Stop Birdseed Prices Rising – Stand against Ethanol

Along with food and petrol, birdseed prices are going to rise and stay high and volatile.  This time it’s not drought driving increases but government policy.  You might have heard about the food vs fuel debate. Europe and the US have put policies in place to mandate biofuel made from grain. Biofuels like ethanol are competing with food and feed grain for land-use and this is driving grain prices up.  The Iemma government in NSW now wants to mandate E10, that is, enforce a 10 % ethanol blend in unleaded petrol. This policy will require 2.5 million tonne of wheat to meet demand. An ethanol plant is being built in Dalby on the Darling Downs in the heart of Australia’s main birdseed production area that will use 200,000 tonne of sorghum a year.

In the US corn for ethanol is going to chew through 120 million tonne of grain in 2008. The world only grows 2000 million tonne, which is not enough for what we currently need for food and livestock feed. The Yanks are using the world’s grain surplus to fuel their car culture.  While they wreck world grain supplies, ethanol will only contribute 4% of their transport needs. Is it worth it?

World grain prices have doubled in the past year because of grain going into ethanol. Birdseed prices will go up as well.  When farmers have a choice between growing different grains, the decision comes back to how much money they expect to get. When wheat or sorghum prices are high then farmers will not plant alternative crops like millet, canaryseed and sunflowers.   With lower supply prices shoot up and we may have to keep importing birdseed to meet demand. In 2007 Australia imported Chinese, US and Argentine millet, Canadian and NZ canaryseed and Argentine sunflowers to cap prices and ensure demand was met.  Imported seed means high prices, variable quality, sterilised seeds and the risks involved in getting grain through quarantine.  Queensland has to bring grain in from NSW every year to meet demand for its feedlots and mills.  Taking an extra 200,000 tonne out of supply can only drive prices higher and encourage farmers to grow sorghum instead of crops like millet and sunflowers.

You will be told by the spin doctors about all the good aspects of ethanol.
There is nothing good about ethanol.
Ethanol actually increases greenhouse gas emissions because of the fossil fuels needed to grow, process and distribute ethanol. Air quality is not improved. Our fuel security is no better because we can only make a tiny amount of the fuel we need. Australia’s average grain crop of 25 million tonne would not make enough fuel for NSW’s unleaded petrol let alone diesel or the demand from other states.  We will still need a lot of fossil fuels to run the economy. Ask your mechanic about ethanol.  You will find they are not convinced it won’t affect your car. Ask if the warranty on your car will still hold if you use ethanol, they aren’t sure.

The only thing about ethanol that may be of benefit is that it will help rural development. Put another way, taxpayers will provide the money to fund a subsidised industry in the bush. So you pay tax to subsidise an industry whose existence forces food prices up, so extra tax is the first slug. Food prices go up and you pay again at the supermarket. If you breed birds, you then get to pay a third time when birdseed prices rise.

Three strikes Ethanol – you’re out !!

Ethanol can not stand on its own as a business. Ethanol producers need government support.  In NSW the biggest ethanol producer is the Manildra Group. Manildra was found to be the highest undeclared donor to the NSW Labor Party before the 2007 election with undeclared donations over $500,000. Ethanol advocates like Member for … Tony Windsor received $50,000 from Manildra.  After the election the NSW government announced the intention to introduce an E10 policy even when their taskforce reported they should take a wait and see approach.

In the past Manildra gave a lot of money to the Howard government. In 2002-3 the figure was over $300,000 and that was the year that the government put an excise on imported Brazilian ethanol of 38c/l while a boatload was coming over!  It cost the importer over $1million and presumably kept Manildra happy.  Money well spent.  So when governments talk about rural development they actually mean helping out the generous donors to their party. Whether the community benefits is another point. Ethanol plants don’t employ many people, and given that many rural industries are looking for workers (the NFF reckons the country is short about 100,000 farm workers), it is a pointless exercise anyway.  So bird-breeders and fanciers pay three times over to subsidise ethanol, an industry which only exists to benefit political parties and their donors.

Don’t pay three times over to support this industry.  Let’s at least have a level playing field so that birdseed prices are not kept artificially high by having to compete with subsidised industries!                 Fair Go Mr Iemma.

Protest to your local member, petition the Premier, write to the Federal government, write to your local paper and spread the word. Ethanol is bad policy. or phone 02-92285239

For more information about ethanol see:-
Time Magazine ‘The Clean Energy Scam’,9171,1725975,00.html

Or Online Opinion