2 Sides To The Ethanol Food Crisis: Fueling the Food Crisis

January 12th, 2014 BY Gloria Campos | 1 Comment

Now that you have read What is Ethanol: Part One, you know what Ethanol is and how it is made, but did you know there is an ongoing debate about Ethanol’s part in today food crisis and high prices?

It seems as if every time we take an eco-step forward we discover an error and end up two-step backs. Take Ethanol for example, is Ethanol really fueling the Food Crisis? The answer…there are two sides to this story.

Experts like, Lester Brown (founder and President of Earth Policy Institute) claim that, “ten to 30 percent of the recent rise in global food prices is due to demand for biofuels.” He states that the corn crop is going to fuel not food. RFA (Renewable Fuel Association) argues differently. RFA it is the price of oil that is causing the crisis.

Corn is a huge food staple for the US as well as other countries around the world. If it is in fact true that corn crop is going to fuel and not food what will that do to a nation who is already paying high prices for food? What is the impact of it on poor countries that can now barely pay the prices for their basic foods?

As a consumer whom do we believe? Let’s look at the facts. Food prices are high. The poor in developing countries and in developed countries will suffer the consequences of higher food prices and there is a food crisis, but “what” is to blame?

C. Ford Runge and Benjamin Senauer believe wheat and rice prices have surged to decade highs, “because even as those grains are increasingly being used as substitutes for corn, farmers are planting more acres with corn and fewer acres with other crops.” They argue that by placing “pressure on global supplies of edible crops, the surge in ethanol production will translate into higher prices for both processed and staple foods around the world. They believe, “Biofuels have tied oil and food prices together in ways that could profoundly upset the relationships between food producers, consumers, and nations in the years ahead, with potentially devastating implications for both global poverty and food security.” (Yale Global)

However RFA argues that the food crisis is due to the increase in high oil prices. They mention, “numerous statistical analyses have demonstrated that the price of oil – not corn prices or ethanol production – has the greatest impact on consumer food prices because is integral to virtually every phase of food production, from processing to packaging to transportation.”

The Food/Food Crisis debate is endless and expert after expert proves or disproves the value of Ethanol. What is Washington involvment in all of this? Many Politicians advocate Ethanol derived from corn. They “subsidize and protect” it. Is this a bad thing? Depends on why they’re doing it. Less dependency of foreign oil? To help American farmers prosper? For the sake of the health of the people and the environment? For votes? “As the conservative critic James Bovard noted over a decade ago, nearly half of adm’s profits have come from products that the U.S. government has either subsidized or protected” (Yale Global). Lester Brown believes that unless the governments do something soon to take care of the food crisis people are going to take to the streets and riot.

Posting on Friday: The Alternative: Part 3

  1. Ola

    The question is how much biomass per day is needed to make the required fuel. How little land can be used to produce that and amount. I presume that a simple Input –> Output equation will show that there is not enough farmland on this planet to sustain the human requirement for both food and energy – if we also want to keep some bio-diversity. The route we have taken now will make people starve (die) and cut down the forest to grow food (to live). This road is deceptively. It looks good but is …

    The only sustainable source of energy is physically derived – photons and atoms (sun, movement of wind and water) – and not chemically (biomass). Biomass shall – for now – only be made for food purpose. Later it has to be manufactured artificial (sustainable). Organics and inorganics should only be used to store energy (like batteries).

    The principle should be that every household should be capable to produce their own need in therms of energy. Every person should make a choice how that should be produced. We should be made aware about our daily energy requirement – government information and labeled products and services.

    How hard can it be.

  2. What do you have to say?