Sunday, April 6, 2008

Rising Food Prices and Biofuels

As most of you have probably noticed, food prices are rising. For most Americans this is not a big deal because we as a nation spend a small percentage of our income on food. It's easier for Americans to cut back on other things like $4 cups of coffee than people in the developing world. A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor highlights the food crisis that is engulfing Sub-Saharan Africa (here). The article sites recent food riots in Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Mozambique, Senegal and Ivory Coast, where I was a Peace Corps volunteer from 2001 - 2002. The article quotes a World Food Program official blaming a host of problems, including demand for biofuels. The coming summer in Africa could turn into the hungry season if food prices continue to rise and aid agencies cannot afford to purchase enough food to feed the hungry. Current US biofuel policy is not helping. Corn based ethanol consumes food and discourages farmers from planting other food crops. Currently the US is mandating an increase in biofuels use. I hope politicians in Washington are paying attention to food prices and the effect US biofuel policy is having on food prices. With a growing world population food based biofuels are not a long term solution to our energy needs. We could reduce our foreign fuel needs far more with increased fuel taxes or higher CAFE standards than we ever will will food derived ethanol and we would help reduce food prices for everyone at the same time.

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