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Author Topic: How do bio-fuels affect food prices?  (Read 20252 times)

Offline DoctorBeaver

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How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« on: 16/04/2008 09:00:20 »
From http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article3750194.ece

One of the main factors behind the surge in prices is the increased use of crops for biofuels as an alternative energy source in developed countries, although Asia’s economic boom and drought in some leading food-producing nations have added to the shortages.

Almost all of the rise in global corn production from 2004 to 2007 went to biofuels in the United States. As of today, all petrol and diesel sold in Britain will have to contain at least 2.5 per cent biofuel from crops.


The article goes on to say...

It is in the Third World that the effect of record prices of wheat, corn, rice and other crops is being felt. In recent weeks food-related riots have broken out in a growing list of countries, including Egypt and Pakistan. The Prime Minister of Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, was fired at the weekend, accused of failing to rein in soaring costs and boost domestic food production.

Bio-fuel is a contentious subject. The amount of land needed is staggering. I seem to recall reading that an area the size of Yorkshire would supply enough bio-fuel for UK motorists for just 1 year. And, of course, that would be land that is currently used for crop production.

We will end up in the same situation as the 3rd World with cash crops - food production halted to make way for coffee etc that can be sold abroad and thus increase income. Although this leads to some people becoming wealthier, that is offset by the rise in local food costs, and food shortages, which affects the entire population.

So, should the west press on with the use of bio-fuel regardless of the fact that it is causing extreme hardship in 3rd World countries?

« Last Edit: 16/04/2008 22:46:35 by chris »


 

Offline JimBob

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Re: How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« Reply #1 on: 16/04/2008 12:50:40 »
NO - Biofules are not even economically feasible - electric cars are much more efficient and less polluting. Solar panels that can use UV radiation as well as visible light that is present even with a heavy cloud cover are quite sensible. So are electrical wave-generation farms. Geothermal energy from ALL parts of the earth is already developed. WHY CAN'T PEOPLE READ THE DATA?

The burning of ANYTHING creates green-house gases - elemental hydrogen engines produce water vapor that cause heat retention in the earth's atmosphere.
 

Offline that mad man

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Re: How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« Reply #2 on: 16/04/2008 20:26:45 »
I don't like the idea of growing crops for use as bio-fuels, I think growing crops to feed people should be the priority.

I'm not sure about any accurate data though that shows bio-fuel growing has caused extreme hardship in 3rd World countries and wonder if a lot of it is just anecdotal media hype. There are shortages of food for some and people are suffering and yet there is plenty of food available to feed all, it just needs to be shared right. The global rise in food prices is mainly down to the fact they are commodities and traded for profit.  Its not so much that there is a shortage now just that prices go up so people cant then afford the food, that seems to me where the crisis lies.

I wonder how much land is now used in growing crops for us to use a vegetable oil in cooking? Corn oil has become very popular over the past few decades, most big fast food chains use it and so do many others so a lot of land has already been used to produce oil. Its the words bio-fuel I think that causes the problem.

Sorry but I'm now being cynical, will we now see a big campaign from the GM producers I wonder. ;)





 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« Reply #3 on: 16/04/2008 21:51:37 »

The global rise in food prices is mainly down to the fact they are commodities and traded for profit.  Its not so much that there is a shortage now just that prices go up so people cant then afford the food, that seems to me where the crisis lies.


Commodity trading is also certainly an issue. But, it must be noted, that prices will only rise significantly in futures trading if a shortage is expected.

Note what was said in the article I quoted from...

Almost all of the rise in global corn production from 2004 to 2007 went to biofuels in the United States.

How better to guarantee a shortage!
« Last Edit: 16/04/2008 21:57:20 by DoctorBeaver »
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« Reply #4 on: 16/04/2008 22:01:38 »
NO - Biofules are not even economically feasible - electric cars are much more efficient and less polluting.

Electric cars are fine for shopping, or popping round to see Great Aunt Mary on Sunday afternoons; but for long journeys they are totally impractical. There needs to be a quantum leap in technology to make them a truly viable proposition.

Incidentally, on a test run from London to Vienna, the Toyota Prius - flagship of the Green Holier-than-thou Brigade - used more fuel than a 520d BMW.
 

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How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« Reply #5 on: 17/04/2008 00:42:12 »
Incidentally, on a test run from London to Vienna, the Toyota Prius - flagship of the Green Holier-than-thou Brigade - used more fuel than a 520d BMW.

There have been many such examples where the Prius has performed badly on long distance runs.  The Prius excels in an urban environment, where a lot of time is spend standing at traffic lights, or slowing down for traffic; but at constant it will always be at a disadvantage.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« Reply #6 on: 17/04/2008 04:37:13 »
Incidentally, on a test run from London to Vienna, the Toyota Prius - flagship of the Green Holier-than-thou Brigade - used more fuel than a 520d BMW.

There have been many such examples where the Prius has performed badly on long distance runs.  The Prius excels in an urban environment, where a lot of time is spend standing at traffic lights, or slowing down for traffic; but at constant it will always be at a disadvantage.

And they're ugly.
 

another_someone

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How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« Reply #7 on: 17/04/2008 14:56:29 »
And they're ugly.

Ugly is at least interesting, and often has its own charm - the trouble with most modern cars is not that they are ugly (just think of the 2CV6 for ugly), but that they are boring.
 

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How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« Reply #8 on: 17/04/2008 15:55:48 »
Interesting I heard today that actually the reason why food Price's have increased so much, is actually because the west is consuming more, that makes sense to me; the reality is we make enough food, but the west is eating it all and pushing up the price.

I was listening to an environmentalist yesterday, who said that he would rather people used petrol, than bio-fuels, because he thought that bio-fuels caused more pollution. When asked why, he said ´because land that was used for farming food, was now being used for bio-fuels and some people(apparently) had to clear more rain forest to make up the land used for bio-fuels´.

I disagree, the rain forest clearing was happening anyway, long before bio-fuels came along, according to a lady I also listened to yesterday, involved in sugar cain they use the same crop to make sugar and the fuel, I think because it's different parts of the plant used for each, someone will have to clarify that though.

But anyway the reporter then said to this environmentalist "So what do you think we should do? Because you don't want us to use bio-fuels or petrol, so what's you're answer?" and you know what the environmentalist said?

He said "we need to reduce demand!"

Right, his answer is:- ´don´t drive anymore´. That's his answer- we all need to stop driving.

I am a ´community of solutions´ person, I really think there is a place for bio-fuels, fuel-cells, electric-taxis, better buses, trains and trams, so to me it's the best answer in best area.

I will add that I really don't think bio-fuel in anyway have helped push up food prices, and producers don't have to sell at market rates, they can sell at what ever price they want to(especially the subsidised farmers, they get paid regardless) others must break even that´s your minimum price-the breakeven point, adding on a little for transport can hardly account for the whole increase.

So I blame:- Greed and(as that guy said today on the radio) over consumption by the west.
« Last Edit: 17/04/2008 15:57:24 by JOLLY »
 

Offline that mad man

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How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« Reply #9 on: 17/04/2008 16:12:31 »
A small quote from today's news on the BBC.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7351766.stm

"Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has rejected allegations that biofuels are responsible for the recent rise in global food prices.

President Lula said "allegations that global food prices were rising because of biofuels were baseless." "Food prices were going up," he said, "because people in developing countries like China, India and Brazil itself were simply eating more as their economic conditions improved."

I think that sums it up well, "bio-fuel" seems to be the current buzzword for people to moan about.

The Prius was not designed for long distance use. The suspension is hard and over long distances it soon becomes uncomfortable, no luggage space either!
 

another_someone

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How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« Reply #10 on: 17/04/2008 16:16:25 »
So where do you place China and India - are they now in the West?  It has now been suggested that sometime around 2006 China overtook the USA as the primary producer of CO2, and by inference, probably the primary energy consumer.

Transport (in total, not just cars, but trains, lorries, planes, etc.) in total consume no more energy that that which you use to heat your home and office.

Big countries (such as China, the USA, and Russia) ofcourse have a greater dependence on long distance transportation (in that respect, ever greater political and economic integration within Europe will also place greater demands on the transportation system).
 

another_someone

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How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« Reply #11 on: 17/04/2008 16:18:00 »
"Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has rejected allegations that biofuels are responsible for the recent rise in global food prices.

President Lula said "allegations that global food prices were rising because of biofuels were baseless."

Well, he would do, wouldn't he - Brazil was one of the pioneers in bio-fuel usage.
 

Offline that mad man

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How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« Reply #12 on: 17/04/2008 16:42:10 »
Yes, I can see that he would advocate its use as its increasing his countries wealth.

Trouble is, we have no actual data on the bio-fuel effect, as I have said most of it is just anecdotal and not based on any factual scientific evidence.

In one respect we should be happy about the rice shortage as rice growing is one of the biggest producers of methane gas in the atmosphere. Forget the farting cows!
 

sooyeah

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How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« Reply #13 on: 17/04/2008 17:01:02 »
In one respect we should be happy about the rice shortage as rice growing is one of the biggest producers of methane gas in the atmosphere. Forget the farting cows!

Sorry that doesnt make sense, we haven´t grown less rice this year, there has not been a reduction in rice production, the gas level are the same. What are you talking about? Oh and also rice feeds far more people, than cows do, plus you have a massive amount of land useage to produce the food, to feed the cows.
On no level, does what you have said there, make sense.
 

Offline that mad man

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How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« Reply #14 on: 17/04/2008 18:12:22 »
In Asia over the past 2 decades rice production has stagnated and we now have the lowest stocks of rice for over 30 years. Production was cut back with lots of "paddy fields" being kept dormant, supply and demand dictated that they were not profitable to farm. Because of rising prices it has now become profitable to farm again and its estimated that it will take around 4 years for that production to recover and stocks to be normal again.

We may not have grown less rice this year but over the past few decades it has declined by arond1/3 and that accounts for a lot of the problems. It is also well know that growing rice also creates plenty of methane. At between 50 and 100 million tonnes of methane a year, rice agriculture is a big source of atmospheric methane, possibly the biggest of the man-made methane sources. The production of rice this year is set to rise because of the crisis, the first time it has risen substantially in ages so the levels of methane produced will rise accordingly.

I know rice feeds more people than cows and also that over 90% of the grain produced goes on feeding animals for meat. That however is a different matter.

 

another_someone

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How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« Reply #15 on: 17/04/2008 18:24:00 »
Trouble is, we have no actual data on the bio-fuel effect, as I have said most of it is just anecdotal and not based on any factual scientific evidence.

Unfortunately, these things are difficult to prove, even in hindsight, let alone at the time it is happening.  There is no agreement about what caused the 1929/1930 slump, or what caused the famine in Ireland, so why should we be able to agree about this.

The trouble is that there are always lots of cross-related influences, and you can never prove that one factor above all else was solely responsible.

In one respect we should be happy about the rice shortage as rice growing is one of the biggest producers of methane gas in the atmosphere. Forget the farting cows!

Insofar as rice is grown in wetlands, it is an argument for reducing wetlands in general, but increasingly wetlands are becoming protected areas, and politicians and environmentalists are even talking about reinstating historic wetlands (e.g. in Norfolk).
 

sooyeah

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How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« Reply #16 on: 17/04/2008 19:02:57 »
I know rice feeds more people than cows and also that over 90% of the grain produced goes on feeding animals for meat. That however is a different matter.


Maybe, maybe not, ratio of people feed to methan produced, will certainly be higher with cows, my point.
 

lyner

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How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« Reply #17 on: 18/04/2008 21:54:12 »
Quote
just think of the 2CV6 for ugly)
How dare you sir - it'll be pistols at dawn if you continue in that vein!
The only thing wrong with my old 2CV W was the missing hole in the floor for passengers to help it up hills by running.
The greenest car in the world is the one you already have which doesn't involve building another one.
 

sooyeah

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How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« Reply #18 on: 05/06/2008 09:13:08 »
How about this?

The food security, subsidies problem.

What if Europe keeps it subsidies, but we ban the export of all subsidised produce from the E.U.
If you did that, then food prices in Europe would become cheaper, we would resolve the food security issue, but even better poor countries wouldn't have European farmers dumping cheap food on them and destroying there markets.
European farmers also wouldn't have to worry about foreign farmer invading there markets as no one would be able to supply as cheaply as they could, any European surplus can be given to the UN, for food relief in times of disaster etc.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« Reply #19 on: 06/06/2008 14:15:12 »
When I lived in Uganda I could have made 3 times as much by changing from growing matoke (cooking bananas - a staple foodstuff) to coffee. I could have paid my workers more too. However, all the coffee would have been exported and there would have been over 1000 acres less food production for local consumption (not just by my workers). Considering I was getting approximately 35,000-40,000lbs of bananas per acre, that's a lot of food to lose. Get a few dozen producers doing that and suddenly you have a problem.
« Last Edit: 06/06/2008 14:19:32 by DoctorBeaver »
 

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How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« Reply #20 on: 11/06/2008 17:27:50 »
When I lived in Uganda I could have made 3 times as much by changing from growing matoke (cooking bananas - a staple foodstuff) to coffee. I could have paid my workers more too. However, all the coffee would have been exported and there would have been over 1000 acres less food production for local consumption (not just by my workers). Considering I was getting approximately 35,000-40,000lbs of bananas per acre, that's a lot of food to lose. Get a few dozen producers doing that and suddenly you have a problem.

So do you think, poor countries should give incentives to local farmers to grow staples for home consumption?
 

Offline VAlibrarian

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How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« Reply #21 on: 11/08/2008 04:03:36 »
according to all I have read, there are two main causes for the observed rise in the prices of corn, wheat, and rice. first cause is the diversion of large quantities of grains into biofuels. second cause is the change in eating habits of many humans from vegetables and grains to Meats. It takes tremendous amounts of grains to feed cattle to a point that they can be slaughtered. As more and more humans choose to eat more meat, and gain enough money to do so, the human race requires more grain production to feed the cattle, pigs and other livestock. This is a very simple supply and demand situation. If you desire to reduce your impact on our planet it terms of greenhouse gases and the preservation of ecosystems for other species, it is important to eat as little meat as possible (and in the western world most of us eat far more than we need, and far more than is healthy). It is also important to reduce the amount of fuel we use, be it fossil fuel or biofuel. Most biofuel uses a large amount of fossil fuel in production anyway, other than ethanol from sugar cane. The benefits of biofuels were oversold, and the potential negative impacts were undersold, because we feel our oil addiction and see biofuels as a magical answer. the true magic answer is to use renewables such as solar and wind to fuel battery vehicles and public transit.
 

Offline m40

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How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« Reply #22 on: 19/02/2011 18:54:47 »



"electric cars are much more efficient and less polluting."

More than three quarters of all electricity in N.America is generated from COAL. Are you therefore advocating coal powered cars, which are made incredibly inefficient by the inherent loss in the electrical distribution system along with the loss of storing to and drawing from batteries? Also, what are you going to do with all those batteries?

"Solar panels that can use UV radiation as well as visible light that is present even with a heavy cloud cover are quite sensible."

Really? You do realize that this is supposed to be a SCIENCE forum, yes? Solar panels are at the most about 30% efficient (under laboratory conditions) and in economically feasible production form, about 10% efficient. With the current pricing of solar panels and their active field life, they are a net negative. This means that electricity from the grid is still cheaper. Nobody has produced a manufacturable, marketable panel that reaches parity with the grid... even in sunny places!


Geothermal energy from ALL parts of the earth is already developed. WHY CAN'T PEOPLE READ THE DATA?

I DO read the data. Most of the geothermal energy in use worldwide is captured via steam generators. This dumps massive amounts of water vapor into the atmosphere, which by all accounts is about 4 times worse than CO2 as a 'greenhouse' gas. You're better off with fossil fuels.

 

Offline peppercorn

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How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« Reply #23 on: 20/02/2011 15:54:39 »
Oooo! A reanimated thread! - Super!

More than three quarters of all electricity in N.America is generated from COAL. Are you therefore advocating coal powered cars, which are made incredibly inefficient by the inherent loss in the electrical distribution system along with the loss of storing to and drawing from batteries? Also, what are you going to do with all those batteries?

Not unless you can make a fuel-cell (suitable to fit in a car) run directly off the coal.  What these arguments often seem to take into account is the suitability of a particular fuel for the job in hand. BTW there are such things as 'Direct-Carbon Fuel Cells', but I don't think they are workable in a vehicle-suitable package (they are big!).
Comparing an ICE burning Petroleum with Battery-Electric (even if it is exclusively generated from coal) is still (Well-to-Wheel) a more extensive contributor of CO2 overall.

Quote
"Solar panels that can use UV radiation as well as visible light that is present even with a heavy cloud cover are quite sensible."

Really? You do realize that this is supposed to be a SCIENCE forum, yes?
....

None of what you go on to say disproves the previous poster, so why the 'Really?', huh?
That is, if you're building a solar panel (one assumes you are sensible enough to know there is a market for your panel) then making it able to generate some power under cloudy conditions (rather than none at all) makes good sense (provided it's still economic to add this ability).
 

Offline peppercorn

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How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« Reply #24 on: 20/02/2011 16:17:40 »
Quote
Geothermal energy from ALL parts of the earth is already developed. WHY CAN'T PEOPLE READ THE DATA?

I DO read the data. Most of the geothermal energy in use worldwide is captured via steam generators. This dumps massive amounts of water vapor into the atmosphere, which by all accounts is about 4 times worse than CO2 as a 'greenhouse' gas. You're better off with fossil fuels.

1. I think it depends where (at what strata of the atmosphere) you release the water vapour as to what effect it has on the greenhouse effect.
2. The water vapour that is released in the case of generated steam is already part of the atmospheric cycle - it came out of rivers, etc. It is not like Carbon or Hydrogen freed in burning FFs as they are unbalancing the system (our atmosphere) with a net addition of CO2 and water.
 

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How do bio-fuels affect food prices?
« Reply #24 on: 20/02/2011 16:17:40 »

 

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