Biofuel Debate in NC

First, take a look at this op-ed, and this article, both of which ran recently in the News and Observer.

The biofuel debate is looming. But politicians, the media, and many environmental groups don't know where to stand, which is problematic when the issue is referenced repeatedly as a cure-all for climate change, energy issues, poverty, and countless other problems facing humanity.

Like the op-ed points out, oil is a great catalyst for economic growth, especially in once stagnant local economies. But we all know the costs of oil.

Just what are the costs of biofuel? It wasn't reported widely, but recent US investment in biofuels drastically increased the price of corn-based foods in Mexico, leading to the "Tortilla Riots" in Mexico City, where tortilla prices shot up 400%.

Once the primary foodstuff of Mexico's poor, tortillas have now become a symbol of one of the main objections to current biofuels: inevitably, the development of biofuels will raise food prices for the world's poor.

Another objection, just as well-founded as the above, is that corn has long been discredited as a biofuel. It doesn't work logistically. But when do problems of logistics stop industry lobbyists? Does it matter that to actually replace US consumption on foreign oil with ethanol would require over 70% of US acreage? Not when every gallon of ethanol mixed into a barrel of gasoline nets $0.51 (courtesy of US taxpayers) to the "energy conscious" oil company.

So what is a better idea for NC? Electric cars are cleaner and more efficient than ethanol-dependent cars, not to mention they do not require massive deforestation or large amounts of environment-damaging materials (fertilizer, pesticide, etc.). North Carolina is known for its commitment to research and development. The state should take a good look at ethical and effective energy solutions and not what is politically expedient.

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