Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Biofuel: First tortillas, now beer

The news media reported a while ago on the Mexican tortilla shortage because farmers are shifting production to yellow corn for ethanol production. Then Steve Dubner predicts on the Freakonomics blog that we'll all get skinnier as high fructose corn syrup (used to sweeten everything from ketchup to soda pop) becomes less available or more expensive.

Now comes this news that biofuel production is causing a "structural shift" in beer production. Global stockpiles of barley have shrunk by a third in the past two years and left the barley trade vulnerable to further supply problems this year.

“In the US, land that was cultivated for growing barley has been given over to corn because of the ethanol demand,” said Levin Flake, a grains trade analyst at the US department of agriculture. The US, which in the 1980s was a leading exporter of barley, is now a net importer as barley acreage has shrunk from more than 13m acres in 1985 to 4m this year, said Mr Flake.

Read more about this issue at The Oil Drum. I don't drink (been sober since 1989), but this is one of many examples illustrating the spread of resource scarcity and coming shortages. All our resources are at stake, and it's not going to be easy to reduce demand for one by finding substitutes - we're going to have to learn to do with less of everything.

read more | digg story


Phil said...

Peak beer!

I think it was James Kuntsler a few weeks ago who said that it looks like we're gonna burn off our last six arable inches of topsoil just so we can keep motoring. Nutty.

I need a drink, but it's too early in the morning here.

Dr. Logan said...

well, we'll always have vodka. you can distill anything into vodka. congrats on being sober...

Fritz said...

Yeah, Peak Beer.

Thanks, Doc.