The False Hope of Biofuels

I know we are all holding out great hopes for biofuels, but these nagging pieces keep showing up in the papers…

The False Hope of Biofuels: “Biofuels such as ethanol made from corn, sugar cane, switchgrass and other crops are being touted as a ‘green’ solution for a large part of America’s transportation problem. Auto manufacturers, Midwest corn farmers and politicians are excited about ethanol. Initially, we, too, were excited about biofuels: no net carbon dioxide emissions, reduction of oil imports. Who wouldn’t be enthusiastic?But as we’ve looked at biofuels more closely, we’ve concluded that they’re not a practical long-term solution to our need for transport fuels. Even if all of the 300 million acres (500,000 square miles) of currently harvested U.S. cropland produced ethanol, it wouldn’t supply all of the gasoline and diesel fuel we now burn for transport, and it would supply only about half of the needs for the year 2025. And the effects on land and agriculture would be devastating.”

Everyone “knows” we need to break our dependence on imported fuel…Hell, even the President has finally acknowledged we have an addiction problem. But, I don’t think it’s so much a fuel problem as a problem of perspective. If we were to actually see what the real costs of products and goods were, we might have a good reason to begin to change our dependence.
The way America works, we hide the costs with subsidies. If we do not actually “know” what an item really costs how can we make an informed choice when it comes to the purchases we make?
It seems to me this is the root of the conversation that has been going back and forth between Michael Pollan and Whole Foods Market founder, John Mzckey…

An Open Letter to Michael Pollan
Michael Pollan’s new book The Omnivore’s Dilemma has been near the top of the best seller’s list since it was published in April, and it deserves to be. This is mostly an excellent book which I strongly recommend people read, along with Peter Singer and Jim Mason’s new book The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter. Both books are real wakeup calls about how our food is being produced in the United States today, and how our food choices potentially can make a positive difference in the world… came away from my dialog with him convinced that we will likely become proactive allies working together in our joint quest to reform ‘industrial agriculture.’ I only wish we had met and had this productive dialog before he wrote his book. Unfortunately we didn’t and as result many misunderstandings are now circulating about Whole Foods Market as a result of his book and recent interviews. This letter is an attempt to address those misunderstandings.

The back and forth between these two men seems to have led in the last week or so to Whole Food Market articulating some policies that they probably thought were already in place. I personally think the entire dialog will lead to a better model idistributionubution.