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Climategate: Lord Monckton’s Mistake

The good gentleman was wrong when he claimed in Copenhagen that ethanol production has led to millions of people starving.

by
Robert Zubrin

Bio

December 19, 2009 - 12:00 am
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Earlier this week, Lord Christopher Monckton of Brenchley made international headlines when he compared a group of global warming protesters who broke up a meeting of Americans for Prosperity in Copenhagen to “Hitler Youth.”

In addition to upsetting those sympathetic to the prerogative of groups of zealous young people to silence non-conforming opinions through direct action, the comment also excited criticism from history buffs, who have pointed out that the preferred Nazi instrumentality for engaging in such activities was actually the SA, or Brownshirts, not the Hitler Youth, and therefore the British noble’s comment was technically inaccurate.

Be that as it may, Lord Monckton subsequently made it clear that his harsh remark was based not merely upon the manners of the intruders, but upon their program, which he said could cost the lives of millions of poor people around the globe. Now this is certainly true. The leading slayer of people in the world today is, as it has been throughout history, poverty. Its sole antidote is economic growth. Thus any program, such as regressive carbon taxes or cap-and-trade schemes designed to prevent the development of third world countries can only be considered anti-human in the extreme.

In their crazed quest for racial purification, Hitler’s followers killed tens of millions. A global program of sacrificing human prospects in order to try achieve weather control could easily result in an even greater toll.

So there was real substance to Monckton’s remark. Yet then he went completely off the tracks. “Because of the biofuel scam,” he said, “world food prices have doubled. That is because of the global warming scare … and as a result of that, millions are dying in third world countries.”

In point of fact, world food prices have not doubled. Far from it. Corn prices last year were over $7 per bushel. Today, despite a continued increase in U.S. ethanol production, corn stands at $3.75 per bushel. The reason for this is that corn and other grain commodity prices have not been driven by ethanol production, but by oil prices, which have fallen 50% since their $140/bbl peak last year.

Beyond the commodity price, retail food prices are also strongly affected by transport and processing costs, which once again are heavily affected by the price of oil.  Thus, by attacking oil prices, biofuel production has actually served not to raise consumer food costs, but to lower them.

Monckton is also incorrect in ascribing the biofuel expansion to global warming alarmists. While it is true that some biofuel advocates have attempted to use carbon emission reduction as a rationale for supporting their industry, the actual global warming militants have been anything but supportive. Rather, led by such key figures as former Environmental Defense Fund staff attorney Tim Searchinger and population control advocate David Pimentel, they have vigorously attacked the global biofuel program precisely because it is contributing to economic growth in third world countries.

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