Volume 12, Number 1                                       October 16, 2008

The Farmer


Do we need biofuels?

By Dr. Ridgely Abdul Muímin


As the price of gasoline consumes the disposable income of the middle class and drains the pockets of the poor, the debate over biofuels heats up once again. I say once again because biofuels are not new and in fact the first internal combustion engines were developed to run on biofuels. Letís look at the historical development of ethanol as a fuel put out by the Energy Information Administration of the United Stateís Department of Energy:

1826 - Samuel Morey developed an engine that ran on ethanol and turpentine.

1860 - German engine inventor Nicholas Otto used ethanol as the fuel in one of his engines. Otto is best known for his development of a modern internal combustion engine (the Otto Cycle) in 1876.

1862 - The Union Congress put a $2 per gallon excise tax on ethanol to help pay for the Civil War. Prior to the Civil War, ethanol was a major illuminating oil in the United States. After the tax was imposed, ethanol cost too much to be used this way.

1896 - Henry Ford built his first automobile, the quadricycle, to run on pure ethanol.

1906 - Over 50 years after imposing the tax on ethanol, Congress removed it, making ethanol an alternative to gasoline as a motor fuel.

1908 - Henry Ford produced the Model T. As a flexible fuel vehicle, it could run on ethanol, gasoline, or a combination of the two.

1917 - 1918 - The need for fuel during World War I drove up ethanol demand to 50-60 million gallons per year.

1920's - Gasoline became the motor fuel of choice. Standard Oil began adding ethanol to gasoline to increase octane and reduce engine knocking.

Why did gasoline become the "motor fuel of choice"? Fordís Model T was able to be driven on ethanol, and Henry Ford touted it as the "fuel of the future." He envisioned that every farm would be a filling station for his cars. Not only was Henry Ford an advocate of ethanol but also peanut oil and soybean oil to be used as fuel for his diesel engines.

Standard Oil was started and owned by John D. Rockefeller who was a ruthless pursuer of profits and generally recognized as the prototypical "robber baron". It just so happens that he got involved with the "Temperance Movement" and with his financial support steered it and the country to establish "Prohibition" in 1919. With Prohibition as the excuse, law enforcement officers went around the country and destroyed the farm based ethanol plants which ushered in the era of the dominance of John D. Rockefellerís gasoline. Now America has involved herself in wars around the globe to secure petroleum for her addiction to gasoline and diesel fuel.

The revolutionary engine that Rudolph Diesel unveiled to the world in Paris in 1900 wasn't powered by diesel fuel. Diesel's diesel ran on peanut oil. To Diesel, his invention was more than a mere machine. It was an engine of social change.

"The diesel engine can be fed with vegetable oils," Diesel explained in 1912, "and would help considerably in the development of agriculture of the countries which use it." Rudolph Diesel died a year later after making this statement.

George Washington Carver first tested soybeans, among other plants, to find uses for them and diminish the dependence on cotton as the single commodity of the Southern economy. He invented soybean based varnishes, paints, inks, mayonnaise, salad dressings, linoleum, plastic and even fuel. He and Henry Ford partnered up and used soybeans to make plastic window handles, gas pedals and even dent proof trunk covers for many of the Fords built in the 1930's and 40's. The original diesel engine, invented by Rudolph Diesel, actually ran off of peanut oil based on Carver's research.

Now if we couple this information on how the farmers could have benefited if cars were run off of ethanol from corn and diesel fuel from soybeans and peanuts with the fact that in the South black farmers owned almost 16 million acres of land in 1910, now we can really imagine what the economic condition of the South and black people in general could have been without John D. Rockefeller and the Dupont family which made their fortunes developing chemicals from petroleum. More recently imagine what America could have been like if President Jimmy Carter was successful in the late 1970s in his attempt to reduce Americaís dependence on foreign oil by utilizing the already existing technologies on renewable energy. Thirty years later faced with global warming and global warring, the oil companies are still paying scientists to argue against the effects of automobile emissions on climate change. The oil companies are also pulling at the heart strings and stomachs of the consumers by arguing that using feed crops for fuel will starve the poor and increase the price of meat.

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad has taught us that both soybeans and peanuts are not fit for human consumption, so diversion of these crops to fuel would increase the worldís health. Most of Americaís farm land is not used to grow fruits, vegetables and grains for human consumption, but is used to produce feed for cattle, hogs and chickens. Cattle and hogs are particularly very inefficient converters of the sunís energy into food. It takes ten times more acres of land to grow feed to produce a pound of meat from animals than it takes to grow a pound of food fed directly to humans. The stomachs of cows are designed to eat grass, not corn grain, requiring grain fed cows to be given sodium bicarbonate to stop their stomachs from bloating. And since modern science is finally bearing witness to the Honorable Elijah Muhammadís teachings that meat is not good for us, using land to produce fuel could help us be healthier by breaking us away from so much meat.

There are other sources of energy that could be used other than our decreasing supply of fossil fuels such as wind, solar, tidal and hydrogen. The electric car is not a new idea. In fact GM developed an electric car to be sold in California, but discontinued its production and crushed the cars after it was able to lobby the California senate to repeal its stringent auto emissions requirements. Check out the movie, "Who Killed the Electric Car".

However, the history of America and the West has demonstrated that the politically connected and the wealthy determine what technologies are used. People are not suffering, poor and hungry due to a lack of the earthís resources or the dearth of human ingenuity. People are suffering because of the devious minds and ruthless behavior of those who continue to enslave humanity by controlling resources. When the majority of people lived on small farms and the technologies of ethanol and peanut oil as fuel were invented, the people could have been both free and wealthy. However, only a few people had the resources to find, pump and process fossil fuels and this was the course that the world was taken on. Now the people locked up in the cities have got to make a decision on their future. Take on the "bloodsuckers" or continue to be bled to death.