Food vs. Fuel Debate Revisited

By titanoutlet March 14, 2011 08:00 Updated


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If you wanted to summarize the food vs. fuel debate so a child could understand it, it might be tempting to rewrite a popular Mother Goose rhyme. Instead of this familiar one:

Baa Baa Black sheep, have you any wool?

Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.

One for my master, one for my dame.

One for the little boy who lives down the lane.

Today, that nursery rhyme might be updated as follows:

Farmer, Farmer, have you any corn?

Yes sir, yes sir, 3 bags full.

One for all folks, One for the critters,

And one for the biofuel for a car that’s fitter.

But of course it is not that simple. Rising fuel costs means rising food costs as it takes more cash to buy the gas to run farming equipment, then to truck in the groceries and finally to put  them in polyethylene-based plastic bags. Failed crops around the world mean there is more of a demand for those bags of corn to use as feed and food, while incentives for the bag set aside for ethanol, or gasoline substitute are a $40 billion industry, according to the Des Moines Register.

It is a fierce debate. Each side feels passionately about their cause. Feeding the world, for many, begins with corn. Corn is the basis for hog, chicken and cattle feed. So if you are interested in meat, corn is important to you. If you like cornbread or corn on the cob, or corn chowder, or popcorn at the movies you will be affected by the outcome of this deliberation. If you want to reduce the drain on U.S. oil reserves and be part of the green movement, the corn-based alternative to fuel is critical until they come up with something better.

Research has shown that it is more efficient to use good land to grow food, not to grow fuel. Scientists at Michigan State University have concluded a 17 year study and reported that, in essence, it is more beneficial to grow crops to be used to feed humans, than to fuel vehicles.  Other methods of creating alternative fuel are being explored. Converting algae is one option. Utah State University and Utah Department of Transportation are working on a project named FreeWays to Fuel.  The idea is to make use of unused strips of land beside freeways or in city limits to harvest crops of oilseed, a grain that can be altered to a biofuel.

In 2008, when food prices were on the rise, the Food vs. Fuel debate became quite heated. Senator Ben Nelson D-Neb summed it up well when he said that “’ethanol is simply the easiest target for people upset about food prices.’” He continues:

“’I would wager that the high cost of transportation has had a greater impact on the high cost of food and increasing prices of food . . . than ethanol,” Nelson said. “Ethanol’s been blamed for everything except the storm in Myanmar, and it’s early — there may be some that will think that that had something to do with it as well.’”

The irony of this is that, as previously stated, one of the biggest reasons for rising food prices, barring weather and world conditions, is the cost of the ordinary gasoline that brings your food to your grocery store. But that is the subject of another post all together….

About the Author

Margo Smith graduated with a B.S. degree from BYU. Working her way through college and being in the corporate world give her plenty to say about subjects as diverse as world crops to taking courses online to fishing vacations.

By titanoutlet March 14, 2011 08:00 Updated
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