A global food crisis is “forecast as prices reach record highs.” “Rising food prices and shortages could cause instability in many countries as the cost of staple foods and vegetables reached their highest levels in two years.” “Global wheat and maize prices recently jumped nearly 30% in a few weeks while meat prices are at 20-year highs.” “Meanwhile, the price of tomatoes in Egypt, garlic in China and bread in Pakistan are at near-record levels.”
Drought is one factor in the price spikes. Biofuels and ethanol subsidies and mandates are another major factor. According to the UN, “large-scale land acquisitions by foreign investors for biofuels is squeezing land suitable for agriculture.”
These subsidies are expanded in the global warming legislation backed by the Obama administration. Its ethanol subsidies will result in “damage to water supplies, soil health and air quality.” The Washington Examiner earlier explained how the global warming bill backed by President Obama would cause deforestation by expanding ethanol subsidies, and thus increase greenhouse gas emissions in the long run. It was larded up with corporate welfare: 85 percent of its carbon allowances were given away to special interests free of charge, thanks to lobbying that turned the bill into an orgy of corporate welfare.
Earlier, Ron Bailey wrote in Reason magazine about the “global food crisis” that has resulted in food riots across the world, in countries like Mexico, Pakistan, Indonesia, Yemen, Haiti, and Egypt. The crisis, he notes, is caused by “stupid energy policies” in the form of ethanol “mandates” and subsidies, which result in the world’s breadbaskets producing less food and more ethanol.
In 2008, two prominent environmentalists, Lester Pearson and Jonathan Lewis, published a Washington Post editorial, “Ethanol’s Failed Promise,” which explained how ethanol subsidies and mandates are destroying the environment and fueling hunger and violence worldwide.
Turning one-fourth of our corn into fuel is affecting global food prices. U.S. food prices are rising at twice the rate of inflation, hitting the pocketbooks of lower-income Americans and people living on fixed incomes. … Deadly food riots have broken out in dozens of nations in the past few months, most recently in Haiti and Egypt. World Bank President Robert Zoellick warns of a global food emergency.
Moreover, they noted,
food-to-fuel mandates are leading to increased environmental damage. First, producing ethanol requires huge amounts of energy — most of which comes from coal. Second, the production process creates a number of hazardous byproducts, and some production facilities are reportedly dumping these in local water sources. Third, food-to-fuel mandates are helping drive up the price of agricultural staples, leading to significant changes in land use with major environmental harm. Here in the United States, farmers are pulling land out of the federal conservation program, threatening fragile habitats. … Most troubling, though, is that the higher food prices caused in large part by food-to-fuel mandates create incentives for global deforestation, including in the Amazon basin. As Time Magazine reported this month, huge swaths of forest are being cleared for agricultural development. The result is devastating: We lose an ecological treasure and critical habitat for endangered species, as well as the world’s largest ‘carbon sink.’ And when the forests are cleared and the land plowed for farming, the carbon that had been sequestered in the plants and soil is released. Princeton scholar Tim Searchinger has modeled this impact and reports in Science magazine that the net impact of the food-to-fuel push will be an increase in global carbon emissions — and thus a catalyst for climate change.
In Human Events, Deroy Murdock explained how rising food prices resulting from ethanol forced Haitians to literally eat dirt (dirt cookies made of vegetable oil, salt, and dirt), caused tortilla riots in Mexico, and fueled violent protests in unstable “powder kegs” like Pakistan and Egypt.
In 2008, finance ministers and central bankers called for end to ethanol subsidies and biofuel mandates. South African finance minister Trevor Manuel called such subsidies “criminal.” Earlier, the Indian Finance Minister Chidambaram noted that “in a world where there is hunger and poverty, there is no policy justification for diverting food crops towards bio-fuels. Converting food into fuel is neither good policy for the poor nor for the environment.”
The EPA is now ratcheting up ethanol use, heedless of the fact that ethanol makes gasoline costlier and dirtier, increases ozone pollution, and increases the death toll from smog and air pollution. Ethanol production also results in deforestation, soil erosion, and water pollution.