Did Environmentalists Cause the World Food Crisis?

A couple years ago, when you could buy a bushel of corn for about $2.00, I saw adds for corn-burning stoves. It didn’t seem right, burning food to keep warm.

Now we are burning corn in our automobiles, in the form of ethanol. The ditto heads are blaming it on the environmentalists. Those crazy tree-huggers have convinced us to fill our SUV’s with ethanol rather than good 100% pure gasoline.

Now that the prices of grain crops have skyrocketed, it is easy to blame ethanol.

Responsible environmentalists have been saying some of the following things for a long time:

1) We need to walk, bike, car-pool, use public transportation more–and drive less.

2) We need to develop sustainable sources of energy from a variety of sources.

3) Converting corn to ethanol is terribly inefficient.

The best thing you can say about corn-derived ethanol is that maybe, in the big picture, it could help facilitate a transition to ethanol derived from algae or switch-grass.

But is ethanol really to blame for the high price of wheat? Consider these other factors:

1) Investors have to put their money somewhere. The real estate bubble has burst, the stock market is in the doldrums–so what’s left? The commodities markets. It’s not just corn, wheat, and soybeans–it’s copper, gold, steal and –um, did I forget to mention oil?

2) There have been rumors for a couple years now that oil companies have been buying up corn (here). It would be odd if they were they only investors who didn’t invest their profits in grain.

3) The subsidies for ethanol have been promoted by the president, not by Greenpeace or the Siera club (here).

4) The continuing instability in the Persian Gulf (i.e., Iraq and Iran) has been a major factor in the runaway inflation of oil and all other commodities prices.

My travels in Europe have convinced me that we love our cars and won’t give them up. Europeans are paying from $8.00 to $10.00 per gallon for gasoline, and they still love their cars. They drive more efficient cars, and avoid unnecessary trips–but they love to get out on the highway.

By the way, when I saw the gas sign above, I thought “that doesn’t look too bad.” Then I remembered, that’s the price per liter, so you have to multiply by about four; then it’s in pounds, so you have to double it. And that was when oil was only $100.00 per barrel. Ouch!

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One Response

  1. I agree, biofuels aren’t the answer. As you say, there are a lot of vested interests here from governments and business.

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