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NPR downplays biofuel’s role in food price rise
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NPR downplays biofuel’s role in food price rise

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.

gasoline pump with ethanol warning

Anyone who drives in the US is virtually forced to purchase ethanol. We thus become complicit in increasing world hunger and extinction.

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).

Ears of Corn in a supermarket

A massive 40% of the US Corn crop was used for ethanol--and acreage planted is being driven higher and higher.

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

3 Comments
  • Russ Finley
    Posted at 05:02h, 05 February

    Great start Ed! Love the photos and paintings.

  • Tim Chambers
    Posted at 14:38h, 01 April

    To say nothing of the shameful way NPR covered the Uruguay Round of WTO negotiations back in 1980s and 90s, those dealing with intellectual property, and particularly genetically modified seed, in which ADM had a material interest.

    To NPR, it was all about computer software, but genetically modified seed was the 500 pound gorilla and, as I remember, they always treated it with circumspection.

  • Kaitlyn Minich
    Posted at 15:14h, 25 August

    I agree, using virgin oils to make biodiesel and ethanol is an irresponsible use of our agriculture. However, it is true that biofuels are substantially more environmentally friendly than petroleum, and I believe we should increase our use of these clean-burning fuels. There are numerous companies that recycle used cooking oil from restaurants’ fryers to convert into biodiesel. One of these companies, Sustainable Oil Service (located in Boulder, Colorado), has already diverted over 2 million pounds of carbon dioxide in the past 18 months.

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