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Friday, March 30, 2007

Castro and US dept of energy sing the same tune

Strange allies in the global race for energy emerged today when both Fidel Castro and U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Clay Sell agreed that corn ethanol is a stupid idea. Reuters reports :

Output of U.S. ethanol, which is mostly made from corn, is expected to jump in 2007 from 5.6 billion gallons per year to 8 billion gpy, as nearly 80 bio-refineries sprout up.

Corn prices have doubled over the last year as the Bush administration, seeking to reduce oil imports while boosting output of fuels believed to cut greenhouse gas emissions, offers millions of dollars in incentives to boost ethanol production.

The corn prices, the highest in a decade, have spurred thousands of people in Mexico to protest over the price of tortillas, a national staple made from corn. The spike has also lead to worries that meat and dairy prices could eventually rise.

Sell said the future of biofuels is cellulosic ethanol, made from microbes that break down woody bits of non-food crops into sugars that can be fermented into fuel.

Cellulosic, and other new biofuels such as biobutanol, which can be made from petroleum as well as biomass, could begin to feed the commercial fuel market within six to 10 years, he said. They could also be part of a larger program to cut greenhouse gases, he added.

In a related incident El Commandate has condemed the use of food to produce automotive fuel. An excerpt from a conversation beween Chavez and Castro published by the BBC is below.
BBC: The following is the transcript of the conversation between Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez and Cuban leader Fidel Castro. It has been edited for brevity.

...Chavez: Do you know how many hectares of corn are needed to produce one million barrels of ethanol?

Castro: To do what?

Chavez: To produce one million barrels of ethanol?

Castro: Ethanol. I believe you told me about that the other day. Somewhere around 20 million hectares.

Chavez:[Laughing] Just like that.

Castro: Go ahead, remind me.

Chavez: Indeed, 20 million. You are the one with an exceptional mind, not me.

Castro: Twenty million. Well, of course. The idea of using food to produce fuel is tragic, is dramatic. No one is sure how high the price of food will rise when soy is being used for fuel, with the need there is in the world to produce eggs, milk, to produce meat. It is a tragedy. One of many today.

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