April 24th, 2008 by Potato

This will likely be a multipart post since I’m probably going to want to cover a lot of ground and dig up a lot of figures, but just don’t have time right now. For now, a quick point to make:

“Switching to ethanol [to fuel cars] was a big thing, until they realized they are starving people.”

[clarification for context mine]

This is just one representative quote (from an off-hand comment on Preet’s site) of a sentiment that I’ve been seeing a lot lately. There is some sort of food crisis happening right now, and it’s snowballing astonishingly quickly. There are food riots in poorer countries, and even in the States there are the beginnings of rationing on rice.

I’ve got my doubts about the ultimate utility of ethanol production, but I also think that it’s far too easy to blame biofuel production for the current food price spike. From what I can find, about 20% of the US corn crop went into biofuels last year, and it’s pretty much the only food crop that gets diverted to that stream. 20% of the crop looks to be within the normal range of crop yield variances, and last year was a record crop to boot. It may be a factor, but I have to say that something else is leading to food price inflation and starving the world…

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