Monday, March 31, 2008

What Happened to the Starving Children?

Have you wondered, “What happened to the starving children?” We have. Television ads used to be filled with images of desperate children in third world countries who needed our help.

Now, we have warnings about global warming and the need for energy independence. The Natural Resources Defense Council recently sent out a mailing designed to make it look as if it was sent personally from Leonardo DiCaprio begging us to protect the polar bear, “The polar bear is sending us a desperate S.O.S.” The mailing even offered a free tote bag (with a gift of $10 or more) emblazoned with the words “Save the Polar Bear!” and featuring a cuddly looking graphic of a mother polar bear with her cubs.

One has to wonder, are there no more staving children? Is the polar bear more important that human life? (Check out past postings: Food or Fuel and People or the Planet.)

At CARE, we have been concerned with the unintended consequences of global warming’s politics. We do not believe anyone wants to harm the earth. (Well, maybe a few characters from an Austin Powers movie.) When people hear about polar bears drowning, they want to do the right thing. But, they are not aware of what taking preventative measures, in case the Climate change hysterics are warranted, will cost them personally—or what the other unintended consequences might be. We believe that if people have the complete picture, they will make better choices.

Here, one of CARE’s Energy Counsel Members Dennis Avery looks into one of those unintended consequences: the inability to feed the hungry. Yes, even though the needs of the hungry have been downed out by the supposed needs of the polar bears, etc., the hungry are still out there—and getting hungrier.

Biofuels Forcing World To Ration Food Aid
The World Food Program is preparing to ration food aid for the world’s hungriest poor. Why? Primarily because we’re burning food in our automobiles. The rich-country mandates for biofuels have doubled and tripled world food prices in less than three years.

The World Food Program’s costs are rising by millions of dollars per week and the donations aren’t, warns WFP executive director Josette Sheeran. The WFP is trying to feed more than 70 million people in 78 countries with voluntary contributions—but now can’t afford to keep its agreed-upon commitments.

World corn prices are above $5 a bushel, up from $1.86 three years ago. Prices for wheat, soybeans, rice and even cotton are rising as they’re crowded out of field space by biofuel crops. Pakistan says it will reimpose food rationing for the first time since the 1980s. China’s food inflation rate is 18.2 percent, and the Chinese have blocked further expansion of their fledgling biofuel program.

Oxfam points out that the poor in the Third World must often spend 60-80 percent of their incomes for food, so the price increases are a drastic threat to their well-being.
In Yemen, the prices of mostly-imported bread and other staples have nearly doubled in recent months, with at least a dozen people killed in food riots.

The underweight proportion of the world’s children under five had dropped by 20 percent since 1990—but that vital progress may now be reversed by the biofuel subsidies. Meanwhile, while U.S. and European officials stubbornly insist that burning millions of tons of corn, sugar and palm oil in our gas tanks has nothing to do with the soaring prices of farm commodities.

“The fundamental cause is high income growth,” claims Joachim von Braun, the head of the International Food Policy Research Institute. He blames increased meat consumption in such high-growth nations as China and India. But both those big countries have largely supplied their own grain and meat increases over the past 15 years.

The commodity-savvy Financial Times is more realistic. “Biofuels will not feed the hungry,” it warned in a recent editorial. “. . . the biggest structural change [in food pricing] is biofuels. In the space of a few years, the U.S. has diverted about 40 million tonnes of maize to produce bioethanol—about 4 percent of global production of coarse grains. That rapid growth is largely the result of subsidies—which must halt. The environmental benefits of maize biofuel are ambiguous at best and it should not be favored over growing maize for food.”

The same should be said, of course, about the EU’s new commitment to provide 10 percent of its transport fuel from land-hungry biofuels, grown both in the EU countries and imported from such species-rich environments as Indonesia and Thailand. One of the great apes, the orangutan, is directly threatened by palm oil plantations because the apes love to eat the palm seedlings. Thousands of orangutans have been captured and killed because the palm oil plantations are an “attractive biofuel nuisance.”

U.S. corn farmers raised a record amount of grain last summer—but one-third of it is going into ethanol plants to “cure our addiction to foreign oil.” That corn will produce perhaps 10 billion gallons of ethanol—but nets out to just 50 gallons worth of gasoline per acre. That’s after subtracting the nitrogen fertilizer, the diesel fuel, the process heat for the ethanol plants—and ethanol’s 35 fewer Btu’s of energy per gallon.

Match 50 gallons worth of gasoline per acre against America’s annual demand for 135 billion gallons of gasoline! If we doubled corn yields, we’d still not achieve much “energy independence.” Nor would we feed the hungry.

DENNIS T. AVERY is a senior fellow for Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. and is the Director for Center for Global Food Issues ( He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. ALEX A. AVERY is the Director of Research at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Food Issues. Readers may write them at Post Office Box 202, Churchville, VA 24421.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Ethanol Lobby Greasing The Palms Of Politicians

It has been a while since we have featured a posting on ethanol. It seems like the noise about it has died down and that people are beginning to realize that ethanol is NOT responsible energy. But, perhaps that is just in our circles—people who study this stuff. It seems that the United States Government is still hell-bent on promoting it—even when it makes no sense. We expected the furor to die down after the Iowa elections. After all, Iowa grows corn and Iowa elects presidents. Politically, ethanol had to be supported through the primary.

But today, this posting arrived in our in-box. It is from Walter E. Williams. He is not one of our regular contributors, but we did post something of his back in October. We believe you will find this piece to be a worthy addition to your energy information arsenal. Do you think ethanol is a hoax?

Big Corn and Ethanol Hoax
One of the many mandates of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 calls for oil companies to increase the amount of ethanol mixed with gasoline. President Bush said, during his 2006 State of the Union address, "America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world." Let's look at some of the "wonders" of ethanol as a replacement for gasoline.

Ethanol contains water that distillation cannot remove. As such, it can cause major damage to automobile engines not specifically designed to burn ethanol. The water content of ethanol also risks pipeline corrosion and thus must be shipped by truck, rail car or barge. These shipping methods are far more expensive than pipelines.

Ethanol is 20 to 30 percent less efficient than gasoline, making it more expensive per highway mile. It takes 450 pounds of corn to produce the ethanol to fill one SUV tank. That's enough corn to feed one person for a year. Plus, it takes more than one gallon of fossil fuel -- oil and natural gas -- to produce one gallon of ethanol. After all, corn must be grown, fertilized, harvested and trucked to ethanol producers -- all of which are fuel-using activities. And, it takes 1,700 gallons of water to produce one gallon of ethanol. On top of all this, if our total annual corn output were put to ethanol production, it would reduce gasoline consumption by 10 or 12 percent.

Ethanol is so costly that it wouldn't make it in a free market. That's why Congress has enacted major ethanol subsidies, about $1.05 to $1.38 a gallon, which is no less than a tax on consumers. In fact, there's a double tax -- one in the form of ethanol subsidies and another in the form of handouts to corn farmers to the tune of $9.5 billion in 2005 alone.

There's something else wrong with this picture. If Congress and President Bush say we need less reliance on oil and greater use of renewable fuels, then why would Congress impose a stiff tariff, 54 cents a gallon, on ethanol from Brazil? Brazilian ethanol, by the way, is produced from sugar cane and is far more energy efficient, cleaner and cheaper to produce.

Ethanol production has driven up the prices of corn-fed livestock, such as beef, chicken and dairy products, and products made from corn, such as cereals. As a result of higher demand for corn, other grain prices, such as soybean and wheat, have risen dramatically. The fact that the U.S. is the world's largest grain producer and exporter means that the ethanol-induced higher grain prices will have a worldwide impact on food prices.

It's easy to understand how the public, looking for cheaper gasoline, can be taken in by the call for increased ethanol usage. But politicians, corn farmers and ethanol producers know they are running a cruel hoax on the American consumer. They are in it for the money. The top leader in the ethanol hoax is Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), the country's largest producer of ethanol. Ethanol producers and the farm lobby have pressured farm state congressmen into believing that it would be political suicide if they didn't support subsidized ethanol production. That's the stick. Campaign contributions play the role of the carrot.

The ethanol hoax is a good example of a problem economists refer to as narrow, well-defined benefits versus widely dispersed costs. It pays the ethanol lobby to organize and collect money to grease the palms of politicians willing to do their bidding because there's a large benefit for them -- higher wages and profits. The millions of gasoline consumers, who fund the benefits through higher fuel and food prices, as well as taxes, are relatively uninformed and have little clout. After all, who do you think a politician will invite into his congressional or White House office to have a heart-to-heart -- you or an Archer Daniels Midlands executive?

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics and serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of More Liberty Means Less Government: Our Founders Knew This Well.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Climate Change—Catastrophic?

CARE was honored to be among an esteemed group of colleagues last week in New York for the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change. There we had the opportunity to meet many of our energy counsel members face-to-face. One of those was Dan Gainor of the Business and Media Institute—devoted solely to analyzing and exposing the anti-free enterprise culture of the media. Here is Dan’s commentary of the conference with an emphasis on the media’s biased coverage.

Man the Lifeboats - Global Warming Alarmism Is Swamping Debate
Media ignore opposition, call scientists 'flat Earthers' to sink climate change dispute.
To hear the mainstream media tell it, we have a Titanic problem with global warming. Not large, but Titanic in that they believe “unsinkable” mankind is facing a looming cataclysm.
How do they know? Because some scientists tell them that’s the way it is. But when other scientists tell them that might not be the case, they only half listen and soon forget.

Such is the fate of the unprecedented 2008 International Conference on Climate Change put on by the Heartland Institute. That event drew 500 scientists, economists and public policy experts to New York to discuss the flaws in the Al Gorean “consensus” on global warming.

It should have been big news, but the media never gave it a fair chance. Reporters mischaracterized the three-day event as “quirky” or a “roast” of Al Gore and called attendees “flat Earthers,” as if we would sail right off the edge of the world.

The event had such promise. Along with about 100 scientists from around the globe, actual members of the mainstream media attended representing The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and major networks like ABC and CNN.

And that’s where things went off course. ABC had two of its top people there – John Stossel and Bill Blakemore. But no stories. That was typical. None of the broadcast network coverage the week of the event even acknowledged the conference existed.

CNN viewers would have been better off if the network had followed the same course. One-time anchor Miles O’Brien, famous for dozing during a global warming hearing on Capitol Hill, went full speed to the attack.

This time O’Brien was wide awake and compared the conference to “scientific trash talks.” He mocked Heartland Institute President Joe Bast, saying, “I can’t help but think you’re living on a different planet than I am.” O’Brien ended his piece by noting “even the Flat Earth Society didn’t fold its tent in 1493.”

Print coverage was nearly as bad. While some discussed the conference intelligently – like Investor’s Business Daily or columnist John Tierney from the Times – others used it as one more chance to sink opposition to the hype surrounding manmade global warming.

Times reporter Andrew Revkin seemed perplexed that he was “forced to cover the edges of the discourse” rather than “relax” with his family. But Revkin soon made up for it. Just seven paragraphs into one of the pieces he wrote on the conference, he turned to an expert to help him understand those wacky conservatives, rather than focus on the science being discussed.

He cited “Riley E. Dunlap, a sociologist at Oklahoma State University who has studied the influence of conservative policy institutes,” and Dunlap gave the predictable sound bites. He said such groups “can hardly be considered to be underdogs" because they are, in Revkin’s words, so “well financed.”

For one last salvo, Revkin cited a Greenpeace activist who also attacked the event.

The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin quoted Gene Karpinski of the League of Conservation Voters, who said he’s “sure that the flat Earth society had a few final meetings before they broke up.” That quote ran the morning of the CNN broadcast. It’s unclear if O’Brien lifted his material from the left. Let’s just say he’s on board with their agenda.

Eilperin also showed she learned nothing from the conference. Less than a week later, she wrote a front-page story saying humans need to “cease carbon emissions altogether within a matter of decades.” She included no other viewpoints on that radical statement. I guess that means we all have to stop exhaling soon.

According to Eilperin, the study she cited was based, like many climate predictions, on “increasingly powerful” computer models and “scientists acknowledge that no model is a perfect reflection of the complex dynamics involved and how they will evolve with time.”

In other words, climate models aren’t necessarily accurate. Had she paid more attention to the conference, she would have heard from famous climatologist and hurricane forecaster Bill Gray criticizing the reliance on climate models instead of climate science. She might even have quoted him.

Just two days after the conference, “CBS Evening News” was warning that threatened bat populations were “the canary in a climate change coal mine.”

Those stories, and hundreds more like them, helped prove one of the very points the conference intended to make – that the mainstream media have given up the role of observer and become advocates for one side in the climate debate.

Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Fellow and vice president of the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute. He can be seen Thursday afternoon each week on Fox Business Network.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Global Cooling?

Earlier this week a team of us from CARE joined hundreds of others from around the globe at the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change. With the new news about global cooling, many of the presenters had a good time with bringing up the change in the climate.

One of the treats for us at CARE was meeting so many of our Energy Counsel Members whom we had only talked to by phone or e-mail. One of those was the author of this piece: Dennis Avery (pictured here with CARE's Executive Director Marita Noon). Here you will read his take on the topic.

If you have not read an earlier posting in our Blog on the last great global cooling, please check it out. Here in the CARE Blog, you will also find many other pieces that present climate change views that are not normally found in the mainstream media. Do a search for global warming and you will find a selection of interesting reading on the topic.

Global Temperatures Have Dropped: Did Sunspots Predict It?
Three of the world’s major climate monitors have announced that the earth’s temperatures dropped over the last 12 months--by enough to virtually offset the entire “unprecedented warming” of the last century. This comes after nine years of no warming, and a net warming since 1940 of just 0.2 degrees.

Equally important, a drop in temperatures had been predicted by the sunspot index that foretells the earth’s temperature changes with a log time of nearly a decade. Our temperatures have a 79 percent correlation with the sunspot index. The sunspot index turned downward in 2000.

Britain’s Hadley Centre, NASA, and the University of Alabama/Huntsville say the temperature drop since January of 2007 was measured between 0.59 and 0.75 degree C. This includes an unusually cold winter in the Southern Hemisphere, and the harshest Chinese winter in a century. Part is due to a regional cooling in the Pacific called La Nina which appears every 4-5 years, but the strength and global scope of this cooling has been startling.

Additionally, the Arctic ice that seemed to disappear last summer is back this spring, and thicker, apparently affected last year more by wind currents than melting. The Antarctic ice is still record-large.

Does this mean a new Ice Age? Probably not, though one will appear eventually. We’re more likely to have a moderate decline in temperatures over the coming decades like the cooling that occurred from 1940 to 1975.

For the longer term, we’re still controlled by the moderate, natural 1,500-year climate cycle that we discovered in the Greenland ice cores in 1984. It has since been confirmed in seabed and lake sediments, fossil pollen, cave stalagmites and ancient records around the world. The 1,500-year cycle raises temperatures in Washington and Paris by 1–2 degrees C for centuries at a time, and then drops them abruptly into “little ice ages” that also last for centuries.

Humans may have contributed to the Modern Warming—but apparently not much. Most of the Modern Warming occurred before 1940, which is when we started really spewing CO2 from our smokestacks and autos. The net warming since 1940 is a tiny 0.2 degrees C.--and I’ll cheerfully give Mr. Gore half of that for the sake of debate.

Conservation is still and always has been a good idea, but the dangers of CO2 may have been radically overstated. Every wild species on the planet today--including the polar bear--has been through these cycles before. There’s been no acceleration of sea-level rise since the Modern Warming began in 1850.

Let’s put a hold on David Suzuki’s demand that recalcitrant politicians be jailed for not banning fossil fuels. Let’s table in committee the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act that would eliminate about 85 percent of our current energy sources.

The past year’s temperature drop--and nine years of non-warming since 1998 despite rising CO2 levels--raise serious doubt about the supposed link between atmospheric CO2 and our temperatures. Past temperatures show virtually no historic correlation between our temperatures and CO2, despite the claims of Al Gore and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The end of the 1976-98 temperature surge confirms that we have “time to do the science,” as Al Gore’s climate mentor, Roger Revelle, told us in his last public writing in 1991. But we must also now recognize that the computerized climate models are not science, they’re guesses. It’s too soon for our political institutions to blame a predetermined villain called humanity.
DENNIS T. AVERY is a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC and is theDirector for the Center for Global Food Issues. He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer, of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Hundred Years, Readers may write him at PO Box 202, Churchville, VA 2442 or email to