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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 …

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An interview with Missouri farmer and ethanol co-op member Brian Miles

Cultivating change? Photo: iStockphoto Like his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather before him, Brian Miles spends his days working the family farm. Unlike his forebears, however, he also sits on the board of Mid-Missouri Energy, a farmer-owned ethanol cooperative in Malta Bend, Mo. Grist talked to Miles about the present ethanol boom, the potential for an ethanol bust, and the many splendors of fresh corn on the cob.   How did you get involved in the ethanol biz? Our state corn growers association had a meeting a few years ago, because they had isolated this area as a good spot for …

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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. Talk in the above-linked piece centers on cellulosic ethanol and its most celebrated feedstock, switchgrass, which can potentially be grown with few inputs on marginal land. But like joy in Keats' …

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Not quite, but cellulosic ethanol may be coming sooner than you think

Even as organizations ranging from Consumers Union to the Cato Institute cast doubt on the environmental value of corn-based ethanol, facilities designed to make it are popping up by the dozen throughout the Midwest. Meanwhile, cellulosic ethanol -- which can be derived from just about any plant matter -- draws near-unanimous environmental raves. Trouble is, the technology required for producing it economically still hasn't quite emerged. Thus, like the kid in the back seat on a long family car trip, investors and other interested observers have for years been demanding to know, "When are we gonna get there?" Over and …

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Toward a community-owned, decentralized biofuel future

President Bush visits the Virginia Biodiesel Refinery in 2005. Photo: whitehouse.gov Biofuels won't single-handedly solve the climate crisis, nor will they deliver energy independence. But a base of widely dispersed, farmer- and citizen-owned biofuel plants can displace significant amounts of fossil fuels -- while also building local economies. What follows is a strategy for tweaking existing federal energy and farm policy to create such an energy landscape. Before getting to that, though, given the scorn heaped on biofuels by many well-intentioned and not so well-intentioned commentators, I'll make the case that biofuels have an important role to play in any …

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To fulfill its environmental promises, biofuel policy needs a kick in the pants

As war simmers in the Middle East and oil prices rise along with global temperatures, Midwestern farmers and politicians aren't the only ones banging the drums for biofuels. Now big-time investors, security hawks, environmentalists, and even George W. Bush have joined their ranks. But is environmentally responsible bioenergy a real possibility, or are we bio-fooling ourselves? How green is your biofuel? Photo: gov.mb.ca The question is key, because current U.S. public policy is pushing biofuel production without giving much evident thought to sustainability. If present trends continue, the public could find itself funding environmentally ruinous projects in the name of …

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Silicon Valley investor Vinod Khosla chats about the promise of ethanol

Venture capitalist and ethanol booster Vinod Khosla. Billionaires are piling onto the biofuels bandwagon. Bill Gates is doing it. Richard Branson is doing it. The Google guys are doing it. Less well-known is the billionaire who kicked off the whole trend: Vinod Khosla, a cofounder of Sun Microsystems and former partner with Kleiner Perkins, the venture-capital firm that helped give rise to Google, AOL, Amazon, and Compaq. In 2004, he founded his own firm, Khosla Ventures, which has come to be known as a rainmaker in the ethanol world. To hear Khosla tell it, the burgeoning revolution in oil alternatives …

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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 David Pimentel, professor emeritus of entomology at Cornell University. David Pimentel. Photo: Chris Hallman / Cornell University Photography. In 1979, with the price of oil surging and a politically connected company called Archer Daniels Midland investing heavily in ethanol production, the U.S. Department of Energy invited Pimentel to chair an advisory committee to look at ethanol as a gasoline alternative. The committee's conclusion: ethanol requires …

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A look at the impacts of biofuels production, in the U.S. and the world

Nothing but blue skies from now on? Photo: house.gov Great news! We can finally scratch "driving less" off our list of ways to curb global warming and reduce our dependence on foreign oil! Biofuels will soon not only replace much of our petroleum, but improve soil fertility and save the American farmer as well! Sound too good to be true? Well, yes. But you could be excused for buying the hype. Ethanol and biodiesel are being promoted as cures for our energy and environmental woes not just by flacks for corporations like Archer Daniels Midland, BP, and DuPont, but by …

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How now, hormonal cow?

Group lobbies Starbucks to cut the rBGH

Tired of being cowed into drinking milk laced with artificial growth hormones simply because you can't kick the latte habit? Find it udderly disgusting that the largest food and beverage retailers in the world proliferate antibiotics? Wish Grist would stop milking the cow-related puns? Well, today you can join in with Food and Water Watch's Hold the Hormones campaign by calling Starbucks and asking them to stop buying milk from dairies that use artificial growth hormones. The D.C.-based nonprofit offers up 10 good reasons to get involved. With 6,000 stores nationwide, Starbucks buys a lot of milk. And as per …

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