Monday, April 7, 2008

Paul Krugman on the World Food Economy

Paul Krugman's most recent Op-ed seems particularly noteworthy. It deals with the reasons for the world food shortage, a crisis which is worse even than our countries present financial troubles. The column ties together the rise of China (and, by extension, the proliferation of the meat-heavy western diet), the Iraq war and biofuels as culprits.

Where the effects of bad policy are clearest, however, is in the rise of demon ethanol and other biofuels.

The subsidized conversion of crops into fuel was supposed to promote energy independence and help limit global warming. But this promise was, as Time magazine bluntly put it, a “scam.”

This is especially true of corn ethanol: even on optimistic estimates, producing a gallon of ethanol from corn uses most of the energy the gallon contains. But it turns out that even seemingly “good” biofuel policies, like Brazil’s use of ethanol from sugar cane, accelerate the pace of climate change by promoting deforestation.

And meanwhile, land used to grow biofuel feedstock is land not available to grow food, so subsidies to biofuels are a major factor in the food crisis. You might put it this way: people are starving in Africa so that American politicians can court votes in farm states.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering: all the remaining presidential contenders are terrible on this issue.

Read the whole thing.
(posted by Ewan)

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