On the defensive after George Bush and Lula da Silva of Brazil started getting friendly over ethanol, Hugo Chavez has now backed away from plans for building a massive array of 29 ethanol plants.

His rationale tears a page from the nascent biofuel backlash movement, saying that land should be used to feed people, not to fill “rich people’s cars.” As with most things Chavez, this is probably largely about politics and somewhat about people: he doesn’t want to be outflanked by Bush’s new foothold in the region. But it’s a stand that will win him points in many quarters, and he’s expected to make it again later this month at a South American energy summit.