Castro: Bush's Ethanol Policy Will Hurt Poor, Environment
Sectors of the Western media seem intent on doing the Bush Administration's work in manufacturing discord between the "good" and bad" left in Latin America. Case in point is the recent editorial by Fidel Castro on ethanol. A certain AP reporter kicked up the dust in earnest, by making hay about a mostly respectful quote about Castro's piece from Brazil's ForeignMinister, who had not even read the piece. Unbelievable that an editor would such obvious non-news as that and give it a headline like "Castro's biofuel Criticisms Old." If the distinguished FM would have read the piece he'd find that Castro made special praise of Brazil's use of ethanol thus far.
He may have also found that Castro made some undeniable points. It seems impossible for the Bush ethanol plan not to significantly drivs up basic food prices and harm the land and water. If anyone has been paying attention to Mexico, he would certainly worry more (corn and torilla prices have doubled in recent years, promting hunger and protests - and a promise to control prices from President Calderon). The following is from a recent Wired magazine article, which asks if Castro is right?:
Michael Pollan, Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley and bestselling author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and The Botany of Desire, says Castro actually made some good points. "I was surprised to find myself in agreement with Castro," Pollan told me. "For example, shifting U.S. corn to ethanol production is wreaking havoc on the food economy in Mexico. Now that everyone is tied in together by things like NAFTA, our food prices affect theirs directly. There's been a lot of unrest in Mexico because of their links to our food-industrial complex."
As for ecological damage, says Pollan, "No one is counting the carbon released as we burn down forests to grow 'green' fuel." And despite the standard rhetoric, Pollan says, "This agricultural biomass is not free. All that 'waste' is very important to soil fertility. Where do we get it back? In effect, we're mining the soil. In some respects, it's not so different from the fossil fuel economy."
Finally, Pollan asks, "Why is ethanol so popular? Because it doesn't require us to change anything except which liquid we pour in the tank. It's essentially a one-to-one substitution. No one has to change the way they live or how much they consume." Why ethanol and not, say, conservation or public transit? Because ethanol doesn't rock the boat. "What important interests are against ethanol?" asks Pollan. "There aren't any. That should tell you something." After a brief pause, he adds: "Except Castro."