NYT blames food crisis on "climate change," hides plea to reduce government mandated burning of food for fuel

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Even the UN is not biased enough towards climate alarmism for the New York Times, which yesterday bowdlerized a joint statement on the present food crisis from three UN food organizations.

The UN statement is divided into short term and long term concerns. Included in the latter is “climate change,” which the Times dutifully quotes, and it quotes the UN’s long term solutions:

Low-income countries that rely on agricultural imports should invest in safety-net programs for the poor, they recommended. They also urged countries to bolster local production.

But the reason for the urgent joint statement is the short term concern—the immediate food crisis—in response to which the food organizations urge a very specific and immediate policy change that goes completely unmentioned in the Times report, despite it’s being endorsed by a whole further alphabet soup of food and policy organizations. Here is their joint appeal:

Lastly, we also need to review and adjust where applicable policies [are] currently in place that encourage alternative uses of grains. For example, adjusting biofuel mandates when global markets come under pressure and food supplies are endangered has been recommended by a group of international organizations including FAO, IFAD, the International Monetary Fund, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the UN Conference on Trade and Development, WFP, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization. That recommendation, made to the 2011 G20 summit in Paris, still stands today.

When crop failures threaten famine, STOP REQUIRING EVERYONE TO BURN FOOD AS AUTOMOBILE FUEL, at least temporarily. Okay, so they used more subtle language and they put this appeal at the end of their short statement, not the beginning, but this is the primary recommendation from all of these groups and publicizing it is the primary purpose of the UN’s joint statement. It is the only part of their statement that responds to the immediate crisis that the joint statement was issued to address, but the implied criticism of current green mandates—that they make no allowance for simple humanity—is apparently too heretical for anti-journalist Annie Lowrey and her anti-editors at the Times.

It’s not like people don’t know that government is mandating and subsidizing the burning of a huge amount of food as fuel, something that is regularly urged and lauded in the Times itself. Even the retro-grade Scientific American took note last year that more of the U.S. corn crop now goes to ethanol production than to any other use, and even an NYT reader can figure out that if you burn it you can’t eat it.

Still, to the green religionist, any mention of a possible downside to “green” biofuels is off-message. The job of the “green” journalist is to suppress all such contra-indications, even when the world’s food organizations are crying out en masse for the merest accommodation of poor people’s needs, so when the greenie gets a chance to report on that outcry, she hides it. Yes, this is journalistic malpractice, but green must be protected from any possible aspersion/correction as it drives full speed into a pole. These people are flat insane.

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GlynnMhor

Oh lordy… just stop subsidizing biofuels, and let the people themselves (ie-market forces) decide to what extent the people want to burn it, eat it, or feed it to cows and then eat them.

Harold Ambler

The Times is less moral than it imagines itself to be. Food for fuel is a sin just about all of the time, certainly now.

William McClenney

I couldn’t agree more.

Shmicko

This is the sort of moral myopia that occurs when you substitute an ideology for the concerns and thoughts of real people. Apparently the left-liberal intelligenstsia are as infatuated with power and control as they ever were in times past- their anti-democratic record speaks for itself- recently they have merely transfered old methods to the new great green cause

OMG … don’t these ppl understand ANYTHING!!??
Economics (subsidies for ethanol artificially changing the price), energy (as in energy balance, efficiency and our sources thereof), agri-business (farm subsidies et al), politics (the MANDATING of the use ‘oxygenates’ like ethanol w/o consideration of the effects and esp. in light of our present economic situation) … is the ‘Newspaper of record’ that totally clueless?
Or, have they ‘drank the koolaid’ and the emperor is truly fully clothed in their view?
(The comments, questions above are all rhetorical, mandating the new use of the following tag:)
/RHETORICAL (i.e. and IOW: “RHETORICAL COMMENT NOW ‘BOOLEAN-ED’ OFF”)
.

MattN

I just got back from the grocery store, and I’m having trouble seeing any evidence of a “food crisis”. Fact is, we throw enough food away from spoilage to feed a small country…

Chad

You may have seen another New York Times article, “The Baffling Nexus of Climate Change and Health” by Dylan Walsh. A rare fungus in 2004 along the Pacific Northwest and West Nile virus outbreak this year are of course, a result of climate change. Experts stated in a different article on the 2004 fungus that it may have been carried by imported trees and plants. Of course the New York Times did not mention this. Are these articles sole purpose to angry up the blood?

even an NYT reader can figure out that if you burn it you can’t eat it.
Actually you can, or at least animals can as this Reuters report explains.
http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/09/05/us-usa-ethanol-farmbankers-idINBRE88413O20120905
It also highlights the significant risks to the banking system that biofuels have caused.

DocMartyn

I really wish I didn’t have to say “I told you so’, but I did.
Next year is going to be very hard on the worlds poor. There are going to be revolutions all over the place.

Rick Bradford

Perhaps there would be more food to go round if there were just one UN food agency rather than three….

bubbagyro

If someone would pay me $50 to burn my hamburger, I would do it and buy lobster instead. That is the current status of subsidizing biofuels. It doesn’t even touch the issue of water wastage for the fermentation processes. We are not just burning coal, but also flushing our drinking water down the drain. Of course, if someone paid me enough to flush drinking water down the drain…

bubbagyro

I meant “burning corn”. We should be burning coal, of course.

otsar

The brewing of ethanol for fuel does not consume all of the corn feedstock. The leftovers DDGS are used in animal feed. It contains the the leftovers form the yeast that is high in vitamins, it contains kernel oils, etc. The starches and sugars are what is converted into ethanol. DDGS is used in dairy, and poultry feed and has partially replaced soy where it is available at a lower price.
The corn that is used for ethanol and feed is not the type of corn that you can buy at he supermarket for human consumption.

Paul Penrose

MattN you ignorant smuck,
Of course there is not a food shortage in the US (or other “1st world” nations). What you don’t seem to realize is that we have been supplying many of the poorer nations with food from our surpluses. Now we are burning much of that surplus, causing shortages (and higher prices) in those nations that are dependent on us. Open your eyes and your heart man!

Maus

“… the New York Times, which yesterday bowdlerized a joint statement …”
Sorry, I don’t see it. Of necessity journalists summarize; if they did not we’d have no need of them and would simply print press releases in toto. There’s an economic argument to be had about central planning, price fixing, subsidy, and such with regard to which resources acquire which prices in which economies and what effects that has on the use of those resources. Within that, and without regard to climate change, there’s little unexpected in that the UN solution is not less central planning but less ignorant central planning. For which the UN statements presented both by the Times and yourself demonstrate that even the UN can trip over the self obvious from time to time. Even when the only choices are ‘more ignorance’ and ‘less ignorance’ within some scope.
In a broader sense, the only polities that can waste time navel gazing about what plant food might do to the rain are precisely those that have no pressing socioeconomic issues about acquiring and distributing people food. So it’s hardly shocking that the Fireball Earth set would attempt to sign-off on the recommendations of the Feed The Poor set within the UN.

Jim Clarke

Wasn’t Stalin guilty of the same thing: holding on to a terrible idea that caused people to starve to death, as opposed to acknowledging his mistake?
If the Green Movement does not want to be viewed as mass murderers by history, they really need to stop acting like unintelligent communist dictators.

Lew Skannen

Imagine a situation where a farmer planted a field of maize. He had to run the 140hp diesel tractor over the ground a couple of times to prepare it. Then he had to plant the seed and the energy intensive fertiliser. He had to run over the ground a couple more times with a sprayer and a bit of nitrogen fertiliser. Eventually a nice tall crop of maize is standing. Nice fat juicy cobs of corn.
Then the whole lot is gathered up and trucked off to a huge coal fired power plant. The entire crop is then burnt along with a few hundred thousand tons of coal that day.
Would anyone be outraged if this was contrasted with the usual pictures of starving Africans?
What I have described is actually MORE efficient than what is happening. In reality a lot more energy goes into processing the crop into alcohol and the energy in the alcohol is a lot less than would have been realised from burning the whole crop.
So bad as the above scenariou appears, reality is even worse. Yet somehow the picture of nice clean ethanol being poured into a ‘low-emission’ bio-fuel vehicle is the pinnacle of green goodness.

I have been publicly commenting on the folly of corn ethanol for over a decade.
Here is a recent sample:
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/08/05/weekly-climate-and-energy-news-roundup-57/#comment-1054427
Time to End the Fuel Ethanol Mandate
Re: the Forbes article:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrybell/2012/07/31/the-ethanol-mandate-drought-only-compounds-inherent-catastrophic-consequences/
With corn prices increasing to over $8 per bushel, it is surely time to end the ridiculous fuel ethanol mandate in the USA (and Canada). Almost 40% of the huge US corn crop is used for corn ethanol.
This food-to-fuel folly has driven up the cost of food worldwide, causing great suffering to the world’s poor – now poor AND HUNGRY.
This ethanol policy was energy-nonsense from the beginning – but now it is causing increased world hunger.
Oh, sorry – I forgot that these hungry people are all poor, so they don’t matter, apparently.
Apologies, Allan
Allan MacRae, P.Eng.
Calgary
________
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/04/24/epas-e-15-ethanol-plan-rammed-though-wont-work-in-many-cars/#comment-967790
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/03/29/canada-yanks-some-climate-change-programs-from-budget/#comment-939257
Excerpt:
In North America, our greatest folly has been corn ethanol. Now, almost 40% of the huge US crop is used for corn ethanol – about 130 million tonnes per year of corn goes into our gas tanks, forced into gasoline by government mandates. This folly has driven up the cost of food worldwide, at great cost to the world’s poor.
Grid-connected wind power, solar power and corn ethanol all require huge life-of-project subsidies to survive, and would go bankrupt the minute these subsidies cease. Many of the subsidies are in the form of mandates – forcing power companies and gasoline suppliers to include these costly and counterproductive enviro-schemes in their products, at great expense to consumers.
The radical environmentalists have been remarkably effective at forcing really foolish, costly and counterproductive schemes upon Western society. The backlash, when it comes, won’t be pretty.
When you hear the term “green energy”, it’s not about greening the environment – it’s all about the money.

Ian H

The more extreme greens are not at all shy about stating their belief that that the world would be much better with a smaller population. Perhaps they see starvation as a feature and not a bug in their program.

otsar says September 6, 2012 at 7:02 pm
The brewing of ethanol for fuel does not consume all of the corn feedstock. The leftovers DDGS are used in animal feed. It contains …

And the GROWING of that ‘ethanol for fuel’ doesn’t utilize any prime growing land or water and doesn’t require any resources to plant, cultivate, fertilize or harvest and ‘silo’ til needed either … nor ‘incentives’ from the government to ‘enable’ that ‘science and economics’ project …
</SARC> (IOW: ‘SARCASM’ TAG BOOLEAN-ED OFF)
.

Hmmm
</SARC>

eyesonu

Allan MacRae says:
September 6, 2012 at 7:37 pm
=============
You sum it up nicely.

Brian H

Well spoke. From stupid assumptions, stupid actions grow. Which must be stupidly rationalized.
Eventually, Reality Stomps.

The language of the press release demonstrates the trepidation with which the subject is raised in green bureaucratic circles. You can see how your average journalist would have difficulty analysing the point, and writing about it. But then, if they did understand it, they would ignore such heresy. /sarc
Wherever there is a mandate (i.e. force) there is distortion. That distortion was no doubt recognised, anticipated and debated in regards the ethanol policy, to nil effect.
Consider the probable distortion in mandatory policies as you vote.

eyesonu

Philip Bradley says:
September 6, 2012 at 6:44 pm
Partial quote:
http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/09/05/us-usa-ethanol-farmbankers-idINBRE88413O20120905
It also highlights the significant risks to the banking system that biofuels have caused.
==============================
Thank you for the link.
That Reuters article by Christine Stebbins has more holes and BS in it than could be addressed in a blog comment. It would be fun to have it post as a leading article on WUWT.
On thing I would agree with not explicitly stated (Reuters) is that the farm bankers see a farm bubble and want to ride it. That bubble will be the next banking crises when it ultimately bursts and will be indirectly the result of government ethanol mandates. Then we can hear the “too big to fail” argument again.
ELIMINATE the ethanol mandate now! Forget about suspending it.

otsar

_Jim says:
September 6, 2012 at 7:57 pm
You are absolutely correct!
It is beyond stupid and immoral to be using prime agricultural land to grow motor fuels. I just wanted to point out that the corn is not entirely consumed and that the corn that is grown is feed corn.
These are the distortions that happen with politicised centrally planned economies.

Schitzree

Around ten years ago many farmers here in Indiana converted their wood burners (wood burning stoves and furnaces) into CORN Burners. They did this because at the time the price of corn was so low it was cheaper to burn it for heating then gas or wood (and on the farm the price of wood is enough gas to run the chainsaw and logsplitter, and your own sweat equity) the reason the price of corn got so low was becaus

eyesonu

Actually in my post above (8:20 pm) I should have reflected on the quotes referenced in the article (Rutgers) more so than the article itself.

Schitzree

Around ten years ago many farmers here in Indiana converted their wood burners (wood burning stoves and furnaces) into CORN Burners. They did this because at the time the price of corn was so low it was cheaper to burn it for heating then gas or wood (and on the farm the price of wood is enough gas to run the chainsaw and logsplitter, and your own sweat equity) the reason the price of corn got so low was because we in america have gotten really good at growing corn, among other things. Now that the price has gone up, mostly because of the ethanol mandates, most are converting back to wood.
The thing is, from the farmers perspective it doesn’t matter what the corn is used for, as long as someone can pay for it. So it dosn’t matter if the Ethanol mandates are cut or not, unless there is some program set up to buy the exess corn and ship it to where ever the famine is.
‘Cause otherwise, even with all this here ‘global warmin’ it still gets awful cold here abouts come winter.

Carl Brannen

This is not news. The greenies quit supporting ethanol as soon as it became successful. They’re against industrialization, factory farming, even if it’s “green”. Their definition of “green” is wilderness areas where no motor vehicles are allowed to go. If any other technology starts ramping up they’ll be against it too. They sued to stop solar power from being developed in the California desert. Soon enough they’ll start complaining about wind farms if they’re not already.

Skiphil

Stunning (but not surprising) — the NY Times article is the epitome of journalist negligence and malpractice. They omit all discussion of the role of bio fuels and make it seem as though the entire current, immediate issue is about heat, drought, and a “natural” supply shortage.
It is not as though they neglected one minor distant factor, they purposely omitted THE key factor that could still affect market supply and prices in the coming months, IF the insane federal policies on biofuels were reversed or at least suspended.
Once again the NY Times and major media show they are biased propagandists and not objective news providers.

Schitzree

Well, that wasn’t the worst I’ve screwed up trying to make a post, but it was still a doozy. Don’t know how I managed to post half of it the first time.
[Reply: in internet time, no one will remember your mistake, or who made it, in 48 hours… ~dbs, mod.]

P Wilson

Food crisis?
William Hershcell, the 18th century astronomer was though mad when he made the connection between grain price and sunspots. The more sunspots, the lower the price since warmer temperatures produced more and superior crops, whilst low sunspot periods led to an increase in th eprice of grain, as cool temperatures led to fewer and feebler crops..
Yet he was thought rather mad, though he was right

davidmhoffer

I wonder why they wring their hands at the thought of CAGW reducing the food supply when their solution to prevent it is reigning in CO2 emissions. Just how much food do they think we can provide on a global basis without fossil fuel to plant, cultivate, fertilize, harvest, process, store, refrigerate, and transport the food? Cut transport alone out of that chain and 3/4 of the earth’s population would be starving within 48 hours.

eyesonu says: September 6, 2012 at 8:00 pm
Thank you for your kind words. In 1998 I briefly took over management of an oil company that also owned an ethanol plant in Wyoming. Despite good management and huge state and federal subsidies, it only broke even. I know a little about the corn ethanol business. We had great people and they worked really hard, but it was just the wrong business.
I recently sent something like this to one of our more intelligent Canadian senators:
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/08/18/mcintyres-talk-in-london-plus-the-uks-tilting-at-windmills-may-actually-increase-co2-emissions-over-natural-gas/#comment-1060666

I have widely publicized this information for about a decade, so it should not be news to anyone who follows the subject.
I have long believed that corn ethanol used for motor fuel, and grid-connected wind power and solar power are energy and economic nonsense.
I wrote these conclusions in articles published as early as 2002.
My point is that this information is not new and it has been clearly stated in public forums such as this one many times before, for about a decade.
The fact that it has been routinely ignored is, I suggest, a measure of the utter incompetence and corruption that pervades the entire subject of energy and the environment.
But I digress – my immediate concern, which I apologize for carping about yet again, is the use of 40% of the huge USA corn crop for gasoline additives. Due to the drought this season, corn now costs over US$8 per bushel – and corn is a staple for many poor people in the Americas.
This situation is simply wrong – it is a monstrous ethical and humanitarian failing, and our leaders in the USA and Canada should have the courage and integrity to end the fuel ethanol mandate immediately.

One further point that I first looked into a decade ago:
[Excerpt]
Since then I’ve learned that the vital Ogallala aquifer is dropping at an alarming rate in some locations, due to excess withdrawal of water for irrigation – much of it for corn ethanol.
If the environmental movement truly had the interests of America and the world at heart, they would abandon their fascination with wasteful, inefficient corn ethanol, wind power and solar power, and focus on real environmental problems like vital groundwater conservation.
However, if one analyses their actions, it is clear that the “greens” are not interested in the environment or the wellbeing of humankind. Rather, the environment is merely a convenient smokescreen for their far-left political objectives.

Neil Jones

It is caused by climate change, if they didn’t believe in climate change they would be turning corn into “fuel”, ergo climate change is the cause.

Spector

Of Course, “End of Growth” Canadian economist Jeff Rubin would blame the food crisis on the rising cost of carbon-based energy, as most of our food is grown, packaged and delivered using energy and chemicals from petroleum.
.
He says, in effect, that the people managing our economy have failed to recognize that we have an energy supply problem and like pilots, who increase their angle of attack at maximum altitude, they are risking a fatal stall. The huge national debt that we have accumulated in the various stimulus efforts means that money from American taxpayers to repay this debt will increasingly allow foreign buyers to pay more for the world’s scarce resources than we will be able to afford.
He has suggested that Canadian Oil may eventually go primarily to Asia because the ‘States’ will not be able to afford it.
He talks of the possibility of $7 per gallon gasoline prices in the near future. He believes that the more difficult unconventional oil that we are about to tap will require triple digit per barrel petroleum prices to be recoverable. He freely admits that his whole thesis is based on this high extraction cost assumption for hard-to-get petroleum and other new carbon energy sources.
[He is also saying that one of the advantages of eventual high energy prices is automatic amelioration of ‘Global Warming,’ — one more example of how pervasive the CAGW concept has become among people who should know better. ]
Jeffrey Rubin On Why High Oil Prices Stop Growth
24:30 min

Steve C

The editor who chose to corrupt that story in that way is sick.
It has long been a joke in journalistic circles that a journalist, when interviewing a politician, should continually ask him/herself, “Why is this lying liar lying to me?”. We are now way past the point when everyone reading, watching or listening to their biased output should ask themselves the same question, especially now there’s the internet to make the checking so easy.

I have to agree with Neil Jones [10:35 pm]
“climate change” is partially to blame… specifically the HYPE of “climate change” that relies on a wide ranging array of unverifiable data and potentially fraudulent activities by those peddling the scam.

Bill Irvine

The modern equivalent of the plea for bread – “Let them eat cake”
Or in the UK “I’m all right, Jack”

Dodgy Geezer

@bubbagyro says:
“…. It doesn’t even touch the issue of water wastage for the fermentation processes. We are not just burning coal, but also flushing our drinking water down the drain. Of course, if someone paid me enough to flush drinking water down the drain…”
There’s actually nothing whatsoever wrong with flushing drinking water down the drain. It does not damage the water, which will happily return to you courtesy of the water cycle. It’s also far more efficient (of the order of two magnitudes!) to provide ALL your water as treated drinkable water from a central reservoir rather than run two separate systems for potable and non-potable water.
Everyone on this Earth has a couple of cubic kilometers of water available to them, which will NEVER go away. The only question is how much you want to spend on infrastructure to provide it to a specific spot. And that’s an engineering and investment issue, NOT an environmental one. The scam of pretending that water is a scarce commodity is just plain wrong…

It’s biofuels stupid!
The real crime of our times the sacrifice of food to biofuels.

David Gabriel

This article scarecely merits mention in this context. You’re getting paranoid Anthony.

ozspeaksup

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/barclays-makes-500m-betting-on-food-crisis-8100011.html
last year Glencorp made a motza by startting the russian wheat shortage going, by advising them to stop selling.
they had stockpile enough for a year and some to sell.
as for biofuels,
the GMO corn is pretty inedible for humans, stockfeed at best, when desperate if you must.
poor animals.
GMO soy, not fit for man or beast
be far bettwr to grow edible foods like wheat rye barley or oats, food n fodder.

wayne Job

Making ethanol from corn not so long ago would have brought the revenuers down on you.
Now it is a green thing it is legal, tax it at the consummable alcohol level, your budget deficit would disappear. Add some flavouring and export it and your balance of trade would be fixed.
Sitting on a gold mine of liquid and you are burning it in vehicles at a subsidised loss.
Where are your yankee entrepeneurs ?

Bill Marsh

@MattN says:
September 6, 2012 at 6:36 pm
I just got back from the grocery store, and I’m having trouble seeing any evidence of a “food crisis”. Fact is, we throw enough food away from spoilage to feed a small country…
=============
The ‘crisis’ is not here Matt. Did you happen to notice the price of an ear of corn? It has almost tripled due to the drought impacting harvests and the continued use of the same quantity as in other years for biofuel. This is a simple function of supply/demand and, while you may not have trouble paying the increase and thus see no ‘crisis’, the poor folks in developing nations (or non-developing as the case may be) cannot easily pay the increase and/or substitute a different, lower cost food source. This is in addition to the increase in the price of feed grain boosting the price of beef/pork as well.
You’re not alone in this however. I was in the grocery store a few months ago and observed a lady lamenting the price of corn, “Why is corn so expensive now?” I offered that, in large part, it was because of the government mandated use of corn for ethanol, a gasoline substitute. I got a 1,000 mile stare in response. She seemed to prefer the explanation offered by another shopper … that it was ‘evil’ giant agribusiness gouging her (and everybody else) and the ‘solution’ was to have the government mandate the price of corn and/or strip ‘Agribusiness’ of its ‘excessive’ ‘exploitative’ profits.
*sigh*

more soylent green!

MattN says:
September 6, 2012 at 6:36 pm
I just got back from the grocery store, and I’m having trouble seeing any evidence of a “food crisis”. Fact is, we throw enough food away from spoilage to feed a small country…

Yes, we are very wasteful in this country. But grocery prices have gone way up in recent years, and it’s worse in other countries. The ‘Arab Spring’ began in part, because of frustration over rising food prices and food shortages.
Keep in mind, we’re not the only country in the world. Despite the sorry state of our economy, Americans are so much better off than most of the world and we can better absorb price increases. Of course, paying more for A means spending less on B, C, or D, so if the price of food goes up, it suppresses economic growth and employment.

Just an engineer

Schitzree says:
September 6, 2012 at 8:46 pm
Around ten years ago many farmers here in Indiana converted their wood burners (wood burning stoves and furnaces) into CORN Burners
———————————————————–
Please don’t post from ignorance, cornCOB is NOT corn!
http://www.ehow.com/how_4596904_use-corn-burning-furnaces.html

Schitzree

For the record feed corn is perfectly edible if you get it before its dried out. Dad used to go out into the field every year about mid August and fill a 5-gal bucket with ears. Mom just rolled her eyes. It wasn’t bad as corn-on-the-cob, though not as good as real sweetcorn.
I’ve heard that after it’s dried it can still be ground to make a servicable corn meal, but I don’t know anyone who has tried it.
It also make perfectly drinkable White Lightning, or so I’ve been told.