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"Food vs. Fuel," A False Debate


Gas prices have doubled. High food prices have pushed over a hundred million people into starvation. It's snowing in the northwest United States -- in the middle of summer. And a United States president, known for his allegiance to the dark world of oil and for his suspect behavior around the biggest terrorist attack in U.S. history, appears to be preparing to go to war with Iran.

This is not the set up for Oliver Stone's new World War III thriller; it is the summer of 2008 -- a year that will likely determine the course of America for generations to come.

Against this volatile backdrop, there is a growing hope that the "green" in America's red, white and blue could yield answers and technologies that can get us out of the climate and energy crises. Depending on one's particular definition of "green," a new group of fuels called "biofuels" have become a personal badge of honor for some and a national disgrace for others. A fervent debate rages over the ecological, economic, and sociological impact of these fuels.

In an effort to simplify the data, the media has clumped these fuels together, calling the entire conglomerate of biologically derived fuels "biofuels." Through a carefully managed flurry of information, the public has been led to believe three vastly generalized myths:

1) Biofuels are all the same;
2) Biofuels are "bad" because they are produced at the expense of food;

oh, and one other thing ,

3) Biofuels are all made from the big bad grain called corn.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

That's because, like biofuels, the truth is a commodity bought and sold on the open market. The recent "untruths" about biofuels are brought to us by the American Petroleum Institute (API), which has given the New York based public relations agency Edelmann the mandate to "better America's perception of petroleum fuels," and the Grocery Marketer's Association of America (GMA), which, according to Iowa Senator Grassley's web site, has also initiated a smear campaign against biofuels. The debate these strange bedfellows manufactured is now commonly known as "Food vs. Fuel."

Much of the "Food vs. Fuel" controversy centers on ethanol, the alcohol fuel that is primarily made from corn in the United States and sugarcane in Brazil. Very little ink or airtime is given to the other biofuels, especially fuels from non-food sources, fuels from waste and fuels from new crops like algae.

In addition to dissuading the public and most policy makers that biofuels could be a viable solution to the energy woes of America, this debate has combined with the soaring price of oil and a lack of government support to decimate much of the U.S. biofuels industry.

Over the coming weeks, I will attempt to dissect the myths surrounding the "Food vs. Fuel" debate, and present you with some cutting-edge information about biofuels. I will also do my best to address the many questions you will pose.

Following is a general outline of the topics I will be covering:

Week 2
Who Ate My Tortillas? -- The Truth About Food vs. Fuel

Week 3
Where's My Orangutan? -- Why Biofuels Don't Kill Apes

Week 4
Too Expensive to Meter -- The Exploding Nuclear/Hydrogen Hype

Week 5
Biofuels 101 -- What Dick Cheney Doesn't Want You to Know

Week 6
Biofuels: The Next (and Hopefully We'll Get it Right) Generation

Week 7
Mean Green Fuel Machines -- Algae to the Rescue

Week 8
Bio "Energy" -- Mother Nature Knows Best

Week 9
The Secret to the Energy Universe -- (Finally!)

Week 10
New Series -- "Global Warming Doesn't Exist (So Why is it so Darned Hot ?!)"

Our country is capable of becoming self-sufficient, out of war and out of debt while breathing the fresh air of environmental consciousness and keeping our stomachs full.