Filed under: Biofuel
In a well-argued op-ed for the Chicago Tribune last month, Robert Zubrin and Gal Luft showed that high food prices are not caused by a boom in biofuel production. Instead, they’re a result of high oil prices. High oil prices mean increased costs for tractor-driven cultivation and harvesting, fertilizer, refrigeration and transport.
Zubrin is the author of Energy Victory: Winning the War on Terror by Breaking Free of Oil. Luft runs the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security. They point out that during a period when corn ethanol production tripled, the net corn food-and-feed supply in the U.S. increased 26% and farm exports rose 23% this year alone.
The authors argue that biofuels are being demonized by oil companies and their PR firms. The companies don’t welcome the competition, for good reason: A recent Merril Lynch study finds that without biofuel programs, the price of oil would be $13 higher. More biofuels would mean more competition for fossil oil, therefore lower oil prices, therefore lower food costs.
The silver bullet for increasing demand for biofuel and reducing the demand for petrofuel — and thus its price — would be to require all cars and trucks to be flex-fuel vehicles — that is, to run on any combination of either gas/ethanol/methanol or diesel/vegetable oil. Detroit is already building these engines, and it costs only about $100 per vehicle to retrofit the cars we’re already driving.
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