[Guest post by DRJ]
Merchants like Costco and Sam’s have rationed sales of some rices this week, and that has brought heightened attention to the possibility of world food shortages. Today’s New York Sun reports that food shortages, especially shortages in corn and grain production, may eclipse concerns about global warming:
“The campaign against climate change could be set back by the global food crisis, as foreign populations turn against measures to use foodstuffs as substitutes for fossil fuels.
With prices for rice, wheat, and corn soaring, food-related unrest has broken out in places such as Haiti, Indonesia, and Afghanistan. Several countries have blocked the export of grain. There is even talk that governments could fall if they cannot bring food costs down.
One factor being blamed for the price hikes is the use of government subsidies to promote the use of corn for ethanol production. An estimated 30% of America’s corn crop now goes to fuel, not food.
“I don’t think anybody knows precisely how much ethanol contributes to the run-up in food prices, but the contribution is clearly substantial,” a professor of applied economics and law at the University of Minnesota, C. Ford Runge, said. A study by a Washington think tank, the International Food Policy Research Institute, indicated that between a quarter and a third of the recent hike in commodities prices is attributable to biofuels.
Last year, Mr. Runge and a colleague, Benjamin Senauer, wrote an article in Foreign Affairs, “How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor.”
“We were criticized for being alarmist at the time,” Mr. Runge said. “I think our views, looking back a year, were probably too conservative.”
One of the problems with many global warming advocates is their unwillingness to discuss the feasibility of their solutions. The general tenor of the discussion seems to be “No price is to great a price to pay to save the planet.” But the fact is that a price can be too great, especially if the solution starves the neediest peoples of the world.