NYT's Cohen: Forget Ethanol. Rising Food Prices Caused by Poor Eating Twice a Day

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
nyt s cohen forget ethanol rising food prices caused by poor eating twice a day

I know what you're thinking: he grabbed the New York Times' columnist's most ridiculous assertion and repeated it out of context. If so, you need to read " Bring on the Right Biofuels," 'cause this Roger Cohen guy is the MR. Context Manipulation. After listing the charges against bio-fuels, Cohen says "hogwash and bilge"– and then admits he was somewhat wrong about ethanol's critics being somewhat wrong. "I’ll grant that the fashion for bio-fuels led to excess, and that some farm-to-fuel-plant conversion, particularly in subsidized U.S. and European markets, makes no economic or environmental sense. But bio-fuels remain very much part of the solution. It just depends which bio-fuels." So, on to [theoretical] production of ethanol from switchgrass, wood chips and garbage, right? Wrong. Cohen is too busy pinning the blame for rising food prices on oil prices and rising standards of living in third world developing nations. "They’re eating twice a day, instead of once, and propelling rapid urbanization. Their demand for food staples and once unthinkable luxuries like meat is pushing up prices." Perhaps. Anyway, what's to be done about ethanol? Remove the tariff against Brazilian ethanol! And? And that's it.

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  • Pch101 Pch101 on Apr 24, 2008
    Right now, the market is being played like a violin by the speculators and the day traders, there is all kinds of false demand being created by playing this month’s contract against next month’s contract to force the price to go up. Speculators are symptomatic of the underlying problem, which is instability and uncertainty in respect to the US economy and the dollar. All of that ultimately leads back to the Iraq war. Speculators are able to bet on volatility precisely because the markets are nervous about US prospects due to the cost of the war and the quagmire that the US finds itself in. If you want lower, more stable commodity prices and a stronger dollar, end the war as soon as possible. Commodity prices were climbing and the dollar was falling during the Vietnam war, too, and ending that war allowed the US to move forward and get past those issues. Trying to eliminate speculation by fiat would be akin to trying to fix a gambling problem by outlawing dice. Speculators aren't speculating because there is a commodities market, but because there are news events that spur volatility, which creates opportunity for profit. Reducing the uncertainty will do away with most of that.
  • Pfingst Pfingst on Apr 24, 2008

    @brownie: My thoughts exactly. You see this train of thought over and over from "progressives", who somehow can't stand to see anyone make any progress. And they call the rest of us cruel and unfeeling.

  • Guyincognito Guyincognito on Apr 24, 2008

    This rise in food prices simply means the end of humanity's wonton wastefulness. Its time we think about conservatio and the most logical way to usher in this era of conservation is to create a new global food tax. This way people will naturally limit their intake of food based on what they can afford and we can better prepare for the future.

  • on Apr 25, 2008

    The funny thing for me is that I'm sure Mr. Cohen considers himself a voice for the poor and downtrodden as well. kph: I agree, I don't mind people using ethanol either. I just used some earlier tonight with dinner. guyincognito: I really, really hope that your post was sarcastic.