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Don't Be Fuelish With Our Food

Date : Tue, 01 Jul 2008 17:27:29 -0400

For Immediate Release
Contact: Jeff Tittel June 27, 2008 (609) 558-9100

Don't Be Fuelish With Our Food

Each week you have to make a decision on whether you can afford to buy food or fuel. Which is a bigger shock when you go to the supermarket or to the gas station? The truth is the high cost of food and the high cost of fuel are directly related. We are diverting more and more of our nation's farm fields to grow corn and soy beans for fuel for our automobiles instead of food for our tables.

According to USDA, 25 percent of America's corn crop was diverted to produce ethanol in 2007 and 30 to 35 percent of our corn will be diverted in 2008. As a result, corn prices have doubled in the last two years, driving up the cost of basic staples like eggs (69%), milk (22%), beef (10%) and chicken (12%). Wheat prices have increased 400% in the last year, as a result of farmers converting their fields from wheat to corn. The rising cost of food prices are falling most heavily on our state's lower and middle class families, resulting in record demand for anti-hunger programs. The forecast is even worse, studies by the BLS show food increases going up 5 to 8 percent in the next year.

When variables out of our control are contributing to these high food costs - like the severe flooding in the Midwest, our nation's bread basket - we should not be adding to the problem with what we can control. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency needs to restructure federal food-to-fuel mandates to address rising food prices, emerging public health concerns and to accelerate the transition to fuels that will not pit our mile per gallon needs against our need for feeding our families.

Ethanol fails for other reasons too.

Food-based fuels, particularly ethanol, cause a great deal of environmental harm. Ethanol releases ground level ozone and smog into our atmosphere, affecting air quality and contributing to asthma and other breathing problems.

The production of ethanol and other food-based fuels has led to the destruction of forests around the world, including rainforests, in order to make room for cultivation. Brazil has destroyed more than 5 million acres of rainforest, an area the size of New Jersey, to grow sugar. Indonesia has destroyed 4 million acres of palm oil, the size of Connecticut, and it is threatening the survival of the orangutan that feeds on palm nuts. Not only does this destroy habitat for threatened and endangered species, it also contributes to global warming by removing carbon-absorbing trees and plants.

Ethanol is driving up the cost of fuel. It requires 8 times more energy input than it produces and the output is less valuable than gasoline. It takes a gallon and a quarter of ethanol to equal the same mileage of a gallon of gasoline. And, that costs about $6 a gallon.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 directs refiners to blend 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol and 1 billion gallons of bio-diesel into the nation's fuel supplies by 2015. Fortunately, Congress recognized that diverting more than 30 percent of our corn crop and our vegetable oils into our fuel supplies could impact food prices and gave states the power to ask the EPA to restructure these mandates.

We at the Sierra Club believe the state of New Jersey should join California in seeking the oxygenate waiver for fuels so that we do not have to replace MTBE with ethanol. This waiver would allow us to reformulate gasoline to meet the same standards without the use of ethanol.

Right now thousands of families are struggling to make ends meet; it makes little sense to artificially inflate the price of food. We need to use energy efficiency and truly clean technologies like wind, solar, and geothermal energy to address the our energy and global warming challenges instead of being steered towards false choices, like ethanol, that hurt us more than they help us. In light of these urgent economic and environmental issues, New Jerseyans must ask Governor Corzine to tell the EPA to restructure our food-to-fuel mandates and seek an ethanol and oxygenate waiver.

The Sierra Club is the nation's oldest and most effective environmental organization and is a part of Food Before Fuel a coalition that includes a variety of members including restaurant associations, retailers, and food banks.

Jeff Tittel is Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

Becca Glenn, Program Assistant New Jersey Sierra Club

145 W. Hanover Street Trenton, NJ 08618

609-656-7612: phone

609-656-7618: fax

Received on 2008-07-01 20:49:24

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
or email Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator, at nicole.dallara@sierraclub.org

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