State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has decided to allow up to 15 percent ethanol in gas for cars made after 2007. Currently, gasoline contains up to 10 percent ethanol.
This past summer, I warned about a plan by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to increase the amount of ethanol in gasoline. Because the increase could wreak havoc on boat engines, the EPA’s plan is opposed by the Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatU.S.) and the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA).
Here are the latest developments. The ethanol industry is seeking a waiver from the EPA to sell gasoline with 15 percent ethanol. The EPA and the Department of Energy have yet to conduct testing to determine the effect gasoline with a higher level of ethanol would have on marine engines.
Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) have introduced S.1666, the "Mid-Level Ethanol Blends Act of 2009" that would ensure that new fuels such as E15 are compatible with engines, including boat engines.
You can read S.1666 here.
If you agree with S.1666 that has the support of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, you are encouraged to contact
Governor Doyle wants the federal government to increase the percentage of ethanol in gasoline from 10 to 15 percent.
My constituents have not been clamoring for a mandate that would increase the amount of ethanol in our fuel. To the contrary, they vehemently oppose ethanol.
Governor Doyle is one of 10 Midwestern governors lobbying the feds to put more ethanol in your gas tank.
Having written a dozen blogs on ethanol, my record on the issue is clear. Too many question marks along with the dramatic impact on the world food supply make me more than skeptical about the value of ethanol. My constituents have also informed me of their strong opposition.
In America, members of Congress and the food industry are calling for an end to ethanol mandates. The nationwide corn-based ethanol mandate requires blending 9 billion gallons of ethanol into America’s fuel supply this year. Midwest flooding during June devastated several million acres of corn and soybeans fields, pushing the price of corn to record highs that have, in turn, severely hurt livestock producers.
The British also understand the ramifications of the ethanol craze. Christopher Booker and Richard North recently published Scared To Death: From BSE to Global Warming, How Scares Are Costing Us The Earth. They have written a column in the Daily Telegraph, chronicling the historical rise and speedy fall of biofuels.
Booker and North write, “Rarely in political history can there have been such a rapid and dramatic reversal of a received wisdom as we have seen in the past 18 months over biofuels.” Prior to the change in heart over biofuels, Booker and North document what they call “mankind’s love affair with biofuels,” a process that developed in five stages going back decades.
Stage One-The internal combustion engine is born. Henry Ford wanted his autos to run on ethanol made from corn and hemp. The petroleum business boomed during the 1920’s, and ethanol got placed on the back burner.
Stage Two- During the 1970’s, skyrocketing oil prices put the focus back on biofuels. The United Nations, after holding a conference on the issue in 1981 adopted a program in 1987 emphasizing biofuels.
Stage Three- Two key developments occurred during the 1990’s: 1) After the first Gulf War, the United States, staring at a spike in oil prices, viewed surplus crops as the answer to dependence on foreign oil, and 2) The United Nations considered biofuels a solution to global warming.
Stage Four- Between 2004 and 2007, hysteria over global warming grew. In an attempt to show leadership on global warming, the European Union (EU) set a required target of 10 percent of all EU transport fuel to come from biofuels by 2020. A United Nations report during 2006 indicated that in order to meet the EU goal of 10 percent, 70 per cent of dry land would have to be taken out of food production. Despite the UN report, the EU today refuses to alter its 10 percent target.
Stage Five- The ethanol backlash exploded, coming from some unpredictable sources. Environmental groups, once chief biofuel proponents, now had serious doubts, spurred by the effects in the Third World and rainforests. Worldwide food shortages had critics pointing the finger squarely at the biofuel craze.
Booker and North quote a United Nations official who says biofuels can only bring "more hunger to the poor people of the world, "and that biofuels are a "crime against humanity".
The world needs to get over its ethanol hangover and dramatically cut back on ramming food into fuel tanks. Here is Booker and North’s column in the Daily Telegraph.
You can add bananas to the list of foods that are seeing a sharp increase in price thanks to the rising cost of fuel.
Like the corn tortilla in Mexico, the banana is an important part of the daily diet in Britain.
There seems to be a consensus that ethanol has been a major factor in the rising cost of food that has led to food crisis conditions in many parts of the world.
It is encouraging to see the editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel write that ethanol mandates should be reconsidered.
A blog I wrote during February 2007 about the effects of ethanol mentioned the impact on food with emphasis on Mexico. It read, in part:
“Excitement over ethanol, a renewable fuel made with corn, has reached such a high level that there has been a virtual rush on corn. The effects have been devastating, especially in Mexico with a society, culture, and way of life dominated by the tortilla. Tortillas make up 40 percent of the diet for poor Mexicans, and with corn prices quadrupling in Mexico since last summer, Mexico is suffering through its worst tortilla crisis.
Exorbitant tortilla costs created by the buzz about ethanol have left few alternatives in Mexico. Mexicans who can afford food are bypassing tortillas for options that are less healthy, so they are gaining weight. The poor are eating less, eating less healthy, or going hungry.
There are many concerns about ethanol, its effect on world hunger being the latest. Ethanol has been known to wreak havoc on small engines, and now it is likely to wreak havoc on the food supply.”
Surely there were some who read that column and dismissed the conclusion. I doubt that’s the case today.
This is no longer a Mexican tortilla problem. Food supply epidemics have reached global proportions. The latest Agricultural Outlook from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, unveiled in late May in Paris has the grim details about escalating prices:
“Using data for February 2008 compared to February 2007, milk product prices have generally risen sharply, as shown by those for butter with price increases of 50% in Poland, 40% in France, 36% in Spain, 32% in the Czech Republic, about 36% in Jordan and some 12% in Malaysia. Egg prices have also risen sharply, by 34% in the US, 30% in the UK and the Czech Republic and 10% in Spain. Vegetable oil prices rose 18% in India and 47% in Botswana in the past year. Meat prices rose sharply in some countries such as China, where the increase was 45%.”
Sixteen months ago I pointed the finger at ethanol. Recently in Paris, world food experts did the same. OECD agriculture official Loek Boonekamp, according to the Washington Post, says about 33 percent of the projected increase in food prices over the next 10 years can be attributed to biofuels. Boonekamp also called the benefits of converting food into fuel, “probably smaller than commonly expected."
An OECD press release says growing demand for biofuels is leading to higher food prices, reporting “World fuel ethanol production tripled between 2000 and 2007 and is expected to double again between now and 2017 to reach 127 billion liters a year. Biodiesel production is seen to expand from 11 billion liters a year in 2007 to around 24 billion liters by 2017. The growth in biofuel production adds to demand for grains, oilseeds and sugar, so contributing to higher crop prices.”
The prognosis for the future of food prices from the OECD is bleak:
“Commodity prices will average substantially above the levels that prevailed in the past 10 years. When the average for 2008 to 2017 is compared with that over 1998 to 2007, beef and pork prices may be some 20% higher; raw and white sugar around 30%; wheat, maize and skim milk powder 40 to 60%; butter and oilseeds more than 60% and vegetable oils over 80%.
The poor, and in particular the urban poor in net food importing developing countries, will suffer more. In many low-income countries, food expenditures average over 50% of income and the higher prices will push more people into undernourishment.”
The report predicts more violent outbreaks and riots over food shortages that have already been reported in some countries.
The OECD recommends further review of existing biofuel policies. The suggestion comes as some members of Congress are requesting a relaxation of a requirement that 9 billion gallons of renewable fuels be produced in 2009, up from 6.5 billion last year. How widespread does the world’s food crisis have to get before we put the brakes on converting our food supply into fuel?