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Opening Arguments

Corn king

Well, duh. Since "the era of cheap food may be over," maybe this whole biofuels business wasn't such a hot idea:

This seems to be an apt moment for the west to reassess the wisdom of biofuels. The US ethanol distilleries used 120m tonnes of maize in 2011 and there have already been calls from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation for the reduced maize crop to be used for human food. There is also growing political opposition in the US to the country's Renewable Fuel Standard, which mandates 15.2bn gallons of biofuels for 2012, of which 13.4bn gallons can come from corn-based ethanol. Unsurprisingly, livestock and poultry producers have been at the forefront of calls for the mandate to be suspended.

The whole point about biofuels was that they were supposed to be a cost-free and a pain-free way for developed nations to show that they were responding to climate change. Rising crop yields meant there would be enough grain left over each year to turn into ethanol, and this would mean western consumers could do their bit to save the planet without in any way compromising their living patterns. That now looks like a highly questionable assumption.

Sadly too many Hoosier politicians who should know better have been on the biofuels bandwagon. Say, what might be a temporary good for corn farmers might not be in the long-term good for the nation. Do you suppose any of them ever thought that, even fleetingly?


tim zank
Tue, 09/04/2012 - 8:30pm

"Do you suppose any of them ever thought that, even fleetingly?'


That's the problem, nobody ever thinks more than one year or one election ahead at best...

Wed, 09/05/2012 - 9:12am

I agree completely. Brazil has made ethanol fuel work by virtue of sugar cane that grows like a weed (Importation of Brazilian ethanol is illegal in the U.S., by the way). But in America, corn is the basis of just about everything we eat and drink, and we rarely have large surpluses. Corn farmers will do fine without the subsidy.

So would Exxon Mobil, I trust you agree.