Bill Clinton warns: Too much ethanol could lead to food riots
I am not a fan of our corn ethanol policy as I made clear made clear during the last food crisis (see “The Fuel on the Hill” and “Can words describe how bad corn ethanol is?” and “Let them eat biofuels!“). In a world of blatantly increasing food insecurity — driven by population, dietary trends, rising oil prices, and growing climate instability — America’s policy of burning one third of our corn crop in our engines (soon to be 37% or more) is becoming increasingly untenable, if not unconscionable.
If you want to understand why it will be politically difficult to roll back US ethanol production to saner levels, Reuters has a good article, “Analysis: In food vs fuel debate, U.S. resolute on ethanol.” Yet it is that piece which notes, “U.S. ethanol production this year will consume 15 percent of the world’s corn supply, up from 10 percent in 2008.”
By Tom Kenworthy, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.
Speaking today at the Center for American Progress, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the Obama administration will not shy away from pushing for expansions of the nation’s network of protected lands, including the designation of new national monuments. He also issued a strong defense of his department’s new policy giving interim protections to wilderness-quality federal lands just a few days after the House voted to block the use of funds to implement the policy this year.
In unveiling the America’s Great Outdoors initiative last week, President Obama laid the foundation for what could become a solid administration legacy on land conservation in the 21st century. Building on the broad national support for community-based efforts to protect America’s rich land and waterway resources, the initiative seeks to re-invigorate our connections to the outdoors, particularly among the young and urban residents, to facilitate local and state conservation programs, to look at land conservation in a broader, landscape-level context, and to begin managing federal lands to build resilience to climate change.
Interviewed by historian Doug Brinkley, Salazar said the initiative will rely heavily on what he called an extensive and broad-based “dialogue with the American people” about conservation priorities. He defended the administration’s new “wildlands” policy that seeks to provide interim protections for pristine federal lands as was done for several decades before the Bush administration relinquished that authority in a legal settlement with the state of Utah:
We need to manage the public estate for all purposes, including wilderness characteristics. . . . I think there are people who’ve made more of this issue than they should have, including people who are doing it for whatever political agenda they want to serve. . . . Wilderness is not a bad thing.
The launch of the America’s Great Outdoors initiative comes against a backdrop of Republican hostility on Capitol Hill to sensible land conservation efforts by the Obama administration. The House of Representatives has adopted a budget bill that would prevent the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management from implementing its wildlands policy, and only narrowly turned back a GOP-led effort to strip the president of his authority to designate national monuments, a power used by most presidents for more than a century.
Supporters of those extreme measures are so beholden to special interests that want to open treasured federal lands to more oil and gas drilling and other commercial development that they fail to understand how strongly the public supports stronger land conservation efforts.
Even in the midst of the great recession, voters across the country remain strongly committed to funding land conservation and acquisition measures. In 2010, according to the Trust for Public Land, 41 out of 49 state and local initiatives to fund land conservation were approved by voters, and those measures will provide nearly $2.2 billion for those purposes. Since 1988, voters across the country in local and state elections have dedicated more than $56 billion to conserving open space and other land conservation projects, approving bonding and pay as you go ballot questions more than 75 percent of the time.
And a new Colorado College poll conducted in five Rocky Mountain states finds that westerners are strongly committed to conservation and believe that environmental protections and a strong economy go hand-in-hand. The survey found that for 87 percent of western voters “having clean water, clean air, natural areas, and wildlife” is either extremely (47 percent) or very (40 percent) important to quality of life. And two-thirds say that boosting renewable energy production will create jobs in their state.
Westerners understand, Salazar said today, that protected areas like national monuments, are “economic generators” and that there is a direct connection between conserving land and economic development. “We can tone down the rhetoric,” he said. “We in the United States have some very special places — they are not Republican places, they are not Democratic places, they are not independent places, they belong to all of us.”
By Climate Guest Blogger on Feb 24, 2011 at 4:17 pm
The recent unrest in the Middle East, which has been attributed, in part, to high food prices, gives us a warning of the type of global unrest that might result in future years if the climate continues to warm as expected. A hotter climate means more severe droughts will occur. We can expect an increasing number of unprecedented heat waves and droughts like the 2010 Russian drought in coming decades. This will significantly increase the odds of a world food emergency far worse than the 2007 – 2008 global food crisis. When we also consider the world’s expanding population and the possibility that peak oil will make fertilizers and agriculture much more expensive, we have the potential for a perfect storm of events aligning in the near future, with droughts made significantly worse by climate change contributing to events that will cause disruption of the global economy, intense political turmoil, and war.
API, whose membership includes oil giants like Exxon-Mobil and Chevron, already spends tens of millions of dollars every year on lobbying, advertisements and Astroturf campaigns to support the the oil industry agenda. As CAP’s Dan Weiss wrote, API “wants to drill in fragile, sensitive places, keep government tax breaks, expand offshore drilling without reforms, and block global warming pollution reduction requirements.”
Brazil, China and India are expected to fuel global investments in clean energy in 2011 that are expected to reach $240 billion, the head of a United Nation’s green economy initiative said on Wednesday.
The American Petroleum Institute, the Big Oil industry’s chief lobbying organization, will start directly backing political candidates in the second quarter of this year. API, whose membership includes oil giants like Exxon-Mobil and Chevron, already spends tens of millions of dollars every year on lobbying, advertisements and Astroturf campaigns to support the the oil industry agenda. As CAP’s Dan Weiss wrote, API “wants to drill in fragile, sensitive places, keep government tax breaks, expand offshore drilling without reforms, and block global warming pollution reduction requirements.”
API’s turn toward direct political donations is doubly problematic because, in addition to acting as the industry’s chief lobbyists, the institute runs technical committees that set standards for the oil industry. In its official report, the commission that investigated the BP oil spill found that API was too “compromised” to be setting industry standards. “Because they would make oil and gas industry operations potentially more costly, API regularly resists agency rulemakings that government regulators believe would make those operations safer, and API favors rulemaking that promotes industry autonomy from government oversight,” the commission found. And this was before API decided to begin directly supporting candidates!
In its proposed 2012 budget, the Obama administration suggested, once again, removing the billions in subsidies that taxpayers give oil companies every year. API has been at the forefront of the lobbying fight to preserve Big Oil’s subsidies, demonizing the removal of them as new “energy taxes,” even while admitting that cutting the subsidies and plowing the money back into clean energy technology would create “a lot more jobs.”
Rapidly warming climate is likely to seriously alter crop yields in the tropics and subtropics by the end of this century and, without adaptation, will leave half the world’s population facing serious food shortages, new research shows”¦.
“The stresses on global food production from temperature alone are going to be huge, and that doesn’t take into account water supplies stressed by the higher temperatures,” said David Battisti, a University of Washington atmospheric sciences professor.
Yes, this 2009 study is a serious underestimate of the speed and scale of likely impacts for two reasons.
By Climate Guest Blogger on Feb 24, 2011 at 7:29 am
One of America’s largest grassroots climate organizations is readying a national campaign against the lobbying efforts of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Brad Johnson has thestory.
The Chamber, described by 350.org founder Bill McKibben as the “power plant” of “money pollution” in Washington, DC, has led lobbying efforts to block action on climate change for decades.
Because of its pro-pollution, anti-science stance, the Chamber is threatening American prosperity “” its supposed mission. Several companies, including Apple, Exelon, and Pacific Gas & Energy, have quit the lobbying group over its climate denial. In the Tom Dispatch, McKibben explains how 350.org plans to expose the split between real American businesses and the multinational polluters that fund the “U.S.” Chamber of Commerce, with the simple message, “The U.S. Chamber Doesn’t Speak For Me“:
By Climate Guest Blogger on Feb 24, 2011 at 7:28 am
Pete Altman, reposted from NRDC’s Switchboard blog.
Nationwide, nearly six out of 10 Americans (58 percent) – including 55 percent of Independents and about half (48 percent) of Republicans – oppose the U.S. House vote to “block the EPA from limiting carbon dioxide pollution,” according to the survey of 784 registered voters conducted February18-20, 2011 by Public Policy Polling for NRDC. My colleague Dan Lashof blogged on the bad votes, which have nothing to do with cutting federal spending, a few days ago.
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