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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 13, 2009 9:02 AM. The previous post in this blog was Warning: Sewage overflow in Portland. The next post in this blog is Aaarrgh. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

No Snickers bars? Blame Peak Oil

The ethanol stampede is contributing to a sugar shortage. Big Food's answer? Relaxing import quotas and hurting the American farmer. It's either that, they say, or lay off some people currently making your Cocoa Puffs.

Comments (23)

Aren't the import quotas a relic from 1960 to prevent Cuba from selling cane sugar in the U.S.?

The sugar quotas benefit the few remaining sugar cane farmers in the U.S. at the expense of all U.S. consumers. Walk into an Econ 101 course about half way through the semester and you'll learn about the negative impacts of the U.S. sugar quota.

And, for all you high fructose corn syrup haters. Don't blame "big food." Blame the "poor" sugar cane farmer who funnels money to Capitol Hill to block imports of sugar from elsewhere in the world, thereby driving up U.S. sugar prices and causing "big food" to switch to lower cost HFCS.

I'm told that healthy foods don't have much sugar content.

Ethanol may be politically expedient to blame, but it has virtually no effect on food prices. I read a study a few weeks ago that compared changes in food prices and ethanol prices over time. The bottom line is that food prices don't track ethanol prices very well at all and are responsible for only 9% of the change in food cost.

Ethanol may be politically expedient to blame, but it has virtually no effect on food prices.

you're misunderstanding the fundamental problem--which isn't money, it's food security. in other words, crops grown and diverted for ethanol both take away food producing land and accelerate the depletion of topsoil and other bio problems.

but like the health care issue, it seems politically expedient to focus on "cost" rather than "health".

Beggar thy neighbor protectionism such as sugar quotas hurt consumers, enrich a few, and leave our neighbors in Latin America mired in poverty. Hurray for Big Food!

Sugar is one item that has been protected for a long time. It has been going on so long that there are probably entire families who have been made wealthy just off of the lobbying dollars spent by the sugar producers. Nobody in DC (on either side of the aisle) seems to have any real courage to eliminate the various barriers, quotas, taxes, subsidies that have been erected over the years for sugar. Someone somewhere must have some real juice to keep this thing locked up for so many years.

It has been awhile since Econ 101 but if I remember correctly, sugar was first protected almost 200 years ago. The pitch then was that if cheap foreign sugar was allowed to be imported then there wouldn't be enough work to keep the slaves busy and they might revolt. So the arguments have changed a little over the years the basic thought is still the same. Hand out lots of money to a few sugar farmers and they in turn give the money to some friends in DC.

The quotas were killed in the 70's but then Reagan (of all people) brought them back. Congress tried to kill the sugar program again in the 2006 farm bill but they just couldn't give up all of the money that flows their way.

Sugar might be one of the best examples of how providing protection money to a small group of people can distort the political system for decades. (almost 200 years now and no end in sight)

Sugar is one item that has been protected for a long time.

A long time indeed - since the founding of the country:

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/SC019

Dave C:

See http://home.comcast.net/~russ676/desiremore/biofuelmyths1.htm#bookmark7

Also:

http://www.biofuelrealitycheck.com/

Crop based biofuels are expanding agriculture into grasslands, forests, and wetlands. Regardless of what biofuel publicists tell you, farmers cannot grow both food and fuel on the same plot of land. That defies common sense. When Americans plant more corn, they do so by planting on land that was growing something else, reducing the supply of whatever that crop was, which raises its price, which motivates farmers in other parts of the world to clear new cropland to profit from those higher prices. Those prices eventually drop because of the new supply but the end result was the expansion of more cropland into ecosystem carbon sinks because of biofuels.

Clearing these lands and plowing them up releases gargantuan amounts of greenhouse gases that were stored in the soil and plants making crop based biofuels worse that the petroleum they replace. The latest science has shown that it can take anywhere from 30 to 300 years (depending on the biofuel and type of land converted) for the biofuel grown on that land to displace enough petroleum to compensate for the green house gases released when it was cleared and plowed up.

They are also driving the extinction of wildlife, everything from birds to orangutans.

And finally, they are displacing poor people off their land.

World population is expected to grow by another three billion people in the next forty years (present population is just over six billion). Humanity has consumed more grain than it has grown in seven out of the last nine years. Without those grain reserves to use, the world would have seen mass famine.

By finding a new use for grains--turning them into fuel--biofuels are reducing the size of those reserves. This increases the profit margins for farmers (the faster you make money the wealthier you are), which was the whole idea behind biofuels, but a farm system that burns its food reserves for fuel is not sustainable. Without adequate grain reserves, the next major crop failure will one day doom millions, possibly billions to starvation.

The only way to grow food and fuel is to destroy what little remains of our planet's biodiversity and ecosystem carbon sinks

wait, jack--are you seriously against lifting idiotic trade restrictions on sugar? whatever your concern for the (fabulously wealthy in most cases) sugar farmers, how about your concern for consumers, poor farmers outside the US unable to sell into the world's biggest market, and others in far greater need than you or the US sugar lobby?

Sugar in American food is rare.

We use the heavily subsidized type 2 diaobsisancer causing HFCS.


I read an article not too long ago that said that sugar farmers in latin / south America were actually harvesting their sugar, adding poisons to it so that it was no longer edible (to get around edible sugar import tariffs), and then exporting it to the US for methanol production.

Seems like an incredible waste to do this, when we could just do away with the tariff and import it as the product it's meant to be, while at the same time reducing the need for HFCS.

seriously against lifting idiotic trade restrictions on sugar?

Geoff, I am sorry I have ruffled your free market feathers. I'm neutral on this one. I said that lifting the restrictions would hurt the American farmer. That is true. As for whom it would benefit, I'll leave that to others to explain.

George Anonymuncule Seldes, WARNING: The doctrine in Law and Jurisprudence of logical rationality or sentience, common sense, no matter how full and well it is expressed (as you have), does not inform or affect the unreasonable behavior of egocentric un-evolved souls preoccupied in selfish greed, avarice, gluttony, and of materialism. The Law's cognizance of "a reasonable person" cannot be given to nor taken in account by unreasonable ones.

As Ben Franklin (reputably) said, It is not possible to make a man understand something his continuing income depends on him not understanding; (some attribute the line to H.L.Mencken but maybe he was quoting Franklin). Mob force routs capitalist farce.

Confucious said, (and the Bible plagiarized): What you do comes back to you.

The land occupant ('owner'?) whose resource stewardship disregards, even violates, the human life and vitality of all the adjoining (land and Earthlings) on the planet, can knowingly expect the disregard and violation comes back around for the greater common good and rightly takes away that occupant's living.

Growing sugar for rum is a good thing.
Growing sugar for superpower supremacy is dead.

- -
'Bucky' Fuller said, "Wealth is the number of forward-days a system can be maintained." Where the 'system' is Spaceship Earth the common 'wealth' of all outranks and outlives 'wealth' in any 'system' of an individual livelihood.

The ethic of Enlightenment requires the duty of humankind appropriating and occupying land ('real estate') from human harm. This land is your land, this land is my land, we took it away from some mortal King and can keep it away from any wannabe Kings, (Woody Guthrie sang),
The sun comes shining on lives a'strolling
The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
The fog was lifting a voice come chanting
This land was made for you and me

The world will never run out of oil.

Anyone who understands either history, chemistry or economics knows that.

Econ: the price will rise bringing on more supply and lees use.

Chem: Oil can be made from coal and water or natural gas.

History: Hitler ran his war machine on synthetic oil near the end of the war.

thanks
JK

ARe you sure it's not global warming?

The world will never run out of oil because when it takes the energy of a barrel of oil to extract and refine a barrel of oil -- a day that is fast approaching and will likely be reached within the lives of most commenters here -- then it won't be extracted or refined any more.

Peak coal will follow peak oil by about 20 years, maybe 10 if we pursue the insane delusions of the cornucopians who think that trying make Nazi oil and pumping all the carbon of the coal fields into the atmosphere is a good idea.

There's something telling in the fact that the Ayn Rand types are so entranced with WWII Germany and Apartheid South Africa's coal-to-liquids programs.

"Thanks"

JK: "The world will never run out of oil."

A bold prophecy which proves the world will never run out of deluded idiots.

Notice the noisy 'Hear, Hear,' crowd following that leading figure ... crickets.

The world will never run out of innovation to provie a replacement for the horse and buggy.

LONG before any oil or coal or natural al gas depletion crisis, current and new alternatives will advance and arrive.

The irrational prophecy of peak oil and other predictions of doom are nothing compared to the real world exploding government.

You like doom?

Then keep calling for the country to follow California down the rat hole of government gone wild.

Doom happens.

Don't doubt doom happens now and looms in larger effect soon, but DO doubt yourSELF recognizing the cause of the effect.

Here's the answer, so you need not to look away staring at any and all the many many stalking-horse red-herring wild goose-chase straw-man distraction 'alternate theories' being dragged out to dazzle, amaze, and befuddle you. The CAUSE of doom on us now, is 60 years ago 'government' (we, the people) permitting and allowing PRIVATE persons to profit as much as they liked by selling petroleum found under land and ground, AS IF they owned crude oil privately, manufactured it, or put it there.

Compare: Back then, in common sense, if you found gold under ground and mined it (in the U.S.), whether on 'private-' or public-owned land, legally you only could sell the gold to The Government at a fiat sale price. Today, the same law and ruling applies to all minerals you dig up that are classified 'national security' value; gold still is 'tracked' although a little differently, so now one miner might sell nuggets for any price to a second private-party buyer, who resells to a third, and so on, but until there must be registered an assay and weight of it before the gold is bought by any foundry (for ingots, wires, plate, leaf, jewelry, dentistry, etc.) or by any mint (for specie 'money'). So, too, for gems and minerals, but especially the metals minerals there is regulation and public-ownership control. (Today, you hardly can 'mine' lowly gravel, or sand, in any tonnage you privately like and sell it at any price you like.)

The CAUSE of doom today is 60 (or 100) years ago the government did not classify and regulate petroleum as a (public) government-owned mineral, for being a part of the land as, ultimately, 'government' is defined as that sovereign agency which 'owns' all the land and sells and sets title and zoning (usage) restrictions to it. 'Early on' petroleum was unrestricted -- a social-positioning free-for-all including crimes such as fraud and violence such as homicide, and all of it called, (in oxymoron disguise) a 'free market.'

Petroleum is a mineral. Recognizing that essential truth in order to act to 'regulate' oil, is what is necessary to repair and recover from happening doom, an awful amount of which (doom) has a 60-year momentum and cannot be stopped overnight.

But we could well spread notice of the private persons who got away with it, now filthy rich and unjustly empowered, causing the doom effect coming on us. Notice them and attach lien on their unfair riches and rescind their unjust titles and disempower them. Such as: The Permian Basin Gang, 1948-59.

Notice, name, and nullify them unless we get distracted looking at separate pieces of the whole doom stemming from one cause. Pieces such as economy collapse, old jobs loss and new jobs retraining, housing mortgage bubble, inflated stock market valuation, civil chaos and ineffective bureaucracy and unresponsive government, and ... wait for it ... anthropogenic climate crisis globally. Pieces of doom tossed in our lap and dangled in front of us, purposely, dividing and diffusing attention on the CAUSE of the sh!t before it all it the fan.

We recklessly burned up and consumed way over half the petroleum on our planet, and 'they' -- who 'took' it and we were 'taken' by -- now operate, (mostly by frantic militaristic-set violence and mass-media(ted) historic revisionism), to delay recognition of collective humankind recovery action over 'their' private interests, of conceptual spirit (mostly Saudi monarchical Wahabiism) and generative materials (mostly master-racist Supremacies), designing 'themselves' a privileged position 'above the fray' to survive during and after the doom deluge. as if.

The countervailing empowerment, ('they' failed for 60 years to anticipate opposing 'their' privilege), is the instantaneous global combine of each human with all humankind information in the worldwide web internet.

Example of one informing source for elemental causes in the parade of doom floats and doom regalia is TheOilDrum .COM . Such as these two recent posts:
www.theoildrum.com/node/5666

World Oil Exports; US Oil Imports; and a Few Thoughts on Canada, Posted by Gail the Actuary, August 13, 2009

---
campfire.theoildrum.com/node/5661

A Realistic Plan and Time Line for Your Survival Homestead, guest post by Todd Detzel, August 12, 2009

My guess is that almost all city people underestimate what goes into establishing a homestead. And, most importantly, how long it will take – if you start the process today, you should be ready some time in 2016-2017 -- if you work like a dog and are lucky.

Have a nice day. Have a good life.

Speaking of Snickers and oil, here's an interesting way to help people recognize just how energy dense oil is

http://daily.sightline.org/daily_score/archive/2009/08/14/of-car-crashes-and-snickers-bars

Real funny tensky.

Unfortunately the substance of that lecture is as valid as the current case for AGW.

As for oil and how much has been burned and how much remains, paranoia is not a good thing.

There's plenty of oil, gas and coal to get us well into the technology which will replace it. Of course we'll have to shove the obstructions to extraction out of the way to get to it.
But those standing in the way could use a little shoving anyway.

CO2 emissions are in no need of reduction at all.
With cleaner coal, efficient natural gas use and oil/desiel/gasoline use cleaner than ever fossil fuels are better than ever. Tremendous human benefits have been provided by fossil fuels.



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