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Feeding ethanol waste to cows

Perhaps the most persistent debate around corn ethanol involves its "net energy balance" -- that is, whether it consumes more energy in production than it delivers as a fuel. Even the studies that credit the fuel with a robust energy balance, like this one from the USDA, acknowledge that it's pretty much a wash unless you account for the "co-product" of the ethanol-making process. The ethanol process consumes only the starch component of corn, leaving behind nearly a third of the input corn as a high-protein, high-fat substance called "distillers grains." According to ethanol boosters, this stuff makes a high-quality …

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The gallery of gingerbread photos is up

Click here if you want to see details of the gingerbread eco-house.

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Umbra on cooking oil, again

Dear Umbra, You missed a fantastic opportunity to promote biodiesel use of the cooking oil. There are many people collecting frying oil from restaurants and the like, and perhaps the reader could find a person collecting as well. Check newspaper ads for persons collecting or check the restaurants in your neighborhood for who is collecting. Thanks for the great articles. Keith McCready Waterloo, Iowa Editor's Note: Oh, how Umbra would love to address this issue -- but she's been kidnapped! Please donate to Grist by 11:59 p.m. Pacific on Dec. 11, 2007, to secure her safety. The sooner we see …

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Bali conference could end deforestation overnight

This post was co-written with Dorjee Sun, the head of Carbon Conservation, a company that works to protect forests in Indonesia from destruction. ----- Photo: http://www.viajar24h.com Bali, Indonesia, is the perfect backdrop for this week's climate summit. No country better embodies the immense peril of inaction -- and the immense opportunity this meeting has to make massive and immediate progress in stemming the climate crisis. Indonesia is the world's third largest global warming polluter, behind the United States and China, and just ahead of Brazil. But in Indonesia, like Brazil and the rest of the tropical world, pollution isn't coming …

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Tips for low-carbon merrymaking

See that green line on the map? Study it closely, boozehounds. Those of you to the right of it can enjoy a nice French Bordeaux. Those to the left should be getting your Pinot from Napa. So concludes Dr. Vino in his excellent -- and topical! -- study, "Red, White and 'Green': The Cost of Carbon in the Global Wine Trade." The paper is nicely readable in addition to being thorough. Few details go unconsidered. Dr. Vino cares about the CO2 produced from the breakdown of sugar during the fermentation process. He mulls the land-use implications of grape production. He …

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Malawi celebrates, but for how long?

So while the U.S. Farm Bill is out to pasture until 2008, it looks like most commodity subsidies will remain untouched. Agricultural price supports may be the law of the land here, but it's certainly not what we've been advocating abroad. A bittersweet story on page one of today's NY Times documents how Malawians are pulling back from the brink, largely because -- going against the wishes of the World Bank -- they've begun to reinstitute government crop subsidies: Over the past 20 years, the World Bank and some rich nations Malawi depends on for aid have periodically pressed this …

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Our challenge: surviving the rule of economists

"Ending famine simply by ignoring the experts" heads the encouraging story of Malawi's turnaround on hunger ... What's strange is that the "experts" in the piece are U.S. and British economists who advocated the standard imperial liberal solution (grow cash crops for export to us, and buy your food from us). Thankfully, the people of Malawi ignored such expertise and concentrated instead of the physical reality before them. There is very little time for us to stop seeing our manifest crises in the physical and biological world through the lenses of "experts" who are themselves totally untrained in those fields …

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The global nature of global warming

This is my formal rebuttal to Brooke Coleman (director of the Renewable Energy Action Project), specifically to comments found in Tom Philpott's latest corn ethanol article. I'm using my access to the bully pulpit to pull it out of comments, like I did the last time a corn ethanol enthusiast joined the discussion. Welcome to the best environmental blog on the planet, Brooke. You don't seem to have a very high opinion of this community, but maybe you'll warm up to us. I don't speak for the whole community of course, I'm just one of the many who come here …

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Pesticide use on crops drops in California, but fumigant use up

Agricultural pesticide use dropped by 10 million pounds in California last year -- a bit of progress offset by an increased use of fumigants by strawberry growers. In addition, application of commercial pesticides for uses such as landscaping and mosquito control increased. California "works hard to promote least-toxic pest management" says Mary-Ann Warmerdam of the state Department of Pesticide Regulation, and "our efforts are paying off." But, she adds, "we have more work to do."

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