Postby Oscar » Sat Jun 28, 2008 11:54 am

Published in the Canora Courier on June 26, 2008

To The Editor.


According to a single report on radio, Parliament last week passed a Bill continuing the production of grain based biofuels to reduce Green House Gases.

Our Government and Opposition thus seem to be deaf and blind to the facts concerning this totally useless product. Since 1985, Prof. David Pimental, Cornell, and Ted Patzek, Berkely University, have researched these substitute fuels.Their findings have been confirmed by peer review, and by tests made by Health Canada, in the U.S., and in the European Union.

Recently, the General Secretary of the United Nations has stated categorically that all production of grain based biofuels should be suspended or cancelled, and the E.U., and much of the rest of the world have agreed to review both production and use.

The tests have shown that the reasons to do this are overpowering, but I have space only to touch on the major problems.

Biofuels contain LESS energy than it takes to produce them. A barrel of fuel used in production results in only four fifths of a barrel in output, which is totally unsustainable, and ridiculous.

Ethanol and biodiesel produced contain up to 30% LESS energy than the same amount of oil or gasoline, which is a reduction in mileage for all vehicles, so more is used. They also produce more, not less, G.H.G.'s than oil, including the far more dangerous nitrous oxide, volatile organic compounds, and formaldehyde, and so make pollution worse.

For every litre of ethanol produced, twelve litres of waste fluid is generated. Every 1,000 litres of this waste requires 300 cu. ft. of natural gas to treat it before it can be released. How can this be sustainable when natural gas is becoming exhausted, and fresh water is becoming more and more scarce around the world.

Ethanol costs up to $1.88 per litre to produce, making it more expensive than oil at $138 per barrel. Private corporations have therefore received massive subsidies from taxpayers to build the plants, and to cover production costs. All excise taxes have also been removed from the product, reducing revenue by $188 million in Canada.

In the U.S., subsidies increased this year to $6 billion, the vast majority going to Archer Daniels Midland, owner of the main distilleries. Farmers have planted 95 million acres of corn, 30% to go to ethanol, but have received only one cent per bushel of the subsidy. Corn meal, Mexico's staple food, has doubled in price, causing hunger and food riots among the poor. This is even more unsustainable.

To ensure that these fuels will be used, the Canadian Government has passed laws to add up to 15% of biofuels to all supplies of gasoline, and vehicle engines are being adapted to use this mixture. We are thus forced to use a useless and harmful additive.

Profs. Pimental and Patzek showed twenty years ago that the production of "renewable" fuels using food grains could never replace traditional oil. They said clearly that if the whole of the agricultural land in Europe was used to produce such crops, it would replace only 15% of the present oil consumption, and no food whatever would be produced for human and animal use.

They further pointed out that foods used to produce biofuels would cause a reduction in food for human use, and the poor would be unable to afford to feed their families. Now it is obvious that nearly one billion people are on the verge of starvation, and if biofuel production continues, and increases, this figure will rise to two billion. The amount of grain used to produce biofuel to fill the tank of an SUV is sufficient to feed a person in the Third World for one year.

It is generally accepted that the shortage of food and large price increases are only partly caused by the production of biofuels from food grains, but it is a factor. The two others are speculation in the food "markets" by "investors" who formerly made huge profits in the U.S. housing markets using the sub-prime mortgages, and national subsidies on food production by the western governments, which have destroyed local food production in the Third World economies.

None of the above applies to biofuels made from farm waste, such as straw or spoiled canola, or wood chips from sawmills, but this technology is still not in a commercial stage at present.
Even if it becomes viable, it can never replace the 80 million barrels of conventional oil used every day around the world.

The only temporary positive to come out of this disastrous policy has been that Canadian grain farmers have benefitted from increased prices after a long twenty years of negative income. This situation did not last long. The giant agribusiness corporations soon took that benefit away by doubling or tripling the cost of inputs to those same farmers, and I heard a report from Chicago that the price of wheat had fallen by 50% just a week ago. Now only "Market Speculators" are profitting from world starvation.

Under these circumstances, it is a form of insanity to continue with our present methods of biofuel production. The Harper Government and Parliament must immediately reconsider its vote to do so, and join the rest of the world in cancelling the enormous wasted subsidies we taxpayers are paying to these private corporations.

It is truly amazing to me that a Conservative Government which "supports Western Farmers" has absolutely refused to put in place a "cost of inputs plan" to assist Canadian farmers in crisis from corporate gouging. Mr. Harper says he believes in "The Markets,""Entrepreneurial Values,"and "Private Enterprise", but has donated hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars from the taxpayers of this country to subsidise private corporate profits to make such a worthless product.It is even more amazing that our Parliament voted to continue the disaster.

Phil Bladen
Preeceville, SK.
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