Tuesday, February 26, 2008

They Finally Noticed

Once again, the Los Angeles Times is a little late and a little weak on an issue, but at least they noticed that issue's existence. An editorial published in today's edition notes that over-reliance on ethanol is perhaps not such a good idea after all.

Something is very wrong with this picture: The United Nations' World Food Program has been hit so hard by skyrocketing grain prices that it may be forced to cut off some food aid to the world's poorest countries, while the United States is planning to turn record quantities of corn into automotive fuel.

The astonishing callousness of burning millions of bushels of grain in gas tanks even as global starvation worsens has apparently never occurred to Congress, the Bush administration or the remaining presidential candidates, all of whom are big boosters of ethanol. ...

It also didn't occur to very many major news outlets, including the Los Angeles Times. If the LAT had stopped at this point in the editorial, or at least had connected the dots between "burning millions of bushels of grain in gas tanks" and the prevailing attitude that driving a car for even the shortest and most trivial of trips is an acceptable one, the editorial would have offset the paper's lack of real analysis on the issue. But the editorialist chose neither direction.

It needn't come down to a choice between conserving oil or feeding the poor. The U.N. has developed a tool for assessing the impacts of biofuel production on food security, something Congress never bothered to study before passing its extravagant mandate. Until the environmental and economic effects of biofuels have been thoroughly examined, the government should stop trying to squeeze more energy out of corn cobs. Meanwhile, the U.S. is obliged to contribute more to world food aid in order to undo some of the damage it has wrought.

Contributing money to buy over-priced and increasingly scarce food is at best a bandaid, at worst, a germ-infested one.

A more realistic approach might have been to urge the state and federal governments to increase funding for public transportation and to urge citizens to get out of their cars and on to buses, commuter trains, and ride-share vans that are efficient enough to take away the excuses that most use in justifying single occupancy vehicles for picking up the dry-cleaning or driving 120 miles a day to and from work.

Apparently that would be too nuanced for a major newspaper.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"public transportation" -- what a joke!

i was active in boston neighborhood politics until about 10 years ago. we stood helplessly by (despite going to endless meeting, reading endless reports and writing endless responses) while the city further dismantled existing subway lines, converting some of them to bus routes (the many objections to and arguments against which i won't go into here) and, in one particular instance, attempted to widen a road for commuter traffic claiming it was to "enhance bus travel" but as soon as we pushed for a dedicated bus lane instead, they backed down


i am currently starting a fight with the city i now live in (southeastern mass.) because of a total lack of compliance with or enforcement of snow removal from public sidewalks by businesses, resulting in people walking in the street or driving the two blocks to the stores. i fought that same fight with the meatballs in boston and, after five years of that, finally threw my hands up, bought a car and moved to my new location.

amtrak? is that even still operational? there used to be a giant noise about how "it has to pay for itself!" the same argument boston uses against public transportation -- "we can't subsidize public transportation." excuse me? don't my taxes "subsidize" roads and highways? hello?

excuse me while i spit out some more teeth.

5:22 PM  
Blogger cheflovesbeer said...

grow corn
just for food
not cars

6:18 PM  
Blogger Scorpio said...

Likely corn will be made into high fructose corn syrup if more is grown. Food? When it can be made into sugar for cola addiction?


It's as if companies have forgotten that there is cane sugar and beet sugar. Corn is being made into a tool of destruction.

8:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

During the Irish potato famine, the English landowners exported wheat while the Irish starved. The English have never been allowed to forget it, and quite rightly too. There was mass migration of the Irish to the United States.

Where can the poor of the global south go? Who will make the US remember them?

1:36 PM  

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