In the WSJ article reference below, it is noted that one of the reasons for the dramatic rise in food prices over the last few years has been the decision by rich countries–particularly the United States–to use agricultural products not for food, but for fuel for motor vehicles. In fact, according to this NPR report:
“The grain required to fill a 25-gallon SUV tank with ethanol will feed one person for a year,” [Lester] Brown [author of the book Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization] says. “And what we are seeing now is the emergence of direct competition between the 860 million people in the world who own automobiles and who want to maintain their mobility while the 2 billion poorest people in the world simply want to survive.”
For audio of the NPR report, click the link above.
Indeed, the issue of biofeuls is more than simply a matter of geopolitics. It has come to be viewed as a moral dilemma. Once again, from the WSJ article:
“When millions of people are going hungry, it’s a crime against humanity that food should be diverted to biofuels,” said India’s finance minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, in an interview. Turkey’s finance minister, Mehmet Simsek, said the use of food for biofuels is “appalling.”
James Connaughton, chairman of the White House’s council on environmental quality, said biofuels are only one contributor to rising food prices. Rising prices for energy and electricity also contribute, as does strong demand for food from big developing countries like China.
But beyond taking shots at the U.S., there was little agreement this weekend on what should be done.