Biofuels have taken off in the last year as prices for oil have soared and corn lobbies have realised another clever gig. Predictably, food prices have soared in conjunction and the media is filled with baffled reporters raking in the easy dough producing sappy human interest pieces. But, seriously… who couldn’t have predicted this would happen?

In the olden days, food and oil were unlinked, you couldn’t make one from the other. The per capita demand for food was essentially uniform with regard to income. A billionaire is only going to maybe an order of magnitude more food than a starving peasant. Practically a rounding error given the 6 or 7 orders of magnitude difference in earnings. The per capita demand for oil was, as a rough approximation, linear with regard to income. A billionaire uses at least a few thousand times more oil than a starving peasant.

This was fine, back in the day. The system existed in an uneasy sort of tension where everyone got fed and the rich (if you’re reading this over the internet, that means YOU) got to tool around with unlimited amounts of expensive gasoline and everyone was OK with that. The reason why it worked was because the rich simply couldn’t eat enough to starve out the poor.

But when we started linking gas to food, farmers who once had to choose between growing food for rich people vs growing food for poor people now have to choose between growing oil for rich people or food for poor people. What the fuck did you think would happen? As oil becomes in increasingly short supply, who do you think is going to blink first? The billionaire wanting to fill up his luxury yacht with $50 a gallon gasoline or the middle class American facing a $50 loaf of bread? That’s right, thanks to the long tail distribution of income, linking oil to food just turned YOU from one of the rich to one of the poor. Welcome to the lives of the rest of the world.

We’ve allowed capitalism to work because the structure of the system has never forced us to confront the implications of it’s inherent inequity. The rich can only eat SO much food, can only have SO much shelter, can only sleep with SO many women. In the end, there’s still enough for everyone else and so we let them do their thing and they make the xboxes and black on white bukkake porn that keeps us happy. Linking oil to food has fucked all that up. Lets see how OK people will be with capitalism when it means that 50% the world starves to death so that the 1% can tool around in private submarines?

But before you go off and smugly insert this rant into you list of witty talking points that are subtly designed to prove how erudite you are, we still haven’t answered the question: who’s fucking smart idea was this?

Well, were you prepared to stop the chemical scientists working on discovering economical biofuel conversion technologies? Were you prepared to stop the venture capitalists who saw a promising niche in the market and invested in it? Were you prepared to stop the entreprenuers who built the biofuel processing plants? Were you really prepared to stop the farmers from accepting the much higher returns selling corn to biofuel makers rather than food makers? What would you have done? What would we have done to stop this process?

You’re not fighting against capitalism here, you’re fighting against freedom. Are you really prepared to stand on the side of Stalin and RIAA just so a bunch of poor people don’t starve?…

Responses

  1. Bumblebee Labs Blog » Blog Archive » Nov 1st (day 20): “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Just because we shouldn’t, doesn’t mean we won’t” says:

    November 2nd, 2008 at 12:13 am (#)

    […] lines are relatively similar regardless of whether the debate is about music piracy, biofuels, strong encryption, ad blocking software, transhumanism or biotechnology. The obvious missing […]

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