[OPE-L] Reflections of President Fidel Castro, March 29, 2007

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Fri Mar 30 2007 - 08:43:16 EDT

Granma International On line TEXT ONLY

Havana, Cuba. Year 10 -Thursday, March 29, 2007.



  More than three million people in the world condemned to premature
death from hunger and thirst
  THAT is not an exaggerated figure, but rather a cautious one. I
have meditated a lot on that in the wake of President Bush's meeting
with U.S. automobile manufacturers.
  The sinister idea of converting food into fuel was definitively
established as an economic line in U.S. foreign policy last Monday,
March 26.
  A cable from the AP, the U.S. news agency that reaches all corners
of the world, states verbatim:

  "WASHINGTON, March 26 (AP). President Bush touted the benefits
of `flexible fuel' vehicles running on ethanol and biodiesel on
Monday, meeting with automakers to boost support for his energy
  "Bush said a commitment by the leaders of the domestic auto
industry to double their production of flex-fuel vehicles could help
motorists shift away from gasoline and reduce the nation's reliance
on imported oil.
  `"That's a major technological breakthrough for the country,' Bush
said after inspecting three alternative vehicles. If the nation wants
to reduce gasoline use, he said "the consumer has got to be in a
position to make a rational choice."
  "The president urged Congress to `move expeditiously' on
legislation the administration recently proposed to require the use
of 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels by 2017 and seek higher
fuel economy standards for automobiles.
  "Bush met with General Motors Corp. chairman and chief executive
Rick Wagoner, Ford Motor Co. chief executive Alan Mulally and
DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group chief executive Tom LaSorda.
  "They discussed support for flex-fuel vehicles, attempts to develop
ethanol from alternative sources like switchgrass and wood chips and
the administration's proposal to reduce gas consumption by 20 percent
in 10 years.
  "The discussions came amid rising gasoline prices. The latest
Lundberg Survey found the nationwide average for gasoline has risen 6
cents per gallon in the past two weeks to $2.61."

  I believe that reducing and moreover recycling all motors that run
on electricity and fuel is an elemental and urgent need for all
humanity. The tragedy does not lie in reducing those energy costs but
in the idea of converting food into fuel.
  It is known very precisely today that one ton of corn can only
produce 413 liters of ethanol on average, according to densities.
That is equivalent to 109 gallons.
  The average price of corn in U.S. ports has risen to $167 per ton.
Thus, 320 million tons of corn would be required to produce 35
billion gallons of ethanol.
  According to FAO figures, the U.S. corn harvest rose to 280.2
million tons in the year 2005.
  Although the president is talking of producing fuel derived from
grass or wood shavings, anyone can understand that these are phrases
totally lacking in realism. Let's be clear: 35 billion gallons
translates into 35 followed by nine zeros!
  Afterwards will come beautiful examples of what experienced and
well-organized U.S. farmers can achieve in terms of human
productivity by hectare: corn converted into ethanol; the chaff from
that corn converted into animal feed containing 26% protein; cattle
dung used as raw material for gas production. Of course, this is
after voluminous investments only within the reach of the most
powerful enterprises, in which everything has to be moved on the
basis of electricity and fuel consumption. Apply that recipe to the
countries of the Third World and you will see that people among the
hungry masses of the Earth will no longer eat corn. Or something
worse: lend funding to poor countries to produce corn ethanol based
on corn or any other food and not a single tree will be left to
defend humanity from climate change.
  Other countries in the rich world are planning to use not only corn
but also wheat, sunflower seeds, rapeseed and other foods for fuel
production. For the Europeans, for example, it would become a
business to import all of the world's soybeans with the aim of
reducing the fuel costs for their automobiles and feeding their
animals with the chaff from that legume, particularly rich in all
types of essential amino acids.
  In Cuba, alcohol used to be produced as a byproduct of the sugar
industry after having made three extractions of sugar from cane
juice. Climate change is already affecting our sugar production.
Lengthy periods of drought alternating with record rainfall, that
barely make it possible to produce sugar with an adequate yield
during the 100 days of our very moderate winter; hence, there is less
sugar per ton of cane or less cane per  hectare due to prolonged
drought  in the months of planting and cultivation.
  I understand that in Venezuela they would be using alcohol not for
export but to improve the environmental quality of their own fuel.
For that reason, apart from the excellent Brazilian technology for
producing alcohol, in Cuba the use of such a technology for the
direct production of alcohol from sugar cane juice is no more than a
dream or the whim of those carried away by that idea. In our country,
land handed over to the direct production of alcohol could be much
useful for food production for the people and for environmental
  All the countries of the world, rich and poor, without any
exception, could save millions and millions of dollars in investment
and fuel simply by changing all the incandescent light bulbs for
fluorescent ones, an exercise that Cuba has carried out in all homes
throughout the country. That would provide a breathing space to
resist climate change without killing the poor masses through hunger.
  As can be observed, I am not using adjectives to qualify the system
and the lords of the earth. That task can be excellently undertaken
by news experts and honest social, economic and political scientists
abounding in the world who are constantly delving into to the present
and future of our species. A computer and the growing number of
Internet networks are sufficient for that.
  Today, we are seeing for the first time a really globalized economy
and a dominant power in the economic, political and military terrain
that in no way resembles that of Imperial Rome.
  Some people will be asking themselves why I am talking of hunger
and thirst. My response to that: it is not about the other side of
the coin, but about several sides of something else, like a die with
six sides, or a polyhedron with many more sides.
  I refer in this case to an official news agency, founded in 1945
and generally well-informed about economic and social questions in
the world: TELAM. It said, and I quote:

  "In just 18 years, close to 2 billion people will be living in
countries and regions where water will be a distant memory. Two-
thirds of the world's population could be living in places where that
scarcity produces social and economic tensions of such a magnitude
that it could lead nations to wars for the precious `blue gold.'
  "Over the last 100 years, the use of water has increased at a rate
twice as fast as that of population growth.
  "According to statistics from the World Water Council, it is
estimated that by 2015, the number of inhabitants affected by this
grave situation will rise by 3.5 billion people.
  "The United Nations celebrated World Water Day on March 23, and
called to begin confronting, that very day, the international
scarcity of water, under the coordination of the UN Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO), with the goal of highlighting the
increasing importance of water scarcity on a global scale, and the
need for greater integration and cooperation that would make it
possible to guarantee sustained and efficient management of water
  "Many regions on the planet are suffering from severe water
shortages, living with less than 500 cubic meters per person per
year. The number of regions suffering from chronic scarcity of this
vital element is increasingly growing.
  "The principal consequences of water scarcity are an insufficient
amount of the precious liquid for producing food, the impossibility
of industrial, urban and tourism development and health problems."

  That was the TELEAM cable.
  In this case I will refrain from mentioning other important facts,
like the melting ice in Greenland and the Antarctic, damage to the
ozone layer and the growing volume of mercury in many species of fish
for common consumption.
  There are other issues that could be addressed, but with these
lines I am just trying to comment on President Bush's meeting with
the principal executives of U.S. automakers.
  March 28, 2007
  Fidel Castro.
  Translated by Granma International

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sat Mar 31 2007 - 01:00:12 EDT