Are Biol-Fuels Really to Blame for Rising Food Prices?
Bio-Fuels are the major cause
Side Score: 6
Bio-Fuels are not the cause
Side Score: 14
Here is the key passage from the article:
"Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% - far more than previously estimated - according to a confidential World Bank report obtained by the Guardian."
Hard to make the call on the validity of the report without assessing how it was compiled and the methodology that was used but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that burning food (a finite commodity) will cause prices to rise.
Here is the passage that pisses me off the most from the article:
"Senior development sources believe the report, completed in April, has not been published to avoid embarrassing President George Bush."
Why the hell do people care so much about embarrassing G.W.B.?
Side: I Believe It
This is the guy who runs the world bank: Robert Zoellic, a George Bush appointee.
This aspect lends credibility to the story, somewhat. However, if it is a propaganda piece it is sure to work on Europeans and Liberal Americans who detest Bush.
Side: Bio-Fuels are the major cause
I am not yet ready to believe the current wave of criticism, especially one emanating from a report noone has been able to read (except some Guardian reporters).
The World Bank itself is suspect; it might be trying to divert attention from the fact that globilization policies are being blamed by some groups for the dramatic rise in food prices. For those of you who don't know, places like Haiti used to be self-sufficient in food until liberalization policies caused cheap imported grain to flood the market and crowd out the local agricultural base.
The industrialized, subsidized crops from the U.S. and E.U. can easily out-compete lo-tech, local crop producers without massive governments to support them.
There are a couple other issues:
1. Ethanol's percentage of total global crop production usage has gone up significantly in the past decade; the only problem with that is it went from tiny to small; it is not even close to being a major factor in global crop production.
2. Ethanol is mainly derived from non-staple crops: corn, soy, sugar cane. Corn and Soy, however, are used primarily as animal feed; it would follow that meat prices would rise (somewhat) from this.
The food crisis is stemming from a sudden, sharp rise in wheat and rice; foods not typically used to make ethanol.
The charge leveled, though, is that land usually used to make food is being turned over to bio-fuel use. I have seen no numbers on this and it seems unlikely that this is the major cause as, again, the amount of bio-fuel crops grown versus food stuffs is probably not even 5%, it couldn't account for the rise.
There are too many other factors that seem to make more sense with regards to the rising food prices; most notably the dramatic rise in oil prices, extreme weather (drought, floods) in the U.S. Midwest, Australia and other nations, rising demand, speculation, subsidies, and others. I find it hard to believe that beside all of these factors Bio-fuels is the major culprit.
Now, I am not actually pro-biofuels. There are a number of reasons to be against them as a major energy source; in the long-run food prices would rise considerably (I am not willing to believe, just yet, that it is possible for this effect to happen so soon). There are also additional problems with the destruction of rain forests and other natural habitats. Of course, there isn't enough land on Earth to supply our current or future fossil fuel needs with bio-fuels.
Still, I think bio-fuels can be part of the solution, along with conservation, recycling, reduction in fuel use, efficiency measures, mass transit, taxes, regulations..etc...etc..
Side: Bio-Fuels are not the cause
Farmers certainly switch crops depending on what is more profitable. When corn prices first shot up, farmers in fact planted less soybeans and wheat so that they could plant more corn.
Now that soybeans are more expensive, farmers switched from corn to soy.
So there is certainly a switch that does occur, athough does it fully account for the triple digit percentage increases we've seen in basic food stocks? Not at all.
Growth from emerging economies is really what's constricting supply. Mix in the fact that governments place export tarrifs (which distorts supply/demand) among other misplaced strategies, and you have the food situation we have today.
Side: Bio-Fuels are not the cause
The rising food prices are not completely the result of increased production of bio fuels, but bio fuels certainly play some role, just not that major. Bio fuels are mainly made from corn and soy plants and thus would not explain the sharp rise in prices for other commodities such as bread, rice, and dairy. i believe that yet again the problem mainly comes from the rise in oil prices as these affect the money that is put into harvesting and selling the crops. Natural disasters within the last few years have hit important crop areas in the united states as well as other parts of the world a few years earlier.
What I'm getting at is that there are many causes for the rising cost of food some of which, oil, we have the ability to solve and we should do what is necessary to do so. Rising food costs will greatly increase tensions in the world, possible making some areas even more volatile than they are already. Poverty will probably increase as well as sickness and probably death. we are continuing to deplete the earth of its resources and eventually if we don't solve are problems with oil, war, poverty and others, we will be forced with the problem of overpopulation and that will be nasty to solve.
Side: rising oil prices
Bio-Fuels are not to blame. It is societies lack of acceptance of GMO Foods that is to blame. We have all the resources needed to create cheaper food, yet we have not yet embrased it because we fear that which is not natural for some reason. But yet we accept cars and planes and other mechanical, non natural things into our lives. Some argue that "It is different when it comes to organic organisms and plants." But the truth is, it isn't! We have so many nonorganic objects that are placed into organic organisms, such as defibilators, that make life so much easier for us. So I think that if we would accept GMO Foods then the food prices would decrease.
Side: Bio-Fuels are not the cause
The only reason bio fuels are rising in price so much is that the US dollar has dropped so much in value. Because we import so much food, anything bought from foreign countries will be more expensive because of the weakness in the dollar. Any food produced here in the US will be higher because oil is more expensive, but oil is more expensive because the dollar is worth less.
Side: dollar is weak