About this film:
During the summer of
2008 we traveled to southwest Ecuador with a conservation group and
found ourselves in a remote village on the border with Peru. We spotted a hen with her chicks hobbling
along the road and pulled out our camcorder. Then suddenly an old woman
approached us in distress. At one point she was frozen in tears and
couldn't speak. This is in one of the poorest areas of Ecuador with an
average income of under $50 per month. There are no social services
available of any kind. No one was able to help her, not even the local
priest. That's when we decided her story must be told.
The old woman's name is Lastenia Correa Aponte. This video is HER
Using Food for fuel:
intend to make a video focused on corn ethanol or congress' energy
policy but that's where this story led us. It seems that when we burn
food to run our cars it affects the whole world!
Whatís the connection between US energy
policy and Ecuador?
There is a direct connection. We live in a global economy and the US
exports wheat, soy, and corn. In the past, it was cheaper for countries
like Ecuador to import corn from the US. But after congress mandated so much ethanol,
farmers in the US planted corn for ethanol rather than for food. This reduction in food
supply caused the price of corn to go up. Poor countries like Ecuador faced food
shortages. Thatís why farmers in Ecuador are burning tropical forests to
Why is this our problem?
our problem because we all live in one world. The destruction of
tropical forests for biofuels releases many times more greenhouse gas
than is saved by the biofuels. The large increase in US ethanol
production is leading to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.  This is very important because
tropical deforestation now accounts for 20% of greenhouse gas
emissions and that is accelerating global warming.
In addition, the world is losing irreplaceable biodiversity that took
millions of years to develop.
Do you want to learn more?
the best overall review of this important issue please read this
excellent article: Time
magazine, Mar. 27, 2008, The Clean Energy Scam.
Also see the photos of
- The Tumbes (or Tumbesian) region of
southwest Ecuador is a rare dry tropical forest with high levels of
endemism and over 800 bird species. According to Bird Life International
this biodiversity-hotspot is one of the richest and most threatened
sites on earth. Unfortunately it may be lost within a few years.
Clean Energy Scam , By Michael Grunwald, Time magazine,
Thursday, Mar. 27, 2008.
Energy Policy Act of 2005. Summary of Policy Provisions
of the Conference Report.
Independence and Security Act of 2007. A Summary of
Major Provisions in a report for congress.
Press, August 12, 2008. The USDA raised its estimate of the
amount of corn that will be used for ethanol production to 4.1 billion
bushels out of total harvest of 12.3 billion bushels.
- World Bank Report: A Note on
Rising Food Prices, by Donald Mitchell, July 2008.
- Union of Concerned Scientists September 2008
newsletter: Corn ethanol pushes up food prices, by
- Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels
Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land-Use
Change, Timothy Searchinger, Ralph Heimlich, R. A. Houghton,
Fengxia Dong, Amani Elobeid, Jacinto Fabiosa, Simla Tokgoz, Dermot
Hayes, and Tun-Hsiang Yu, Science,
29 February 2008: 1238-1240
Abstract: "Most prior studies have found that substituting biofuels for
gasoline will reduce greenhouse gases because biofuels sequester carbon
through the growth of the feedstock. These analyses have failed to count
the carbon emissions that occur as farmers worldwide respond to higher
prices and convert forest and grassland to new cropland to replace the
grain (or cropland) diverted to biofuels. By using a worldwide
agricultural model to estimate emissions from land-use change, we found
that corn-based ethanol, instead of producing a 20% savings, nearly
doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years and increases greenhouse
gases for 167 years. Biofuels from switchgrass, if grown on U.S. corn
lands, increase emissions by 50%. This result raises concerns about
large biofuel mandates and highlights the value of using waste
- Land Clearing and the Biofuel Carbon Debt, Joseph
Fargione et al. Science,
29 February 2008: Vol. 319. no. 5867, pp. 1235 - 1238
Abstract: "Increasing energy use, climate change, and carbon dioxide
(CO2) emissions from fossil fuels make switching to low-carbon fuels a
high priority. Biofuels are a potential low-carbon energy source, but
whether biofuels offer carbon savings depends on how they are produced.
Converting rainforests, peatlands, savannas, or grasslands to produce
food crop-based biofuels in Brazil, Southeast Asia, and the United
States creates a "biofuel carbon debt" by releasing 17 to 420 times more
CO2 than the annual greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions that these biofuels
would provide by displacing fossil fuels. In contrast, biofuels made
from waste biomass or from biomass grown on degraded and abandoned
agricultural lands planted with perennials incur little or no carbon
debt and can offer immediate and sustained GHG advantages."
- Carbon Mitigation by Biofuels or by Saving and Restoring
Forests?, Renton Righelato and Dominick V. Spracklen Science,
17 August 2007 317: 902
Abstract: "The carbon sequestered by restoring forests is greater than
the emissions avoided by the use of the liquid biofuels."
- Ethanol Can Contribute to Energy and Environmental
Goals, Alexander E. Farrell et al. Science,
27 January 2006 311: 506-508
Note: Unlike the reports above, this earlier report concluded that
corn Ethanol was slightly better than gasoline. However it was corrected
through an Erratum ( posted Science, 23 June 2006) that disclosed a
large uncertainty and rendered the conclusion very uncertain.
Furthermore, in a February 2008 interview, Farrell admitted that his report
ignored land use and acknowledged that using land to produce biofuels
essentially competes with using land for food. Sadly, Alexander E. Farrell died in April 2008 just
before a scheduled trip to Minnesota to testify at a legislative
Abstract: To study the potential effects of increased biofuel use, we
evaluated six representative analyses of fuel ethanol. Studies that
reported negative net energy incorrectly ignored coproducts and used
some obsolete data. All studies indicated that current corn ethanol
technologies are much less petroleum-intensive than gasoline but have
greenhouse gas emissions similar to those of gasoline. However, many
important environmental effects of biofuel production are poorly
understood. New metrics that measure specific resource inputs are
developed, but further research into environmental metrics is needed.
Nonetheless, it is already clear that large-scale use of ethanol for
fuel will almost certainly require cellulosic technology.
deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions, Holly K
Gibbs et al 2007 Environ. Res. Lett. 2 045021 (2pp) doi:
See the photos of our