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April 21, 2008

I Didn't Exactly Predict It, But
Posted by David Shorr

Almost exactly a year ago, I objected to Tom Friedman's idea that the key to recovering America's standing is for us to go green. The current global food crisis highlights the contrast I drew between greenhouse gas reductions as a feel-good cause for the industrialized world and the more immediate concerns over in the developing world about low living standards.

As recent coverage in the Times indicates, there is even a direct trade-off between the two as we divert corn (much of it grown here in Iowa) from the dinner table to the gas tank, in the form of subsidized ethanol. Obviously American ethanol isn't the cause of the food shortage, but it's a distinct factor. I'm not making an argument against action on global warming, and I understand that emerging dramatic weather patterns associated with climate change are a cause of the food shortage. But my point stands about the important distinction between saving the planet for our kids and grandkids and the need to improve daily life right now to avoid mass suffering and political mayhem on a much shorter timescale. See Sameer Lalwani over at Washington Note for a more strategic and substantive post on the same subject.


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It's another case of oversimplification being disastrous. I do carry links to energy information sites,but one place gave me cause to think very few were giving the interrelated problems the systemic analysis they deserve

There are other plants that are much better suited for biofuels than corn -- but grass doesn't vote and corn does (in effect). So we could've gone green without using corn.

If more people went Vegetarian we would really score. There would be plenty of food if we all ate lower on the food chain and didn't process grains through animals, which also require water and space, plus animal agriculture contributes more to global warming than transportation does.

I didn't think switching to ethanol had much to do with "going green" or combating global warming. The ethanol push is more connected to the drive for energy independence - an entirely different issue which is often mistakenly run together with the environmental concerns.