Friday, January 25, 2008

Will It Come Down To Food or Fuel?

A Japanese friend I spoke to the other day was disgruntled because the price of soy sauce is increasing. It's all because we are trying to reduce consumption of fossil fuels .

Interest in using food crops (ethanol is derived from sugar beets, wheat, corn or sugarcane) to produce alternative fuel sources for cars is causing many nations to fear subsequent increases in food prices.

For example soy bean oil is heavily relied on to make biofuel - the renewable diesel fuel additive. Cooking oils and many other products prices are increasing because the price of soy beans, corn and cereals are increasing. Milk prices increased 3% in Japan because it is more expensive to feed cows and beer will increase because the price of malt has risen.

Think tanks predict prices may even rise 80% as crops and farmland are diverted to producing biofuels. However other experts predict that with increasing technology we may only see a 5% -15% increase.

A Possible Solution....
Japan has taken steps to produce ethanol for cars out of inedible biomass like straw and chaff.

"We already have the technology to make ethanol from straw and chaff, but we've only succeeded at the laboratory level......"

"What we are trying to do is to collect straw and chaff on a relatively large scale in a local community to make biofuel and then use it for the first time for vehicles and other uses...."

"If we can use biofuels from inedible parts of crops, then markets for biofuels and markets for foods would not have to compete," Eiichiro Kitamura- official in charge of Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries innovative project

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