Finally, A Wake Up Call for Ethanol?

by Val Germann

We here at Star Phoenix Base have been writing for months about the massive U.S. corn-to-ethanol program, powered in the main by government subsidies and tariffs. These programs already consume about twenty percent of all U.S. corn and are slated to use more and more every year, for many years to come. An article in today’s CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR makes some of the same points we’ve been writing of here since the spring:

About one-fifth of the 2006 corn harvest this year will be used to make ethanol, estimates Robert Wisner, an economist at Iowa State University at Ames. By 2012, ethanol’s share of the corn crop could nearly double, he says.

Yes, it could, and then it could go even higher yet, if all the ethanol plants currently in the works ever get built. But something may derail this particular gravy train before it gets all the way to the station:

One key impact is that the price of feed corn for cattle, pork, and poultry could rise 60 to 70 percent over the next two years . . .

Now, think about this and then try to remember the last time something similar took place, back in the 1970s, when commodity prices shot upwards along with the price of meat in U.S. supermarkets. It wasn’t pretty.

The United States has long relied on a cheap food policy, in part because low farm prices help keep some of our many domestic problems in check. However, rising food prices effect us all, those with low incomes the most. Turning food into fuel so that millions of wasteful, giant American SUVs can continue to roam free, sounds to this writer like trouble coming down the turnpike, at supra-legal speed.

Read the entire MONITOR article here.


About Val

I am a long-time teacher of science and astronomy with a strong interest in resource conservation and the environment.
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