on sugar from brazil, a very efficient way to make e85. In order to protect corn farmers. Food prices are going up for many reasons. e85 might be one, But petroleum prices are more likely bigger one. Many fertilizers are petroleum based, not to mention the fuel to create the food and the fuel to ship the food., Oil, Oil our economy runs on it.I talked to a farmer friend of mine who said e85 is the cause of land prices going up but not the food prices.Finally, on the rice, I did some digging on that to.The rice shortage is caused by a drought in rice producing areas.(Could this be caused by global climate change?) Combined with hoarding by rice speculators. is it Arrogance to fill with e85, not anymore than filling with gas. I would argue many more people have suffered from the our thirst for oil than our thirst for e85.So why do I do it if I know it’s less efficient? Its cheaper. It burns cleaner than gas, it makes our farmers (one of our more valuable assets) richer. If people use it, if there is an e85 market, then there will be incentive to make it more efficient. I think we can both agree Energy is a pretty big complex problem. I don’t think e85 is taking food out of starving peoples mouths, Yet. when it does I will reconsider. Of course we could always just make it out of beer.I think you and I are whiskey drinkers. hops prices are through the roof, too.

  2. Prices for almost all food staples are going up. Because of fuel & transportation prices. And now the flooding in the corn belt.So, you seem to have a bias against ethanol that is not logical. If we eliminated ethanol the problem of world hunger would not be helped, I’m afraid.

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