Bill Clinton Enters the Food vs. Fuel Debate Regarding Corn Ethanol

Another convert to the food vs. fuel debate on corn ethanol — former President Bill Clinton. In his speech on Thursday before the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual Agricultural Outlook Forum, Clinton said that farmers shouldn’t be putting so much of their corn crop into ethanol production rather than food. He cautioned that the diversion of the food and feed crop could increase food prices and lead to food riots in developing countries and urged farmers to look to the needs of the poor countries of the world.

The USDA’s chief economist Joe Glauber in his closely watched presentation at the Forum also spent some time on projections relating to corn. He said that in 2011/2012 —

“corn use for ethanol would account for 37 percent of total use and 36 percent of corn production.”

Reading between the lines, one can also anticipate higher food costs for beef, pork and poultry, as Glauber noted that high corn feed costs —

“would limit expansion in the pork and poultry sectors and beef feeding declines with tighter feeder cattle supplies.”

That’s not good news for people even in developed countries hit by escalating oil prices resulting from oil disruptions in the Middle East. Food and fuel costs will be rising. While unrest in the Middle East may not be controllable, the corn ethanol issue certainly is. Read CEI’s Marlo Lewis’ article on how the climate for getting rid of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) has changed, and even some of its strongest supporters are saying they may have to “bite the bullet” on that.