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U.S. Doctors Say Biofuels Could Kill 192,000+ People Per Year

U.S. Doctors Say Biofuels Could Kill 192,000+ People Per Year

Turning Food into Fuel is Not the Solution

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) has released a warning that U.S. and European policy to increase the production of biofuels could lead to almost 200,000 deaths in poorer countries. How? Mostly through higher food prices. Most biofuels are made using food crops like corn at this time, and diverting corn to ethanol refineries not only increases the price of corn, but it also encourage farmers to plant more of it, leaving less space for other types of crops, driving up their price too. This is a big deal if you live on $1-2 a day…

The AAPS writes: “Research by the World Bank indicates that the increase in biofuels production over 2004 levels would push more than 35 million additional people into absolute poverty in 2010 in developing countries. Using statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Indur Goklany estimates that this would lead to at least 192,000 excess deaths per year, plus disease resulting in the loss of 6.7 million disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) per year. These exceed the estimated annual toll of 141,000 deaths and 5.4 million lost DALYs that the World Health Organization attributes to global warming. Thus, developed world policies intended to mitigate global warming probably have increased death and disease in developing countries rather than reducing them. Goklany also notes that death and disease from poverty are a fact, whereas death and disease from global warming are hypothetical.”

Corn Ethanol Subsidies Have to Go

We’ve been saying it for a long time: Biofuels can be a good tool, but they need to be made from non-food crops and take into account environmental factors like land-use issues and energy input-output ratios (corn ethanol isn’t doing too well in that area).

Sadly, the farm-lobby in the US and Europe is very powerful and subsidies will be hard to terminate. But it must be done, and the quicker, the better! Our resources shouldn’t support something that has modest environmental benefits and negative side-effects on the world’s food supply.

This post was originally posted by Treehugger.

 

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Photo courtesy of Raymond Larose via flickr
written by Michael Graham Richard, a Treehugger blogger.

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152 comments

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5:09PM PDT on May 2, 2012

You realize of course that this is a pack of lies don't you laced with a liberal dose of scare tactics for people who do not have the opportunity to counter them. To start with there is a study done by the World Bank that states clearly that biofuels will only at best use 6% of the land mass. In many cases, including Africa, South America and Asia bio fuels are the only option that will allow starving countries to produce cheap hydrocarbon alternatvie fuels. There s enough food in the world so thatno one needs to starve, what there is is a clear need to get the food from rich nations trash cans, where 40% ends up into poor nations larders, and that is why we need biofuels. The food brokers add 300% to the price of food at this point from the farmer to thesupermarket. Please do not spread these lies, it will eventually starve us all!!

12:44PM PDT on Apr 12, 2011

Thanks for the article.

7:47AM PDT on Apr 11, 2011

I don't see how we, the human race can ever talk about bio-fuels that aren't in competition with the food source - where is all this algae going to be grown? In the desert perhaps? Deserts are unique ecosystems in themselves, that are home to all manner of creatures, not just vast expanses of sand and rock, devoid of any life.

Someone had the bright idea of exploiting the sun's radiation in space, where it's far more plentiful than here on earth. That's all fine and dandy but how do you reckon on getting all that lovely energy back down to earth?

I think we need to accept we're just going to have to make huge changes to our lifestyles in the coming years. Maximum efficiency, minimal waste and vastly fewer people, for starters.

5:32AM PDT on Apr 11, 2011

Ryan H, 4.02pm: Bio-fuel can be made of so many more things than food. True, but does the process of doing so not require land? (By the way, if it's done in a building it's still taking up land!...infact you could argue it's even worse because the building requires much energy in its manufacture.)

7:40PM PDT on Apr 10, 2011

Folks ~ ~ I have some bad news for ya - -Speaking from Iowa, I can tell you that Sen. Chuck Grassely is a VERY influential, powerful member of the legislature AND THIS GUY LOVES ETHANOL!! He is thoroughly in the pockets of IMB, Monsanto, and best friend to the mega-industrialized farms. He will protect those subsidies with his office and reputation. Unless there is a total shakeup in our gov't, ethanol is here to stay.
The poor be damned.
And same to Grassely. SOB doesn't even bother to answer my weekly bitch letters, LOL, that I write just to bug him and get my anger out.

4:02PM PDT on Apr 10, 2011

bio-fuel can be made from so many more things than food. Peanut shells, algae farms, food waste, etc. Pretty much anything from the earth can be turned into fuel that is safe for the easrth.

10:43PM PDT on Apr 8, 2011

i`m sure there are many alternatiives to biofuel, thanks for the article

6:40PM PDT on Apr 8, 2011

There are other sources of plants than food products that produce oils that can be converted to biofuels. It has been demonstrated that by genetic conversion of the tobacco plant,
a plant form that produces a viable oil available to biofuel production is the result.
I wonder why this has not been investigated further; just think, by eliminating a carcinogenic product, a beneficial agent is produced.........to me, it seems like a miracle waiting to happen

4:18PM PDT on Apr 8, 2011

...last word there was "worries"

4:14PM PDT on Apr 8, 2011

Colleen Prinssen 7:15 am: I wasn't suggesting that everyone has to be a martyr for the cause. It doesn't have to be an all or nothing situation - there is some middle ground here. If it's freezing cold and raining then I think it might just be ok to use a drier and warmer form of transport.

As for the sweeping rather than vaccuuming - well, not everyone has four legged friends, let alone ones that jump on the furniture.

And "living directly off the land rather than indirectly via animals" was merely a reference to being vegan, not necessarily living off your own plot of land.

These ideas were just that. Ideas. Positive suggestions to effect a reduction in energy use.

Our resources are dwindling, Colleen. The rate of progress in research and development of alternative sources of fuel or energy generation is painfully slow. Now, call me a pessimist but it doesn't look, to me like we're going to be capable of generating sufficient energy, using alternative means, to match our current rate of consumption before those dwindling resources are no more. This being the case, given that we've reached peak oil, anyone of, say 40 and below is going to have to make huge changes to the way they currently live their lives. The world is going to be a very different place with a very different landscape. And, believe me, Colleen, when that happens, cycling in the freezing rain, cleaning the carpets and furniture with a broom and being vegan will be the last of your wo

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