Lester Brown says the diversion is already happening:
If you think you are spending more each week at the supermarket, you may be right. The escalating share of the U.S. grain harvest going to ethanol distilleries is driving up food prices worldwide.
Corn prices have doubled over the last year, wheat futures are trading at their highest level in 10 years, and rice prices are rising too. In addition, soybean futures have risen by half. A Bloomberg analysis notes that the soaring use of corn as the feedstock for fuel ethanol “is creating unintended consequences throughout the global food chain.”
The countries initially hit by rising food prices are those where corn is the staple food. In Mexico, one of more than 20 countries with a corn-based diet, the price of tortillas is up by 60 percent. Angry Mexicans in crowds of up to 75,000 have taken to the streets in protest, forcing the government to institute price controls on tortillas.
Food prices are also rising in China, India, and the United States, countries that contain 40 percent of the world’s people. While relatively little corn is eaten directly in these countries, vast quantities are consumed indirectly in meat, milk, and eggs in both China and the United States.
I don’t know if biofuels can be controlled in a way that ensures that they are grown sustainably. I am more optimistic about electricity generation on an upward green trajectory. Plug it in, I say, plug it in.
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