In a previous reflection, I noted that the environmentalists’ favorite fuel – ethanol – . has an unintended adverse consequence. It jacks up the price of corn, a staple of the diet of tens of millions of poor folk across the world. Well, a recent Washington Post article reveals another illustration of the Law of Unintended Consequences as regards ethanol: deforestation.
It turns out that the world rush to embrace ethanol is threatening the Cerrado, a huge plateau in Brazil. The Cerrado is home to a large variety of species, some of which are endangered. Half of it has been plowed under for soy- bean farms and cattle ranches. This deforestation looks likely to quicken as sugarcane farms get underway. Sugarcane, of course, is the crop of choice for Brazilian ethanol.
Money is being pumped into the ethanol industry from a lot of sources, including American agro-biz companies such as Archer Daniels Midland and investors such as George Soros. The company Soros backs (Adecoagro) is now one of the biggest players in the Brazilian ethanol industry. Even with the tariffs our politicians have placed on Brazilian products, last year we imported 500 million gallons of ethanol from Brazil, roughly 75% of all the ethanol we imported.
I suppose it is purely coincidental that Soros is a lavish backer of leftist politicians, who typically oppose nuclear power and drilling in ANWR and offshore everywhere else. If you block nuclear and additional oil, you make the expansion of ethanol inevitable – so any billions you’ve invested in that industry payoff nicely. A convenient coincidence, indeed.