Biofuels [kind of] Blamed in Food Crisis

April 15, 2008

The Anchorage Daily News ran a New York Times article at the top of the Nation and World section today that the ADN retitled “Biofuels blamed in food crisis.”

Other than the inflammatory title, the article itself is pretty good. It admits that biofuels – especially corn-based ethanol – does have an impact, but that it is “relatively small and that energy costs and soaring demand for meat in developing countries have had a bigger impact.”

The article goes on to report that “grocery prices in the United States increased about 5 percent over the last year.”

A decade ago we were lamenting that family farms were failing because of low crop prices. The soybean growers had a market for their meal, but the oil was terribly undervalued. They went ahead and formed the National Biodiesel Board to create a market for their soybean oil. It looks like they succeeded.

That being said, it’s easy to take a good idea and implement it poorly. The giant Three Gorges Dam in China is a terrible example of hydropower. Altamont Pass in California was built in the middle of a raptor migration route, giving a wind power a bird-killing reputation that has been hard for it to shed.

There’s no way we can grow ourselves out of our fossil fuel addiction. Biofuels, however, can be a sustainable part of our future energy mix.

Capturing waste fryer oil and oil from discarded fish carcasses could provide over 13 million gallons of biodiesel in Alaska every year. Combine this with the Canola production potential of the old barley farms in Delta, and we will have a significant impact on our local energy needs – sustainably – and without completing with global food supplies.

P.S. If you want more insight on the food vs. fuel arguments check out Clayton’s post over at

Veg On!


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