Thursday, July 19, 2007

Save the planet. Starve the World.

Damn the lot of them. I mean politicians, do-gooders and Nanny statists. This lot of meddling, superior, wankers who are absolutely convinced that they can centrally plan the lives of others better than the people themselves. To save the planet they are starving the world.

A quarter of a century ago the doomsday prophets like Paul Ehrlich were licking their chops over the prospects of massive famine in the world due to depleting resources.

What we saw, for almost the next three decades, was a world where food production increased and starvation was being reduced year after year. In the mid 60s only 42 percent of nations in the world had an average caloric intake of at least 100 percent of daily requirements. One decade later it had risen to 52 percent. One more decade later it had gone up to 66 percent.

When I was a child you often heard: “Eat everything on your plate, people in China are starving.” Sometimes it was India. The point was that people were starving. India and China liberalized their economies and food production exploded.

Years later Ehrlich revised his dire predictions and pointed to Vietnam as a nation where massive famine was around the corner. He showed declines in food production following the imposition of socialism. Ehrlich didn’t blame socialism, he blamed the decline on the lack of resources. But even as Ehrlich’s book was being distributed, Vietnam liberalized and the nation became a food exporter.

For decades we saw more and more hungry people being fed. The world was improving. Life expectancy had been increasing. The amount of severe poverty was declining. Per capita food production was increasing, food prices were dropping and poor people were becoming richer. All in all it looked good.

Then the meddlers came along intent on imposing deadly poverty on the world once again.

Let’s begin with the actions of George Bush, meddler in chief. The stupid invasion of Iraq destablized that country and exacerbated the entire situation in the Middle East. It is hard to imagine a more moronic policy in terms of consequences. One result has been the escalation of the price of oil. By increasing the instability in a major oil producing region of the world Mr. Bush has added to the costs of virtually everything in the world.

My main concern is availability of food. Certainly increased energy costs drive up the cost of food and that means fewer poor people can afford to eat. This is something apparently lost on the do-gooders who want to intentionally drive up energy costs to “save the planet”.

Bush’s foolishness is not the only cause of higher oil prices, of course. While demand for oil is higher, the ready supply of oil is far more than sufficient to meet that demand. The problem isn’t that the resource is becoming so scarce as to drive up prices. The oil is there. Getting to the oil is the problem. And it is a political problem more than a technological one.

People forget that a massive amount of oil is not in the hands of private producers, contrary to the slogans of the loony Left. Most oil is produced by companies controlled by inept, often vicious, politicians. In Russia much of the private production of oil has been renationalized by Putin, a resurrected Stalin of the worst sort. (No wonder Bush praised him.) In Venezuela the clown prince of Maxism, Hugo Chavez, has confiscated oil companies. Such moves always drive up the price of oil. Putin and Chavez are both responsible for increasing starvation in the world.

The planet savers also pushed through one of the worst boondoggles in American history: the push for ethanol to reduce carbon emissions. Now energy needs directly compete with food needs in a way never before possible. Professors C. Ford Runge and Benjamin Senauer in their article How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor which appeared in Foreign Affairs magazine, wrote:
Now, thanks to a combination of high oil prices and even more generous government subsidies, corn-based ethanol has become the rage. There were 110 ethanol refineries in operation in the United States at the end of 2006, according to the Renewable Fuels Association. Many were being expanded, and another 73 were under construction. When these projects are completed, by the end of 2008, the United States' ethanol production capacity will reach an estimated 11.4 billion gallons per year. In his latest State of the Union address, President George W. Bush called on the country to produce 35 billion gallons of renewable fuel a year by 2017, nearly five times the level currently mandated.
This ethanol craze has the support of virtually all the vermin that scurry about the halls of Congress. The Left drool over it because it lessens carbon emissions. The Bushites and neo-cons talk about energy independence and self-sufficiency (an old Mercantilist belief). Politicians from agricultural states love the subsidies because it allows them to bring home the pork to their constituents.

All this nonsense will have an impact on food prices. But, most Americans will be able to handle the additional cost. These higher food prices, for the developed world, mean very little. For the developing world it means the difference between life and death. Runge and Senauer illustrate this point with a telling example. They write that to fill one 25 gallon tank on a vehicle with ethanol:
requires over 450 pounds of corn -- which contains enough calories to feed one person for a year. By putting pressure on global supplies of edible crops, the surge in ethanol production will translate into higher prices for both processed and staple foods around the world. Biofuels have tied oil and food prices together in ways that could profoundly upset the relationships between food producers, consumers, and nations in the years ahead, with potentially devastating implications for both global poverty and food security
The World Food Program has said that the rising price of food means they can’t afford to feed the 90 million people they were helping. Executive Director Josette Sheeran says food costs have risen by 50 percent in the last five years and much of this is due to the biofuel campaign. She said: “We face the tightest agriculture markets in decades and, in some cases, on record.” Thanks, in no small measure to this political interference: “We are no longer in a surplus world.”

The so-called Progressive will try to blame this on capitalism. But this is the political process at work not markets. The Foreign Affairs article notes that this industry is “artificially buoyed by government subsidies, minimum production levels and tax credits” and all this “may soon be dwarfed by the panoply of tax credits, grants and government loans included in energy legislation passed in 2005 and in a farming bill designed to support ethanol producers.”

The same coalition of meddlers at the federal level exists in the various states. So all the government interventions meant to increase corn consumption for ethanol are also being implemented at the state level.

The same sort of bullshit is happening with the, oh-so-warming conscious, political meddlers in the European Union. Eighty percent of all biofuels, in the world, are used within the EU. The EU “promotes the production of ethanol from a combination of sugar beets and wheat with direct and indirect subsidies.” The Guardian reported in 2004: “The European Union wants 2% of the oil we use to be biodiesel by the end of next year, rising to 6% by 2010 and 20% by 2020. To try to meet these targets, the government has reduced the tax on biofuels by 20 pence a litre, while the EU is paying farmers an extra 45 euros a hectare to grow them.”

If one looks at the impact of policies on people in the Third Wold then the European Union is guilty of genocide. Combine their assinine biofuel policies with their agricultural protectionism, and Europe is helping kill millions of people. That the victims are mainly non-Europeans makes one wonder if there is no residual racist sentiments stalking the halls of Brussels. Certainly a racist, intent on killing off the “inferior” races in the Third World, would be hard pressed to design a set of policies, short of actual slaughter, to better accomplish such genocidal goals.

Certainly Europe isn’t the only part of the world caught up in this “green” frenzy. Brazil has mandated that all diesel “contain two percent biodiesel by 2008 and five percent biodiesel by 2013.” And in Asia “vast areas of tropical forest are being cleared and burned to plant oil palms destined for conversion to biodiesel.”

The Guardian article looked at the ramifications of converting to biodiesel and found the policy absurd. “To run our cars and buses and lorries on biodiesel... would require 25.9m hectares. There are 5.7m in the United Kingdom.” They note that even the EU’s requirement to have 20 percent of their fuel from “green” sources “would consume almost all our cropland.” They rightly warned that if this policy spread to other parts of the world the results would “tip the global balance from net surplus to net deficit.” As they wrote: “If the production of biofuels is big enough to affect climate change, it will be big enough to cause global starvation.”

Just a few years of political meddling to save the planet has made a huge difference to the prospects for the world’s poor. Runge and Senauer wrote that a 2003 study they did on world food security, based on then current trends, found, “the number of hungry people throughout the world would decline by 23 percent, to about 625 million, by 2025” provided food prices remained relatively constant. Those were not unrealistic projections. “But if, all other things being equal, the prices of staple foods increased because of demand for biofuels,... the number of food-insecure people in the world would rise by over 16 million for every percentage increase in the real prices of staple foods. That means that 1.2 billion people could be chronically hungry by 2025 -- 600 million more than previously predicted.”

This new “green” biofuel craze could literally double the amount of starvation in the world. For my entire lifetime the world has been making giant strides in feeding the hungry. Starvation, while not eradicated, was being reduced year after year. Yet with just a few years of political meddling the politicians and do-gooders have turned food surpluses into food deficits to save the planet. To “save the planet” they are starving the world.

Note: A five minute video on ethanol myths, with John Stossel, is here.

Picture: Note the book cover promotion biofuel. If you read the subtitle it says "toward a greener and secure energy future." The cover should feature the picture of starving children instead.

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