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Rethinking Ethanol: When Food-to-Fuel Means Gas or Groceries

June 13, 2008

Worldwide demand for increased grain production has dampened initial excitement about a future powered by ethanol. Queens City Councilman Eric Gioia has drafted two-fold resolution calling on Governor Paterson to petition the Environmental Protection Agency for a state-wide waiver on federal ethanol production requirements, while urging the federal government to gradually withdrawal their use of edible crops for fuel production. NYCCAH Executive Director Joel Berg supports the measure, calling government subsidies of ethanol production a “corporate welfare program,” which acts as “one of the most pointless contributors” to food cost increases. Biofuels production contributed to one half of the growth in demand for staple crops in the past year, according to the International Monetary Fund, and with the U.N. calling for a 50 percent increase in world food production by 2030, the 30 percent of America’s corn crop devoted to biofuels has begun to look less like progress and more like a liability. Alternatives to food-based fuel include increasing the efficiency of traditional fuel and improving hybrid technology, while encouraging car owners to scale back their time spent behind the wheel.

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