Some headlines are so telling, that you don't really need to write the story to go with them. So I'll keep this story short and focus primarily on the facts that were revealed by the Earth Policy Institute last month. The institute reports that in 2009, U.S. ethanol distilleries consumed 107 million tons of grain. That amounts to more than 25% of total U.S. grain production. That quantity of grain, says Earth Policy, "was enough to feed 330 million people for one year at average world consumption levels."
I'll continue quoting from the report, because their findings are both stunning and depressing. The U.S., says the think tank:
is far and away the world's leading grain exporter, exporting more than Argentina, Australia, Canada and Russia combined. In a globalized food economy, increased demand for food to fuel American vehicles puts additional pressure on world food supplies. . .even if the entire U.S. grain crop were converted to ethanol (leaving no domestic crop for [human or animal consumption]. . .it would satisfy at most 18% of U.S. automotive fuel needs.The authors go on to point out that the amount of grain needed to produce enough ethanol to fill the tank of an SUV one time could "feed one person for an entire year."
When the growing demand for corn for ethanol helped to push world grain prices to record highs between late 2006 and 2008, people in low-income grain-importing countries were hit the hardest. The unprecedented spike in food prices drove up the number of hungry people in the world to over 1 billion for the first time in 2009. . ."
U.S. Grain Used for Ethanol
Number of Undernourished People in the World
Number of People who could be Fed by the U.S. Grain Used to Produce Ethanol
Since 2004, the amount of grain the U.S. has diverted to the ethanol sector has tripled. And during that same time period, the number of people globally who are undernourished has increased by about 150 million.