Monday, August 6, 2012

Ethanol Drought

"Some of the drought’s impact will take months and years to play out." Roger Oliver, president and chief executive officer of Van Horn Inc

The US crop for year 2012 is a disaster; corn and soybeans are the major crops produced nationwide. The critical factor that many academics, ordinary consumers and other non agricultural policy makers did not give sufficient account for in their rosy analysis is nature. Yes, some years produce more crop volume and some produce less; this year is severe drought. It seems that the prospect of drought is not accounted for in the current plans for carbon emissions reduction in this country. What good is the buying and selling of carbon credits or reducing "greenhouse emissions" in a food stressed world?

The issue is that the current United States
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policy mandates an ever increasing percentage of fuel for gasoline engines be composed of ethanol, a non petroleum based substitute for refined gasoline made in this nation principally with corn; it is set to gobble up the majority of that crop in this drought year. It will leave insufficient supply to feed livestock, to feed chickens who produce eggs, to produce grain related products that consumers routinely use: baked goods, oils, syrups, starches, and industrial products made from corn and soybeans.

Compounding the pain is the synonymous
hay crop failure. There is now insufficient supplies of hay to feed all grazing animals throughout North America, including the cows which provide the nation's milk supply and other products such as infant formula or "grass fed" beef. For many of us here in the United States, a look around our communities at the lawn grasses gone dormant or dead provides the confirmation that grass grown to feed animals must be no better. Nor is using grasses to produce motor fuel any better an option; it produces hardship on and off the farm; families will suffer from lack of food due to the fact that the agricultural oligarchy (AO) hasn't produced this year. The nation's unemployed, the indigent, the sick and the elderly will all experience increasing food insecurity due to a rise in prices for many foodstuffs and fuels. Everyone will pay more. The nation's health suffers as more consume lower priced, lower quality foods. All foods, including fruits, vegetables and grains like oats or wheat, require quantities of water for a successful crop.

For the nearly 98 percent of Americans who don't, won't or can't produce at least part of their food, we must now consider whether we have thrown over a primary responsibility for feeding ourselves to the agricultural few: the many university intellectuals (who also don't produce their own food), politicians, the governmental policy wonks and the AO -- even those "family farmers" with millions of dollars invested in their farms.

Have we fallen complacent, asleep at the wheel, about agriculture in this country-- so far removed that not only do we not grow any food, but we don't even think about it?
 We've left it to others to decide for us because maybe we live in urban areas and have no direct connection to the source. Even those of us residing in the country towns, large and small, have in large measure, let the issue to someone else. Is now in this time of natural disaster the time that we will wake up and become more engaged in food and its production?

Will the EPA continue its drive to consume
well more than half of the US crop this year so as to produce ethanol? People and animals are suffering and we're putting what was to be food in our gas tanks? How does that happen? It seems we've unknowingly mandated it at the expense of feeding ourselves and parts of the starving world. Waiting until a better year is still a year away. And I don't know of any mortal who can wait a year to get enough to eat. We must act now, in this election year and beyond to engage the population in a better long term solution for this perilous issue, both for food production and a cleaner environment. Gaining knowledge and educating others is the first step because food must not be sacrificed for other goals.

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