Is It Better To Use Corn To Make Fritters Or Fuel?

<p>Lester Brown is a farmer turned environmentalist, and a MacArthur genius. When he questions the use of corn to fuel automobiles as opposed to feeding the world's growing population, people listen. He pushes other technologies to fight global warming.</p>
December 10, 2006, 5pm PST | Irvin Dawid
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"The man who's most worried about the competition for corn is Lester R. Brown, a MacArthur "genius grant" winner with impeccable environmental credentials.

"The grain required to fill an SUV tank," he says, "could feed one person for one year."

"A former farmer, he founded Worldwatch Institute in 1974 and the Earth Policy Institute in 2001."

"By the end of 2007," he writes in one of his newsletter updates, "the emerging competition between the 800 million automobile owners who want to maintain their mobility and the world's 2 billion poorest people who want simply to survive will be on center stage."

"One answer to the world's energy lust, Brown says, is wind power. He envisions fields of windmills -- in gusty states such as North Dakota, Kansas and Texas. He sings the glories of bicycling and recycling, of geothermal heating and solar rooftops. And he bad-mouths ethanol."

"Among environmentalists, Brown's fears over man-vs.-machine competition for corn make him something of an iconoclast. There are those who believe that his zeal is causing a far more serious problem."

"He's painting such a bleak picture of the future of biofuels based on an extrapolation from corn," says Reid Detchon, executive director of the Energy Future Coalition, "that it could damage the development of biofuels as alternatives to gasoline in general." The coalition is seeking change in the country's energy policy to address oil dependence and climate change."

"The Worldwatch Institute, which Brown left in 2001, has become a champion of biofuels. The institute's president, Christopher Flavin, says his group has studied a variety of alternative energy possibilities and believes that rapidly developing technologies, new crops and innovative production methods will make organic fuel more appealing. "The biofuels industry," he says, "is moving away from corn."

Thanks to Jon Findley via Sierra Club Energy Forum

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Published on Sunday, December 10, 2006 in The Washington Post
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