Saturday, April 26, 2008

Biofuels Everywhere, but Not a Drop to Eat

I try not to get too preachy on this blog (really and truly I do), but I was listening to one of my favorite local talk shows this morning while preparing for Dema's birthday party and Carl and his guest (an old high school friend of mine) Eric (the show's Research Director) were discussing biofuels, the environment, global food issues, etc. and I found myself talking to the radio which is very unproductive and makes my family look at me funny. So I dropped what I was supposed to be doing and now you all get to read this...

People are all up in arms about biofuels and how dare we burn in energy something we could eat. I am not disagreeing, but people fail to see quite often the original inefficient, unsustainable waste of edible food crops in the form of meat. Before we shake our fingers at the biofuel vehicles, maybe take a step back and see how eating more plant based foods would benefit the planet. For those living in Illinois, look around at all the corn and soybean fields and you are not looking at corn on the table or tempeh in the tummy, you are looking at "feed" for animals which are fattened up to slaughter for humans to eat. Let us deal with this issue and not be so quick to point the finger at biofuels and maybe take a look again at our own backyard and see some of the local research going into the use of miscanthus and other plants, which are not food crops and grow without the use of chemicals, which can be used for energy. I'm not saying there is only one answer to the environmental issues we are facing or that there aren't real issues with some of the "alternative" fuels out there, but I find it ironic when people get so upset about the biofuels while continuing to eat their steaks. I believe eating a predominately plant-based diet is one of the easier and healthier steps each of us can make on a personal level which doesn't take any new technology, new laws, etc. But, Linda, I already eat a plant-based diet and I want to do more for the environment. Sure, ya do! I'm with you, I don't think helping the environment stops with our fork, but I think it is an important part of the puzzle which is often overlooked.

End of lecture and I will get back to making vegan pound cake.


Leeanthro said...

When I look around at all these corn fields, I think high fructose corn syrup. A product which the government subsidizes and is wreaking havoc on the health of the country. I'm not saying my life is 100% HFCS-free, but I try not to consume it (I do love a good 'ol caffiene-free coke once in a while!).

It really disgusts me that farmer's are paid to keep their land fallow rather than produce an edible crop. That it takes so incredibly much grain to produce a pound of beef. That some American (and politicians) are so short-sided that they can't realize that plants are renewable, but petroleum is not. We are slaves to the powers-that-be overseas and to the oil companies who are making money hand-over-fist claiming that they *have* to raise gas prices, while the cost of a barrel of crude is at an all time high and so are profits! They have control over production, yet create supply-and-demand situations that just lead to even more profit. I'm not buying what they have to say.

There *I* go getting preachy!

VeganLinda said...


True, true, true. The politics behind energy is pretty dirty and how it ties into transportation and food issues (I'm sure you've read Fast Food Nation) is just disturbing to say the least.

We are HFC-free at home (one has no control over what might be put in the food while eating out) since it makes me ill, but you make a good point about corn byproducts. I certainly don't advice farmers to keep planting corn even if it wasn't used for animal feed. We need to get completely away from the monocrop culture, in my opinion.

Since you mentioned slaves (not in the same context), we could go into the labor issues when we talk about farming and the plight of the small farmers, the chemicals dumped on the land, and oh so many, many more things.

Go ahead get preachy! :-)


Loretta said...

David and I were just talking about this the other night! We were discussing what we see as the coming food crisis, which is particularly frightening for me since our family is wholly dependent on others for our food (well, except Teagan...but her food *is* tied to mine...). Of course we started to talk about population, etc., and David said that people (like my parents) deciding to have a dozen or so kids wouldn't necessarily be unsustainable if they were vegan or even vegetarian. Of course, the discussion then digressed into me pontificating on why having a huge family like that could be/is detrimental for other reasons... ;)

Leeanthro said...


Good points. I'm not coming down on anyone who has a large family, to each his own, but (and this is a very big "but") the reason that family size has been large historically is because (a) you needed a large labor force because you had to actually produce food, tend to animals, maintain a farmstead, etc. and (b) because not everyone survived to adulthood. In this day and age, there is absolutely no reason to have a *very* large family other than the need to overpopulate the world with your own genes.

There is a reason why family size is shrinking, you just don't need that many kids when production has left the individual home and now production is on a collective basis.

I think some people take Darwinian fitness literally and reproduce as much as they can.

(I didn't mean *you* when I said "you." I meant it collectively.)

Now there I totally went on my soap box!!

Loretta said...


Those are all good points. In addition to the factors you mentioned, I would have to add that another major reason--in my opinion THE major reason--for large families was limitations on access to effective birth control. Even before our society's shift from a more significantly agrarian-based system, there were still many large families in "industrial" centers/cities. I think that access to effective means of birth control, particularly female-controlled birth control, is THE reason we have had such a significant reduction in family size, although the reasons you mentioned certainly played a role--just more minor roles in my opinion.

As for large families being caused by the literal internalization of Darwinian fitness: in my experience, it's people who absolutely reject Darwinian science who are having extremely large families. They see it as more of a "divinely ordained" thing. (I apologize for stepping on any toes here if I've done so.)

I hope I haven't offended you or anyone else. As the eldest of a large family (nine kids), I feel that having a very large family has a VERY great potential to actually be detrimental to the children who live in that type of family. I think that the parents just simply do not have enough time to spend the amount of quality time with their kids that those kids need. For me, it just goes against my own personal philosophy of parenting (which developed in great part in response to my own childhood experiences).

Poor Linda. I think we've totally usurped her blog here. :)

VeganLinda said...

No problem, talk amongst yourselves. :-)

Loretta said...

whoops--I meant to say not just birth control, specifically women's reproductive autonomy. Now that women are able (for the most part) to control when and how many children they have, we have seen the significant reduction in average family size (in our country at least). Of course, having access to effective woman-controlled birth control is an integral part of women's reproductive autonomy. I just wasn't sure if that was clear in my last comment. (Sorry that this has turned into my population/family size rant, Linda!)

Leeanthro said...

Me again!

I didn't mean Darwinian fitness in the sense that people who produce a lot of children are aware that they are "fit." Just like a flower cannot have the consciousness to know that it must reproduce-that reproduction is it's ultimate goal.

I agree, I would think that a lot of people who have very large families probably do not believe in evolution.

But Darwinian fitness (whether a living being believes in it or not) is defined when a living being reproduces and then that offspring reproduces. It's not just that a person has children, but that the children in turn have children. That is true Darwinian fitness.

I know someone who has quite a few children and he always jokes that the older ones take care of the younger ones so it's really not any more work for the parent. It really makes me sad because a child should not have the responsibilities of childcare or running a home at such a young age. Let them be children.

I completely agree with you about a woman's access to birth control when it comes to family planning and smaller family size. I can't imagine living in a time when I didn't have control over my own body.

(And so nice to have an intelligent conversation with other women that isn't about 3-year-olds!)

half pint pixie said...

I completely agree with you about the meat. Myself and Mr. HPP often talk about this (how interesting are we?? :) ), but when one grows fields and fields of soy to feed to cows, it's such an insane waste of resources, it's not achieving anything! Feeding perfectly good protein to animals just so one can eat them for their meaty protein is wasteful.

And biofuels make me sad, I remember reading about them a while ago, and I think we'd be hard pressed to find room in the world for food crops if every car owner used biofuels, time to ditch the cars (my personal view of course, I am not a car person as you know)!

Shawna said...

Right on Linda! I'm not vegetarian (although we don't eat that much meat), and I am not a huge fan of corn for ethanol either (too much energy input). But it annoys me to no end when people complain about growing corn for fuel, using the argument that it is taking food out of people's mouths. Ridiculous! My MIL saw the same thing on CNN the other day and believes everything she sees there. (sigh) I think it is all a big manipulation from the oil industry.