Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Fool's Gold

Give or take a few hundred million, today the earth is inhabited by about six and a half billion people. That is estimated to be as many people as have ever inhabited this planet over the millennia since its existence. Although with the technology, and medicine people are living healthier and longer lives. There are probably more millionaires, per capita than ever, we have bigger houses, more cars, more airplanes, etc, etc. We also have more poor, more starvation and more people who are sicker than ever.

Whether you are a fan of global warming or not, that is a totally different issue, there are other consequences of this population boom that do not bode well for our future, that is the future of the mankind as a whole.

And this brings me to the recent editorial in “The Dothan Eagle” of Friday February 16, 2007, “ Biofuel research must be a top priority”. I admit that most of it is well thought out and well intentioned, it still leaves out a few problems and concerns that I have with promoting the Biofuel idea as an alternative to the “black gold”.

As we, at the behest of our beloved decider, jump head long into the research and conversions in to Biofuel arena we must consider a few other points. Your editorial already mentions the increase in the cost of corn due to the ethanol production and the cost of tortillas in Mexico, here are a few other items that needs to be considered.

Whether we use the corn or the switch grasses to produce the ethanol, the price of corn will stay up as the land being used to produce corn for the fuel will be used to grow switch grasses, thus the increase in food prices will be the same or similar no matter what we use to produce that fuel. We already see the price of eggs and poultry going up, and surely the cereals, the price of beef and the soft drinks will also go up as the price of corn syrup used in the soft drinks climbs, ethanol also is more expensive to produce than the gasoline and is less efficient, as you correctly noted in your editorial.

We must also keep in mind that even as ethanol is cleaner burning, the fuel is not less polluting to the environment, as to grow more and more organic materials to produce ethanol we will need more and more fertilizers and insecticides and thus directly pollute the under ground water reservoirs and rivers and the oceans, endangering the aquatic life and our own lives also.

As the competition grows for the land use, as to what we need more, the fuel or the food, the price of food articles will keep growing and become almost prohibitive for the poor, or just like in South America we will be forced to cut down the forests to grow these new crops, or let people go hungry. We have always sent our surplus crops to the starving around the world, with a switch to the biofuels we will endanger our own people. Will our elders and the poor on limited incomes still be able to eat?

Will we increase the minimum wage and social security benefits yet again to cover the cost of new more expensive fuel and the cost of food? How will we explain to the starving that they can not eat so as we can still drive our SUVs? What will we do when the fish populations start to die in our rivers because they have become more polluted with the fertilizers and insecticides?

The true and the only solution to our predicament of dependence on foreign oil is to reduce our “addiction” to oil, foreign and domestic. And we can start that by improving public transportation, making smaller cars, using less drive through’, and yes imposing higher and higher taxes on gas to be used for improved public transport. Would you believe a four dollar a gallon gasoline/ diesel tax will give us better and less congested roads, clean the air, give us better transportation systems, actually reduce poverty, and help bring many of our jobs back from over seas, will force Wal- mart into smaller stores, cut our dependence on the Arab oil, reduce terrorism, keep the Arabs from buying out the United States, and tell Hugo Chavez where to get off at.

If we do follow the road to the biofuel heaven, the over all cost increase in foods and fuel and the environmental damage will be the same as a four dollar a gallon fuel tax.

So how patriotic are YOU feeling today?

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