A socialist interpretation of biofuels issue

Among the many articles on biofuels proliferating recently, I came across this April 11 article in the magazine In These Times.

While the writer David Moberg does point out some of the potential problems with the biofuels food-to-fuel rush, he thinks the answer is careful government regulation:

Both sides in the debate marshal studies predicting promise or peril. Ultimately, the evidence suggests that biofuels could be one valuable source of renewable energy. But for biofuels to deliver on that promise, governments will need to both tightly regulate agricultural and land-use practices, and carefully tailor trade and economic policies. Most important, the world—especially the United States—will have to greatly increase how efficiently it uses energy.

At the end, he also rails against “big corporations and the free market” as the culprits — not government subsidies and tax incentives that are distorting the market:

If the world—but especially the United States—takes advantage of existing possibilities for energy efficiency and designed biofuel policies to protect the environment as well as farmers and workers in the industry, then the potential for biofuels is rosy. If, however, we continue to leave the development of biofuels to big corporations and the free market, the biofuel dream could warp into a social and environmental nightmare.

A bit puzzled by this until I learned that the publication In These Times was founded in 1976 with the mission: “To identify and clarify the struggles against corporate power now multiplying in American society.”

The founding sponsors were prominent socialist historian James Weinstein, and self-described socialist/Marxist/”libertarian-socialist”/or activist intellectuals and scholars — Daniel Ellsberg, E.P. Thompson, Noam Chomsky, Barbara Ehrenreich, Julian Bond and Herbert Marcuse.