NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 16, 2008

The biofuel craze, egged on by global warming activists, has helped fuel a huge agricultural crisis.  But this crisis can at least be partially mitigated through better and more efficient use of the resources that we already have.  Right now, the urgent issue is water, not global warming, and we cannot afford to ignore it any longer, says Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, chairman of Nestle.

The production of biofuels has stimulated a massive, and destructive, reorientation of the world's agriculture markets:

  • The U.S. Department of Energy calculates that every 10,000 liters of water produces as little as five liters of ethanol, or one to two liters of biodiesel.
  • This year, the United States will use around 130 million tons of corn for biofuels; this corn was not available as human food, nor as fodder to animals.

The biofuel madness is contributing to water shortages that are already endemic:

  • Stretches of the Rio Grande, which partly separates the United States from Mexico, have dried up at regular intervals since 2001.
  • China's Yellow River ran dry in 1972, in 1996 and in 1997.

Worse yet, we are overusing ground water in large parts of the world.  Water levels are sinking rapidly both in China as well as in India's Punjab state.  Great aquifers, whether in the Sahara or in the southwestern United States, are being depleted rapidly.  This is water that dates from thousands of years ago.  Once gone, it is lost forever, says Brabeck-Letmathe.

Source: Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, "Biofuels Are Indefensible in Our Hungry World," Wall Street Journal, June 13, 2008.

For text:


Browse more articles on Environment Issues