Food or Fuel? Choose One

food or fuel choose one

The President of the World Bank [via NPR] says demand for ethanol and other biofuels is a "significant contributor" to soaring food prices around the world. Robert Zoellick says droughts, financial speculators and increased demand for food have created "a perfect storm" of climbing food prices. In the U.S., the price of corn has more than doubled due, in part, to the demand for alt fuels such as ethanol. The World Bank figures food prices will stay high, or go higher, over the next couple of years. "Biofuels is no doubt a significant contributor," says Zoellick. "It is clearly the case that programs in Europe and the U.S. that have increased biofuel production have contributed to the added demand for food." As we reported last week, some 20 percent of last year's U.S. corn crop went to ethanol production; it's likely to reach 30 percent next year. Boondoggles can be lethal.

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  • Captain Neek Captain Neek on Apr 14, 2008 We need real answers to our energy needs, not converting food to fuel.

  • Subtlesimmer Subtlesimmer on Apr 14, 2008

    Are people really this stubborn, ignorant and/or blind? If it were truly a question of "food OR fuel", I would completely agree with you. But the fact is that it is possible with biofuels from grain to get food AND fuel. The protein and oil from the corn grain, and the protein and starches from the soybean, are absolutely usable for animal feed that the farmers would grow, mill and use, ANYWAY. Yes, there is less 'corn syrup' produced, because the sugar is what ferments to make ethanol. Yes, there is less 'soy oil' produced, because the oil of the bean is what is used to make biodiesel. But there is still considerable food-supply - USEFUL, beneficial, healthful food-products remaining from the grain. I agree that we should look at all our clean and renewable options, absolutely! But this constant misinformation and demonizing of one source over another is not helping anyone. It is NOT "Food OR Fuel", but "Food AND Fuel". Until this anti-biofuel argument can be made from a standpoint of a solid grasp of the facts, it will not be taken very seriously by those of us capable of reading and finding the facts for ourselves. Wake up and stop letting government, special interest groups, and excitement-seeking journalists manipulate your emotions. Engage your intellect, please!

  • Kph Kph on Apr 14, 2008

    subtlesimmer: Good point, I realize creating corn ethanol comes directly from the sugars. And if ethanol is made efficiently from a low-value byproduct, then it definitely makes sense. If I were running a corn processing plant, I'd like to find uses for every product to make it more profitable. However, my fear is that subsidies are distorting demand. Are the right types of corn being planted to match demand? Is more corn being processed than necessary? Are the corn gluten meal products being used efficiently? Demand of one product of the system has effects that ripple back. Gasoline started as a "waste product" of kerosene production, now it's a main driver of the price of oil. I also don't have much of an issue with ethanol itself as a fuel. But when the government does things like mandating that a certain percentage of our fuel must be ethanol, it makes me nervous.

  • Subtlesimmer Subtlesimmer on Apr 14, 2008

    kph: Good points to you as well. I severely disagree with gov't subsidizing just about anything and everything for a myriad of reasons including those you bring up, here. I think if Uncle Sam weren't so dang bogged down with every special-interest group under the sun, the free market would have taken care of many of these issues long ago. You certainly won't here me claim that bio-fuels are the cure-all to what ails us, by any means. I just don't like to see any argument misrepresented in order to manipulate the emotional reaction of an audience, while failing to present the facts. This particular bit of so-called "journalism" representing the situation as something so "dire" as "Food or Fuel, Choose One" just pressed every hot-button I possess. But then, I've been raised in a state that is primarily agriculturally based, even though none of my immediate family are farmers. Still, my dad has often said we should tell the Middle Eastern countries, "We'll burn our grain, you eat your oil" and do just that and stop importing. So I certainly have my own biases.