Tuesday, 8 March 2011

It's a Lock-in

The Screeching of Positive Feedback

It shouldn't be a surprise to see chaos in a part of the world where human numbers have been and continue to double in mere decades, and fertile land as well as water for growing food is already insufficient and depleting rapidly. So, amid renewed talk of oil-induced recession, the world seems to be going round in ever more vicious circles:

Lack of investment in agriculture and population increase -> Food price rises -> civil unrest including in oil producing countries -> oil price increases -> food price increases -> more unrest -> and so on and on …

Actionaid USA have produced an interactive map of the places under greatest stress from food import dependency. They note that:

"As a result, [of subsidies] U.S. farmers have diverted 40 percent of corn production from food and feed to fuel, and land once used for soybean production has been converted to corn to meet the demand for biofuels set out in the federal RFS. Seven times as much corn is sent to ethanol plants than is being kept in our national stockpiles. Over the last two years, the amount of corn fed to livestock fell by 3 million metric tons, while corn shipments to ethanol producers grew by 33 million tons. These shifts put pressure on food stocks until they cross a tipping point, driving prices up."

"Spending scarce taxpayer dollars to shift crops from food to biofuels at the expense of hungry people and already stressed resources like soil, water and air is unsustainable."

HT Worldwatch blog.

Stuart Staniford at Early Warning blog points out that, "It's worth noting that the energy content of the human food supply is about a sixth of the energy content of the human fuel supply (about 86 mbd of liquid fuels, equivalent to somewhere in the neighborhood of 120-130mbd of ethanol). This is the core problem with converting food to fuel - we are taking from a small pool to try to make up for deficiencies in a large pool, and we will have a much bigger effect on the level of the small pool than the bigger pool."

Wealthy motorists and the private car lobby are literally driving the world into starvation and recession.

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