Are biofuel policies to help Mother Earth killing her most vulnerable children instead?

Biofuel life cycle Image: LBL.gov

Guest post by Indur M. Goklany

I have a new paper — Could Biofuel Policies Increase Death and Disease in Developing Countries?  — which suggests that global warming policies may be helping kill more people than it saves. It was published last month in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.  Access to the paper is free.

Part of the PR notice put out by the journal is reproduced below:

—————————————————————

Biofuels Policy May Kill 200,000 Per Year in the Third World

TUCSON, Ariz., March 28, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — U.S. and European policy to increase production of ethanol and other biofuels to displace fossil fuels is supposed to help human health by reducing “global warming.” Instead it has added to the global burden of death and disease. 

Increased production of biofuels increases the price of food worldwide by diverting crops and cropland from feeding people to feeding motor vehicles. Higher food prices, in turn, condemn more people to chronic hunger and “absolute poverty” (defined as income less than $1.25 per day). But hunger and poverty are leading causes of premature death and excess disease worldwide. Therefore, higher biofuel production would increase death and disease.

Research by the World Bank indicates that the increase in biofuels production over 2004 levels would push more than 35 million additional people into absolute poverty in 2010 in developing countries. Using statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Indur Goklany estimates that this would lead to at least 192,000 excess deaths per year, plus disease resulting in the loss of 6.7 million disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) per year. These exceed the estimated annual toll of 141,000 deaths and 5.4 million lost DALYs that the World Health Organization attributes to global warming. Thus, developed world policies intended to mitigate global warming probably have increased death and disease in developing countries rather than reducing them. Goklany also notes that death and disease from poverty are a fact, whereas death and disease from global warming are hypothetical.

Thus, the biofuel remedy for global warming may be worse than the disease it purports to alleviate.

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The paper also shows that based on the World Health Organization’s latest estimates of death and disease from global warming and 23 other global health risk factors (for the year 2004), global warming should be ranked last or second last, depending on whether the criterion used is the burden of disease or death.

Policies that subsidize or mandate biofuels benefit neither Mother Earth nor humanity.

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172 thoughts on “Are biofuel policies to help Mother Earth killing her most vulnerable children instead?

  1. Anothe brilliant post from Indur M. Goklany.

    Yet more evidence that the “War on Global Warming” is actually a war on the poor.

  2. Absolutely true! Biofuels are one of the “green products” that has produced bad results for our Society. In Europe, it will be mandatory to have 10% of biofuel in diesel, by 2020. In Portugal, besides the increase due to oil price, biofuel incorporation has represented an increase of about 0.02€ per liter each month.
    Green projects have definitely killed our economy. As you know, Portugal has asked for a bailout. And a lot of it is explainable by our “green economy”:
    http://ecotretas.blogspot.com/2011/04/dark-economy-inside-perspective.html

    Ecotretas

  3. Perhaps I’m being excessively cynical but, since many greenies are also enthusiastic malthusians, maybe the “unforeseen” consequence of increased numbers of dead and dying people from starvation isn’t accidental at all. I hope to God I’m wrong.

  4. Fabulous. Now I will hold my breath waiting for all those concerned citizens to drop the “evil CO2″ mantra and show some real concern by agitating for real solutions for real people with real problems.

    (expires quitely and unnoticed in corner of room)

  5. It is self evident that biofuel production, which has doubled the cost of some foods, and denying the developing world the vital cheap energy the need will kill the most vulnerable.

  6. I see no mention of land clearance, plowing, planting and harvesting of the biofuel crop. All part of the life cycle surely?

    As a pensioner in the UK I already have problems with food prices and if we lose power next winter for any extended period, my life, and my wife’s, will be at risk. The death rate here in the UK will rocket. Never mind the death rate in the undeveloped countries.

    The greenies target is the developed countries. So far they are holding all the aces.

  7. “the estimated annual toll of 141,000 deaths ” from Global Warming. That’s high, of course, by about 200,000.

  8. It would be good to see more cost-benefit analyses related to climate change abatement. Many of us have commented for years on the likelihood that reducing energy use world wide would have catastrophic consequences to the poor.

    Too many studies have focused on the negative consequences of climate change. Few focus on the possible benefits of such change, the costs of abatement, and the cost-benefit of adaptation rather than abatement.

    Perhaps Indur M. Goklany has started us along a better path.

  9. This ‘food for fuel’ policy is probably the most stupid policy put in place thanks to the CAGW craze. It is worse than even billions spent on creating wind farms because ethanol kills people and it kills them right now. At best, ethanol production creates social instability around the world by contributing to high food prices.

    That arable land is used to grow fuel instead of food is criminally insane. It should be banned outright.

  10. This is nothing new

    Biofuels scandal + food prices. Biofuel crisis, biofuel oil, biofuel production, cars, algae, systems and basic


    | Fecha de creación: 24/04/2008

  11. ….As I have always said… there is so much overproduction of food in the EU / UK that we can afford setaside policies despite so many people in the world starving. We split up large (locally / relatively ) fields to provide modern day mansion houses for the well-to-do, with theirexpansive “lawns ” therefrom, and horse paddocks. Horses = ruminants – remember the nonsense about CH4 from ruminants !! ?? .. and what little land remains , we are encourage to spare some for Bio-fuels too. In my time in the 60′s to 80′s in Farming, we were encouraged to engage in sustainable methods – maintain / increase soil OM content thro’ use of straw being returned directly or via FYM to help earthworms = better soil structure……… – and we didn’t call it Bio or Organic farming – just plain farming. What a waste of my Education, now – what happens when a PC element allows socalled “Green Agenda” politics to take over….
    I am ranting & it’s my coffee break – now over ! but as a beginner to responses – please excuse me. in the N of Scotland

  12. Sorry, let me get this right. The PDREU/UESR & the UN are actually out to relieve the effects of disease & poverty, right? Like they did with Malaria (65 million deaths & God knows how many otherwise affected since arbitrarily banning DDT), AIDS (25+ million deaths & God knows how many infected), Rawanda (3 million + deaths (they’re improving) & goodness knows how many maimed, raped, destroyed lives etc). Now they propose making basic foodstuffs much more expensive so the poor get poorer & hungry get hungrier. reminds me of a few Nazi like comments passed around n the UN some years back about population control. Purrleese tell me they aren’t doing this! Sarc off.

  13. Everything is bad for the poor. Here in Australia, employers regularly have to explain how the poor will be worse off if they have to pay them more. Crocodile tears.

  14. It’s funny, don’t you think, that in the world of the Very Green bio-fuels are a cool and groovy thing but cows, pigs, goats , chickens, fish etc. are bad things if we eat their flesh. Meat surely doesn’t add any more CO2 than the biomass it uses to grow with, not that CO2 is a bad thing anyway.

    To me it looks just the same in that they are all part of the above ground carbon cycle. Meat is in fact a very efficient storage and delivery system for protein by which I mean it is energy dense and so costs less to transport than grains and veggies etc.

    Or have I missed something?

  15. I was just reading the usual propaganda about electric cars http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/apr/17/electric-hybrid-vehicles-ford and having a laugh at the comments from the sheeple, when one of them mentioned (As the middle classes with money do), its simple to park it on your drive way even night and re-charge it, well hang on a minute I live in, per square mile, one of the most populated parts of Europe and I can tell you drive ways just don’t exist so where do I park my car to recharge it then? Or am I just stupid and haven’t realised that in modern times if you can’t afford a drive way you can’t have a car?

    (I haven’t bothered leaving a comment as most people around here will know anything negative about AGW and it gets Censored).

  16. Of course. The EU, for example, fawning over “evil” India and China, and other developing countries over their CO2 output is just the same.

    It’s modern colonialism. Why do you think are tomatos from the EU cheaper in some African areas than local products?

  17. The law of unintended consequences at work? I’ll let the Warmists have the last word.

    Green Peace 2007
    Biofuels: green dream or climate change nightmare?
    “As you may have already seen, along with WWF, the RSPB, Friends of the Earth and enoughsenough.org, we’ve placed an advert in several of today’s papers warning the government about the environmental risks of biofuels as an alternative to petrol and diesel. ”
    ——————–
    Friends of the Earth – 2007
    Biofuels – a big green con?
    “The UK’s largest environmental groups have launched an advertising campaign attacking environmentally destructive ‘biofuels’.”
    ——————–
    Guardian – 2008
    Biofuel farms make CO2 emissions worse
    “Transforming ecosystems into farms for biofuel crops will increase global warming and result in net increases in carbon emissions, according to a study. ”
    ——————–
    Guardian – 2011
    Bristol’s biofuels plant must be refused planning permission
    “Burning biofuels in cars is mad enough, as it causes more environmental destruction – in terms of both carbon emissions and the loss of habitats – than petroleum. I’ve been campaigning against it since 2004. ”
    ——————–
    Spiegel – 2011
    Is Environmentalism Really Working?
    “And Germans have been unusually stubborn about the biofuel E10 — the name refers to the 10 percent ethanol admixture……Many haven’t yet fully realized that E10 is an ecological swindle. People who want to help the environment shouldn’t use it. Nine large European environmental associations recently conducted a joint study which concluded that the bottom line impact of the fuel on the environment is negative…….A single full tank of bio-ethanol uses up as much grain as an adult can eat in a whole year.”
    **************************************
    **************************************
    Note:
    The author of the above post (Indur M. Goklany) has been associated with the IPCC since its inception in 1988 as an author, expert reviewer. Today, it appears, he is a little more skeptical. ;O)

  18. There are three essential industrial processes omitted from that circular diagram. Item 1 is the coal mine needed to supply the electricity generator.The second item is the electricity power plant needed to supply the very heavy power demand of, no. 3, the ammonium nitrate manufacturer. For the sake of brevity we can ignore the fleets of heavy vehicles that are needed to distribute the n.a. to the farmers and those needed to deliver the crop to the bio facility. Like wind farms, the most essential ingredient of biofuel is subsidy.

  19. Never fall for the LIE that CO2 is causing food riots. Food riots are partly being caused by biofuels. CO2 is essential for plants! The biosphere has been greening!

    The following study found that over a period of almost two decades, the Earth as a whole saw an increased greening of 6.2%. About 25% of the Earth’s vegetated landmass — almost 110 million square kilometres — enjoyed significant increases

    http://modis.cn/pubs/PERS_2007_Liang.pdf

    The Sahel has been greening.

    http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/publications/trends_africa2008/desertification.pdf

  20. Another excelent post from the author.
    Like others who have posted in similar vein, I too have become quite cynical about the Greens and their errant Malthusian views. I am no longer willing to grant them possible good motives in promoting their multiple silliness and I no longer see them as merely misguided but as evil – there is too much evidence now for me to believe that starvation of the poor in developing countries due to ‘Green’ governments mandatingting the use of ‘green’ fuels and the scandal of the Green encouragement of the spread of Malaria can be atributed to the Law of Unintended Consequences. I know ‘wicked’ seems a terribly old-fashioned word, but I see it as an entirely appropriate apellation for the Greens of the world.

  21. The disastrous biofuels policy is just one among many that have been calamitous. It seems the bigger and more remote the government then the greater the bureaucracy and the worse the policies. An excellent article in Der Spiegel highlighted just some of the so-called ‘unintended consequences’

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,751469,00.html

    Here in the UK our fishing industry has been devastated by an unworkable quota system resulting in many tons of saleable fishing being thrown overboard

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/4279444/How-Defra-crushed-British-fishermen.html

    Apple orchards have been uprooted, the foot and mouth epidemic made far worse (fewer abattoirs meant greater transport leading to faster spread of the disease) and smaller farms elbowed out by larger farms taking the bulk of the subsidies all as a result of EU policies.

    Now our beautiful countryside is being devastated by the installation of grossly inefficient and heavily subsidised wind turbines.
    Willis is quite right when he says of political parties ‘a pox on both their houses’ .
    We could do with many more published papers like Indur Goklany’s pointing out their stupidity.

  22. In the US, it is the Corporate Farmers and Ethanol Distillers that are pushing use of ethanol from corn, not the environmentalists, who recognize first of all, that it uses almost as much fossil fuel as it saves, in addition to the problem of increasing the cost of food. I don’t know about what drives it in other countries where land is being used for biofuels instead of food.

    Brazil seems to be a success story.
    It seems that ethanol from sugar cane in Brazil will reduce GHG emissions and is so cost effective that a tariff is needed to keep it out of the US. It does not seem to have a deleterious effect on food prices or create problems for other productive types of land use.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethanol_fuel_in_Brazil

    It seems that it is possible to make wise use of agriculture for biofuels, but it is not going to be a big factor in reduction of GHG emissions from fossil fuels.

  23. I think that it is not bio-fuels but policy that kills. All land is not equal and certainly not all is farm-able.

    I did a study on New Zealand. Just taking the low quality land set aside since 1998 due to economic factors and re-utilising just 20% of that would make NZ fuel independent in that it could grow all its own fuel. Add in jobs, negation of fuel imports etc and you have a positive plus.

    On the down side you have the political situation in USA where corn is used to provide feedstock for bio-fuel rather than import Bio-fuels from more efficient sources.

    Hemp is another fine example, it grows on very poor soils, can provide up to three crops per year and provides food, fuel and basic raw materials.

    Plus more ways are becoming available to cheaply and simply convert waste biomass (cellulose) into ethanol directly.

    It seems all that is needed is some common sense rather than policy.

  24. Dr. Goklany,

    Thank you for the excellent post. This message needs to be spread–many people in the world are living on the edge. Those of us fortunate enough to live somewhere far from danger should know about the very real, though unintended, consequences of our policies and actions. We have to live our lives too, but as we find out what happens as we pick one path or another, we should be made to decide.

    People literally dying just so we can have alternate fuels and feel good about ourselves is just not something most would want to cause. Good for you for letting us know about it.

  25. Who Supports Biofuels (bio-ethanol etc)?
    is it the Greenies?

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8559661.stm

    Environmentalists fear it is – and their latest manoeuvre to stem the biofuel tide is a legal action to force the European Commission to publish thousands of pages of evidence of the impacts of plant fuels on the environment.

    Green campaigners want to see all the background research immediately because they believe that some of the papers already confirm that biofuels may do more harm than good.

    The environmentalists say they suspect that the Commission’s analysis contains explosive evidence that could blow the EU’s biofuels strategy apart

    Green groups have also been angered by a separate EU policy statement leaked to BBC News. They say it could grant plantations of palm oil the same status as natural rainforests.

    Kenneth Richter from Friends of the Earth said: “This is absolutely appalling – they are bending over backwards to support the palm oil industry. To equate a palm oil plantation in the same category as a rainforest is dishonest and outrageous.” When I queried the Commission about this policy, they declined to comment.

    But environmentalists point out that the E4tech study doesn’t even attempt to factor in the other potentially malign side-effects of fuel crops displacing food crops.

    http://www.vivergofuels.com/web/about

    Vivergo Fuels

    Who are the backers? Greenies again?
    BP is one of the world’s largest energy companies, offering expertise in fuels technology and access to major fuel markets.

    British Sugar offers experience across the agricultural value chain, links to feedstock supply, and co-product expertise.

    DuPont holds expertise in biotechnology and bio-manufacturing capabilities.

    Looks like misguided government policies and Oil industries to me

    A little positive stuff however:
    1.1Mtonnes produce 420M litres bioethanol leaving a residue of 500k tonnes of high protein animal feed. Only the starch gets used in the processing

  26. I read Dr Goklany’s paper. And no where in it did I see a single direct correlation between biofuel use and increased deaths. He references several other studies – which I will read when I have time – which he uses as the basis for his claims, which purport to show that poverty increases due to biofuel production. And then makes the giant leap that that correlates to an increase in deaths.

    However, a closer read of his paper reveals a number of telltale signs – the art of obfuscation, and his credentials – which should make that obfuscation make great sense.

    The overall claim is that biofuels increase deaths due to increased poverty. The alleged “proof” of that claim is not the Dr’s work – but supposedly these other studies.

    In the papers first page the problems become apparent:

    … it has been argued, and several analyses confirm, that higher food prices, induced in part by greater demand for biofuels, could increase hunger and poverty in developing countries. Since hunger and poverty are major contributors to death and disease around the world, it is, therefore, conceivable that the higher demand for biofuels could add to the global burden of death and disease.

    Sound familiar? A clasic “if-then” statement based on incomplete data.

    Let me paraphrase another claim we well know’s “proof”:

    … it has been argued, and several analyses confirm, that …. higher CO2 levels could be related to increasing global temperatures …. since increases in temperature are often accompanied by increases in CO2, and since we can find no other evidence to prove the source of the CO2 increase, it is, therefore, conceivable that the higher global temperatures are a direct result of anthropogenic contribution to increases in CO2 ….

    Completely unproven in both cases – statements shrouded in “woulda, coulda’s” and based on broad statements and not on scientific data or evidence … at least with the AGW claims there is at least SOME research and evidence involved – here there seems nothing but a huge leap of blind faith.

    Where have we heard that before?

    Perhaps the good Dr’s credentials might help provide a clue:

    Acknowledgment: Indur M. Goklany, Ph.D., is an author and researcher who has been associated with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change since its inception in 1988 as an author, expert reviewer, and U.S. delegate to that organization. Contact: 8726 Old Courthouse Rd., Vienna, VA 22182, igoklany@verizon.net.

    Imagine that.

    Lets look further at the Dr’s comments in this paper. The clear allegation is that increased biofuel production and the – unproven in this paper – alleged increase in food prices as a result – are causing nearly 200,000 additional deaths.

    Yet here is what the paper actually says:

    If that were the case, [that higher demand for biofuels increases death and disease] it would, ironically, militate against one of the reasons offered to encourage biofuel production, namely, to reduce the health effects of global warming, particularly in developing countries. It would also reduce the perceived net benefits of policies designed to encourage biofuel production, whether they are instituted to reduce global warming or enhance energy security.

    “If that were the case …” etc… an admission that his papers claims are not supportable by fact or data … but it DOES well illustrate the agenda.

    This is further confirmed with the next comments in the paper:

    “To date, however, no estimates are available of the potential magnitude, if any, of the global health impacts of biofuel production, precluding a more comprehensive analysis of policies designed to stimulate biofuel production.”

    We can’t prove it with facts or data but it must be true. Just believe us ….

    Sorry – seems we’ve heard that claim before … and even the note in his paper that confirms AGW as a non-important factor is going to change the fact that he provides no proof to support his claims – and directly admits it for those who would read the paper for themselves.

  27. UK Sceptic says: April 19, 2011 at 12:48 am
    ‘I hope to God I’m wrong.’
    Somehow I doubt it.

    Joe Lalonde says: April 19, 2011 at 1:02 am
    ‘Whoever has the highest bid, wins. Unfortunately this mentality will kill people.’
    What are your odds?

    Ken Harvey says: April 19, 2011 at 3:41 am and Alan the Brit says: April 19, 2011 at 2:16 am
    Very interesting and thank you

    Pointman says: April 19, 2011 at 4:28 am
    “Future historians, especially black African ones, will categorise the effects of the environmental movement as genocidal and they will be correct.”

    Yes, and prior to this it was the argument of colonisation. So, when will these peoples determine their own paths? And that of the common good for their own peoples?

  28. More from the paper:

    “Based on current technologies, higher biofuel production necessarily means greater diversion of crops and/or cropland to
    the production of fuel rather than food.”

    Another broad assertion unsupported by any fact or proof. Both demonstrably false AND shows the ‘cooked books’ aspect – twisting specifics to match an agenda.

    First, higher biofuel production does NOT “necessarily” mean greater diversion of crops/cropland from food to fuel. The vast majority of crop used for biofuel production is not food crops. And the USDA data shows that corn is not crowding out other food crops – at least in the US, as I clearly showed (and sourced – look it up yourself at USDA site under crop reports) showed in the last ethanol thread, other food crops are not seeing greatly reduced acres planted.

    Additionally, we have seen significant increases in yields on corn in recent years due to improved farming methods, and to generally good weather.

    Corn used for biofuel production is almost entirely NOT FOOD corn – but rather FEED corn. Crops grown specifically for animal feed. And ethanol from corn production produces an important byproduct – distillers dried grain solids – a high quality animal feed that replaces a very large part of the “feed” content of the corn used for ethanol.

    Second is the disclaimer “Based on current technologies” … which give license to ignore that corn use as a feed stock for biofuel production WILL level as the new cellulosic and other processes come online. The author notes that the study is based on the claim that biofuel production would continue to increase – ignoring, by use of the carefully selected “Based on current technologies” disclaimer that an increasing use of alternative feed stocks and cellulosic and other processes will cap and eventually reduce corns use for biofuels.

    The author makes yet another broad brush claim unsupported by fact or proof:

    “The iron law of supply and demand dictates that this would almost unavoidably increase global food prices over what they would otherwise be.
    Indeed, this is confirmed by studies of the impact of biofuel production on global food prices, although the magnitude of the effect varies from study to study”

    Not real proof – just the authors claim there is some immutable law that “unavoidably” will cause an increase in food prices.

    He notes 2 studies – De Hoyos and Medvedev and Cororaton et al – that “provide estimates” of “potential increases in poverty induced by greater biofuel production” … note that they do NOT allege to correlate increase in poverty to increased deaths.

    He goes on to state that while these two studies “indicate higher biofuel production increases global poverty” those increases, if they do exist, he admits are “small in relative terms.”

    Yet again, a more detailed read would show some very interesting numbers.

    The first study estimated the poverty headcount in 2005 to be 1,208 million vs a world population of appx 6.5 billion – the study alleged poverty head count would increase 32 million due to biofuel production increase from 2004 to 2010.

    The 2nd study shows estimated poverty headcount in 2010 to be approx. 798 million vs estimated world population of appx 6.909 billion – a substantial decrease from 2005 to 2010. The author admits this is due to increased economic development during this time.

    Remember those numbers ….

  29. @Alan the Brit: You forgot to mention the result of banning freon. The price skyrocketed and if you were unfortunate and depended on an old hand-me-down refrigerator, you were out of luck when it needed freon. No fridge = spoiled food = illness and death. But who cares about the poor? They are never part of the equations (dare I say models?) of the greenies.

  30. I’ve considered picketing my local purveyor with a sign that says ‘Buy a gallon of Ethanol, Starve a dozen Children.’ Plus, the windmill over the gas station, er, ‘den of iniquity’, keeps me up at night moaning of the agony of Gaia.
    ===================

  31. Now we can look at the actual claims of the paper. How many deaths can be attributed to the alleged increase in poverty headcounts and what is the proof to support that claim?

    The whole section about poverty related health risk factors – the exercise in defining “poverty related” deaths – uses admittedly “arbitrarily” reached conclusions on what health risks are poverty related. The author decides that, in order of highest to lowest risk of death; global warming, underweight, zinc and Vitamin A deficiency, unsafe sex and unsafe water, sanitation, hygiene are the “poverty related” risk factors for death and disease for this report.

    Remember the top poverty related risk of death from above.

    The paper begins this discussion by trying to tie increase in poverty to increase in deaths by comparing 2004 estimate of poverty headcount with the 2005 estimated poverty headcount.

    The paper notes the 2004 estimate of poverty headcount was, according to a 2007 study, estimated at 969 million people. The very first thing they do however, is adjust that number – you guessed it – upwards – by 1.5 times, claiming “new” poverty estimates using “new data and methods” shows 1.48 to 1.5 times higher counts.

    The paper claims the World Bank and De Hoyos and Medvedev study uses this new poverty data and methodsremember that too ….

    So right up front they adjust the 2004 poverty headcount number to 1,464 million.

    The author notes the De Hoyos and Medvedev study is allegedly the more accurate one. That study, which he also notes (see above) uses the latest and greatest most accurate data and methods, found the estimated poverty headcount for 2005 was 1,208 million.

    Remember as well from above that the author noted the World Bank also used the new latest and greatest data and methods. That earnest group found the estimated poverty headcount for 2005 was 1,374 million.

    Whoops.

    So how does the good Doctor reconcile the difference between two organizations, considering both as he claims are using the latest and greatest new data? He notes the World Bank number is higher by 14% and that is the perfect excuse to increase the De Hoyos and Medvedev 2005 number by a commensurate amount.

    The authors reasoning?

    “The difference between the two estimates is mainly that the World Bank analysis covered more countries”

    …. but wait, what was it said about the De Hoyos and Medvedev and Cororaton et al studies earlier?

    Hmmm: “… both analyses covered 90% of the developing world’s population”

    Not a shred of evidence to show the author did any analysis at all on the actual numerical differences between World Bank and De Hoyos and Medvedev – nothing more than a tenuous and unsupported claim – yet that was more than good enough to increase the numbers 14%

    So ….. the 2004 estimated poverty headcount number was increased 150% over the actual number from a 2007 study, based on the latest and greatest new data and methods – so that it compares to the De Hoyos and Medvedev numbers – which also use that same latest and greatest new data.

    And then the author gives the De Hoyos and Medvedev numbers another 14% boost – despite again, that they are supposedly based on same new data and methods – with apparently no substantiation, documentation or support for the change.

    Which leaves us with a 2004 poverty headcount estimate, originally 968 million, inflated to 1,454 million.

    And the 2005 estimated poverty headcount from De Hoyos and Medvedev originally 1,208 million – increased to an estimated poverty headcount of 1,377 million.

    The De Hoyos and Medvedev estimated poverty headcount – despite allegedly being based on the same new data and estimating methods – was increased by 169 million ….

    But wait … they did not increase the De Hoyos and Medvedev estimated poverty headcount by 14% at all – in fact they ignored the poverty headcount entirely. Instead the author increased the alleged 32 million INCREASE in the poverty headcount due to the increase in biofuel production over the 2004 level by 14%

    Now that’s what I call new math.

    Lets review the authors own numbers:

    2004 estimated poverty headcount adjusted to match new data and methods used by De Hoyos and Medvedev and World Bank: 1,454 million

    2005 estimated poverty headcount by De Hoyos and Medvedev, which uses same new data and methods as above 2004 number, but arbitrarily adjusted upward 14% (169 million) to match World Bank number: 1,377 million

    So 2004 to 2005 estimated poverty headcount actually DECREASED 77 million despite being artificially and arbitrarily increased by 169 million.

    2010 estimated poverty headcount per De Hoyos and Medvedev: 798 million … a further decrease of 579 million (despite arbitrary increase of 169 million above) from 2005 to 2010.

    Hold on – we ain’t done yet either …

  32. Pointman says:
    April 19, 2011 at 4:28 am

    “Future historians, especially black African ones, will categorise the effects of the environmental movement as genocidal and they will be correct.”

    This is something I have said for years-the biggest fear of Greenies :
    Healthy, happy, prosperous, dark skinned people….

    Developemnt to first world standards is not a bad thing but economies
    mean personal freedom. Kleptocrats hate that. Including the UN…

  33. Unleaded gasoline was a good idea, bio fuel bad idea.
    The liberal catastrophic elite who caused the problem also have the solution and that is redistribution of wealth and control of the world food supply, among other things to normalize poverty and eliminate private transportation because it kills the poor around the world.

    The elite will always present us with a disaster from which they will save us.

  34. It’s not all doom and gloom in biofuels. This guy – Vinod Khosla has an excellent perspective on the way things are going, especially on the near-, mid- and long-term transitioning into the use of cellulosic technologies:

    http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/guest-post-vinod-khosla-on-what-matters-in-biofuels/

    This is a really great article that acknowledges the issue under discussion here, and quantifies potential solutions that are actually currently in progress. For example, cellulosic sugars at 8 cents/pound will be a huge step forward.

    Also, it’s my understanding that this is not about “greenhouse gases” anymore, but rather about energy security (reference 1 – Barack Obama; State of the Union Address).

    It’s turning out to be quite amazing for biosynthetic specialty chemical development too.

    Not all doom and gloom.

  35. I would have thought this is what the Green Community wants, after all they are amongst the most misanthropic of people as their policies repeatedly show. A comment all the more depressing because of the influence these groups wield via the media and throughout western politics.

  36. OK – set aside all of the above for a minute – lets take a blind leap of faith the author is perfectly accurate – that the 32 million increase in estimated poverty headcount from 2005 to 2010 is correct, and that there is some relevant reason supported by fact that justified jacking that number up by 14% to 36.4 million estimated poverty headcount …

    And lets take the authors next claim at face value as well … that the 36.4 million biofuel induced increase from 2005 to 2010 in estimated poverty headcount is directly related somehow to 192,000 deaths caused by biofuel induced increase in poverty …

    First – lets look at that number 192,000 additional deaths due to increased biofuel production from 2005 to 2010. World population increased from appx 6.5 to 6.9 billion during that time – lets loosely average that to 6.7 billion. An alleged 192,000 additional deaths vs average appx 6.7 billion world population … if I did math right those deaths would be 0.0029% of world population.

    What do you suppose is the margin of error on this number? As shown above its probably very high. Simply put – this 192,000 claim – even IF correct – is by all appearances within any reasonable margin of error.

    Now please go back to that other thing I asked you to remember … the top poverty related risk of death from above. Yep, that’s right – global warming.

    The authors claim of 192,000 poverty related deaths caused by biofuel production increases specifically INCLUDES deaths caused by global warming – in fact they represent the largest portion of these 192,000 deaths according to the authors own chart and claims.

    The author further notes the World Health Organization estimates 141,000 global warming induced deaths.

    Whoops …Houston we seem to have another problem here ….

    …. if 141,000 deaths are allegedly caused by global warming, AND if global warming deaths are included in the authors 192,000 estimate of biofuel induced deaths then the real number caused by biofuel production increase would be 51,000

    Not sure my calculator works on numbers that small … ;-)

    I may well be totally off base here – I quoted directly from the paper, but am more than willing to be corrected.

    But if a complete layman can pick apart the allegations and claims with so little time and effort – then this paper sure doesn’t seem to be able to be taken seriously.

    Unfortunately – it is only the headline assertion that gets remembered and or reported. Which is all too likely the intent. All too familiar when the IPCC is involved it seems.

    I don’t know the author – and purposely did not research him in any way. Might be a perfectly nice person. But at absolute best light, this paper seems to be seriously lacking factual support and appears it contains numerous errors, large and small.

  37. And last a serious comment …

    I’m waiting for the similar study to this one, and/or outcry from the tree-hugger types, that shows how many deaths are due to (just to pick 3 at random):

    1) Bovine flatulence – ie: Cow Farts

    2) Food price increases from world consumption of corn fed beef

    3) Food price increases due to cotton crop displacement of food crops

    Where are the same type attacks and studies on any of these?

    Interestingly corn based ethanol production helps address the first two … with the corn ethanol byproduct, distillers dried grain solids, a high quality more digestable replacement of highly inefficient corn as cattle feed …

  38. Smoking some kind of hemp, is just the sort of facile comment that leads to conflict and dissent rather than sensible discussion.

    in every area we need to sort the wheat from the chaff. Corporate windmills, planted for profit and subsidy do not work. But a private well designed windmill will work wonders for the owner user, in the right place.

    Similarly with biofuels. You cant grow crops where palm oil grows. Jungle on the whole does not thrive there either. Get some basic common sense. In the USA only a small percentage of land is suitable for farming. Same in a tropical rain forest, Areas are not suitable for jungle.

    As i pointed out, using low value poor quality land can provide both fuel and jobs and economic benefits, its policies, subsidies and corporate demands that is the problem.

    Coconuts grown with fertilizers increase yields but the farmer loses money as the increase in yield does not cover the costs of fertilizer. Many high level studies confirm this. Many careers and grants were supported on the studies.

    But

    Nobody told the subsistence farmers, nobody cared about them.

    All we need to do is grow whatever we can were it grows best with a little support, its called diversity and thats a major reason why humanity has survived many crises in the past.

  39. Alexander K
    April 19, 2011 at 3:42 am

    I am glad that some people are starting to wake up to the awful truth. Socialism by any name is evil.

  40. I was interested that the press release concluded with this:

    “Thus, the biofuel remedy for global warming may be worse than the disease it purports to alleviate.”

    In December 2008 I published a paper titled;
    “Biofuels: a solution worse than the problem they try to address?”

    I can be read at

    http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/biofuel_issues.pdf

    Its synopsis says:

    “This paper reviews effects of large use of biofuels that I predicted in a paper published in August 2006 prior to the USA legislating to enforce displacement of crude oil products by biofuels. The review indicates that policies (such as that in the EU), subsidies and legislation (such as that in the USA) to promote use of biofuels should be reconsidered. The use of biofuels is causing significant problems but providing no benefits except to farmers. Biofuel usage is a hidden subsidy to farmers, and if this subsidy is the intended purpose of biofuel usage then more direct subsidies would be more efficient. But the problems of biofuel usage are serious. Biofuel usage is

    • damaging energy security,
    • reducing biodiversity,
    • inducing excessively high food prices, and
    • inducing excessively high fuel prices, while
    • providing negligible reduction to greenhouse gas emissions.

    All these effects were predicted in my paper on the use of biofuels that was published in August 2006 and can be seen at

    http://ff.org/centers/csspp/pdf/courtney_082006.pdf

    My 2006 paper also predicted objections from environmentalists if large use of biofuels were adopted although this then seemed implausible because many environmentalists were campaigning for biofuels to displace fossil fuels. But this prediction has also proved to be correct.”

    The similarity of the concluding statement of the press release to the title of my paper interests me because the conclusions of the two papers are so similar. Sometimes a title suggests itself.

    Richard

  41. “Policies that subsidize or mandate biofuels benefit neither Mother Earth nor humanity.”

    There it is! The truth is not pretty. If we could only recognize the difference between “green” and “greed” we’d be so much better off. The UN is discussing the idea of making the Earth (and all plants and animals thereon –regardless of size) a Legal entity. Hummmmmm…. OK! Who gains? The Earth? Don’t believe it for a second.

    Observation – the biggest issues facing human beings are not about “green” but “greed”. The only lifeform in danger from man is man himself. AGW is NOT about science, it is about money, politics, power. And, I’m sorry to say, making the World better for mankind isn’t about making it better for all mankind, it’s about making it better of the right kind of mankind; and most of us are NOT in that number.

  42. which suggests that global warming policies may be helping kill more people than it saves.

    Even if not Malthusian in design, the end result will be the same.

  43. 220mph
    April 19, 2011 at 8:04 am

    I have not read all of your rants yet; I am at work. But you seem to make some interesting points. My main concern is that you appear to be talking from a socialist world view. Though in truth, it is difficult to talk about this type of subject without doing so, as the socialists have been very busy insuring that they are the ones defining the vocabulary. Be that as it may …

    What role do you think the distortion of the food market by government policies such as subsidies have on hunger?

    What role do you think humanitarian food distribution has on local food production?

    Would increased food prices result in local farmers being able to realize greater profitability in producing food crops, thus enabling them to farm?

    Have you read “The Plight and Promise of Arid Land Agriculture”? Can’t remember the authors names right now.

    BTW, I think that the paper you are dissecting only really makes sense in a Marxist context. It ignores second and third order effects. The problem in analyzing stuff written by socialists is ferreting out all of the invalid equivalencies.

  44. Any politician that continues, in the face of the known consequences of ethanol subsidies, to continue to advocate for such subsidies is, in my opinion, guilty of crimes against humanity. I can find no positive aspect of ethanol subsidies. Even the primary justification of such subsidies, to reduce CO2 emissions and dependence on imported oil, is a failure and had any thought been given to it they would have realized this before the first ethanol plant was ever built.
    In summary: They take our tax money (actually borrowed from China), to pay for ethanol to be made from corn, which results in gasoline with lower fuel value and a higher price, that makes it necessary to transport huge quantities of extremely flammable and corrosive liquid over highways and in railcars, that drives up the cost of corn and all commodities, puts more land under cultivation, uses more water in parts of the country where water is scarce, makes food more expensive and therefore less available to the world’s poor resulting in needless death due to starvation, inflates food prices in developed countries resulting in less money available for other things which then slows the overall economy putting people out of work, and in the end reduces imports of oil insignificantly. A pogram worthy of Lenin himself.

  45. 220mph says:

    Hey, hasn’t anyone told you that science is only supposed to be digested in small media and eco-friendly sound bites? No one is supposed to read the actual papers and try to understand them. That’s not science. Science is about scaring people with all sorts of made up what ifs and coulds and potentially mights. How dare you try to understand something that someone in a lab coat said! I’m so shocked and appalled that I’m not sure I’ll be able to finish my soylent green…

    Seriously, how anyone can take this paper any more seriously than any of the other garbage being misconstrued as true science today is beyond me. As soon as I see the first “might” or “could” I know I do not have to read any more. I BELIEVE he is right inthat it makes sense to me that using more land for biofuels is not a good idea, but I don’t need made up possibilities to convince me. One simple question is all that is needed – Does the biofuel cost more or less to produce than traditional (“fossil fuel” misnomer intentionally left out) sources of energy? That’s it. CO2 is a good thing. Cheap abundant energy is too. Let’s use it all as long as people get to choose which they want and can afford. No mandates, subsidies, or other “we know better than you” government intrusion is necessary.

  46. The facts indicate Biofuels do not significantly reduce CO2, do significantly increase the cost of food for everyone on the planet and hence the number of people in poverty, and do significantly increase the cost of energy.

    The well f0unded “Green” movement appears to be fact independent. It is difficult to change ones mind when the primary objective is a propaganda war.

    The “Green Leaches” continue to take advantage of the well meaning but ignorant greenees.

    How long before the biofuel boondoggle is ended?

  47. You really have to look at biofuels on a region by region basis. In some areas there is plenty of room for growing fuel. In other areas, not so much. For example, the US still has a surplus in corn every year. I think many of the same reasons for looking a climate on a regional basis apply to biofuels.

    I have to agree with 220mph that this paper is very poor. It is certainly not up the standards we’ve seen previously from Indur. I would not want to argue my case based on this poorly researched paper.

  48. DER SPIEGEL MAGAZINE
    Even Germanys premier left wing magazine recognises the folly of Biofuels, and the German public are mad as hell about it!

    E10 Debacle Puts the Brakes on Biofuels

    An attempt to introduce the biofuel mixture E10 in Germany has been a disaster, after motorists refused to buy the supposed green gasoline. Carmakers, oil companies and politicians have all tried to blame each other for the mess. Even environmentalists oppose the new fuel.

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,757812,00.html#ref=nlint

  49. Charlie Foxtrot says:
    April 19, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Any politician that continues, in the face of the known consequences of ethanol subsidies, to continue to advocate for such subsidies is, in my opinion, guilty of crimes against humanity. I can find no positive aspect of ethanol subsidies. Even the primary justification of such subsidies, to reduce CO2 emissions and dependence on imported oil, is a failure and had any thought been given to it they would have realized this before the first ethanol plant was ever built.
    In summary: They take our tax money (actually borrowed from China), to pay for ethanol to be made from corn, which results in gasoline with lower fuel value and a higher price, that makes it necessary to transport huge quantities of extremely flammable and corrosive liquid over highways and in railcars, that drives up the cost of corn and all commodities, puts more land under cultivation, uses more water in parts of the country where water is scarce, makes food more expensive and therefore less available to the world’s poor resulting in needless death due to starvation, inflates food prices in developed countries resulting in less money available for other things which then slows the overall economy putting people out of work, and in the end reduces imports of oil insignificantly. A pogram worthy of Lenin himself.
    ——————————————————————————————————-
    A couple of things if you please…

    1. In my opinion you named yourself well, because your post is a Charlie Foxtrot.
    2. Crimes against humanity? Really, what does it take to be accused of that these days… You and James Hansen are on the same page. Unfortunately for you, it is the barking mad page.
    3. Has anyone thought about why the cost of food has actually gone up? It is not Bio-fuels! (insert a name calling spittle filled rant here) It is the cost of ENERGY stupid! I can’t believe that no one has pointed this out. Fact. You get about 50lbs of corn meal from a bushel of corn. Farmer Brown is getting US $7.59 for a bushel of corn on the open market. Farmer Brown is smart. So now he can also use his bushel of corn to get around: 2.5 gallons of ethanol + 15.5 lbs of livestock feed + a liter of corn oil. The actual cost of the food has gone up yes, but MOST of the cost increases are due to increases in Energy costs. Not ethanol production. Furthermore Farmer Brown now knows that the price of his corn now has a floor. In years past a bumper crop was just as bad as a poor harvest because the price for his corn dropped to his costs or even below his costs. Now he has more options, and better margins on his bumper crop, and an incentive to plant more…
    4. Dude, ummm we transport oil all over the world, why not complain about that?
    5. I think that we can both agree that Govt. intervention in the free market is stupid, but I don’t hear you complaining about the current energy policy that is actually responsible for the high prices.
    6. The reasons behind the worlds poor is that their governments are doing a horrible job. Not ethanol.
    7. If you don’t like CO2 hold your breath and stop emitting, problem solved for everyone. Otherwise, increasing CO2 leads to increased crop yields which would make more food available to the worlds poor. Talk about a win/win.

  50. Indur Goklany is one of my favorite people because he cares about the actual health and longevity of people. Here, he has written a sound article.

    It did make me angry, because it understates the case so badly and ignores the horror of parents watching their children suffer. That is what sparked all the Arab riots. Those people are not fighting for freedom; their slogan is “Freedom go to hell.” They want food.

    Goklany is also too polite in tamely accepting the UN estimates of deaths due to global warming. The Norse do not refer to Heaven as “the winterlands.” Farmers do not find a mere 12 degrees C ideal for growing crops. Room temperature is 22C–considerably warmer than the present 12C average. And while temperatures rose slightly during the 20th century (we think–some papers put the hottest year as 1934), life expectancy skyrocketed. Saying that rising temperatures are causing deaths in the teeth of skyrocketing health and longevity is almost beyond words. We can try preposterous, illogical, murderous, and damnable for starters.

    Being so nice about the UN estimates ignores the fact that these are utterly made up with almost no empirical observations behind them. Letting them get away with that allows them to solve Goklany’s findings the easy way–just make up higher numbers for “global warming.”

  51. If only there was a naturally occurring biofuel, that uses plant material that has accumulated over time. And what if these naturally occurring biofuels could be matured into usable fuel using the natural heat of the earth.

    If only these naturally occurring biofuels were just lying in layers of the earth, and one needed only to drill down and access these bounties of nature!

    Oh wait…

  52. The bread that we buy in our local supermarket here in Germany has gone from
    euros 0.65 cents in October 2010 to euros 1.99 cents today, but this is the home of the greens, and talking to a German is like talking to yourself !

  53. You’re right, Indur, and the WHO is inventing numbers.
    (“These exceed the estimated annual toll of 141,000 deaths and 5.4 million lost DALYs that the World Health Organization attributes to global warming. “)

    Subsidizing Biofuel is mass murder. If anyone wants to turn corn into Ethanol because he feels like it that’s fine with me, but we should not reward people doing it. Logically, without subsidies, corn would be used for food not fuel. Rigging the market via subsidies proves desastrous IMHO.

  54. Ziiex Zeburz says:
    April 19, 2011 at 12:05 pm
    “…and talking to a German is like talking to yourself !”

    I’m German, but i can relate. ;-)

  55. DesertYote wrote: I have not read all of your [addressing 220mph] rants yet; I am at work. But you seem to make some interesting points. My main concern is that you appear to be talking from a socialist world view. Though in truth, it is difficult to talk about this type of subject without doing so, as the socialists have been very busy insuring that they are the ones defining the vocabulary. Be that as it may …

    Those were not rants. Everything that he wrote has been published in respectable places and documented by respectable analysts. His presentation could be enhanced by citations and links, but it is all solid. It has nothing to do with any “socialist world view.”

    The greatest contribution to the increase in world food prices in recent years has been the purchase and importation of vastly increased amounts of grain by China. They have the purchasing power to outbid just about anybody but the oil empires. The purchasing power of hundreds of millions of Chinese has increased so dramatically, that they have increased their consumption of meats, and they have dramatically increased the worldwide diversion of grains from humans to livestock.

    That is the big thing in increasing world food prices. Diversion of human foodstuffs to fuel is a much smaller factor.

    Pay attention to the “mights”, “coulds” and so forth in the quoted article, and its own lack of substantial citation. As 220mph noted, it’s the same language as has appeared in AGW promotions. Doubting AGW is no good reason to impugn biofuels.

  56. Robert M says:
    April 19, 2011 at 11:17 am
    ——————————————

    Thanks Robert M. I’ve been meaning to construct a similar post and now I don’t have to.

    …. especially your point number 6, which I will reiterate:

    “6. The reasons behind the worlds poor is that their governments are doing a horrible job. Not ethanol.”

  57. Charlie Foxtrot wrote: Any politician that continues, in the face of the known consequences of ethanol subsidies, to continue to advocate for such subsidies is, in my opinion, guilty of crimes against humanity. I can find no positive aspect of ethanol subsidies. Even the primary justification of such subsidies, to reduce CO2 emissions and dependence on imported oil, is a failure and had any thought been given to it they would have realized this before the first ethanol plant was ever built.

    At best and at worst corn ethanol is a third-rate fuel. It is a step in the direction of more fuel from all biomass, including biobutanol from corn stover, and it leads to a modest reduction in oil imports. With the international price of oil exceeding $100/barrel, a reduction in imports saves America money directly and slightly reduces the world price. In the U.S., however, production of ethanol from corn has had little effect on the total production of food. It is no more a crime against humanity than is feeding corn to porkers.

  58. I have tried to compare how robust Dr. Indur Goklany’s claim of 200,000 deaths a year from biofuels is compared with the WHO’s claim of 141,000 from AGW. The conclusion is that Goklany’s claim is far more robust.

    Goklany relies on a simple relationship. The poorest in the world – those on less than $1.25 a day – are often underfed. As incomes rise they consume more calories, and become less reliant on local farming. A rise in food prices dramatically reverses the virtuous development process.

    WHO’s death count is far more circuitous. If not all the recent warming is anthropogenic; or if there less weather variability than the alarmists claim; or if there if less extra disease attributable to warming; or if folks adapt to changing conditions, then the deaths are overstated. But if all factors are overstated, then the 141,000 deaths rapidly tends towards zero.

    Further, as Goklany points out, if you read the original 2002 WHO report, climate change is far less important in premature deaths than many other factors, such as lack clean water and sanitation, inadequate diet, lack of access to basic healthcare, lack of exercise, air pollution and so on. Most of these factors can be dramatically reduced by economic development. Combating climate change will curtail that development – so the biofuels issue may be a small policy cost compared with constraining CO2 directly.

    See my blog posting

    http://manicbeancounter.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/biofuels-%e2%80%93-a-policy-that-is-killing-the-poor/

    Interested people should compare Goklany’s paper with the 2002 WHO Report. Chapter 4 “QUANTIFYING SELECTED MAJOR RISKS TO HEALTH” is from page 49, with the climate change section on page 72. 2.4MB pdf at http://www.who.int/whr/2002/en/whr02_en.pdf

  59. Martin Brumby (April 19, 2011 at 12:21 am)

    ‘the “War on Global Warming” is actually a war on’ mankind.

  60. Septic Matthew
    April 19, 2011 at 12:41 pm
    ###

    I probably should have said Wall of Words instead of rant, but even so, I was not accusing 220mph of being a socialist, but stating that at first scan, the writing had a bit of a socialist odor to it, and that, I ascribe more to the constraints of having to use vocabulary designed by socialist in order to communicate, then anything else. Read what I wrote. I know that is hard as their are a lot of thoughtful posts to read, but when I comment on something that I have not had the time to read properly, I mention it. As 220mph seems to have a clue to what is being discussed, I thought to pose some questions to get his take.

    I for one tend to think that Governmental distortion of the market has more to do with poverty then anything else, and raising food prices could enable poor farmers to keep farming, but I keep my eyes open to other possibilities.

  61. Grey lensman correctly points out that the use of marginal land can provide ample fuel without compromising food supply. What we need to do is to move beyond ethanol production from food crops and utilize waste lignocellulosics grown on waste land to produce better fuels such as methane (yes! it’s a great fuel) and butanol. These second generation biofuels are being investigated in labs around the world, and I expect the technology will be economic when needed. We believe we can do it now with our technology. At present, however, the rush to food-based fuels aided and abetted by poor government policy and subsidies, is a disaster and an impediment to the development of better technologies. Mobocracy can be a bad thing.

  62. The defenders of biofuel on this thread should explain why subsidies are needed, if it’s such a great thing to do. Maybe i can learn something.

    In the EU, the largest consumer of biofuels by a wide margin is Germany.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biofuel_in_the_European_Union

    You know the typical German is arch-green, arch-warmist and an archetypical bonehead. Does it still look like a good idea now?

  63. Doing nothing about our addiction to oil will kill far more people than ethanol – because hunger is more an issue of the inability to afford distribution of food than it is about food production in far-away USA (BTW – there is no scarcity of US corn exports). Isn’t it ironic that people (mostly urbanites) blame farmers for lack of food when it is clearly the price spike of oil that is causing shortages!

    You are either for the status quo oil addiction or for biofuels – there is no middle ground.

    Ethanol is helping to provide a way to make fuel cheaper and cleaner. The fact that it is now made from principally from non-edible corn (maize) in the U.S. is besides the point – especially considering that 30% of the maize kernels byproduct (600 lbs./ton) produce a high protein feed for livestock called distiller dried grains (DDGs). I am the biggest cellulosic biofuels supporter I know (see my blogs) but I appreciate any alternative to oil, including sugar and maize ethanol, that provides a large scale alternative to reduce the oil addiction.

    Food vs. fuel is a myth perpetrated by those in favor of the status quo. Don’t buy into their propaganda.

  64. Septic Matthew
    April 19, 2011 at 12:41 pm
    ###

    And furthermore, I most certainly was not defending the WHO article that is being discussed. I am pretty sure I indicated that I thought it was so embedded within a Marxist world view as to be irrelevant. If 200mphs several dissertations had a whiff of socialism, the WHO study reeked of it so bad I had to hold my nose. I will not tolerate nonsense even if it seems to lend support for my political views. Such support is illusionary, like everything Marxist thought produces.

  65. Bioblogger makes money advising others to use ethanol. So his comment above is pretty self-serving, no?

  66. #
    Bioblogger says:
    April 19, 2011 at 2:56 pm
    ###
    If growing corn for ethanol is such a great idea, then it does not need subsidies to be a viable business.

  67. Bioblogger says:
    April 19, 2011 at 2:56 pm
    “Doing nothing about our addiction to oil will kill far more people than ethanol – ”

    You lost me when you said “addiction to oil”.

  68. Thanks, Anthony, it’s about time that this public health aspect has reared its ugly head!

    Policies to increase production and use of biofuels retard the
    developing world’s progress against reducing poverty levels and
    would exacerbate their burden of death and disease from the
    various diseases of poverty.

    No argument there. However, they should amend this report to mention “food-based” biofuels. There are legitimate biofuels that are not harmful to the environment that can be generated, particularly from waste materials.

    I worked with Kraft Foods years ago to develop their cheese-whey-permeate to fuel ethanol distillation process, works like a champ. It converts a high-strength pollutant into a viable gasoline additive. However, you can scrap the corn-to-ethanol stuff anytime you want. Same for rice, sorghum etc.

    The lefties, in their zeal to save the earth, are contributing to the eventual extinction of the orangutan in Indonesia (palm oil plantations), destruction of habitat in Brazil (sugar cane ethanol), and other environmental catastrophes. They don’t care much for human life it appears, but you think they’d catch on eventually.

  69. PS if you don,t know who are the water melon people they are the tree huggers green on the outside RED on the inside

  70. Finally! I found a biofuel that does not displace a food crop, nor would there be a demand for growing more of the feedstock solely to use it for making fuel, that starts with a “waste product” that is neither left on nor returned to the soil the feedstock grew from. And it really does come from what nearly everyone considers garbage.

    http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf802487s

    Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
    Spent Coffee Grounds as a Versatile Source of Green Energy
    Narasimharao Kondamudi, Susanta K. Mohapatra and Mano Misra
    Chemical and Materials Engineering, University of Nevada, 1664 North Virginia, MS 388, Reno, Nevada 89557
    Abstract:

    The production of energy from renewable and waste materials is an attractive alternative to the conventional agricultural feed stocks such as corn and soybean. This paper describes an approach to extract oil from spent coffee grounds and to further transesterify the processed oil to convert it into biodiesel. This process yields 10−15% oil depending on the coffee species (Arabica or Robusta). The biodiesel derived from the coffee grounds (100% conversion of oil to biodiesel) was found to be stable for more than 1 month under ambient conditions. It is projected that 340 million gallons of biodiesel can be produced from the waste coffee grounds around the world. The coffee grounds after oil extraction are ideal materials for garden fertilizer, feedstock for ethanol, and as fuel pellets.

    This was described in a New York Times article. A researcher looked at some day-old coffee and noticed the oil film on top. Standard chemistry techniques are used for oil extraction from the grounds, the oil becomes biodiesel. They estimated production costs of a dollar a gallon.

    Now, I am quite willing to help produce the starting material, as I have for decades. This sounds like a good use for it, as opposed to dumping it in a landfill. Unfortunately, this is far from displacing significant amounts of fossil fuels.

    Even if all the coffee grounds in the world were used to make fuel, the amount produced would be less than 1 percent of the diesel used in the United States annually. “It won’t solve the world’s energy problem,” Dr. Misra said of his work. “But our objective is to take waste material and convert it to fuel.” And biodiesel made from grounds has one other advantage, he said: the exhaust smells like coffee.

    Still, every cup helps.

    This work was originally published at the end of 2008. I wonder how it’s progressed. Heck, I wonder if I should be saving my coffee grounds. I could be throwing away valuable fuel!

  71. Dirk H, Please understand subsidies are not needed. They are used to redistribute wealth to those who get them (Think). In the USA who gets them?

    Thank you Orchestra, somebody who gets it.

    name a food crop that oil palm displaces?

    Name mass food crops that are displaced by sugar cane?

    Who profited from the Jatropha scam, yep Pachuri. It was only about the money, not the farmers. Lesson dont let Bankers or IPCC heads near your Policy or wallet.

    So direct the policy at farmers, marginal land, needs, jobs and you have a viable crop and income earners.

    Some very interesting simple bioengineering will produce mass conversion of cellulose into sugars. Much as we have used yeasts to convert sugars to alcohols for thousands of years.

  72. DirkH says:
    April 19, 2011 at 2:33 pm
    The defenders of biofuel on this thread should explain why subsidies are needed, if it’s such a great thing to do. Maybe i can learn something.
    ————————————–
    I’m not a defender of bioethanol as a long term solution, but next generation technologies are looking really good. In fact, any VC investing in biofuels right now assumes no subsidies. I posted this link further up the board, I guarantee that if you read this in detail, you can learn something:

    http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/guest-post-vinod-khosla-on-what-matters-in-biofuels/

    The subsidies were required because unlike, for example, the biotech/biopharma industries, where VCs could embrace the extremely high margins available from new drugs and invest, the margins and ROIs on bioethanol were so low (or negative) that they couldn’t evolve the industry without the subsidies. The technologies were just way more pedestrian – essentially medieval brewing technology.

    So for better, or for worse, there’s lots of plant and infrastructure to use as a springboard for the next generation of biofuels, outlined in the Vinod Khosla article.

    I probably didn’t fully answer your question, but I definitely provided a link where you can learn something, with that something being about technologies that are capitalized based on the assumption that there will be no subsidies.

  73. Thinkers here

    Who is behind the demonisation of Oil Palm?

    None other than the Soya bean industry

    What is stopping the mass growth of hemp on marginal lands in the USA, Policy

    Who cranks out the fake energy data on biofuels?

  74. Somebody mentioned transport and infrastructure costs relating to biofuels

    So oil is transported vast distances in free pipelines and supertankers.!!!!!!!!!!

    In fact most biofuels can be grown and processed just where they are needed. See my New Zealand example above.

    From just 136 trees per hectare, oil palm plantations can produce up to 40 tonnes per annum, year in year out for 20 years before they need to be replanted.

    In fact, I see the USA as being in gross breach of WTO rules by imposing duties on imported biofuels whilst paying subsidies to American processors. This is the core problem, not biofuels.

  75. Thank you all for all your comments – including those who disagree.

    First, I am the first person who’ll tell you that the entire estimate – note the word, “estimate” – is contingent on the results of the WHO and World Bank researchers. Whether one cares for their methodologies or not — I have, for instance, a critique of the WHO methodology for global warming at http://www.jpands.org/vol14no3/goklany.pdf — they are the numbers everyone cites for poverty and deaths from global warming. This includes governments, researchers, think tanks and – yes — even the IPCC.

    As an analyst, I view my task as developing estimates based on the (best) information available. Sometimes this means making lemonade out of lemons. The important thing, then, is not to portray it as a mango shake. That is why I use the word “estimate” liberally in the paper, and explicitly note that “this exploratory analysis develops order of magnitude estimates”.

    Second, some commenters don’t like my use of “could”, “might”, “may”, etc.
    Sorry, with the information available I can’t do better than that. If I was more definitive, I’d be selling it as mango shake rather than the lemonade that it is. The important thing is to recognize this and not forget this when one makes conclusions. Because of this, my conclusion is relatively modest.

    Based on could-might-may, I don’t ask that the economy be restructured (as warmists are wont to do), or we tax biofuels, or even a reduction/elimination of subsidies and mandates for biofuels. The last sentence of the paper merely states, “There can be no honest analysis of the costs and benefits of biofuel policies if they do not consider their effects on death and disease in developing countries.” That is, all I do is ask that we do better analysis of the costs-and-benefits of biofuel policies and “consider” the impacts on global death and disease.

    The idea is to shine a light on a missing consideration, which could potentially be quite large (relatively speaking). Of course, I recognize that that would make biofuels subsidies/mandates less attractive. If that’s the case, then they would be victims to better analysis, not my personal biases. That’s just the way it is.

    All that said, I personally am not against biofuels, so long as it is not subsidized or mandated – and yes, I am against subsidies for fossil fuels as well (and wind and solar, etc.). If they can’t pay for themselves, then so be it. [As an aside, as a lapsed electrical engineer whose thesis and post-doc was partly in solid state physics, I feel confident that the future belongs to solar. But the future isn’t here yet. And I wouldn’t mandate solar subsidies based on my predilections and biases.]

    I will re-emphasize that poverty is the cause of death and disease is a more robust finding than that global warming causes death and disease. And, if the WHO’s numbers are even approximately right, global warming’s impact on public health is trivial compared to the other poverty-related risk factors.

    To keep this response to a manageable length, I will address 220 mph’s concerns separately.

  76. 220mph

    First, regarding my “arbitrary” selection of risk factors that are related primarily to poverty, if you read the paper (pages 11 and 12), you would have known that this was based on an underlying methodology. Under this methodology, I estimated the disease rate for each of the 24 health risk factors for different income groups. If the disease rate for a specific risk factor for the lower income group was more than 5 times that of the next lowest income group (“lower middle income”) then I classified it as a poverty-related health risk. Based on that, I identified 6 risk factors — global warming; underweight (largely synonymous with chronic hunger); zinc deficiency; Vitamin A deficiency; unsafe sex; and unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene – as being poverty related.

    Because of this “arbitrary” choice of 5, I excluded a number of risk factors that many (perhaps, most) would consider as poverty-related (see, e.g., reference 43 in the paper, which cites Gro Harlem Brundtland). Among the risk factors that I excluded – unmet contraceptive needs, indoor smoke from solid fuels, sub-optimal breast feeding and iron deficiency. I did this, because I intended to make a conservative estimate (see top of page 12).

    Also, BTW, for the 6 risk factors that I classified (“arbitrarily”) as poverty-related, 99.3% of deaths occurred in developing countries (page 11 of paper).

    So let me ask you, 220mph, which of the 6 risk factors that I have identified do you believe do not qualify as poverty-related?

    Do you think I included all poverty-related risk factors?

    BTW, had I included the 4 additional risk factors noted above as poverty-related, then my estimate for deaths due to “additional” biofuel production in 2010 would have been 47% higher. That is, instead of 192,000, it would have been around 280,000.

    There is nothing in the above that isn’t in the paper on pages 11-12.

    Second, 220mph complains about my adjusting the World Bank’s poverty estimate for 2004. Well this was dictated by inexorable logic.

    I had WHO health data for 2004. Therefore, to calculate the “Coefficients of Proportionality between Poverty, and Death and Disease from Poverty-Related Health Risks”, I necessarily had to obtain poverty estimates for 2004. [2003 or 2005 would not do, because poverty levels have been dropping rapidly from year-to-year, thanks to economic growth in the third world.]

    On the other hand, the incremental poverty estimate (due to incremental biofuel production) for 2010 that I had was based on a different (newer) methodology and newer data than the 2004 poverty estimate. So I had to re-estimate what the World Bank’s 2004 poverty numbers would have been using the World Bank’s newer methodology/data.

    Based on Chen and Ravallion’s papers (references 44 & 45), I estimated that the newer methodology/data increased the poverty numbers by 1.48-1.5 for 2002 and 2005. Note that World Bank’s estimates are based on Chen and Ravallion’s analyses. [Both work for the World Bank.] Hence, the 1.5 multiplicative factor that was applied to the 2004 estimate (that was based on the older methodology/data).

    Had I not used this multiplicative factor, the estimate of incremental deaths would have been:
    (a) Wrong, and
    (b) 48-50% higher.
    That is, instead of 192,000 deaths, the estimate would have come in at around 285,000-288,000. If you care to, you can work out why as homework.

    Incidentally, all this is written out on page 12.

    Third, you have complained about the 14% upward adjustment to the estimate from De Hoyos and Medvedev (DHM, for short). As noted on page 12,

    “the World Bank estimated that the 2005 poverty headcount was 14% higher [than HDM], that is, 1,374 million.

    “The difference between the two estimates is mainly that the World Bank’s analysis covered more countries. To reconcile these two estimates, De Hoyos and Medvedev’s estimate for increase in headcount due to higher biofuel production should be adjusted upward by 14% to 36.4 million.”

    It seems in your haste, typing at 220mph, you skipped this bit, like you seem to have skipped all the other explanations.

    Fourth, you state that, “The authors (sic) claim of 192,000 poverty related deaths caused by biofuel production increases specifically INCLUDES deaths caused by global warming – in fact they represent the largest portion of these 192,000 deaths according to the authors own chart and claims.”

    NO, 220mph, you are really showing that you didn’t understand the calculations. Global warming’s share of the 192,000 is equal to its pro-rated share of deaths from the 6 risk factors. That is, 141,000/7.7 million. You really should go through the paper and understand it before you comment.

  77. The short term future belongs to geothermal, cheap simple plentiful and clean.

    Poverty needs to be defined, is a subsistence farmer who has all his needs “poor” But perhaps a well paid banker who finds it difficult to meet all his obligations is “poor”

    Public health depnds on some factors.

    Good water

    Good sanitation

    and good nutrition.

    The author has the basic premise right, its the policy that kills not the biofuels.

    Truth is capital chases the easy kill, subsidy and controlled outputs, not hard work and profit.
    Windmills aka bird grinders are a classic case in point.

  78. Dr Indur M. Goklany; I wouldn’t waste too much effort on 220mphs’ concerns. As 220 did not use much effort in study on your post. 220mph is a high speed troll that wastes all our time reading comments that yield no enlightenment.

    To those that comment that Maize or American corn is inedible, I should point out that a lot of people around the world consider it to be a basic food source.

    I have been involved in creation of food and fuels for nearly 60 years, the subsidies to create fuel from food is stupid! and counter productive. On again, off again, government involvement just screws up real progress and lines the pockets of the well connected. pg

  79. P.G.Sharrow said

    Quote

    To those that comment that Maize or American corn is inedible, I should point out that a lot of people around the world consider it to be a basic food source.

    Unquote

    Classic, I believe 95% of the corn grown in America is
    inedible”, the dent variety. It is designed that way to ensure a consistent corporate crop of “feedstock”. This, as with any other feedstock,is chemically treated to produce “food”.

    That explains why so many obese Americans suffer from malnutrition.

    The simple family farmer is far more productive and far more resistant to disaster though his diversity and risk taking than the Corporate farmer. Dent proveds a uniform consistent feedstock product that the corporate farmer can run through his refineries and produce consistent profit, sorry food.

    Same applies to fuels, biofuels add vitally needed diversity into the energy supply equation. They do not sit well with corporations thus there need for subsidy.

  80. The biofuels myth explodes.

    Independent inquiry concludes that the production of biofuels to meet UK and European directives violates human rights and damages the environment.

    Biofuels transport targets are unethical, inquiry finds.

    Targets for biofuels had driven a rapid expansion, in parts of the world with lower ethical standards, the researchers said. They cited the destruction of rainforest in Malaysia to produce palm oil, forcing people off their land and endangering orangutans, and a 2008 report by Amnesty International which found conditions near slavery for workers in some sugarcane plantations.

    An international certification scheme, like the Fairtrade scheme for food, must be introduced, the NCB inquiry concluded. It would guarantee that the production of biofuels met the five ethical conditions identified by the NCB: observing human rights, environmentally sustainable, reduced carbon emissions, fairly traded and equitably distributed cost and benefits.

    Prof Joyce Tait, at Edinburgh University, who chaired the 18-month inquiry by the independent Nuffield Council on Bioethics (NCB) said “Biofuels are one of the only renewable alternatives we have for transport fuels, but current policies and targets that encourage their uptake have backfired badly. The rapid expansion of biofuels production in the developing world has led to problems such as deforestation and the displacement of indigenous people. An international certification scheme will not add to red tape, it will simplify it with one overarching standard.”

    Under the European Union’s renewable energy directive, 10% of transport fuel must come from renewable sources such as biofuel by 2020. The legal requirement to put biofuels in petrol and diesel sold in the UK and Europe is unethical because their production violates human rights and damages the environment. The need to meet rising biofuel targets has also led to exploitation of workers, the loss of wildlife and higher food prices, the inquiry found.

    Alena Buyx, assistant director at the NCB, said: “If you look at food prices and they go up and incomes do not, then more people will probably die from hunger, and biofuels are one contributing factor to those price rises. Biofuels also contribute to poor harvests, commodity speculation and high oil prices which raise the cost of fertilisers and transport. We should slow down [the targets] if it is not possible to meet ethical standards. But we think it is possible to do that [meet such standards] if enough pressure is applied. The EU says each member country should make their own voluntary scheme – that is madness.”

    Prof Ottoline Leyserof Cambridge University, and another member of the NBC working party said “But doing nothing is also immoral. There is a clear need to replace liquid fossil fuels to limit climate change and if a new biofuel technology meets ethical conditions, there is a duty to develop it”. But future generations of biofuel, made from agricultural waste such as straw, fast-growing perennials such as willow or miscanthus grass, or even algae grown in tanks, could avoid many of the problems by not competing directly with food. “These are very exciting technologies,” said Leyserof. “The potential is huge.”

    In the UK, 5% of transport fuel must come from renewable sources by 2013. Today, 3% of the UK’s petrol and diesel comes from biofuel, mostly produced in Argentina, Brazil and other European countries. But in January, it was revealed that two-thirds of the biofuel being used in the UK today failed to meet environmental standards. Government cuts to the budget of the Carbon Trust also saw a flagship algal biofuels project cancelled.

    The Department of Transport is currently consulting on changes to the UK’s biofuels regulations. Transport minister Norman Baker said: “It has already been agreed that no biofuel will count towards European renewable energy targets unless it meets certain sustainability requirements. But we are pushing the European commission to go further. Be in no doubt, we consider the sustainability of biofuels to be paramount.”

    The inquiry found positive examples too, such as small-scale biofuels initiatives that provide energy, income and livelihoods in fuel-poor areas, such as in rural Mali.

    Existing certification schemes, such as that run by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels were a good start, the researchers said, but remained entirely voluntary. There was also problem of responsible biofuel producers having to conform to many different standards.

  81. From Grey lensman on April 19, 2011 at 6:59 pm:

    Who is behind the demonisation of Oil Palm?

    None other than the Soya bean industry

    Wikipedia-> Environmental impact of palm oil

    Much complaining there about the land use changes, deforestation, loss of habitat, etc. Greenpeace is doing a lot of the complaining, but other complainers are WWF, Friends of the Earth, some UN organization(s), even the Center for Science in the Public Interest chimes in. And these are mouthpieces for the soybean industry?

    Food and cosmetics companies, including ADM, Unilever, Cargill, Procter & Gamble, Nestle, Kraft and Burger King, are driving the demand for new palm oil supplies,[27] partly for products that contain non-hydrogenated solid vegetable fats, as consumers now demand fewer hydrogenated oils in food products that were previously high in trans fat content.[28]

    ADM and Cargill want more palm oil? They are not demonizing oil palm? Well then, obviously they’re not part of Big Soy, are they?
    ;-)

  82. Dear kate

    That report was by the same people behind the global warming scam. Do we sue the Romans for deforesting northern Europe putting Celts and Gauls in danger of extinction.

    Jungle is not suitable for Palm Oil Plantations.

    Slave labour, look to factories sweatshops and such around the world.

    Certification, yes wonderful another gravy train and means to commit fraud. Wanna buy cheap CO2 certs, avoid VAT

    Please stop the nonsense. Growing any crop on land suitable and in a rational way makes simple sense. Oil Palm estates use insect and plant control. They breed barn owls for vermin control. They are protecting riversides and water access for elephants and others.

    Yes there are bad eggs, mostly corporations exploiting some local legal loophole. Go for them by all means.

    Malaysia is a land covered in Jungle, a wild natural place with Oil Palm plantations making up a small percentage and cites even less. Driving the motorways here is a joy, mile after mile of jungle.

  83. “I too have become quite cynical about the Greens and their errant Malthusian views”

    The green movement is not about saving others. It is about removing anything harmful to one’s self. If the rest of the world could be made better, by increasing pollution at home, would this be acceptable to the green movement? why not? the overall benefit is positive.

  84. DesertYote says:
    April 19, 2011 at 9:21 am
    220mph
    April 19, 2011 at 8:04 am

    I have not read all of your rants yet; I am at work. But you seem to make some interesting points. My main concern is that you appear to be talking from a socialist world view. Though in truth, it is difficult to talk about this type of subject without doing so, as the socialists have been very busy insuring that they are the ones defining the vocabulary. Be that as it may …

    I can assure you I’m furthest thing from a socialist there is ;-) … and they were not intended as rants – but rather my thoughts on the report and topic … I’ll point out in effect I “live blogged” my read of the paper – so my comments aren’t intended to be definitive but rather my initial take on the paper and its conclusions

    What role do you think the distortion of the food market by government policies such as subsidies have on hunger?

    I do not believe the facts – at least regarding the US, which is all I feel knowledgeable enough to comment on, show there is any significant distortion in “food” market caused by government biofuel policies. USDA crop reports for example show little or no support for the claims alleged by biofuel opponents – there is little evidence of any significant impact on food prices due to biofuels.

    Many ignore for example that a large part of the corn ethanol subsidies are for production of corn, regardless of the use – food or fuel.

    I believe the primary mover on food prices are commodities speculators and the current very high energy prices

    What role do you think humanitarian food distribution has on local food production?

    You can give a man a fish and he can eat for a day. You can teach a man to fish and they can eat for life. The detrius of years of ever expanding liberal entitlements – food and benefits handouts – are clear for all to see. In America at least OBESITY is a serious problem in the entitlement classes.

    I also believe, as hard as it is to say, that we have to have a serious discussion about just what is humanitarian about encouraging and supporting the continued population growth in many of these areas well beyond the ability of the populace and the environment to support them. That is NOT in any way condoning eugenics or any of that ridiculous garbage – but rather to encourage an honest frank assessment of the sustainability of some of these populations.

    Would increased food prices result in local farmers being able to realize greater profitability in producing food crops, thus enabling them to farm?

    Farmers take all the risks – have since the beginning – and reap a tiny share of the reward. Increased food commodities prices are a benefit to farmers – but even in the best of times a large number never make a dime – just too many variable, sun, heat, cold, wind, rain, flooding, drought etc. I love family farmers and would like to do everything possible within reason to support them. But the simple facts are the massive corporate farming operations are the most efficient and cost effective way to produce our needed crops.

    Those who rant about ethanol subsidies and the alleged impacts of biofuel production would very likely scream if farm subsidies were gutted. THAT would cause a quick and real increase in food prices

    Have you read “The Plight and Promise of Arid Land Agriculture”? Can’t remember the authors names right now.

    Nope – but at least as regards biofuels production marginal lands are the future of feedstock cultivation … switch grass and other cellulosic type feedstock grows just fine on these marginal lands

    BTW, I think that the paper you are dissecting only really makes sense in a Marxist context. It ignores second and third order effects. The problem in analyzing stuff written by socialists is ferreting out all of the invalid equivalencies.

    I think the basic premise of the paper is simple enough – if food prices increase it increases poverty is rational … its all the blind leaps – the “if-then” statements that are not based on data but rather speculation … the ‘we can’t find a real, provable link, so the only thing it could be is this’ mentality … pronouncing allegedly “scientific” judgement despite minimal or no data in support of the conclusions … that is the problem.

    As I noted the conclusion of this paper could have AGW, man-made CO2 etc substituted for biofuel induced poverty and alleged deaths … neither are in my opinion based on sound empirical data – but rather in leaps of faith … THT is the problem – as we’ve seen with both AGW and this paper

  85. Dr. Goklany … while I may disagree I do appreciate your response … its late and I don’t have energy to give your response the time in reply it deserves – but I will try to do so tomorrow

    I will say, contrary to your assertion, I did not ignore your explanations/reasoning – they are noted several times – I challenge the blanket statements and the leaps to conclusions that IMO are not supported by facts in your paper

    I also take exception, although did not bring it up above – with your brushing off the other side of the equation – the clear and real benefits of biofuel production

    IMO you did not present a clear, coherent, seemless path – supported with facts and ALL of the calculations involved in getting there – to even remotely prove your claims.

    You don’t show the entire “equation” from start to finish, and in fact you change from estimated poverty headcounts (which as you note have been decreasing dramatically) to the 32 million number for increased poverty headcount due to biofuels, while presenting nothing to show how that number was derived – (or why it should be arbitrarily increased 14% when it was created using the new data and methods already).

    You should it would seem, include at least an explanation of the basics of the calculations used in the papers [ie DHM] that are integral to your claims … for example how the the 32 million number at the heart of your paper arrived at?

    A proper study in my uneducated opinion would show the changes in poverty headcount for the comparison periods, and considering that the poverty headcount has been dropping dramatically how the 32 million number was calculated. It would also show a margin of error/confidence level, and additionally would necessarily address the offsets – which you acknowledge, but gloss over and dismiss – the lives SAVED from the use of biofuels vs fossil fuels.

    Even IF your claim is correct – that there is a climate “inertia” which would preclude any immediate benefit from cleaner air, reduced CO2 and the myriad other benefits of biofuel vs fossil fuels use – those benefits would eventually accrue – those deaths would be prevented in future years – and that number can be adjusted to a net present value if necessary.

    There are a number of significant long term tangible benefits to reducing use of fossil fuels … renewability, reduced emissions, the geo-political benefit of reduced reliance on foreign energy etc … any discussion of as serious a topic as deaths attributed to biofuels is IMO intellectually dishonest if it does not take these offsets into account and at least make a nominal effort to address them

    Without the offsets from benefits of biofuels, including direct benefits leading to fewer deaths along with longer term aspects such as reduced reliance on fossil fuels – the claim that 192,000 might die because of increased biofuels use is – IMO – little more than scaremongering.

    I admit your intentions may be perfectly honorable – that you post here and reply is a positive indicator … that said your paper seems weak and incomplete to my uneducated eye – and promotes a claim – a sensational one at that – about increased deaths – that should not it would seem be made so lightly

  86. From Grey lensman on April 19, 2011 at 10:27 pm:

    Classic, I believe 95% of the corn grown in America is
    inedible”, the dent variety. It is designed that way to ensure a consistent corporate crop of “feedstock”. This, as with any other feedstock,is chemically treated to produce “food”.

    That explains why so many obese Americans suffer from malnutrition.

    *sigh* Dent corn is edible, and used for human food, but as is the case with all corn it benefits from some processing. Read this. Traditionally maize was treated with alkali-water of some sort, which frees up the bound niacin. Without such treatment, relying on corn as a staple food can result in pellagra, which is caused by niacin deficiency. The process is known as nixtamalization and was used by the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Nowadays there’s also an enzymatic version used in industrial settings. The process also has other nutritional benefits that make it even more desirable.

    Traditional corn is also deficient in two key amino acids, lysine and tryptophan. To avoid complications, a varied diet which supplies those amino acids is recommended, although high lysine maize has been developed.

    While people do eat untreated sweet corn and popcorn, it’s not the best way to have it from a nutritional standpoint, and that “chemical treatment” you lament is needed to make it a better food. And it’s been “chemically treated” for millenia by people who knew that corn was best with such processing. So why gripe about it and blame “corporate farmers”?

  87. Thank you KD, I eat my corn right off the cob, it needs no treatment. Study chemistry, how do you turn crude oil into plastic, same way you turn dent into “food”. Same as is now done with so many factory produced foods, sorry “foods”.

    It is the same thinking that says biofuels are bad and killing people.

    Its the policies, greed and deception thats killing people, as evidenced so well by the global warming crowd.

    Here in Malaysia, in the Highlands, we grow most of our vegitables in a very limited area. One of them is a particularly sweet, sweet corn, whcich clearly you need to try, to rediscover exactly what FOOD is.

    Talking of which how is the banking fraud and the mass extinction that is causing coming along.

  88. Bioblogger says:
    You are either for the status quo oil addiction or for biofuels – there is no middle ground.

    I see – there’s only room for extremists in your world view. That isn’t exactly a rational position..

  89. 220mph
    April 20, 2011 at 12:53 am

    DesertYote says:
    April 19, 2011 at 9:21 am
    220mph
    April 19, 2011 at 8:04 am
    ###
    Thanks for your reply.

    I was actually referring to all subsidies, not just as it relates to biofuels. Governments have great control over the activities of farmers through favoritism in allocation of subsidies.

    I was also more talking about small farmers in underdeveloped areas of the world were private farms make sense, and currently little food production is happening due to war and the lack of a market for food goods.

    thx again

  90. I can totally see that biofuel does impact food prices and it is also easy to see the relationship that is drawn here. One thing that is not focused on though in this article is that fact that Biodiesel especially displaces millions of tons of carcinogens that are associated with petroleum diesel. These carcinogens are killing untold numbers of North Americans and Europeans each year. I would like to see these statistics in relative terms before we go saying we are killing people by turning to biofuels. Better yet, additional biofuel subsidies should be provided to the algae biofuel industry where no arable land is being used and no fresh water needs to be displaced, ultimately putting an end to this debate.

  91. Robert Eberhard says:
    April 20, 2011 at 10:35 am
    “I can totally see that biofuel does impact food prices and it is also easy to see the relationship that is drawn here. One thing that is not focused on though in this article is that fact that Biodiesel especially displaces millions of tons of carcinogens that are associated with petroleum diesel. These carcinogens are killing untold numbers of North Americans and Europeans each year”

    Which carcinogens do you mean? How does Petroleum Diesel contain different carcinogens than BioDiesel? How big are your “untold numbers”? I’m German, half our cars and all our trucks run on Diesel, and the only significant carcinogen are soot particles according to our very green, very alarmist media. That is the reason we have mandatory soot particle filters in all new Diesel cars and trucks. IOW, provide data; your claim sounds questionable.

  92. Indur M. Goklany says:
    April 19, 2011 at 8:04 pm
    “[As an aside, as a lapsed electrical engineer whose thesis and post-doc was partly in solid state physics, I feel confident that the future belongs to solar. But the future isn’t here yet. And I wouldn’t mandate solar subsidies based on my predilections and biases.]”

    I share this opinion. Once PV drops in price enough AND we have affordable energy storage (via H2 or CH4 synthesis or via batteries or via flywheels) it becomes a very simple way of running things. It will not be cheap enough before 2025, though. With “cheap enough” i don’t mean “as cheap as electricity from coal” but “cheap enough to run a civilization on it”. At the moment, the EROEI is still too low. (The price of a PV installation obviously correlates with the energy used in its production, so improvements in the production processes will become visible in the form of lower prices, but it will take several production process generations to get an interesting EROEI of perhaps 10:1 over the lifetime of a PV installation.)

  93. Indur M. Goklany, what educational background, if any, do you have in agronomics?

    Are you aware that corn ethanol is only made from the starch of the corn? And that the distiller’s grain is a replacement for much more costly protein concentrate feeds?

    Are you aware that soybean biodiesel is only made from the oil of the bean? And that the soybean meal co-product is an important food and feed?

    Do you claim that when a biofuel producer buys a bushel of commodity grain like corn or soybeans, they are taking the whole bushel off the market ie out of the mouths of poor black African babies?

  94. From Grey lensman on April 20, 2011 at 2:41 am:

    Thank you KD, I eat my corn right off the cob, it needs no treatment. Study chemistry, how do you turn crude oil into plastic, same way you turn dent into “food”. Same as is now done with so many factory produced foods, sorry “foods”.

    Dent corm is processed by cracking in refineries, those products are then subjected to polymerization, to yield food? I don’t think so. Now if I want to eat corn as it has been eaten for millenia by the native people who discovered it, I’ll stick with nixtamalization.

    Here in Malaysia, in the Highlands, we grow most of our vegitables in a very limited area. One of them is a particularly sweet, sweet corn, whcich clearly you need to try, to rediscover exactly what FOOD is.

    Oh I like sweet corn too, on the cob is great. But it tends to leave my digestive system looking much like it did when consumed, leading me to wonder how much nutrition it actually provided. When consumed not as a vegetable but processed by nixtamalization then normally processed further as a cereal grain, my body digests it quite readily.

    While Googling for “nixtamalization corn meal” I found this thread on a site dedicated to sustainable living, albeit with somewhat of a survivalist slant. They are well aware of the process, using dent corn was mentioned, and there are good reviews of the traditional nixtamalization processes both presented and linked to. Using wood ash (from hardwoods) is highlighted. Do you like hominy? That’s nixtamalized corn.

    If you really are so concerned about having “real food” and are fearful about “industrial chemically treated” “food” then get some dried ripe corn and use the traditional methods of “chemical treatment” yourself. As far as I’m concerned, I’m not about to abandon the millenia-old wisdom of how to properly prepare a natural food for human consumption due to your concerns over modern efficient bulk processing, nor due to your condemnation of a common variety of corn first developed by James L. Reid in the late 1800′s (ref one, two), a farmer using basic crossbreeding methods, that has been used for human food for well over a century.

  95. DirkH says:
    April 20, 2011 at 11:20 am
    Robert Eberhard says:
    April 20, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Which carcinogens do you mean? How does Petroleum Diesel contain different carcinogens than BioDiesel?
    ———————————————————

    http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol45/volume45.pdf

    Neither diesel nor gasoline are classified as highly carcinogenic, but there is definite carcinogenicity of both. It would be rather strange if gasoline was not carcinogenic, given that many blends contain upwards of 10% benzene.

    Not sure about biodiesel. I’d like to see Robert E answer that one.

  96. From John Q. Galt on April 20, 2011 at 11:44 am:

    Are you aware that corn ethanol is only made from the starch of the corn? And that the distiller’s grain is a replacement for much more costly protein concentrate feeds?

    Are you aware that soybean biodiesel is only made from the oil of the bean? And that the soybean meal co-product is an important food and feed?

    Do you claim that when a biofuel producer buys a bushel of commodity grain like corn or soybeans, they are taking the whole bushel off the market ie out of the mouths of poor black African babies?

    Use a bushel of corn for biofuels, you get biofuel and animal feed. The edible products of animals (meat, dairy, eggs) are generally produced and consumed locally. So if a bushel of US-grown corn is diverted from export to Africa and used for biofuel instead, the Africans get nothing from that bushel.

    It’s a similar situation with soybeans. Broadly speaking, there are two classifications of soybeans, “vegetable” (garden) or field (oil). So if you’re growing oil soybeans then you’re not growing “human food” soybeans. After oil extraction, the leftover meal is overwhelmingly used for animal feed, approximately only 2% is used for soy flour and proteins. (Ref one, two). So, for either reason, if you’re doing soybean production for oil then you’re not feeding those Africans.

    Unless you’re examining local corn and soybean growing in Africa, with the generated feed used towards making those locally grown and consumed animal products, if you’re making biofuel then you’re not feeding those Africans.

  97. 220mph: You don’t show the entire “equation” from start to finish, and in fact you change from estimated poverty headcounts (which as you note have been decreasing dramatically) to the 32 million number for increased poverty headcount due to biofuels, while presenting nothing to show how that number was derived – (or why it should be arbitrarily increased 14% when it was created using the new data and methods already).

    RESPONSE: As I explained in my earlier response — which apparently you didn’t read perhaps because, in your own words, “its late and I don’t have energy to give your response the time in reply it deserves” — the 14% adjustment is due to the fact that DHM’s analysis did not cover all developing countries, and I am trying to get an estimate for all developing countries. It’s not rocket science. In fact, it doesn’t even travel at 220mph! Read the paper and read the earlier response

    220mph: You should it would seem, include at least an explanation of the basics of the calculations used in the papers [ie DHM] that are integral to your claims … for example how the the 32 million number at the heart of your paper arrived at?

    RESPONSE: There is an explanation on p. 10 and on p. 12. Also, the citation for DHM is provided. It can be googled and downloaded for free. I recommend you read that

    220mph: A proper study in my uneducated opinion would show the changes in poverty headcount for the comparison periods, and considering that the poverty headcount has been dropping dramatically how the 32 million number was calculated.

    RESPONSE: A number of factors determine trends in the poverty level. They include economic growth rates as well as changes in the prices of food and other basic necessities. Because of rapid economic growth in China, and East and South Asia, in particular, global poverty rates have been declining very rapidly. But a part of this decrease has been offset by the increase in food prices. All this is in the paper, which observes on page 10, “The dramatic drop in headcount from 2005 to 2010 is due to increasing economic development. Thus, biofuel production would retard the developing world’s progress against poverty.”

    But of course, since you were reading at 220mph, you skipped that part. For my part and contrary to my normal practice, I’ll skip the rest of your comments, since it seems to me your comments are not made after a good faith effort to understand what was done.

  98. Biofuels, the oldest fuels known to man, Wood, Charcoal and Dung, dont forget Oilive Oil and tallow.

    They can be grown on marginal and poor lands adding additional crops and alnd usage. They replace fossil fuels, they provide work and income. They are carbon neutral if you consider that important. They provide not only fuel but food and feed.

    So really what is the problem

    POLICY, SUBSIDY AND CRIMINAL ACTS

    They are the problem, not bifuels.

    Oh and KD, stick with fresh wholesome natural foods and dont forget, fibre a very vital need. Also note biodiversity, Humans are OMNIVORES which means they eat a varied diet, not just factory processed inedible corn. That how we survive when others go extinct.

    Organic farming, small family farms are more efficient, more productive and more able to survive and support healthier people. We have all the systems in place to grow all natural foods, great biofuels and more and please the planet.

  99. John Q. Galt:
    I am not an agronomist. And yes, I am aware that byproducts of ethanol production have value, and that soybean oil can be (and is) converted to fuel. However, that doesn’t mean that biofuel production does not increase food prices.

    I presume you know that soybean oil is edible and used in a variety of edible products, as well as for cooking. It is also used for feed, but (much of) feed eventually ends up (indirectly) as food.

    Regardless, the real problem is that if biofuel production were economic then it would not need to rely on subsidies, tariffs and mandates to be sustained in the market place. And I would quit complaining about it.

  100. John Q. Galt said on April 20, 2011 at 5:48 pm:

    kadaka, that kernel in your personal biomass co-product is mostly just the pericarp.

    Reference image.

    As the person who actually conducts the visual inspection before flushing, I can confirm that not only does the pericarp remain, but large amounts of the endosperm will remain if the kernel is not significantly masticated with extensive rupturing of the pericarp. Only the germ is reliably digested, provided the pericarp is not intact. And that’s with my normal in-system time of 2-3 days, if circumstances are such that in-system time is a day or less then little change is noted. Without nixtamalization and its removal of the pericarp, I don’t get much out of corn.

  101. Idur said
    Quote

    Regardless, the real problem is that if biofuel production were economic then it would not need to rely on subsidies, tariffs and mandates to be sustained in the market place. And I would quit complaining about it.

    Unquote

    Fundamental mistake and misperception. Its not the biofuels that require subsidies but the Corporations. They need to control the production, distribution and sales. Thats how small farmers are ruined, they are kept from the market and global prices from rigged markets impact that directly.

    As with healthcare, if it works, it works, bugger what the experts say.

    The only use for soy oil is biofuel and that being said it is a major contributor to the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest due to its growing needs unlike Oilpalm.

    Take Pachuris Jatropha scam, he leveraged the capital, got the farmers committed, extracted the fees from them to make his profits but did not give a bugger about how they would sell their crops. I.E. no effort was put in to make a market. All that mattered was he got his money.

  102. Sadly this is a really important issue and it will soon slip off the page and be forgotten.

    Lets try and look at some real data.

    What is the current global FOB price of crude palm oil?

    It is way above the price of a litre of diesel at the pumps.

    So assuming and thats a big assumption, that the global price reflects fully and is in balance as the theory dictates, supply and demand for energy products, then its clear that biodiesel from palm oil is not needed in the market.

    But is that the real picture.

    What of the cost of production?

    Palm oil is currently very cheap to produce. So here we have a real question. Why is the market price so high.

    Look at crude oil, always stories of Peak Oil, sky high prices, problems, we are all doomed. But lets look a little deeper. Lets take the latest mega Saudi oilfield. The BBC told us. it took 9 billion dollars to develop and that is a lot of money and reflects the dire shortage of oil. They then told us how much oil would be produced per day and for how many years. At the time the field went into production, Crude oil was USD 150 per barrel.

    Thus the field paid all its capital costs in 66 days, yes 66 days. Cost of production worked out at usd 1.10 per barrel as opposed to a global market price of USD 150.

    Now back to biodiesel. Wjat is limiting its use, the global market price. Who controls the market price? Why money not CPO nor the demand for CPO.

    We are not comparing apples with apples.

    So the real problem with biofuels is?????????????????????????

  103. In addition to the feed produced as a by-product of biofuels you have to consider whether the money spent for the fuel has secondary benefits. In the US the money spent stays in local economies which increase the taxes and local GDP. You have to trade that off against subsidies to determine whether they are worth it.

    Of course, most of the folks against ethanol don’t really look at the big picture. Pretty much knee-jerk reactions very similar to AGW followers. Hmmmmmm.

  104. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:
    April 20, 2011 at 6:11 pm
    From John Q. Galt on April 20, 2011 at 11:44 am:
    So, for either reason, if you’re doing soybean production for oil then you’re not feeding those Africans.

    Unless you’re examining local corn and soybean growing in Africa, with the generated feed used towards making those locally grown and consumed animal products, if you’re making biofuel then you’re not feeding those Africans.
    ———————————————————-

    Maybe I missed something further up the thread. Why is it incumbent upon US farmers to feed Africans – if that’s what you’re saying ??

  105. From philincalifornia on April 20, 2011 at 9:28 pm:

    Maybe I missed something further up the thread. Why is it incumbent upon US farmers to feed Africans – if that’s what you’re saying ??

    As used in the corn example, I was just setting the origin of the corn outside of the “animal products” region.

    Distillers grains are available as Wet Distillers Grains (WDG) and Dried Distillers Grains with Solubles (DDGS). WDG has a short shelf life (4-5 days) so is used near an alcohol plant. DDGS has an almost indefinite shelf life but the drying consumes much energy, this source places it at more than 40% of the alcohol plant’s energy costs. This source yields that about 1/5 of North American DDGS production is shipped to EU countries for feed, a small amount. Given this and other factors like current pricing relative to other by-product feeds, feeding recommendations (no more that 20% of the dry matter for dairy), and transportation costs, it’s clear that distillers grains are a feed of convenience, selected for price.

    So unless it’s local production, and very local given the transport infrastructure, corn used for biofuels is corn that’s not available for feeding Africans.

    BTW, it is not incumbent on US farmers to feed Africans. Indeed, we’ve done great damage over the years by supplying free/cheap food aid, which killed off local production. What we should do, the best solution, is to make them better able to feed themselves, with a very large chunk of that being increased availability of cheap energy, which would come from fossil fuels due to their great portability. But that’s a long term solution, and RIGHT NOW there are starving people needing food NOW, which the US (and Canada) can provide relatively cheaply, at least when we’re not driving the food prices up by playing around with biofuels.

  106. From Grey lensman on April 20, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Oh and KD, stick with fresh wholesome natural foods and dont forget, fibre a very vital need. Also note biodiversity, Humans are OMNIVORES which means they eat a varied diet, not just factory processed inedible corn. That how we survive when others go extinct.

    And two attempts later, you are still sticking with your inaccurate claim about “inedible” corn, that you make without evidence, despite extensive proof that the “dent corn” you are maligning has been beneficially consumed by humans for well over a century.

    If your ability to critically evaluate presented evidence is an indication of the results of a diet of these “fresh wholesome natural foods” you promote, then you’re doing an excellent job of convincing people of the benefits of factory processing. ☺

  107. Indur M. Goklany says:
    April 20, 2011 at 7:15 pm
    220mph: You don’t show the entire “equation” from start to finish, and in fact you change from estimated poverty headcounts (which as you note have been decreasing dramatically) to the 32 million number for increased poverty headcount due to biofuels, while presenting nothing to show how that number was derived – (or why it should be arbitrarily increased 14% when it was created using the new data and methods already).

    RESPONSE: As I explained in my earlier response — which apparently you didn’t read perhaps because, in your own words, “its late and I don’t have energy to give your response the time in reply it deserves” — the 14% adjustment is due to the fact that DHM’s analysis did not cover all developing countries, and I am trying to get an estimate for all developing countries. It’s not rocket science. In fact, it doesn’t even travel at 220mph! Read the paper and read the earlier response

    220mph: You should it would seem, include at least an explanation of the basics of the calculations used in the papers [ie DHM] that are integral to your claims … for example how the the 32 million number at the heart of your paper arrived at?

    RESPONSE: There is an explanation on p. 10 and on p. 12. Also, the citation for DHM is provided. It can be googled and downloaded for free. I recommend you read that

    220mph: A proper study in my uneducated opinion would show the changes in poverty headcount for the comparison periods, and considering that the poverty headcount has been dropping dramatically how the 32 million number was calculated.

    RESPONSE: A number of factors determine trends in the poverty level. They include economic growth rates as well as changes in the prices of food and other basic necessities. Because of rapid economic growth in China, and East and South Asia, in particular, global poverty rates have been declining very rapidly. But a part of this decrease has been offset by the increase in food prices. All this is in the paper, which observes on page 10, “The dramatic drop in headcount from 2005 to 2010 is due to increasing economic development. Thus, biofuel production would retard the developing world’s progress against poverty.”

    But of course, since you were reading at 220mph, you skipped that part. For my part and contrary to my normal practice, I’ll skip the rest of your comments, since it seems to me your comments are not made after a good faith effort to understand what was done.

    ——————————————————

    220mph Response:: Dr. Goklany … Now it is you who are speed reading it appears … you continue to fail to comprehend my comment and stated concern, and do it again above and throughout your responses. You make, and rely on, a number of broad statements that you claim are the support your findings.

    Yet they are just that – broad statements with no supporting fact nor illustration of the equation/calculations involved. You expect the reader to take you at your word – that what you claim is fact is indeed so. That is NOT IMO the basis for an allegedly scientific paper – especially one that make the claim that 200,000 people may die.

    I agree you DID state your reasoning for the 14% increase in DHW numbers – both in the paper, and here – here are your exact words from your paper:

    “The difference between the two estimates is mainly
    that the World Bank’s analysis covered more countries”

    That statement provides zero scholarly support for your claim an adjustment is proper because of difference in countries covered, nor for your selection of the 14% number. None. We do not know any of the details involved in your calculations.

    We DO however know that on page 10 you also stated:

    “… [the DHW paper] covered 90% of the developing world’s population”

    So we know from you that the MAXIMUM difference between the two reports was 10% of the developing worlds population. Yet you came up with a 14% multiplication factor. And offer no support for how that number is calculated.

    This 14% increase is at the very heart of your paper’s conclusions Dr. Goklany – yet we have no idea how you came up with it. Simply “telling” us is not, and should not be, good enough for an allegedly scientific paper that claims “200,000 may die” …. that is exactly the type problems we have see throughout the IPCC reports.

    There are a number of entirely legitimate questions you provide no answers to:

    -How many countries were covered in the World Bank report?

    -We do know the DHW paper covered “90% of the developing
    world’s population” assuming your statement there is correct.

    -How many countries were covered in the DHW vs World Bank studies?

    -What % of the developing worlds population was covered in World
    Bank vs. the “90%” covered in DHW.

    -How did you come up with the 14% number – what is the
    data – what is the math to support it?

    As to the 32 Million number… the increase in poverty headcount allegedly due to increased biofuel use.

    You are correct – once could read DHW and ascertain how this number was achieved. Yet your paper and conclusions are directly based on this number – again it is at the heart of your entire claim – and when the claim is as serious as “200,000 may die” I think it proper and important to include at least a basic discussion of how that 32 million number was arrived at.

    This is especially important/relevant IMO considering that you DO talk about (and make adjustments to) the numbers for total poverty headcounts – for several years related to your paper. You also acknowledge those numbers have been dropping significantly due to improved economic conditions from a 2004 poverty headcount of 1,454 million to 1,374 million in 2005 to 798 million 2010.

    We can do the math – and know the poverty headcount from 2005 to 2010 decreased by 576 million – nearly 42% … yet the claim is during that same period, the poverty headcount due to alleged biofuel production increased by 32 million people?

    What we don’t know is how do we get 32 million increase in poverty headcount during the time overall poverty headcount – using the numbers you presented – shows a nearly 42% – almost 600 million decrease?

    You ask the reader of your paper to rely on blind faith that the 32 million number is correct – despite that it is at the heart of your claims. But then you go a step further yet. You apply the 14% to the 32 million estimated increase in poverty headcount. Again with absolutely no documentation of why. Again you ask the reader to accept on blind faith that this adjustment is correct and proper.

    It would certainly seem the 14% adjustment – if it were to be legitimately applied – requires us to know the calculation that gave the 32 million result. Without it we cannot know if it should be applied to the 2010 count or only to the 2005 numbers – or something in between.

    I purposely have not read DHW yet – so as not to taint my observations and comments on your paper. Very few people will ever read DHW. And the point is they should not have to. I should be able to read a paper – especially one this important, that claims “200,000 MAY DIE” – and see ALL of the important data and calculations, even those from other papers relied on for reference. This does not mean every observation or claim from another paper must be included, but to exclude the methods of the most IMPORTANT number in the entire paper is simply wrong.

    All that said, I suspect the author, as we see so often in the AGW discussion, knows well very few will read anything but the Press Release – many won’t read further than the headline. The failings in the paper are essentially irrelevant because the goal has been achieved – to promote the agenda point – the preconceived conclusion – the sensational headline that BIOFUEL USE MAY KILL 200,000. That is all most care about or will remember.

    I would offer that Dr. Golkany might well apply his own words, with slight modification, to the entirety of the issue:

    There can be no honest analysis of the costs and
    benefits of biofuel policies if they do not consider
    ALL of the effects, both pro and con, that
    effect death and disease in developing countries”

    To make a claim that “200,000 MAY DIE” while ignoring even the most basic positive effects of biofuel use is simply wrong and renders this paper in my opinion of little value. It’s conclusions are not well documented nor supported, it makes a number of broad claims without support or documentation, and it dismisses the many well documented positive effects on health (and potentially on poverty) that biofuels use can offer.

    I am just about certain inclusion of these known positive effects into Dr Golkany’s death scenario would easily tip the balance significantly positive – would show “current” biofuel production actually decreases poverty overall.

    Even if you simply add the value of known, undisputed biofuel byproducts, distillers dried grains, corn meal, corn gluten, corn oil etc and ignore the positive environmental aspects the balance has to tip significantly. DDGs alone are essentially the same product as the corn they began with, only in a more useful higher quality form.

    Further this paper fails to offer any perspective on the context of size and scope of the problem claimed, how the number of deaths it alleges may occur relate to the world population, nor any discussion of margin of error and how those alleged deaths relate.

  108. As usual the starting image, from a government source, is wrong. Where’s the beer mash going? The image has no by-products out put displayed. Biofuel can’t be viable if you don’t consider the high protein by-products coming out of the plant. You cant make biofuels without making or concentrating the protein. There’s no global shortage of livestock or human carbohydrates; its protein that matters. If the factory is not turning out edible Soya flour, canola press cake or dry distillers grains then take the staff out and shoot them! But check first whether their allowed to make human food from the by products. In most countries its forbidden. Pet foods getting very cheap though; I wonder why? /sarc The food vs fuel argument is so insanely wrong it proves that the powers that be DON’T WANT A SOLUTION !

  109. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:
    April 21, 2011 at 3:45 am
    From philincalifornia on April 20, 2011 at 9:28 pm:
    —————————————————-
    Thanks for responding. I pretty much agree with all of that and especially this:

    “BTW, it is not incumbent on US farmers to feed Africans. Indeed, we’ve done great damage over the years by supplying free/cheap food aid, which killed off local production. What we should do, the best solution, is to make them better able to feed themselves,”

    Unfortunately, that solution never seems to occur to the people who are incapable of actually doing anything constructive. It’s easier to whine about carbon dioxide, get elected, do f***-all about the unintended consequences they mandated, and now whine about biofuels.

    It’s not as if the unintended consequences weren’t fairly obvious and quantifiable – as Richard Courtney points out, he was on this in 2006.

    http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/biofuel_issues.pdf

    We could have been teaching “Africans” to feed themselves from way before this happened. Anyway, I’m a positive thinker. Maybe “Africans” will be able to make themselves biofuels too, along with food, now that the die is cast. Given the corruption though, I’m not holding my breath on that one.

  110. That ethanol production increases the food prices is not totally right, first there is a by-product called “distillers dried grains with solubles”, which is used as feed for livestock, that is also nothing else than food. Moreover, by using ethanol, you put pressure on oil prices, which has also an important effect on food prices. You also give your money for more research (again labour), which will yield in higher efficiency of production and alternative production methods like cellulosic ethanol, which will change the whole equation. Again in case of oil this money would be spent for oil rigs, oil-infrastructure, but also for weapons to defend the oil.
    By using ethanol, you produce less CO2, since it is produced by corn, which actually consumed the CO2 in the air for its growing. The more people use ethanol, the higher the efficiencies will come for production (similar to solar cells). The prices will go further down, and much less CO2 will be produced during production in the plant.
    Do you know that the production efficiencies already improved 30% ? (1)
    Finally inceased food prices will lead to enrichment of the poor farmers in poor countries, since they will plant more, since farming will be affordable for them. (2)

    Source:
    (1)http://brownfieldagnews.com/2010/09/21/ethanol-production-efficiency-improves/
    (2)http://www.zeit.de/wirtschaft/2011-03/armut-nahrungsmittelpreise

  111. philincalifornia says:
    April 20, 2011 at 3:38 pm
    “Not sure about biodiesel. I’d like to see Robert E answer that one.”

    Crickets… Looks like he just dropped a baseless assertion. Thought so.

  112. KD

    I have some suggestions for you

    1. Ask yourself, why, in 100 years America now has a epidemic of obese malnourished poeple
    2. google Weston Price and really read their research
    3. You continue to eat it, I will continuie to avoid it.

    On topic, thanks to the posters who pointed out the food byproducts and labour and income generated by biofuels. I am disappointed that nobody picked up on the phoney pricing, economics.

    Its so simple, Its the Policy not the biofuels.

    One reason that corn, even dent, is used as a biofuel in the USA, is that it is a key to getting global price control of food in the same way that oil prices are. Think about that.

    Maybe, biofuels is the only use dent should be put to, smile

  113. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:
    April 21, 2011 at 3:45 am
    “So unless it’s local production, and very local given the transport infrastructure, corn used for biofuels is corn that’s not available for feeding Africans.”

    Ofcourse not. Just as the soybean meal and steam-flaked corn which the DDGS replaces would not be available for feeding africans.

    That being said, if the presence of a new market for starch justifies investment in high-yielding, high-efficiencybut low-margin corn acres, those same africans should in fact benefit by decreased competition for the current supply of commodity grain.

    Again, ALL grain processed for ethanol produces a high-protein, high-energy co-product. This product displaces higher-cost protein source such as soybeans. These soybean acres is where the new corn production comes from. Soybeans can not physiologically yield much more than 6000 lbs per acre at 40% protein. Average u.s. yield is around 2,500 lbs/acre (1000 lbs protein). Marginal yields are below 20 bpa or 1200lbs (480 lbs). Corn averages 160 bpa at 10%+ protein (900lbs protein) and on high-performing farms is pushing an average 300 bpa (1600 lbs protein) as the new normal. The important number to look for is when marginal corn protein yield per acre exceeds potential value-added soybean protein yield from any one marginal acre. Only if this competition for acreage results in less feed protein can one say that diversion to biofuels has resulted in a sum zero loss for those poor african babies.

    Considering even cellulosic ethanol produces large amounts of high-quality feed protein in the form of yeast biomass (made from glucose + nitrogen supplements) the prospects for a net reduction in protein seems unlikely. Furthermore, advanced biorefinery processes (dry fractionation and combined-cycle solvent extraction technologies) on the current industry roadmap will improve the biological value of corn protein (zein isolate) to help with the spread between corn and soya protein quality.

    “DDGS has an almost indefinite shelf life but the drying consumes much energy, this source places it at more than 40% of the alcohol plant’s energy costs.”

    That energy is properly assigned to the value of the processed feed. Large amounts of energy are invested in increasing the biological value of feeds through grinding and cooking. Roasted beans, boiled soybeans, solvent-extracted soybean meal, dry-rolled corn, steam-flaked corn, etc. all require large amounts of machinery and fuel. This investment is made when the costs of processing is less than the cost of purchasing more raw feedstuffs.

  114. John Galt … don’t forget that more and more of the energy to do all that drying, rolling, milling, grinding etc is heading more and more to being provided by the very product being created … and additional energy is coming from the resultant waste product the biomass remaining after processing

    I don’t remember if we’ve heard the water scaremongering in this thread or not but that is yet another largely false statement.

    Yes water IS used to produce ethanol from corn, what seems like a huge number … in reality – and this is from memory from old research I did – a 50 million gal ethanol plant used the equivalent water to a handful of golf courses, or car washes … and like each of those, the ethanol industry has dramatically reduced water use by onsite treatment and reuse of waste water … another red herring especially when compared to water use of fossil fuel based fuel production ….

    50 million gal per year standard ethanol plant uses appx 400,000 gal per day (150 mgpyr) (appx 3 gal per gal ethanol)

    Petroleum refining uses appx 65 to 90 gals water per barrel of crude – each barrel makes appx 20 gals gasoline or 3.25 to 4.5 gals water per gal gasoline

    Cellulosic processes use as little as 1.9 gal water per gal ethanol …

    Water use will continue to improive … Poet used appx 3 gal per gal ethanol in 2009, an 80% decrease from 1988 and expect to further reduce water usage to 2.3 gal per gal ethanol over next 5 years.

    NPR: Audubon International estimates that the average American course uses 312,000 gallons per day. In a place like Palm Springs, where 57 golf courses challenge the desert, each course eats up a million gallons a day.

    A large 150 million gallon per year corn ethanol plant will use appx 1.2 million gallons per day of water (although this is greatly reduced thru treatments and recycling) … about the same as one large golf course in Palm Springs or 4 average American golf courses.

    That SINGLE 150 mgpy ethanol plant – assuming 15mpg avg fuel economy – provides enough fuel to provide the entire annual fuel needs for 1,000 cars driving avg 10,000 miles per year.

  115. The best misinfo relating to water use is the amount of rain falling on an acre of corn. That always makes me chuckle.

    The consumption if water in biorefineries needs to be defined better. Just because a process “uses” a certain amount of water doesn’t mean that the water is “used up.” Water is recycled as backstock. If 30 gallons is used to process a bushel of corn in a fermenter, only the first batch “uses” 30 gallons. Each additional batch recycles 15 gallons. The other 15 gallons ends up as condensed syrup feeds and hot, distilled steam vapor in the DDGS processing stage. If any one single ethanol plant doesn’t capture that hot, sterilized, distilled water vapor then that is a problem with that single plant, not “corn ethanol.”

    Integrated co-located, co-generating and co-production plants will use manure water as a water (and nutrient) source, sterilize it during the feedstock cooking stage, and feed the cleaned, nutrient rich co-product liquids back to livestock.

  116. Indur M. Goklany says:
    April 20, 2011 at 7:41 pm
    John Q. Galt:
    I am not an agronomist. And yes, I am aware that byproducts of ethanol production have value, and that soybean oil can be (and is) converted to fuel. However, that doesn’t mean that biofuel production does not increase food prices.

    I presume you know that soybean oil is edible and used in a variety of edible products, as well as for cooking. It is also used for feed, but (much of) feed eventually ends up (indirectly) as food.

    Regardless, the real problem is that if biofuel production were economic then it would not need to rely on subsidies, tariffs and mandates to be sustained in the market place. And I would quit complaining about it.

    Ah, so you’re a free market libertarian then. /sarc

    Great way to say you don’t know what you’re writing about but here’s my paper any way. Like most academics you start with a money quote (“Policies that subsidize or mandate biofuels benefit neither Mother Earth nor humanity”) and then work back from there as you rearrange some ad hoc numbers that appeal to the current narrative.

  117. From Grey lensman on April 21, 2011 at 7:22 pm:

    1. Ask yourself, why, in 100 years America now has a epidemic of obese malnourished poeple

    I’m trying to decide if you are stupid, deliberately dense, or so consumed with promoting an agenda you’re going to keep tossing out similar nonsensical one-liners no matter what I write.

    The problem is not the food source you have unfairly demonized, dent corn.

    The problem is not the millenia-old processing method of nixtamalization, whether it is done by individuals or in factories. Indeed, I first learned of it while reading Guts and Grease: The Diet of Native Americans, available on the Weston A. Price Foundation website.

    The problem is eating too much of an unbalanced diet. The actual foods don’t matter. You can have a diet of squash and carrots right from your own organic garden, cooked and served with butter you churned yourself from raw milk, and if you eat too much of it you’ll still be obese and malnourished.

    It’s easy to blame the cheap highly-processed low-nutrition foods, especially since in those “100 years” food, including that low-nutrition stuff, has grown much cheaper thus it’s grown much easier to consume too much. Why not blame the innumerable bags of cheese puffs or potato chips? But make the same thing at home, starting with the healthiest ingredients you can find, then consume too much of them in an unbalanced diet, you end up at up the same place you’d be if you had consumed the cheap mass-produced versions instead. Getting people to actually think about nutrition and eat healthy nutrient-dense foods, that’s hard. It’s much easier to blame the processing.

    Blaming dent corn, a nutritious food, rather than address the unhealthy eating habits that are endemic, is just you being lazy. Blaming modern processing, which has provided us with a plethora of safe food with long storage times, without addressing the need to still select for complete nutrition and not consume too much, really ain’t much better.

  118. kadaka, isn’t it funny corn is blamed for the worlds ills because it is both too cheap and too expensive? Haha!

    My previous post concerning the relationship between corn and soybeans really should have included a note about corn’s value relative to wheat, sorghum, rice, potatoes, sugar beets and other starchy crops. A comparison of costs-benefits is even more obvious with these crops.

    Here’s a new article on the feed value of ethanol co-products.

    http://advancedbiofuelsusa.info/fuel-and-animal-feed-both-produced-from-advanced-biofuel-biomass-the-new-biofuel-paradigm

    Despite the title, this isn’t a new thing, just a “new to you” thing.

  119. Beside water concerns, does anyone have an up-to-date energy budget for the production of ethanol from biofuels? As I recall from work done in the ’70s when the relative cost of fossil fuels was very high and supply was under threat, the separation of water from ethanol is a very energy-intensive process that renders the whole process a net energy loss. Is this true? And the separation of water is very expensive which is why vodka and gin, even the cheapest, is much more expensive than fuel.
    I do know that in the 70s ethanol production dropped once the price of fossil fuel dropped. Many plants converted to other uses.
    I would also point out that the production of brewing wastes is not cost-free. The proper way to handle revenue generating products is to apportion costs appropriately between products.
    But I do like the idea of exhorting my mates to drink more for the environment’s sake because at present the amount of fermentable industrial wastes is nowhere near sufficient to be a major source of fuels. We would be better burning them as fuel for a modern Stirling engine.
    We are concentrating on producing biofuels in marginal and non-cultivated land rather than converting food-producing land to the production of biofuels (which I think is morally repugnant). And we are investigating producing other fuels than ethanol which we think is the worst choice possible! Too polar, miscibility range with hydrocarbons far too limited, hard to separate etc.

  120. John Q. Galt says:
    April 22, 2011 at 8:48 pm
    ———————————————
    Thanks for the link. Yes, nothing new really, but summarized very well (saved me a lot of time tracking down all those numbers).

    The basic equation continues to be:

    Light + water + CO2 –> Moving vehicle + water + CO2

    Any element other than C, H, O is just along for the ride, in both the biomass and the yeast – nitrogen, sulfur, trace metals, salts etc. Well, as components of enzymes, facilitating the ride but, within the whole cellulosic process also involved in converting inedible protein to edible protein during the ride.

    Do you have a reference for the following (pretty please):

    “Integrated co-located, co-generating and co-production plants will use manure water as a water (and nutrient) source, sterilize it during the feedstock cooking stage, and feed the cleaned, nutrient rich co-product liquids back to livestock.” ??

  121. Orchestia …

    Unless you read and believe the repeatedly refuted work of outliers Pimental and Patzek – who are almost the only people claiming a net energy loss – and who not surprisingly are the references Dr. Goklany includes in his paper …. ethanol production from corn has had a positive net energy balance for a long time.

    Current numbers run from appx 1.3 to appx 1.8 to 1 for current corn ethanol production – meaning 1.3 to 1.8 BTU units of energy are produced from every 1 BTU expended in production. In 2001 USDA found an avg net energy balance of appx 1.7 based on a 19 state study.

    This number continues to grow, but it is the newer cellulosic processes that are the future of ethanol.

    Using switch grass, corn stalks, tree fiber and similar as feedstock, cellulosic production provides a net energy balance that starts around 3 to 1 … typical current avergaes are in the 5 to 1 to 8 to 1 range. Improvements in process, feedstocks etc show promise of energy balance of over 20 to 1 possible.

    The feedstock for cellulosic ethanol is grown typically on marginal land with minimal cultivation and irrigation. Feedstocks like switchgrass can provide addtl side benefits – making good wildlife habitat and a restorative nature to soil.

    At the end of the day corn ethanol provides a valuable part of our renewable energy needs. It is not a solution nor was it ever expected to be, but it does put a significant dent in our foreign fossil fuel needs

  122. From 220mph on April 23, 2011 at 2:49 am:

    Using switch grass, corn stalks, tree fiber and similar as feedstock, cellulosic production provides a net energy balance that starts around 3 to 1 … typical current avergaes are in the 5 to 1 to 8 to 1 range. Improvements in process, feedstocks etc show promise of energy balance of over 20 to 1 possible.

    The feedstock for cellulosic ethanol is grown typically on marginal land with minimal cultivation and irrigation. Feedstocks like switchgrass can provide addtl side benefits – making good wildlife habitat and a restorative nature to soil.

    This was shown on a local news station:
    Switch Grass Saves School District Money
    By Ryan Coyle
    7:06 p.m. EDT, March 17, 2011

    Excerpt:

    “This, being a low input crop, has the potential to return the most energy savings, because when you’re dealing with alternative energy, there’s no reason to spend a lot of energy to create renewable energy,” explained state wildlife biologist Scott Singer.

    The $2.1 million system burns the switch during the winter months to produce hot water heat. Only 60 pounds of waste ash is produced a day, and even that is repurposed.

    “This can be used as an anti-skid, or actually just put right back on the farmer’s field. This will dissolve after time,” said Rick Long, director of buildings and grounds.

    School officials said the boiler will pay for itself in 13 years due to the rising price of heating oil and that people in the community have come around to the green initiative.

    As described, switch grass “has the potential to return the most energy savings”. And even then, it’ll take 13 years to hit payback, and that’s with figuring in the rising price of heating oil.

    With simple burning, the payback time is large. You are pulling out these fantastic numbers for “energy balance” to support how great it’ll be to use more energy to convert switch grass to ethanol, when using switch grass without that additional energy input still doesn’t look that great.

    Meanwhile, to consider alternative energy worth pursuing, there are geothermal heat pumps. By the information congealed on Wikipedia, in the US for residential heating the payback period is just 5 years when replacing heating oil, with a note saying government subsidies were not included (see chart). “The payback period for larger commercial systems in the USA is 1–5 years, even when compared to natural gas.”

    http://www.earthrivergeo.com/

    “Geothermal pumps return up to $5 worth of heat for every $1 spent on electricity.”

    http://www.precisionairtn.com/reports/26161a.pdf

    1998 US Department of Energy report, Office of Geothermal Technologies
    “Nearly 500 schools nationwide have installed geothermal heat pump systems to provide their heating and cooling needs.”
    Payback in 2-8 years, at 1998 energy prices.

    Getting the most energy possible out of switch grass by simply burning it efficiently, the payback period is many times that of a geothermal heat pump system. If you think that switch grass to ethanol would be such a wonderful thing, then perhaps you’d support the far greater potential benefits of geothermal to ethanol. ☺

  123. kadaka …

    What a sill and meaningless comment – on many levels …

    1. Your own article clearly stated the district would save money using switchgrass.

    2. A 13 year payback is quite respectable.

    3. Your other geothermal “payback” was based on 1998 energy prices – not the extremely higher current prices

    4. It was nice that you picked payback vs replacing heating oil system – which is claimed at 5 years … however, you conveniently avoided the payback for natural gas systems – the prevalent systems in US – which is 12 years

    All of that is irrelevant regardless … trying to compare cellulosic ethanol to burning switchgrass is just plain ridiculous – there is nothing remotely in common.

    Interestingly however you DO does point out and confirm yet another benefit of cellulosic (and corn) ethanol production … after extracting the ethanol, distillers dried grains and corn oil in case of corn, and other valuable byproducts the remaining waste product can be BURNED to create heat and energy

  124. philincalifornia says:
    April 22, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    Do you have a reference for the following (pretty please):

    “Integrated co-located, co-generating and co-production plants will use manure water as a water (and nutrient) source, sterilize it during the feedstock cooking stage, and feed the cleaned, nutrient rich co-product liquids back to livestock.” ??

    No link as such. The use of waste flows is pretty straightforward. Manure water (wash water from livestock pens and manure lagoons) can be sterilized during the cooking process or even during a biomass-fired open-cycle steam generating process.

  125. Orchestia says:
    April 22, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    Beside water concerns, does anyone have an up-to-date energy budget for the production of ethanol from biofuels? As I recall from work done in the ’70s when the relative cost of fossil fuels was very high and supply was under threat, the separation of water from ethanol is a very energy-intensive process that renders the whole process a net energy loss. Is this true?

    State-of-the-art roadmaps involve the use of membrane filters, not distillation columns. Even so, the energy used for the ethanol production process is less than 20K btu.

    A personal design for a product recovery process combines distillation, feedstock and product cold storage, and fermenter cooling systems, with an air cycle vapor compression system and frozen grain as a condenser medium. Ethanol is then freeze-dried out over time.

    I would also point out that the production of brewing wastes is not cost-free. The proper way to handle revenue generating products is to apportion costs appropriately between products.

    If you have beed following the discussion you will have learned that the costs are being apportioned to the value of each co-product produced. The problem with the non-expert critics is that they do not properly apportion costs.

  126. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:
    April 23, 2011 at 7:15 am

    Getting the most energy possible out of switch grass by simply burning it efficiently, the payback period is many times that of a geothermal heat pump system. If you think that switch grass to ethanol would be such a wonderful thing, then perhaps you’d support the far greater potential benefits of geothermal to ethanol. ☺

    kadaka, your argument is comparing apples to oranges.

    1) The energy needed to run the heat pumps needs to come from some primary mover. Heat pumps don’t replace fuel sources but merely reduce the fuel required to do some desired work.

    2) Geothermal to ethanol?

    A general comment about EROEI. All energy balance studies assume all energy sources to be the same. They are not. A btu of coal can not be compared to a btu of finished retail gasolines or any other liquid fuel. Energy inputs should be classified as fossil fuels and refined fossil fuel products. Only the potential refined motor fuels should be considered when calculating the value of ethanol as a motor fuel. Ethanol’s value is greater than it’s btu content. Ethanol is a fuel additive which increases the octane value of low-octane, high-btu heavy gasolines thus increasing the total amount of gasoline that can be sold on the market at the varios octane rating.

  127. From 220mph on April 23, 2011 at 2:00 pm:

    1. Your own article clearly stated the district would save money using switchgrass.

    But they could likewise save by switching to natural gas, they also could save much more with geothermal.

    2. A 13 year payback is quite respectable.

    Not really. Especially when commercial-scale geothermal can achieve payback about ten years sooner.

    3. Your other geothermal “payback” was based on 1998 energy prices – not the extremely higher current prices

    Bingo. Fuel oil has gotten more expensive, as technology has improved the current geothermal systems should have even greater efficiency, thus the payback period should be shorter.

    4. It was nice that you picked payback vs replacing heating oil system – which is claimed at 5 years … however, you conveniently avoided the payback for natural gas systems – the prevalent systems in US – which is 12 years

    Switch grass replacing heating oil was the example. The much longer payback when replacing natural gas with geothermal indicates how cheap an energy source natural gas is, note how in Germany geothermal is actually more expensive than natural gas. Using those numbers for a multiplier, we get: 12/5 * 13 yrs = 31 yrs. If that switch grass system was replacing natural gas, that’d in theory be 31 yrs to payback. “In theory” comes about since the grass-burning boiler will likely need major repairs or replacement before that time.

    All of that is irrelevant regardless … trying to compare cellulosic ethanol to burning switchgrass is just plain ridiculous – there is nothing remotely in common.

    Got that right. Switch grass is cited as just about the most promising biofuel, due to it being “low input” and grown on marginal land, etc. Using it in the most efficient way possible, burning it efficiently to nearly nothing, it can roughly compete with natural gas and gets blown away by geothermal.

    For cellulosic ethanol, you’re using more energy with further processing and adding even more energy to get the ethanol, than simply burning it. Thus clearly the switch grass is being used far from the most efficient manner possible. You’re not going to make up the difference by burning the residue, and it seems highly unlikely that selling off the residue as animal feed will make it worthwhile.

    If you want to displace fossil liquid fuels, forget biofuels. Change over homes from using #2 heating oil to using geothermal, the stock that would have been #2 heating oil can easily be diesel instead, and have more vehicles using the more-efficient diesel engines instead of gasoline. That makes better economic sense overall than playing around with biofuels.

  128. kadaka …. burning switch grass is the “most efficient” way to use it?

    Not even remotely accurate – just one miscellaneous comment:

    “Most plans for cellulosic ethanol processing call for burning the lignin to generate steam and heat to run the process. As a fuel, lignin is worth around $40 a ton.”

    another:

    “Lignin and protein, two important co-products, have the potential to significantly improve the economics of biorefineries. Lignin is a non-fermentable residue from the hydrolysis process. It has an energy content similar to coal and is employed to power the operation, thereby reducing production costs. “There is enough residue [lignin] left over to meet the energy needs of the process plus make additional ethanol or electricity,” says Eric Larson, a research engineer at the Princeton Environmental Institute.”

    The same story talks about a process to use that lignin in a glue product that would be worth as much s $300/ton

    The byproduct can still be burned as fuel, in addition to the ethanol – which is produced at a net energy balance somewhere in the 5 to 7 to 1 range.

    Your comments seem to make little sense – trying to compare geothermal to ethanol is as noted wholly unrelated.

  129. Thanks to those who replied to my earlier post, but just to clarify matters did you take into account the energy costs in growing the crops?

    I still have hopes for solar cells as the amount of solar energy impinging on earth is vast and only a tiny fraction is used in photosynthesis and this technology is C-free, so the potential is excellent.
    But as I understand it the manufacturing and operating costs are still such that the production costs are still non-competitive. But I believe Bill Chan (California) thinks he has “cracked it” (free plug). His system is scalable and can be installed at the household, village or town scale.
    As for crops, I am very suspicious of corn as a biofuel as it requires high quality land in order to grow and high fertilization rates. Its cultivation is heavily subsidized in many countries so these subsidies should be taken into account as a cost.
    As for sources, forestry wastes are very promising, and some research is investigating reducing carbon emissions. But for economics perennials such as saafa grass, Miscanthas and Jerusalem artichokes take some beating, especially the latter as their tubers can be used for food and industrial processes while the tops can be used as stock food or biofuels. We got 8 tonnes (ww) ph in previously uncropped marginal lands that are semi-arid and cold, and 50 to 100 tonnes p h in better land (but which still does not give economic corn crops). For sugar production they are about 50% greater than tropical cane sugar.
    So we believe a multicropping system using one or other of these plants grown on marginal land offers much more than adaptation of food crops and using cropping land in competition with food crops.
    And in any consideration of food production don’t forget stock food. This is rocketing up in price due (probably) to a combination of adverse environmental events (Australia), denial of supply (Malaysia) and competition with biofuels is causing price increases worldwide with a concomitant increase in food prices for commodities dependent on animal supplements, including fish farming.

  130. Orchestia … yes the net energy balance studies take into account growing the crops … that said the argument is food vs fuel – which makes that question moot – the crops are going to be grown regardless

    Cellulosic ethanol processes use marginal land to grow feedstocks that are wholly unrelated to food or animal feed – the process does not take land or resources away from nor compete with food crops. It also has a much higher net energy balance – as high as 8 units produced vs 1 unit expended in production.

    Last – your comment on “stock food” I assume means animal feed … corn ethanol is produced from FEED corn – corn grown for purpose of feeding livestock – NOT corn grown as food. And after ethanol is extracted from the corn a large amount of distillers dried grain solids are created as a byproduct. These DDGs are high quality animal feed that replaces the orig corn used as feed

  131. Dr. Goklany hasn’t responded to the specific questions about data and calcs in his paper, other than in generalities, but regardless I’ll continue my review anyway.

    I went and read the De Hoyos and Medvedev (DHM) paper used as the cire basis for Goklany’s paper. What I found was quite interesting.

    First the DHW paper is based on a model – the World Bank’s GIDD model and dataset:

    The simulations presented here make use of the Global Income Distribution Dynamic GIDD dataset consists of 73 detailed household surveys for low and middle income countries, 21 of which include information on food expenditure by household. Most of the household surveys in the GIDD are for years between 2000 and 2005.

    Dr. Golkany’s claims – that he needed to increase the DHW numbers by 14% because the DHW study did not cover as much of the world population as the World Bank numbers is disproven in the DHW report.

    First – the DHW paper appears it notes it has already been adjusted to reflect the latest extreme poverty headcount from World Bank.

    When the GIDD dataset did not include the newest household survey available from the World Bank’s PovCal, the GIDD’s survey mean income (or consumption) was modified so that the extreme poverty headcount matched the latest information available from PovCal.

    As importantly is a review of the data on countries covered by the DHW paper.

    Recall again Dr. Golkany’s claim that the DHW papers conclusion that the poverty headcount increased by 32 million, allegedly due to increased biofuel production, needed to be increased 14% because of the alleged difference in country/population coverage compared to World Bank study…

    A review of the data in DHW paper shows that 32 million claim is almost entirely based on South Asia’s numbers. South Asia actually had 32.5 million increased poverty headcount which was slightly reduced – offset by DECREASING poverty headcount in other countries:

    This increase is determined entirely by South Asia, where an additional 32.5 million people slip into extreme poverty due to higher food prices brought about by increased production of biofuels. South Asia followed by Sub-Saharan Africa, where extreme poverty rises by 1.8 million. On the other hand, the number of poor is reduced significantly in Latin America, where higher farm incomes contribute to an exit of 2.3 million people out of extreme poverty. Overall, extreme poverty rises by 32 million people; while a large number, this is only one-fifth of the near-term increase in the number of poor shown in the previous section.

    So how much of South Asia was covered in the DHW study? Lets look – ANNEX III Table 9 on pg 28 shows the DHW paper covers 98.12% of the South Asia population in this study. To put another way the country that makes up virtually all of the net increase has the largest increae.

    South Asia 1,332,800 1,358,294 98.12% of population covered

    And from a world perspective – the DHW paper covers 90.48% of World population.

    World 5,498,162 6,076,509 90.48% of World population covered.

    Dr. Golkany claimed he needed to increase the DHW numbers by 14% because the DHW study and World Bank’s numbers did not match.

    We know from the DHW paper the GIDD model and dataset used as basis for DHW paper are actually World Bank numbers. Which have already been adjusted upwards to insure the DHW numbers match the World Bank data. We further know from the DHW paper that essentially all of the 32 million increase in poverty headcount allegedly due to increased biofuels is attributed to South Asia and that South Asia had 98+% data coverage.

    Regardless of the above – the OVERALL data coverage worldwide is 90%+

    There is simply no basis I can see for Dr. Golkany to increase the number by 14%. The area responsible for essentially the entire 32 million poverty headcount increase is 98.12% covered under the data set used.

    And absent the 14% increase the already tenuous conclusions of this paper are all but erased.

  132. From John Q. Galt on April 23, 2011 at 7:07 pm:

    1) The energy needed to run the heat pumps needs to come from some primary mover. Heat pumps don’t replace fuel sources but merely reduce the fuel required to do some desired work.

    Oh come on now! The heat pump allows the replacement of fuels with geothermal energy, as you’re well aware. The electricity could come from anywhere, even wind and solar. The complete replacement of traditional fuel sources is possible.

    2) Geothermal to ethanol?

    Why not? Building ethanol from water and carbon takes energy, geothermal can efficiently supply energy. An endothermic process is possible. As part of the biofuel rage, there’s the concept you’re starting with energy harvested from sunlight. But this brings up the vagaries of actually growing crops, with assorted land use issues. The Earth itself can provide a reliable continuous supply of geothermal heat. So why not use the heat to grow some sort of life form in vats from which biofuels can be extracted? Or one that will just convert the starting ingredients directly to ethanol?

    To see how close the technology is, see this. BRI Energy has a pilot plant where assorted carbon-containing waste undergoes incomplete combustion to generate syngas, primarily H2 and CO. The syngas is cooled to 100°F then fed to bacteria, which make the ethanol.

    Since we can already go from H2 and CO to ethanol, and the breaking down of water to hydrogen and oxygen is a long-established biological process, making ethanol from water and carbon with the energy input of (geothermal) heat should be possible. Might take two or more organisms, or just clever genetic engineering to need only one. Either way, and that’s with biological action instead of merely chemical which may also be possible, it’s worth pursuing.

  133. From 220mph on April 24, 2011 at 3:11 am:

    kadaka …. burning switch grass is the “most efficient” way to use it?

    That gets the most energy out of it, quickly with little fuss.

    Not even remotely accurate – just one miscellaneous comment:

    “Most plans for cellulosic ethanol processing call for burning the lignin to generate steam and heat to run the process. As a fuel, lignin is worth around $40 a ton.”

    another:

    “Lignin and protein, two important co-products, have the potential to significantly improve the economics of biorefineries. (…)

    Still sticking to the narrative, I see. Lignin is about as common as dirt. From Wikipedia: “It is one of the most abundant organic polymers on Earth, exceeded only by cellulose, employing 30% of non-fossil organic carbon[4] and constituting from a quarter to a third of the dry mass of wood.” Your first part is found in a 2007 NY Times article. For proper perspective, read this:

    http://ciitn.missouri.edu/cgi-bin/pub_view_project_ind.cgi?g_num=6&c_id=2007008

    Two major challenges face the biofuel refinery. First, as the market becomes saturated due to increased biofuel production, the value of the byproducts is plummeting. For example, glycerol is currently worth about $0.20-0.50/lb, but is expected to drop to as low as $0.05/lb. Second the value of byproducts are such a small fraction of the value of the fuels that research into byproduct improvements is a low priority to many companies. For example, biodiesel fuel is worth about $800/ton, while lignin, from ethanol production, is only worth about $40/ton as a fuel.

    Lignin’s worth is only one-twentieth that of biodiesel’s, and that value is dropping fast. More from you:

    The same story talks about a process to use that lignin in a glue product that would be worth as much s $300/ton

    Assuming that’s the NYT piece, that section seems like a press release:

    PureVision has devised a way to make a different form of lignin — one with a molecular composition that could make it an attractive material for a variety of industrial products like glues, sealants and detergents.

    Ed Lehrburger, PureVision’s founder and chief executive, said he thought his lignin could sell for $300 a ton or more. Mr. Lehrburger said his company was collaborating with a wood and paper products manufacturer that is interested in using the lignin for a biobased glue for its laminates, plywoods and other products.

    “Lignin is going to be one of the big drivers of the switch from oil-based to biobased products,” Mr. Lehrburger predicted.

    PureVision is a small start-up company, privately held, and still years away from something they can sell commercially and far further away from making a profit. That NYT blurb comes off as a plea for venture capital.

    From you, referencing the lignin:

    The byproduct can still be burned as fuel, in addition to the ethanol – which is produced at a net energy balance somewhere in the 5 to 7 to 1 range.

    Once again you deal in “overstated optimism.” Note the result from a paper you earlier cited: “Switchgrass produced 540% more renewable than nonrenewable energy consumed.” Note also what it says in the “NEY from Perennial Bioenergy Systems” section:

    Caution should be made in making direct ethanol yield comparisons with cellulosic sources and corn grain, because corn grain conversion technology is mature, whereas cellulosic conversion efficiency technology is based on an estimated value (9).

    So basically that 540% is an educated guess. And in the real world, it matters little as the economic factors come into play, such as the cost of the switch grass crop, cost to make the ethanol, etc.

    In the end, the market price of the resulting ethanol will determine the viability of cellulosic ethanol. That you are trying to toss in the added value of the lignin byproduct, I will charitably assume merely shows your lack of knowledge of the economics, as the lignin is being dumped on a saturated market and it’s value will decline as biofuel production increases. Indeed, it will end up increasing the production costs of cellulosic ethanol as biofuel production increases, as it’ll become a waste product of negligible value that has to be disposed.

  134. From 220mph on April 24, 2011 at 9:37 pm:

    Last – your comment on “stock food” I assume means animal feed … corn ethanol is produced from FEED corn – corn grown for purpose of feeding livestock – NOT corn grown as food.

    Incorrect. You need better info about maize, specifically field corn, which you are incorrectly identifying as “feed corn.” Animals eat it as whole kernels, it may be ground (or “cracked”). For humans it’s normally processed by nixtamalization and ground. Otherwise, both humans and animals can eat the same field corn.

    And after ethanol is extracted from the corn a large amount of distillers dried grain solids are created as a byproduct. These DDGs are high quality animal feed that replaces the orig corn used as feed

    I realize it may be hard to understand why it’s called agricultural science, but there’s quite a bit of knowledge used in farming and farmers do go to college to do it right. Dried Distillers Grains with Solubles (DDGS) are not a direct substitute for corn. There are assorted calculations to do to assure the animals are getting proper nutrition, further info can be found here. To mention it generally, in this article it’s mentioned about mineral supplementation when using distillers grains.

  135. kadaka said:

    “In the end, the market price of the resulting ethanol will determine the viability of cellulosic ethanol. That you are trying to toss in the added value of the lignin byproduct, I will charitably assume merely shows your lack of knowledge of the economics, as the lignin is being dumped on a saturated market and it’s value will decline as biofuel production increases. Indeed, it will end up increasing the production costs of cellulosic ethanol as biofuel production increases, as it’ll become a waste product of negligible value that has to be disposed.”

    Sorry, no – it shows you don’t understand the processes involved and have little desire to educate yourself. One of my comments directly addressed:

    “Most plans for cellulosic ethanol processing call for burning the lignin to generate steam and heat to run the process. As a fuel, lignin is worth around $40 a ton.”

    Other comments in the thread have indicated same … the lignin byproduct is used AT THE PLANT as a FUEL – to be burned to generate steam and heat at the plant to run the process. As such value is largely immaterial. The cost to the plant is zero – it is a byproduct of producing ethanol. And then contributes to that production by being used to reduce further the energy costs to create the ethanol.

  136. Kadaka – I identified it exactly as I intended – the corn used for ethanol production is “feed” corn – meaning corn gown for the primary purpose of feeding to livestock and not “food” corn – (ie: sweet corn) grown as a food source.

    Not gonna waste a lot of time on a response since you don’t really seem to care about the answer but our trusty pal’s at Wiki show us some of the facts about “feed” corn.

    First they point out the fallacy of your claims – that corn used for ethanol is used for “food” ….

    “Within the United States, the usage of maize for human consumption constitutes about 1/40th of the amount of grown in the country. In the United States and Canada maize is mostly grown to feed for livestock, as forage, silage (made by fermentation of chopped green cornstalks), or grain. Maize meal is also a significant ingredient of some commercial animal food products, such as dog food.”

    They go on to show the actual numbers that show the inaccuracy of your claims:

    The breakdown of usage of the 12.1 billion bushel 2008 U.S. maize crop was as follows, according to the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates Report by the USDA.

    5.25 billion bu. – Livestock feed
    3.65 billion bu. – Ethanol production
    1.85 billion bu. – Exports
    943 million bu. – Production of Starch, Corn Oil, Sweeteners (HFCS,etc.)
    327 million bu. – Human consumption – grits, corn flower, corn meal, beverage alcohol

    Just 2.7% of the corn harvest in the US is used for human food consumption – and a good share of that is for hooch.

    There is a big difference between being able to eat feed stock corn and actually doing so.

  137. And again the distillers grains and brewers grains are passed along to some final user, which displaces some corn land (DDGS is high energy) and lots of marginal soybean and wheat land.

  138. From 220mph on April 25, 2011 at 6:32 pm:

    Sorry, no – it shows you don’t understand the processes involved and have little desire to educate yourself. One of my comments directly addressed:

    “Most plans for cellulosic ethanol processing call for burning the lignin to generate steam and heat to run the process. As a fuel, lignin is worth around $40 a ton.”

    It was you who brought up the value of the lignin. You even brought up the possible value of the one version, $300/ton. This invoked the concept of selling the lignin. When presented with the relative worthlessness of the lignin as a commodity, your “defense” is of course that you were talking about burning it at the plant.

    Burning the lignin is already done in the kraft process of separating cellulose fibers out of the source wood for paper making purposes. Your charges are particularly spurious as I clearly have researched and have educated myself about lignin and its relationship in cellulosic ethanol production.

    See this 2010 article, from a site that is very involved in promoting biofuels:

    http://biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2010/06/28/using-synergies-to-save-cellulosic-ethanol-power-plant-co-location/

    Using Synergies to Save: Cellulosic Ethanol & Power Plant Co-Location

    Co-location of a cellulosic ethanol facility and a coal-fired power plant is one strategy that holds promise. Joining these industries in the same location can result in significant economic and environmental benefits for both, in the form of feedstock sharing, cost savings, and regulatory compliance.

    Further down comes this important info about lignin:

    Power plants moving towards ‘green electricity’ production will pay more to purchase biomass than coal, but an effective co-location setup can still result in profit for both the electricity and ethanol producers. Lignin is basically a by-product for the ethanol facility that must either be turned into landfill waste or burned into steam and electricity at a relatively high cost, but it has significant value for the power plant.

    There it is. The choices are paying to dispose of it or burning it on site, and it’s only marginally better to burn it, thus the low $40/ton price estimate as a fuel. Granted the article does try to make lignin as a fuel sound good:

    A power plant that is co-located with a cellulosic ethanol facility can benefit from co-firing lignin in its coal boilers to produce electricity. Lignin possesses high BTU levels and is a clean burning substrate. (…)

    From a biomass promoter comes this article about possibly using lignin for synthetic gas (syngas) production:

    http://www.biomassmagazine.com/articles/2928/cellulosic-ethanol-what-to-do-with-the-lignin/

    Cellulosic Ethanol: What to Do with the Lignin

    One challenge to the lignin gasification approach is that biomass gasifiers are still in the developmental stage when it comes to producing a very clean synthetic gas from lignin.

    Coal gasification experience is helping to meet the challenge, since lignin should perform similar to a low-rank, lignite coal in a gasification environment. When analyzed for their components, lignin and lignite show a similar composition.

    Lignite, aka brown coal, is considered the lowest rank of coal, known for low energy density, of such low value that it’s burned for electricity generation in plants located very close to the mines, it’s not worth transporting any significant distance.

    You presented lignin as being valuable and providing economic value in cellulosic ethanol production, lowering the production costs. I showed its relative worthlessness. Your response was pointing out using it at the plant for fuel, which I had considered. Here I have provided further evidence of its relative worthlessness, even at the ethanol plant, where the choices are to burn it at relatively high cost and reap what little value it has, or throw it away.

    Given the headaches and expense of utilizing such a low-value fuel, I can understand why, as you stated, only most plans for cellulosic ethanol plants call for burning it. With the economies of scale and increasing efficiency, it seems assured these plants will generate more lignin than they can burn. For a commercial-scale operation trying to run lean and uncomplicated, throwing away the lignin and using a simpler-to-utilize energy source is very attractive.

    But there may be some hope, since, as I linked to, work on converting lignin to syngas is progressing. As I mentioned in a different comment, converting syngas to ethanol is advancing nicely. Bringing the technologies together will allow converting the lignin to ethanol, with co-generation of steam and possibly electricity. If the investment costs are low enough with a reasonable return on investment, perhaps the cellulosic ethanol plants will find that an attractive alternative, between burning it as efficiently as possible and just throwing it away.

  139. From 220mph on April 25, 2011 at 7:11 pm:

    They go on to show the actual numbers that show the inaccuracy of your claims:

    The breakdown of usage of the 12.1 billion bushel 2008 U.S. maize crop was as follows, according to the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates Report by the USDA.

    5.25 billion bu. – Livestock feed
    3.65 billion bu. – Ethanol production
    1.85 billion bu. – Exports
    943 million bu. – Production of Starch, Corn Oil, Sweeteners (HFCS,etc.)
    327 million bu. – Human consumption – grits, corn flower, corn meal, beverage alcohol

    Just 2.7% of the corn harvest in the US is used for human food consumption – and a good share of that is for hooch.

    That just shows you presenting an inability to examine the numbers properly. How much of the exports are used for human consumption? How much of the “Starch, Corn Oil, Sweeteners (HFCS,etc.)” are consumed by humans? By focusing on that specifically labeled as “human consumption” you have missed the larger view of how much of the harvest is actually used for human consumption.

    First they point out the fallacy of your claims – that corn used for ethanol is used for “food” ….

    The claim was that field corn is used for both animal and human consumption. This is verified even by your suspect “2.7%” figure. From the Wikipedia field corn entry:

    More than 98% of corn-growing land in the U.S. is in use for field-corn production.

    With less than 2% of the corn-growing land used for non-field corn, it’s clear that field corn is consumed by humans. The use of field corn for human consumption is explicitly mentioned in the Wikipedia entry.

    Kadaka – I identified it exactly as I intended – the corn used for ethanol production is “feed” corn – meaning corn gown for the primary purpose of feeding to livestock and not “food” corn – (ie: sweet corn) grown as a food source.

    If you are arguing that differentiation based on type of corn grown, then the conclusion has been shown to be false. If you are arguing that the corn diverted for ethanol production is diverted from corn grown for livestock, then the basic economics show that to be false. Farmers are quite aware of the expected value of their crops and plan accordingly. They would not flood the market with that much corn while expecting it to primarily be used for livestock. They would plant according to demand, which would include demand for ethanol production. Resources that could have been used for raising crops intended for human consumption are instead being used for growing corn for ethanol fuel.

  140. I am still puzzled by the economics involved in biofuel production. In the USA corn growers receive $7 billion in direct subsidies. And foreign ethanol imports face a massive 12.75 c per liter tariff. In addition, there are export subsidies and indirect subsidies to both farming and biofuel industries.
    What effect does this have on biofuel economics? All the costing I have seen so far have not taken these subsidies into account.
    I would point out that Western (Northern) agricultural subsidies cost the underdeveloped world about $50 billion in lost sales – equal to the annual development aid from the West!
    Can we ever establish a viable and sustainable biofuels industry while such massive subsidies to rich farmers distort the market and damage the 3rd world??

  141. From Orchestia on April 26, 2011 at 3:31 pm:

    Can we ever establish a viable and sustainable biofuels industry while such massive subsidies to rich farmers distort the market and damage the 3rd world??

    “Rich farmers” is quite a mis-characterization when talking about traditional family-owned farms. Here in central Pennsylvania, I’ve known several farmers who’ve had separate full-time jobs so they could afford to be farmers. With growing housing development and the demand for land causing property values to rise, as well as increased governmental demands for revenue, property taxes have dramatically increased. Some farmers have been selling housing plots on the edges of their farms to make ends meet. Basically if you haven’t inherited the farm then you have no chance of owning your own family farm, and even then due to the high property values you may get hit by the steep “estate taxes that only hit the rich.”

    It is the large corporate farms, that can command large volume discounts on supplies, get very favorable loan interest rates, and have accountants and lawyers making sure they get every tax break and subsidy possible, that are actually making the big profits.

    This is the basis of the distortion you have noticed. The policies are to protect the small farmer and keep them out of bankruptcy, with the “take home” income so small that they need any extra money they can get to survive. But the same policies also benefit the large corporate farms. If politicians provide subsidies or tax breaks, the farm lobby (primarily the large corporate farms and their business associates) praises the politicians for helping the small farmer. Likewise if tax breaks or subsidies are cut, the farm lobby condemns the politicians for trying to destroy the small farmers.

    Yep, it’s politics, not economics.

    As to “a viable and sustainable biofuels industry” as stated, the politicians feel they already have established such, in the US, by fiat. The use of ethanol in gasoline has been mandated, in increasing amounts. Likewise biodiesel mandates are expected, if not already specified, and there are already “low sulfur diesel” mandates that seem tailor-made for fulfillment by biodiesel.

    The politicians made the demand in the US. The politicians provided the financial incentives to develop biofuels, which includes the politically-permanent subsides to grow feedstocks for biofuels. With everything added together, the politicians have already created a viable and sustainable biofuels industry that will only get stronger. Or at least they have in that special alternate reality that only politicians can perceive that they believe they actually live in.

    Therefore don’t expect any changes coming from the US, and especially nothing that benefits “the third world,” now that the politicians believe they (finally!) have a working successful US biofuels industry.

  142. Thanks for the considered reply Kadaka but I still don’t think any industry is sustainable if subsidized. The US now has robust competition so old solutions may not suffice. The world is changing fast. There are both moral and commercial reasons as to why subsidies are daft. Small farming does much better when subsidies are removed as New Zealand has proved. Land here is treated as an earning asset, so prices are held in check by the market and young farmers can get their own farms. To give you an idea of prices I am looking at an 800 ha mixed property on which we may be trialling the growing of biofuels (though I am not a young farmer). It has pine plantation blocks, sheep and beef on highly productive and well-farmed land – all good earners experiencing strong price gains. The property costs $3.75 m. It is fully stocked, has two excellent houses and farm assets in very good condition. It is also a very pretty property. How does that compare?
    I don’t know how we can get politicians to be more rational and wise – that’s a problem we all have.
    Our government had broken all the rules and has offered a subsidy for biodiesel. But the take up has been minimal since the industry isn’t judged to be economic even with the subsidy. That’s why I am keen on detailed cost analysis – if we can find how to reduce growing or production costs we might be able to develop a desperately needed biofuels industry.
    Kind regards

  143. kadaka …

    Seems you left out this part of my post:

    “Within the United States, the usage of maize for human consumption constitutes about 1/40th of the amount of grown in the country. In the United States and Canada maize is mostly grown to feed for livestock, as forage, silage (made by fermentation of chopped green cornstalks), or grain. Maize meal is also a significant ingredient of some commercial animal food products, such as dog food.”

    1/40th equals 2.5% – corroborated by the 2.7% number when looking at the actual corn used for food purposes …

    And the TOTAL exports are 15% of all corn grown – feel free to present factual data that a major portion of corn exports are used for food and not animal feed and other uses. Regardless – even if it was half the exports you’d still be talking about just 7.5% of corn crop used for food – added to US food portion of total corn crop and you have 10% of US corn crop used for food

    Your comments on lignin and burning it to provide energy at ethanol plants proves and agrees with my point – that there is a real value for this byproduct – not worth further discussion with you

  144. From 220mph on April 26, 2011 at 7:53 pm:

    1/40th equals 2.5% – corroborated by the 2.7% number when looking at the actual corn used for food purposes …

    Here’s a hint for using Wikipedia: Look for the reference marks. That paragraph has no bracketed references. The “1/40th” sentence lacks linked words as well, and it is normal to expect such links can be followed to the presented info. Thus “1/40th” has nothing showing that it’s not the same mistake you made.

    It’s amazing how you keep moving the goal posts, yet are still wrong. Note your current waffling on the “definitive evidence” you provided earlier:

    Regardless – even if it was half the exports you’d still be talking about just 7.5% of corn crop used for food – added to US food portion of total corn crop and you have 10% of US corn crop used for food

    See this from the USDA:

    Field corn is the predominant corn type grown in the U.S., and it is primarily used for animal feed. Currently, less than 10 percent of the U.S. field corn crop is used for direct domestic human consumption in corn-based foods such as corn meal, corn starch, and corn flakes, while the remainder is used for animal feed, exports, ethanol production, seed, and industrial uses. Sweet corn, both white and yellow, is usually consumed as immature whole-kernel corn by humans and also as an ingredient in other corn-based foods, but makes up only about 1 percent of total U.S. corn production.

    So you can get that 10% without even considering exports.

    Way back here you stated:

    Last – your comment on “stock food” I assume means animal feed … corn ethanol is produced from FEED corn – corn grown for purpose of feeding livestock – NOT corn grown as food.

    This is wrong if considering type of corn grown, field corn is consumed by man and beast. Also, from the National Corn Growers Association on their Publications page you can find the “2010 World of Corn Metric Edition” report. From pg 8, “U.S. Corn Usage by Segment, 2009″ comes that 42.5% of usage is “Feed & Residuals” while 32.1% is “Fuel Ethanol.” That would be a lot of corn to drop on the market if all that corn was “…corn grown for purpose of feeding livestock – NOT corn grown as food.” Clearly ethanol is being made from corn grown for the purpose of making ethanol, not for the purpose of feeding livestock.

    Your comments on lignin and burning it to provide energy at ethanol plants proves and agrees with my point – that there is a real value for this byproduct – not worth further discussion with you

    That’s for the best, since you’re basically down to arguing about absolute value, of which even a jar of air or dirt would have some. Heck, by your standard for “real value” I should investigate uses of the byproduct of the cats that I scoop out of the litter box. ;-)

  145. kadaka

    The Wiki info I posted included the actual 2008 corn numbers – along with their source … which as I clearly noted directly SUPPORT the 1/40th statement

    1/40th is 2.5% – actual human consumption use is 2.7%

    They go on to show the actual numbers that show the inaccuracy of your claims:

    The breakdown of usage of the 12.1 billion bushel 2008 U.S. maize crop was as follows, according to the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates Report by the USDA.

    5.25 billion bu. – Livestock feed
    3.65 billion bu. – Ethanol production
    1.85 billion bu. – Exports
    943 million bu. – Production of Starch, Corn Oil, Sweeteners (HFCS,etc.)
    327 million bu. – Human consumption – grits, corn flower, corn meal, beverage alcohol

    Just 2.7% of the corn harvest in the US is used for human food consumption – and a good share of that is for hooch.

    Again – ACTUAL USDA numbers – not a blanket statement as in your quote

    And as far as your continued twisting of this comment of mine:

    “…corn grown for purpose of feeding livestock – NOT corn grown as food.”

    Sorry – but you simply don’t get it – if you read that comment in context of the discussion it was clearly meant to refer to the type of corn grown – feed type corn – and not food type corn. Ethanol production uses the same corn type almost exclusively used for FEED not FOOD (ie: sweet) type corn

  146. From 220mph on April 27, 2011 at 12:48 pm:

    Again – ACTUAL USDA numbers – not a blanket statement as in your quote

    I see you haven’t checked the Wikipedia reference yet:

    40. “2009 US Corn Stats”. Iowa Corn. Retrieved December 2, 2010. c

    It’s not there. Wasn’t there when I checked days ago either. So I went to find a “World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates Report by the USDA.” The current one is found here, with a link to historical ones:

    http://www.usda.gov/oce/commodity/wasde/

    April 8, 2011 is the date of the current one. The 2008/09 info is there. See pdf pg 12. The WASDE report does not have a breakdown as shown in the Wikipedia numbers. These agricultural reports use the catch-all “food, seed, and industrial (FSI)” which does not break down what is human-consumption sufficiently.

    So I followed note 2 to find a breakdown at “Feed Outlook table 5″ as recommended. Feed Outlooks are found here:

    http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/MannUsda/viewDocumentInfo.do?documentID=1273

    The current one is April 12, 2011 and has the 2008/09 info.

    Table 5 is on pdf pg 17, it is the FSI breakdown. Adding together “Alcohol for beverages and manufacturing” (134.00 million bushels) with “Cereals and other products” (192.10 million bushels) yields 326.10 million bushels. That matches the “327 million bu. – Human consumption” Wikipedia number, consistent with the slight discrepancies I noted between those Wikipedia numbers and the actual WASDE report figures.

    So both your “2.7%” and Wikipedia’s “1/40th” numbers must be wrong. For 2008/09, 489.06 million bushels were used for High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), which is used in food. 245.12 million bushels were used for Glucose and Dextrose, which are used in food. There is also 234.09 million bushels used for Starch, which has a plethora of uses which includes food uses. No amount from those figures is used in your and Wikipedia’s numbers, which is clearly in error.

    Thus now as when you first stated it, you’re wrong.

    I’ll stick with that “blanket statement,” that was provided by the USDA.

    Sorry – but you simply don’t get it – if you read that comment in context of the discussion it was clearly meant to refer to the type of corn grown – feed type corn – and not food type corn. Ethanol production uses the same corn type almost exclusively used for FEED not FOOD (ie: sweet) type corn

    “Almost exclusively” has been shown to be quite a stretch. You have yet to provide a clarification of what this mysterious “feed corn” is exactly. Field corn is used for humans as well. As I previously linked to, the USDA says only about 1% of the corn crop is sweet corn.

    Feel free to delve into your vast pool of knowledge of American agriculture, and specifically identify the particular type or types of corn that are “almost exclusively” used for animal feed and ethanol but not for humans. Please also provide the additional data showing how this subset is quantitatively identified as separate from the rest of the field corn crop which goes toward human consumption.

  147. Kadaka:

    From your own link about “field corn” :

    Field corn is not generally regarded, in industrialized societies, as desirable for human food without commercial pre-processing. An exception is “roasting ears”, similar in appearance to corn on the cob, although it is necessarily roasted (rather than boiled or steamed as is usual with sweet corn), and is neither tender nor sweet even after the roasting.”

    I used the data in the Wiki article – which made perfect sense to anyone with knowledge of corn production and use numbers and was linked to a source

    The numbers presented were accurate …

    And about 30 seconds of search AT the link you claimed was no good found very similar numbers in same format for later years … I’m sure if you really care they would provide a copy of the 2008 data

    Not going to continue this silly argument – it is a fact that the corn used for ethanol production is the same type corn used for animal feed … it is a corn product that is “not … generally desirable for human food” and is neither “tender or sweet” if used for same

    Yes SOME SMALL AMOUNT of that corn DOES make it into the food chain but only after, as Wiki notes, being highly processed

    A look at USDA crop production reports further proves the point that the corn used for ethanol production is NOT causing land to be shifted to corn production from other food crops as so many claim … corn acreage was actually DOWN slightly last year

    The crop you should be worried about is COTTON – which IS having an effect on acres planted for food crops

  148. From 220mph on April 28, 2011 at 1:52 pm :

    From your own link about “field corn” :

    “Field corn is not generally regarded, in industrialized societies, as desirable for human food without commercial pre-processing. (…)

    Likewise wheat, oats, even rice is commercially pre-processed. Field corn, like them, is a grain, not a vegetable. Field corn is eaten by humans, like those other grains. You might as well stop this “silly” argument if you have such trouble accepting such basics about grains, especially field corn.

    A look at USDA crop production reports further proves the point that the corn used for ethanol production is NOT causing land to be shifted to corn production from other food crops as so many claim … corn acreage was actually DOWN slightly last year

    From the current (April 12, 2011) Feed Outlook from the USDA, pdf pg 7:

    U.S. farmers plan to plant 92.2 million acres of corn this year, an increase of 4 million acres from last year. In February, USDA released the USDA Agricultural Projections to 2020 and forecast 2011 planted acreage at 92 million. Corn acreage increased the most in the Northern Plains region, comprised of Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Corn acreage increased by 1.9 million acres in the Northern Plains, compared with a 1.1-million increase in the Corn Belt States (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, and Ohio). The big year-to-year increase for the Northern Plains as compared with the Corn Belt has implications for the national average yield as yields in the Northern Plains are about 15 percent less than yields in the Corn Belt.

    Almost all corn-producing States show an increase in expected corn acreage, with the exception of a 150,000-acre decline in Texas. Texas farmers indicate cotton will provide a much better return, increasing plantings by 548,000 acres.

    Another 4 million acres going to corn this year. What crops are they not planting to grow corn instead?

  149. Kadaka said: Another 4 million acres going to corn this year. What crops are they not planting to grow corn instead?

    You could first read your own post for a partial clue:

    kadaka: Texas farmers indicate cotton will provide a much better return, increasing plantings by 548,000 acres.

    … which directly supports my exact same claim made above.

    Or you could read the rest of the crop report which will tell you the same info for other crops.

  150. Actually I take that back – you do NOT quote the Crop Production reports from the USDA – which I have specifically noted a number of times.

    A news re-cap of the 2011 USDA Crop Production Report issued a month or so ago shows the answer you seek:

    Thursday’s report is broken down by crop, with expectations based on “acres planted.”

    Below are some highlights from the USDA survey:

    Corn – About 92.178 million acres of corn will be planted this year, up about 4.5 percent from the 88.192 million acres planted during 2010 and higher than the 91.751 million crop analysts had been looking for.

    Cotton – About 12.565 million acres will be planted, up 14 percent from 10.973 million acres last year. Analysts had been looking for a 20 percent rise to 13.136 million acres.

    Soybean – About 76.609 million acres are expected to be planted, down about 1 percent from last year and nearly in line with the analyst estimate of 76.9 million acres.

    Wheat – About 58.021 million acres to be planted, up 8.2 percent from 2010 levels and higher than the 57.239 million analysts had been looking for.

    Rice – About 3.018 million acres will be planted, down 17 percent from last year.

    Further in the report we can find 2010 acreage planted and harvested. Which provides more illumination:

    re: CORN:
    One needs to go back and look at the past several years – interesting what we find.

    Contrary to the claim corn acreage has increased taking away acreage from other food crops, we find from 2010 planted to projected 2011, corn acreage did increase appx 4 million acres – sounds like a terrible number – except its only a 4.5% increase in corn acreage.

    And then there is that little issue that 2011 projected corn acres it is STILL LESS than the acreage planted in 2007.

    Not to mention that a detailed review shows corn, sorghum, barley, wheat, canola, and cotton acreage planted are all up – a total of 10.5 million acres … corn acreage up 4.5%, wheat acreage up 8.24%, canola acreage up 11.26%, Cotton up 14.51%

    While oats, rice, peanuts, sunflower, and soybeans acreage planted is down – although minimally in most cases – a total of 3.2 million less acreage planted over all of these decliners.

    The reality is across all those items total planted acreage is UP appx 7 million acres over 2010 but is still almost 4 million acres less than total acreage planted in these items in 2007.

    SIMPLE FACT …. CORN is NOT taking acreage away from other food crops – other food crops are increasing acres planted as well.

    2011 Projected production – 13.7 billion bushels
    2010 actual production – 12.4
    2009 actual production – 13.1 record high production
    2008 actual production – 12.1
    2007 actual production – 13.0

    2011 Projected Plantings – 92.178 million acres
    2010 planted – 88.192
    2009 planted – 86.382
    2008 planted – 85.982
    2007 Planted – 93.5

    2011 est yield – 162.0 bushels per acre
    2010 – 152.8
    2009 – 164.7
    2008 – 153.9

    http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/ProsPlan/ProsPlan-03-31-2011.pdf

    http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/CropProdSu/CropProdSu-01-12-2011_new_format.pdf

    Here is the source for USDA crop reports. The annual reports are more info than you ever want to know – and kadaka the facts in them don’t lie.

    http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/MannUsda/viewDocumentInfo.do?documentID=1047

  151. From 220mph on April 29, 2011 at 4:39 am:

    A news re-cap of the 2011 USDA Crop Production Report issued a month or so ago shows the answer you seek:

    Would it have killed you to actually provide the dang link?

    The numbers match with one link you did provide, the Prospective Plantings report:

    http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/ProsPlan/ProsPlan-03-31-2011.pdf

    The wording is similar. Then there’s the 2010 Crop Production Summary:

    http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/CropProdSu/CropProdSu-01-12-2011_new_format.pdf

    The “highlight” info is not available like that in the CPS, therefore I’m concluding your “news re-cap” actually concerns the Prospective Plantings report.

    For something you have apparently missed, see the April 12, 2011 WASDE report. From pdf pg 12, Feed grain and corn, comes Note 1: “Marketing year beginning September 1 for corn and sorghum; June 1 for barley and oats.” Likewise on pdf pg 17, cotton, comes that Note 1: “Upland and extra-long staple; marketing year beginning August 1.” Likewise for other crops. Marketing years are used, so you have to know exactly what’s referred to when using a single year for the descriptor.

    Matching up the WASDE corn figures to those “news re-cap” numbers, the “2010″ referred to is the WASDE 2010/11 marketing year, which began on September 1, 2010. Thus the re-cap, and the PP report, are currently referring to crops not even fully planted yet. The 2011 figures from the highlights refer to 2011/12. Except for things like winter wheat that will be planted late in the calendar year, the 2011 figures are of crops that won’t be planted until next year.

    Weather happens, the national economy can change, legislation happens, fuel prices can go dramatically higher or lower… Those “2011″ figures you’re tossing around should be considered speculative. The 2010/11 WASDE numbers are more firm as they are basically committed to for this year, although recent flooding and otherwise wet conditions are delaying planting in some areas so other crops may be substituted, and some planting may be canceled altogether.

    Did you know that cotton is a heavily subsidized US crop, and the US recently lost a WTO fight with Brazil over it? (Reference.) It currently looks good for those Texas farmers to add another 1/2 million acres, but it might not be that good later on.

    And then there is that little issue that 2011 projected corn acres it is STILL LESS than the acreage planted in 2007.

    Did you bother to wonder why corn acreage was so high in 2007?

    See the graph on pdf pg 7 of the PP report. For 2007, corn peaked about as much as soybeans nosedived. See this July 13, 2007 USDA Oil Crops Outlook report:

    http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/ers/OCS//2000s/2007/OCS-07-13-2007.pdf

    South America had abundant stocks of soybeans, as was likely predicted earlier. There were expectations of record-high US stocks as well. “An advantageous price ratio for corn encouraged producers throughout the Midwest to favor sowing that crop over soybeans.”

    So for that one year, conditions looked good for planting corn instead of soybeans. As seen on the graph, by 2008 the blips were gone.

    You’ve been arguing there’s been a decrease in corn acreage based on a one-time record-high blip. As seen on the graph, the overall trend towards more land used for corn continues.

    SIMPLE FACT …. CORN is NOT taking acreage away from other food crops – other food crops are increasing acres planted as well.

    Of course, when talking about “corn” what’s really meant is biofuels, as in corn used for ethanol.

    That breakdown is not in the CPS. I can’t find it in the PP report either. The WASDE report does have an “Ethanol & by-products” listing. 2008/09, 3,709 million bushels. 2009/10, 4,568 million bushels. 2010/11 projection (April), 5000 million bushels.

    From 2008/09 to 2009/10, 859 million bushels more. By the 2009/10 yield per harvested acre of 164.7 bushels, that’s a 5.2 million acre increase for “ethanol & by-products,” note that’s “harvested” not “planted.” 2009/10 to 2010/11, 432 million more bushels, 152.8 bushels per harvested acre, another 2.8 million acres. For a starting figure, in 2008/09 there was 24.1 million harvested acres used for “ethanol & by-products.”

    So from 2008/09 to 2010/11, an increase of 8 million harvested acres for “ethanol & by-products.” Too bad neither the “re-cap” nor the PP report have that breakdown to work out that acreage from the speculative 2011/12 figures. So instead, I’ll punt.

    “Ethanol & by-products” divided by “Use, total” yields 37% for 2010/11, 35% for 2009/2010, and under 31% for 2008/09. The percentage going towards “ethanol & by-products” is increasing, not just the amount.

    By the speculative “2011″ figure of 4 million more acres going towards corn, using the 2010/11 percentage (no increase) yields a guesstimate of another 1.5 million acres going towards “ethanol & by-products.” So for those three periods, the total rough figure is an additional 9.5 million acres for “ethanol & by-products.” That’s from the 2008/09 starting figure of 24.1 million acres (harvested).

    All that additional acreage for “ethanol & by-products,” and you’re trying to argue IT IS NOT taking acreage away from food crops?

    Also, currently we have the ubiquitous E10 gasoline, “up to” 10% ethanol. Looking around, I see a push for an E15 standard. And there’s still the increased use of E85 with more “flex fuel” vehicles. There are already government mandates in place for increasing ethanol use, with more mandates for even more use expected.

    Even if, as you are prone to argue, the ethanol demand has yet to cause the diverting of resources that could have gone to food production, it will. Count on it.

  152. For all that blather – you failed to provide a single shred of fact to support your claim.

    On the other hand the link I provided for the US Crops reports DOES include that info, and had you read my post you would have seen that TOTAL acreage planted – of all crops – increased by over 7 million acres from last year, but is still lower that total acreage planted for all crops in 2007

    Corn acreage planted is AS I CLEARLY NOTED “projected” to increase just under 4 million acres – appx 4.5% – this year over last. This increase is more than absorbed in the total new acreage planted all crops.

    Many food crops are up – including wheat which is up 8.24% …

    Corn, wheat and soybeans are the 3 largest (by a long margin) food crops by acres planted (hay is the 4th large crop) … corn and wheat acreage are up substantially – between the two 8.4 million acres. Soybeans are down, but only very slighty -1% – down appx 700,000 acres

    ALL of the crops other than corn, wheat, soybeans and hay total appx 34 million acres – vs 320 million total acres planted

    There is zero proof in any way that increased corn plantings have in any way caused any reduction of other crops – the data shows even the corn and even larger wheat crop planting increases have not materially affected other crops negatively

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