Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Biofuels and starvation

Corn prices are being buoyed by the confluence of higher ethanol demand, China moving solidly into first world status, and drought conditions worldwide. US prices for corn have risen due to increased demand for ethanol. China's demand for corn has risen due to its population being able to afford higher quantities of pork (China has the world's second highest per capita consumption of pork, and the pork comes from hogs which eat corn). Drought conditions the world over are making grain production more difficult.

Is it ethical that the US pursues corn based ethanol production in light of the fact that corn could be used elsewhere for food?

2 comments:

WSC said...

The original premise is weak, that starvation has a causal link with absence of viable food supplies. Examples abound of individuals experiencing starvation where world markets are flush with stable, low-priced grains. Oftimes distribution or equitable treatment by the *host* nation, of its own populace is the greater link. The "Biofuels" title in your post also presumes that foodstuffs will remain the most economical source of biofuel; this is facile, but only because its what farmers know (like, Poppy farmers know the market is there, so they grow). Check out the biomass page: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/biomass/. The hope is that some replacement for fossil fuels will emerge before we get too far down the backside of Hubbert's Curve (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubbert_peak_theory)

WSC said...

Boy, that last guy (actually, me) missed the point of the question. It would certainly be unethical if there were a deliberate government initiative on the scale of the Apollo Program to deplete significant stocks of grains for any reason. Even if meant to starve godless, bush-meat eating, anti-American zombies. (oops, did I just describe a majority of the upper-middle class suburban elite?). Anyway, what would be a crime, unethical and just plain dumb would be for investors, scientists, and policymakers to put their bets on losing futures, like biofuels that double as food. The "next big thing" may be biofuels from crabcrass. God, summer is coming and I can only hope....