Granma International recently printed and translated into English, Fidel Castro's response to George Bush's trip to Latin America. The issue of ethanol is put into a new light, that I think is original thinking. Ethanol is commonly talked about as whether it's an effective petroleum substitute from technical viewpoints. Its effect on food production is another issue, not often talked about.
Fidel Castro Ruz
Havana. April 4, 2007
The Camp David meeting has just ended. We all listened with interest to the press conference by the presidents of the United States and Brazil, as well as news about the meeting and opinions stated.
Confronted by the demands of his Brazilian visitor regarding import tariffs and subsidies that protect and support U.S. ethanol production, Bush did not make the slightest concession in Camp David.
President Lula attributed to this higher corn prices which, according to him, had gone up by more than 85 percent.
Previously, the Washington Post newspaper published an article by Brazil's top leader discussing the idea of converting food into fuel.
It is not my intention to hurt Brazil, or to meddle in the internal politics of that great country. It was precisely in Rio de Janeiro, where the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development was held exactly 15 years ago, where I vehemently condemned, in a 7-minute speech, the environmental dangers threatening the existence of our species.
At that meeting, Bush Sr. was present as president of the United States, and in a gesture of courtesy he applauded my words, just like all the other presidents.
Nobody at Camp David responded to the main question. Where and who is going to supply the more than 500 million tons of corn and other cereals that the United States, Europe and the rich countries need to produce the volume of gallons of ethanol that the big U.S. companies and those of other countries are demanding as compensation for their sizeable investments? Where and who is going to produce the soy beans, the sunflower and colza seeds, whose essential oils are going to be converted by those same rich countries into fuel?
A number of countries produce and export their surplus food. The balance between exporters and consumers was already tense, making the prices of those foodstuffs shoot up. In the interest of brevity, I have no other alternative but to confine myself to pointing out the following:
The five top producers of the corn, barley, sorghum, rye, millet and oats that Bush wants to turn into raw materials for producing ethanol supply 679 million tons to the world market, according to recent data. In their turn, the five top consumers, some of which are also producers of these grains, currently need 604 million tons annually. The available surplus comes down to less than 80 million tons.
This colossal waste of cereals for producing fuel, without including oleaginous seeds, would serve only to save the rich countries less than 15 percent of what is annually consumed by their voracious automobiles.
In Camp David, Bush has stated his intention of applying this formula on a world scale, which means nothing else than the internationalization of genocide.
The president of Brazil, in his message published in the Washington Post, right before the Camp David meeting, affirmed that less than one percent of Brazil's arable land is dedicated to sugar cane for producing ethanol. That surface area is almost triple the size of that used in Cuba when almost 10 million tons of sugar were being produced, before the crisis of the USSR and climate change.
Our country has been producing and exporting sugar for a longer time, first based on the labor of slaves, who eventually totaled more than 300,000 in the early years of the 19th century and made the Spanish colony into the top exporter in the world. Almost 100 years later, in the early 20th century, in the pseudo-Republic, whose full independence was thwarted by U.S. intervention, only West Indian immigrants and illiterate Cubans carried the burden of the sugar cane cultivation and cutting. The tragedy of our people was the so-called dead time, due to the cyclical nature of this crop. The cane fields were the property of U.S. companies or large Cuban landowners. We have accumulated, therefore, more experience than anyone else on the social effects of that crop.
Last Sunday, April 1, CNN was reporting the opinion of Brazilian experts, who affirmed that much of the land dedicated to sugarcane cultivation has been purchased by rich individuals from the United States and Europe.
In my reflections published on March 29, I explained the effects of climate change in Cuba, compounded by other traditional characteristics of our climate.
On our island, poor and distant from consumerism, there would not even be sufficient personnel to withstand the harsh rigors of the crop and attention to the cane fields in the midst of the heat, rain or growing droughts. When hurricanes hit, not even the most perfect machines can harvest the tumbled, twisted sugar cane. For centuries, the custom was not to burn it, nor was the soil compacted under the weight of complex machinery and enormous trucks; nitrogenous, potassic and phosphoric fertilizers, now so expensive, did not even exist, and the dry and wet months alternated regularly. In modern agriculture, no high yields are possible without crop rotation.
On Sunday, April 1, the Agence France-Presse news agency published worrying news on climate change, which experts brought together by the United Nations believe to be something that is now inevitable, and with serious consequences in the coming decades.
Climate change will affect the American continent significantly, by generating more violent storms and heat waves, which in Latin America will cause droughts, with the extinction of species and even hunger, according to a UN report to be released next week in Brussels, the AFP reported.
At the end of this century, every hemisphere will suffer from water problems, and if governments do not take steps, higher temperatures could increase the risk of "mortality, pollution, natural disasters and infectious diseases," warns the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), according to the article.
In Latin America, global warming is already melting the Andes icecaps and threatening the forests of the Amazons, which could become grassland, the article says.
Because of the large numbers of people living near coasts, the United States is also exposed to extreme natural phenomena, as was demonstrated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the AFP notes.
This is the second in a series of three IPCC reports, which began in February with an initial scientific diagnosis establishing the certainty of climate change, the article continues.
This second, 1,400-page report, which analyzes the changes by industry and region, and a copy of which was obtained by the AFP, states that even if radical measures are taken to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere, higher temperatures throughout the planet in the coming decades is now a certain fact, the AFP reported.
As could be expected, Dan Fisk, National Security advisor for the region, stated on the same day in the Camp David meeting that in the discussion on regional matters, the Cuba issue would be one of them, and not exactly to address the subject of ethanol -- about which the convalescing President Fidel Castro wrote an article on Thursday -- but instead about the hunger he has created among the Cuban people.
Given the necessity of responding to this gentleman, I feel obliged to remind him that the infant mortality rate in Cuba is lower than that of the United States. He can rest assured that not a single citizen lacks free medical care. Everybody is studying, and nobody lacks the possibility of useful work, despite almost half a century of economic blockade and the attempt by U.S. governments to bring the Cuban people to its knees through hunger and economic asphyxiation.
China would never use even one ton of cereal or legumes to produce ethanol. This is a nation with a prospering economy that has beaten growth records, in which all its citizens receive the income necessary for essential consumer goods, despite the fact that 48% of its population, in excess of 1.3 billion inhabitants, work in the agricultural sector. On the contrary, it has been proposed to save considerable energy by eliminating thousands of factories that consume unacceptable levels of energy and hydrocarbons. Many of the foodstuffs mentioned are imported by China from all corners of the world after being transported thousands of kilometers.
Scores of countries do not produce hydrocarbons and cannot cultivate corn and other grains, or produce oleaginous seeds, because they do not have enough water even to meet their most elemental needs.
In a meeting convened in Buenos Aires by the Oil Industry Chamber and the Exporters Center on the production of ethanol, Dutchman Loek Boonekamp, director of Markets and Agricultural Trade for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, informed the press:
"Governments got very enthusiastic; but they should take a good look as to whether there should be such robust support for ethanol.
"Ethanol production is only viable in the United States; not in any other country, except when subsidies are applied.
"This is not manna from heaven and we don't have to blindly commit ourselves," the cable continues.
"These days, developed countries are pushing for fossil fuels to be mixed with bio-fuels at close to 5% and that is already putting pressure on agricultural prices. If that mixture is raised to 10%, it would need 30% of the sown surface of the United States and 50% of Europe's. That is why I am asking if this is sustainable. An increase in the demand for crops for ethanol would produce higher and more unstable prices."
Protectionist measures have risen today to 54 cents per gallon and real subsidies are much higher.
By applying the simple math that we learn in high school, as I stated in my previous reflections, it can be confirmed that the simple replacement of incandescent light bulbs by fluorescent ones would contribute a saving of investment and energy recourses equivalent to trillions of dollars without using a single hectare of agricultural land.
Meanwhile, news coming from Washington is affirmed textually by the AP:
"The mysterious disappearance of millions of bees across the whole of the United States has beekeepers on the verge of a nervous breakdown and is even worrying Congress, which this Thursday is to debate the critical situation of a key insect for the agricultural sector.
"The first serious signs of this enigma emerged shortly after Christmas in the state of Florida, when beekeepers discovered that the bees had vanished.
"Since then, the syndrome that experts have christened Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has reduced the country's swarms by 25%.
"'We have lost more than half a million colonies, with a population of around 50,000 bees each,' said Daniel Weaver, president of the American Beekeeping Federation, noting that the disease is affecting 30 of the country's 50 states. The curious part of the phenomenon is that in many cases no mortal remains have been found.
"The hardworking insects pollinate crops valued at $12-14 billion, according to a study from Cornell University.
"Scientists are considering all sorts of hypotheses, including one that a certain pesticide has provoked neurological damage in the bees and altered their sense of direction. Others blame the drought, and even cell-phone waves, but what is certain is that nobody knows for sure what the real trigger is."
The worst could be still to come: a new war to ensure supplies of gas and oil, which would place the human species on the brink of a total holocaust.
There are Russian news agencies that, citing intelligence sources, have reported that the war on Iran has been prepared in all its details for more than three years, from the day that the United States decided to totally occupy Iraq, thus unleashing an interminable and odious civil war.
Meanwhile, the United States government is directing hundreds of billions to the development of highly sophisticated technological weapons, such as those utilizing microelectronic systems, or new nuclear weapons that could be over their targets one hour after receiving the order.
The United States is totally ignoring the fact that world opinion is against any type of nuclear weapons.
Demolishing every single Iranian factory is a relatively easy technical task for a power like that of the United States. The difficult part could come afterwards, if another war is launched against another Muslim belief, which merits all our respect, as well as the other religions of the peoples of the Near, Middle and Far East, before or after Christianity.
The arrest of British troops in Iran's jurisdictional waters would seem to be a provocation exactly like that of the so-called Brothers to the Rescue when, in violation of President Clinton's orders, they advanced over waters in our jurisdiction, and the defensive action of Cuba, absolutely legitimate, served as a pretext for the government of the United States to promulgate the infamous Helms-Burton Act, which violates the sovereignty of other countries. The powerful mass media have buried that episode in oblivion. More than a few people are attributing the price of oil, reaching close to $70 per barrel on Monday, to fears of an attack on Iran.
Where are the poor nations of the Third World going to find the minimal resources for survival?
I am not exaggerating or using untempered words; I am going by facts.
As can be seen, the polyhedron has many dark sides.RENEGADE EYE