Tom Philpott

Tom Philpott was previously Grist's food writer. He now writes for Mother Jones.

What Brazil can teach the U.S. about energy and ethanol

In 2006, Brazil officially achieved “energy independence” — that is, its oil exports came into line with imports and cancelled them out. No longer beholden to foreign suppliers for its energy needs, the nation theoretically …

It’s time for a real ‘food vs. fuel’ debate

Can U.S. farmers keep filling the nation’s bellies as they scramble to fuel its cars? Given its evident gravity, the question has drawn remarkably little debate. Like it or not, though, more and more food …

A thunderous 'No!' to faux guacamole

A Krafty concoction of hydrogenated goo gets its day in court.

Do I live in an ethanol bubble? Yes I do, for another day or so. But I'm coming up for air for long enough to give the finger to Kraft, the world's largest branded food conglomerate, for ripping off and desecrating one of the world's greatest food items. Kraft's heinous Guacamole Dip contains about 2 percent avocado, which is a little like marketing a Martini with 2 percent gin and the rest, well, corn liquor (ethanol). A woman in California is suing Kraft, arguing that the "guacamole" claim fraudulently promised an avocado-based concoction, and instead delivered, well, industrial goo designed to look avocado-y. Does she have a case?

The Ethanol Bill

Congress prepares to soak the 2007 Farm Bill in ethanol, to the delight of agribiz.

"You can have Republicans and Democrats absolutely in lockstep agreement on certain issues in the farm bill, and it has nothing to do with parties. These issues tend to be commodity-driven," gushed USDA chief Mike Johanns. Uh-oh. Looks like a good old-fashioned "bipartisan consensus" has formed: time to use the 2007 Farm Bill as a tool for maximizing ethanol production -- which evidently doesn't already draw enough government support.

Three perspectives on the biofuels debate

Imagine how amazing petroleum must have seemed back when it was an emerging alternative fuel in the U.S. Drill a hole in the ground in some parts of Texas and Pennsylvania, and rich black stuff …

An interview with David Pimentel

Any worthy idea can withstand and even be improved by naysayers; scolds and skeptics play the useful role of pointing out obvious flaws. The biofuels industry has no more persistent, articulate, and scathing critic than …

Consumer Reports: E85 is jive

Flex-fuel vehicles greenwash Detroit’s SUV addiction.

David mentioned something about it when it came out a couple of months ago, but as Grist wraps up its first week of biofuel coverage, it's worth pointing to again: after much testing and comparing, Consumer Reports finds the whole live-green-go-yellow, E85 thing pretty much a sham. As Grist readers will know, the government gives automakers a credit against their mileage requirements for every flex-fuel vehicle (able to run on ethanol, gas, or a mix). CR's conclusion: Detroit is using it a lever to help it churn out more gas-guzzling SUVs, and the policy is working to increase fossil fuel consumption, not stem it. The most depressing finding, for me: the greenwash appears to be sticking with the general public:

A handy biofuels glossary, and videos to boot

With all the talk of biofuels swirling around, things can get a bit confusing. So we’ve put together this handy glossary for your reference. Now you can pontificate at cocktail parties with the best of …

How cash and corporate pressure pushed ethanol to the fore

… got all liquored on that road house corn … — Tom Waits, “Gun Street Girl” Before it became widely used as a car fuel, ethanol was just grain liquor — and the federal government …

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