Burning Food

Steve Campbell    August 12, 2019

This article was originally published on September 1, 2018 in American Thinker, under a very different title

Mixing ethanol with gasoline is a bad idea – for many reasons. But there is one reason in particular that should worry you.

A recent AT article by S. Fred Singer,  Trump and the end of the ‘Oil Crisis’  reasoned that it might be time to remove the ethanol mandate:

My hope is that Congress, at some point, will remove the requirements for gasoline additives, especially for the corn-based bio-fuel ethanol.

This is long overdue and Singer lists some very good reasons to remove that mandatory blending.  In researching an article years ago, this reporter stumbled over a shattering revelation that make the use of ethanol seem completely unacceptable.  The question was posed,  “Just how much food value are we burning up for the sake of  this federally-imposed silliness?”

The answer was found in a paper by D.K. Albino[1],  published by the New England Complex Systems Institute

The total amount of ethanol produced in the US in 2011 was 13.95 billion gallons, enough to feed 570 million people that year.”

Now that number is so large that it does not seem real. So, your humble narrator made his own research to find “the real number”.  (Don’t worry — multiplication and division is as tough as the math gets — and we will not “show our work”)

Begin with the final product — ethanol.  While it is not your typical staple food, its caloric content is well known – being 20,607 calories per gallon.  A warning is appropriate here that even pure ethanol produced for fuel is “denatured” to avoid taxation as liquor. That is just another way of saying “poisoned”.  So, nobody is actually going to live on ethanol alone.

We know that about 1500 calories are a daily minimum for the average man (1200 for women) allowance. We will average those to at 1350 calories/day.  In that 13.95 billion gallons are enough calories to feed 583 Million people for that year. Thus, we have confirmed the number from Albino, et al. to within 2.2 percent!

The point can be made that alcohol is not food – especially when denatured.  So, shall we look at the corn before it is brewed and distilled?  Each gallon of ethanol requires 2.8 bushels of corn.  Each bushel provides 86,800 calories. The corn used to make those same 13.95 billion gallons — in 2011 — of ethanol would feed 878 million people – again, for that entire year!

Obviously, the process of distillation is far from perfect and one would expect a loss.  The process also has a left-over (about 10% by weight), called distiller’s grain – which is used for cattle feed.

In conversations on this subject, objections are brought up about the type grain used for ethanol.  It is called “field corn” and is, indeed different the ears of corn that you find in the stores.  Nevertheless, field corn is used to make corn meal, corn oil and corn sugar – which people also consume. To quote Mr. Spock, “A difference that makes no difference is no difference.”

There is no way around this conclusion – burning that much food is simply not acceptable and it should stop.  By the way, in 2017 there were sixteen billion gallons of ethanol produced for fuel and those numbers are 669 Million people for ethanol itself and One Billion people for the corn.  Remember, this does not include any other fuels. Biodiesel is made from a variety of other foods – 11.6 billion gallons in 2017.

Destroying food is never a good idea.  Is this reporter the only one whose mother told him (long, long go) “Eat all your food!  People are starving in Europe!”?  This is a horrible statistic!  We are burning (in the U.S. alone) enough food to feed one of every eight people in the world! How can even the “environmentalists” let this go on?

Update – August 2019 – We calculated that food for one billion people was burned – only for US ethanol usage. What is the total of ethanol production worldwide?

World Production of Ethanol [2}
The total seems to be about 29 billion US gallons.  By all the same formulas above, this is the enough food to feed 1.8 Billion People.  That is about one out of every four people on Earth!

Green politicians are saying that Global Warming is reducing crop yields and expanding deserts.  Their solution includes burning massive amounts of food.  In other words, we should burn food so people won’t starve!

Fortunately, the climate is not warming and even if it did, that would mean greening deserts and longer growing seasons. And, by the way, commercial greenhouses use enhanced CO2 to reduce water use and accelerate growth.

  1. K. Albino, K.Z. Bertrand, Y. Bar-Yam, Food for fuel: The price of ethanolarXiv:1210.6080(October 4, 2012). http://necsi.edu/research/social/foodprices/foodforfuel/ 


  1. https://ethanolrfa.org/statistics/annual-ethanol-production/


One thought on “Burning Food

  1. Pingback: Going Walkabout

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