Biodiesel and a new triangle trade.

When I was in lower forms of schooling, some of the history I was forced involved the Triangle Trade.  Now, while this title has a catchy, alliterative name, it’s a little misleading.  The Triangle Trade was not necessarily a triangle – it was often more of a quadrilateral.  It involved slaves from Africa and the Caribbean, sugar and rum from the Caribbean, tobacco and indigo from the US, and manufactured goods from Europe.  The idea was that traders profited by moving all these goods from where they were most common to where they were most scarce.  It was also probably somewhat damaging and disadvantageous for local economies, especially in Africa with the loss of the majority of the workforce.

The current price of the cost of oil is high enough that alternative methods, like biodiesel, are being sought after.  The US is even offering government subsidies for certain types of blended biodiesels.  That’s all well and good (other than causing a shortage of certain crops), but it’s also led to another kind of profiteering that may not be so good – ‘splash and dash’ fuels.  These are European-produced biofuels shipped to the US, mixed with a little bit of other fuel here (either another biofuel or regular petroleum), which is then eligible for a subsidy.  The new substance is considered a ‘created’ blend due to the mixing, and can be transported right back to Europe and sold for less than the price of the original biofuel.  Evidently the subsidy covers enough per gallon to make two-way shipping and an undercutting price profitable.

Some may say more power to those able to circumvent the system, but I have a few problems with this.  The spirit of the law is definitely being breached here – it’s costing a high environmental cost to ship all this biofuel in tankers across the Atlantic.  Even without the environmental cost of shipping, I’m not sure how I feel about even having the oil in the water.  Is biofuel less harmful to the environment if spilled?  Obviously, it’s not curde, but it’s still…well, oily.  Even if the Valdez was dumping thousands of gallons of salad dressing, it still would’ve been ghastly.  In addition, the two-way modern ‘triangle trade’ is putting legitimate biofuel producers out of business, at a time when they should be thriving.  Finally, I’m a consumer.  I want to get what I pay for – not what someone can cheat the government out of.