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Friday, July 20, 2012

King Corn abdicates



It’s looking bad for the this year’s corn crop. Heat and drought in the nation’s heartland are taking a toll. What corn that is produced may cost a lot more to ship. Low water on the Mississippi is shutting down barge operations causing shippers to resort to more expensive trains and trucks.

Food is going to get pricey. Not much corn is actually eaten as plain corn, but it has been the cheapest sugar on the market so it’s used in just about everything. Corn also has a major role as an animal feed. Expect the price of meat to go up.

Then there is energy. Ethanol derived from corn is a significant portion of our liquid fuels.

What will happen? Nations that depend on cheap American corn for food are going to experience unrest. A major component in the Arab Awakening is rising food prices. It’s going to get uglier. Cheap US corn destroyed Mexico’s local corn producers -and now the price is going up.

Will fuel get more expensive at the pump? By rights it should, but collapsing world economies may keep the price down for a while. Of course, if it’s your personal economy that’s collapsed you won’t be buying much fuel either.

I’m not a big fan of corn. It’s a heavily genetically altered plant that relies on chemical inputs and is grown on a massive factory scale. High fructose corn syrup is something I’ve cut out of my diet -and feel better for it. Ethanol fuel has ethical issues. Is is better to feed American cars or poor people? It’s not even a very efficient way to produce fuel, just barely producing a bit more energy than it consumes.

Even though I don’t eat any corn and prefer grass raised meat, I’ll suffer along with everyone else. When a major grain like corn is in trouble, all food is going to go up in price. Stock up on food now while you still can.

One problem will most likely go away. Boaters have been worried that the government would approve E15 gasoline. That’s 15% ethanol as opposed to the 10% currently allowed. The current formula has been very bad in the marine environment so the 15% was expected to be much worse. My guess is that there won’t be even 10% ethanol in that E10 gasoline.

Being so hugely dependent on one major food crop has always been a recipe for disaster. It was bad new for the Mayans. Reliance on potatoes was bad for the Irish. Of course, corn production has been terrible efficient and therefore cheap. The problem is efficient systems are often fragile.

-Sixbears

10 comments:

  1. On the question of biomass energy, I read an interesting paper once that basically came to the conclusion that Pennsylvania could grow all the energy Pennsylvanians use -- at the cost of growing none of the food!

    Another interesting tidbit I came across was that the spent corn from ethanol production, when used for animal fodder, was just as nutritious as the original. So IF the corn is grown for animals, the only real energy cost of ethanol is the brewing and distilling. Of course, if we don't have enough corn to feed the animals, it's a moot point.

    It's ironic how with so many thousands of edible plants available, civilized man has become so dependent on so few.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We've designed our plants to fit our machines.

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  2. We all need to go back to raising our own food, but of course, they're trying to make THAT illegal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Some days I think all they want is a very short list of what is legal.

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  3. What I don't understand is that if cattle ranchers are taking their herds to the slaughterhouse (I've heard the term 'cowpocalypse'), then why are meat prices so high right now? With all of that meat coming to market, shouldn't the price be dropping?

    I'm sure next year, the price of meat will be sky high, we'll all be paying Alaska / Hawaii prices of meat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Doesn't make much sense to me. You should see what I'm paying for locally raised grass fed beef.

      I've already got my hunting license and plan to get a bit more serious about it. It's that or go back to eating beans.

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  4. A lot of those "wild" deer have been feeding off of the farmers' corn fields, too. Corn is bad for you in all forms. It grows mold and mico-toxins even when it is growing in the fields then when stored in silos it grows even more. Mico-toxins are killing or making millions of people sick.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know I'm feeling much better now that I avoid it.

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  5. Right you are about food prices starting to climb! Already seeing it in the stores...and it is only gonna get worse!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It made me throw an extra bag of rice in my cart last time I was at the store.

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