NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 7, 2008

What started out as a great idea -- replacing our dependence on oil with a renewable clean-burning resource, biofuel -- has quickly sprouted unintended consequences.  Americans are diverting perfectly good growing land to produce crops used exclusively for biofuel production.  We have essentially decided to burn our food supply in attempts to replace our oil fix, which seems about as logical as burning money for heat, says Krystal Ford, a research intern at the American Council on Science and Health.

There are many factors involved in the current food crisis, but we can at least confront one of the problems right now:

  • The United States should stop subsidizing and growing food crops for production of biofuel.
  • Some of the top international food scientists recommended halting the use of food-based biofuels such as ethanol, saying it would cut corn prices by 20 percent during a world food crisis.

Some scientists and economists say the diversion of corn and soybeans for fuel forces prices higher and removes farmland from food production, others say it leads to higher livestock feed prices, further raising food prices. 

However, there are other alternatives to using these staple crops:

  • Potential sources include straw, timber, manure, rice husks, sewage and food waste.
  • These products could be obtained from industry, agriculture, forestry and households.
  • The use of biomass fuels can therefore contribute to waste management as well as fuel and food security.

Maybe we won't have to abandon biofuels, but we cannot continue to divert such a large portion of our growing land and resources to their production, says Ford.

Source: Krystal Ford, "Biofuel: Burning Away Our Food Supply," American Council on Science and Health, May 1, 2008.

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