Monday, April 02, 2007

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."



Blogger jsb said...

Lula and the Brazilians know best what to do with their economy. Hands off. Why does Cuba and Venezuela want to interfere with the sovereignty of Brazil?

5:42 AM  
Blogger jsb said...

"corn and torilla prices have doubled in recent years, "

Again, you show a lack of depth on this subject. White corn is for making tortillas, yellow corn is for making ethanol. Please do some homework.

Fortunately, nobody is taking you seriously anymore. I don't know why I bother.

5:44 AM  
Blogger leftside said...

You must have not read the Castro piece either, like the Brazillian. Castro goes out of his way to praise Brazil's technology. So there is no "interference" with Brazil my friend. Invoking the "hands off" posture does not suit you.

Mexicans can care less what type of corn does what. In the end the markets are clearly intertwined and the demand for one affects the supply of the other. As every single report on the subject says:

The peso may fall further in the next several months as corn prices continue to rise. Corn has soared 15 percent in the past eight weeks and 119 percent since late 2005 as demand for the grain grows from ethanol producers.

9:17 AM  
Blogger jsb said...

Both Chavez and Castro have said that they will try to dissuade Lula on his ethanol policy. I say, hands off and mind your own business. Lula is right. Lula's people will be better off. Long live Lula, Kirchner and Bachelet, continuously reminding the world that you don't have to be a leftist and bat-shit insane.

6:29 AM  
Blogger jsb said...

International food demands have driven up the price of white corn, as opposed to the ethanol-related costs spike of yellow corn. They are two different commodities, a concept I don't expect a socialist like yourself to understand.

6:32 AM  
Blogger leftside said...

Find me one link that says what you are claiming, ie that the rise in ethanol (and projected rise in the speculative futures market) has had nothing to do with the spike in corn prices. I know there are hundreds of articles that support me, so you got to come better than that. Here's another citation, found on the first corn story I found today.

The surging ethanol industry has pushed the swelling demand for the fuel's main ingredient, corn, making it the most-watched commodity on the market.

Of course weather, the amount of corn planting and everything plays a part. But everyone is citing ethanol as the main mover and shaker in recent months.

11:04 AM  
Blogger jsb said...

This article has an interesting take. White corn traditionally fetched a higher price but the drive for ethanol has created incentive to plant less white and grow more yellow. So, I guess we're both right. But it is two different commodities. In fact, yellow is split into several grades of commodities as well. I didn't take into account the drive to replace white for yellow for profit at the expense of the food supply. If Castro and Chavez are so concerned, they should start planting white corn for food consumption and probably rake in millions for their farmers.

7:58 AM  

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