Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ethanol push hurts the poor?

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization warns about the impact of skyrocketing crop prices.

It estimated that Africa will see a 49 percent rise in their cereal import bill. International wheat prices have skyrocketed by 83 percent in the last year.

Poor countries will pay a record total for cereal imports, despite a fall in the total amount they will import.

The Christian Science Monitor ran a good piece exploring to what extent the skyrocketing food prices have been affected by the global push for ethanol and other biofuels.

An economist at Iowa State University estimates that one-fifth of all the acreage in the US now devoted to the crop will grow corn destined for ethanol, rather than food. Soybean prices have also been affected by this trend.

With huge amounts of crop-growing land in the US devoted instead to energy, it's no surprise that food prices are through the roof.

So we're taking food out of the mouthes of poor people to devote to an energy inefficient fuel.

Talk about the law of unintended consequences.

North Country Public Radio had a series about a more intelligent approach to biofuel.

It may have trouble catching on, as Iowa is more important for politicians to pander to than Northern New York. But at least, this is an approach that doesn't jack up food prices for those who can least afford it.

1 comment:

Mark said...

I went skiing this weekend with an engineer friend of mine, and he says that yes, corn as a fuel as very inefficient to burn and to grow. However, ethanol made from "less edible" plants such as grass is a lot more promising.
So yeah, the problem again seems to be the farming lobby.