Fidel Castro on ethanol and Bush
Published Apr 7, 2007 10:03 AM
Cuban President Fidel Castro has written an article on ethanol and
U.S. President George W. Bush, published in Granma newspaper on March 28. The
following are excerpts; the full article can be found at
More than three billion people in the world [are] condemned to premature death
from hunger and thirst.
That is not an exaggerated figure, but rather a cautious one. I have meditated
a lot on that in the wake of President Bush’s meeting with U.S.
The sinister idea of converting food into fuel was definitively established as
an economic line in U.S. foreign policy last March 26.
The AP states: “President Bush touted the benefits of ‘flexible
fuel’ vehicles running on ethanol and biodiesel on Monday, meeting with
automakers to boost support for his energy plans.
“Bush said a commitment by the leaders of the domestic auto industry to
double their production of flex-fuel vehicles could help motorists shift away
from gasoline and reduce the nation’s reliance on imported oil.
“ ‘That’s a major technological breakthrough for the
country,’ Bush said after inspecting three alternative vehicles. If the
nation wants to reduce gasoline use, he said, ‘the consumer has got to be
in a position to make a rational choice.’
“They discussed support for flex-fuel vehicles, attempts to develop
ethanol from alternative sources like switchgrass and wood chips and the
administration’s proposal to reduce gas consumption by 20 percent in 10
I believe that reducing and moreover recycling all motors that run on
electricity and fuel is an elemental and urgent need for all humanity. The
tragedy does not lie in reducing those energy costs but in the idea of
converting food into fuel.
It is known very precisely today that one ton of corn can only produce 413
liters of ethanol on average, according to densities. That is equivalent to 109
The average price of corn in U.S. ports has risen to $167 per ton. Thus, 320
million tons of corn would be required to produce 35 billion gallons of
According to FAO figures, the U.S. corn harvest rose to 280.2 million tons in
the year 2005.
Although the president is talking of producing fuel derived from grass or wood
shavings, anyone can understand that these are phrases totally lacking in
realism. Let’s be clear: 35 billion gallons translates into 35 followed
by nine zeros!
Afterwards will come beautiful examples of what experienced and well-organized
U.S. farmers can achieve in terms of human productivity by hectare: corn
converted into ethanol; the chaff from that corn converted into animal feed
containing 26 percent protein; cattle dung used as raw material for gas
production. Of course, this is after voluminous investments only within the
reach of the most powerful enterprises, in which everything has to be moved on
the basis of electricity and fuel consumption. Apply that recipe to the
countries of the Third World and you will see that people among the hungry
masses of the Earth will no longer eat corn. Or something worse: lend funding
to poor countries to produce corn ethanol based on corn or any other food and
not a single tree will be left to defend humanity from climate change.
Other countries in the rich world are planning to use not only corn but also
wheat, sunflower seeds, rapeseed and other foods for fuel production. For the
Europeans, for example, it would become a business to import all of the
world’s soybeans with the aim of reducing the fuel costs for their
automobiles and feeding their animals with the chaff from that legume,
particularly rich in all types of essential amino acids.
In Cuba, alcohol used to be produced as a byproduct of the sugar industry after
having made three extractions of sugar from cane juice. Climate change is
already affecting our sugar production. Lengthy periods of drought alternating
with record rainfall, that barely make it possible to produce sugar with an
adequate yield during the 100 days of our very moderate winter; hence, there is
less sugar per ton of cane or less cane per hectare due to prolonged drought in
the months of planting and cultivation.
I understand that in Venezuela they would be using alcohol to improve the
environmental quality of their own fuel. In Cuba the use of such a technology
for the direct production of alcohol from sugar cane juice is no more than a
dream. In our country, land handed over to the direct production of alcohol
could be much useful for food production for the people and for environmental
All the countries of the world, rich and poor, without any exception, could
save millions and millions of dollars in investment and fuel simply by changing
all the incandescent light bulbs for fluorescent ones, an exercise that Cuba
has carried out in all homes throughout the country. That would provide a
breathing space to resist climate change without killing the poor masses
Today, we are seeing for the first time a really globalized economy and a
dominant power in the economic, political and military terrain.
There are other issues that could be addressed, but with these lines I am just
trying to comment on President Bush’s meeting with the principal
executives of U.S. automakers.
Translated by Granma International
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