04 Feb NPR downplays biofuel’s role in food price rise
In a Feb 1 article on All Things Considered, NPR reporter Chris Arnold recounted events that have led to increasing desperation among the hungry poor of the world.
Explaining the recent massive surge in commodity prices, Arnold listed as causes the drought in Russia, the floods in Pakistan and the drought, (now floods) in Australia. Also mentioned was the increasing wealth of people in places like China and India that is resulting in more grains being used for meat production, etc.
Not until the end of the article does Arnold raise the elephant-in-the-bedroom issue of US and European biofuel mandates. His words: “The rising food prices are also rekindling controversy over fuel policies that mandate the use of grains for ethanol production in the U.S. and biodiesel in Europe. In 2010, nearly 40 percent of the corn grown in the U.S. went to make ethanol. Some experts say that’s helping to restrict the supply of food on the world market.”
I understand the concept of objective journalism, but to say “Some experts say…” goes beyond that. It’s like saying “some experts say George Washington was our first President.” Any economists out there who would contradict it must be financially or politically entwined with the ethanol industry. In Economics, you simply don’t reduce supply of something without seeing an increase in the price, (all else being equal).
NPR has been suspected of having a cheerleader-relationship with the Ethanol industry by me ever since the Ethanol industry was born amidst a barrage of contentless feel-good advertising (“think green, go yellow”) and the unquestioning adoption of stringent government mandates that were to force ethanol on US consumers. At the time every listener awoke to the words “NPR would like to thank its underwriters including the Archer Daniels Midland Corporation…”
It really matters. It’s great if democracy takes root in Tunisia or Egypt, but the grinding hunger that preceded and helped inspire those revolts is not ok, especially in so far as it was our collective fault. For two of the richest countries—the US and the European Union—to mandate the burning of food for automobile fuel in a world with massive uncertainty and billions of hungry mouths is borderline criminal.
(Not to mention the effect of biofuel on the environment. More on that in future blogs).
–Ed Newbold Feb 4 2011