Energy: Why Biofuels Help Push Up Food Prices

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Over on the mainpage, I have a piece about the connection between biofuels and rising global food prices, which hit a record level in January. The math is pretty simple—with 40% of the country’s corn crop going to ethanol, and palm oil plantations around the world displacing farms for biodiesel production, biofuels do exert an upward pressure on food prices. How much is always difficult to say, though a number of studies have pegged biofuel policy as a major factor behind the last big food crisis, in 2007-08. Market inefficiencies and speculation definitely play a role as well, as does rising demand in the developing world and—more than anything else in the short term—extreme weather events. But it’s simply difficult to see the value that biofuels—especially corn-based ethanol—have today, given their impact on the environment and questionable benefits for greenhouse gas emissions. With the Food and Agriculture Organization predicting that food production will need to grow 70% by 2050 to meet demand, there’s just no room for inefficient biofuels in the field. Read the full piece here.