Lester Brown Says Something Sensible!

I know, something of a shock, but:

Lester Brown, president of the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute thinktank, said: "The competition for grain between the world\’s 800 million motorists, who want to maintain their mobility, and its 2 billion poorest people, who are simply trying to survive, is emerging as an epic issue."

Last year, he said, US farmers distorted the world market for cereals by growing 14m tonnes, or 20% of the whole maize crop, for ethanol for vehicles. This took millions of hectares of land out of food production and nearly doubled the price of maize. Mr Bush this year called for steep rises in ethanol production as part of plans to reduce petrol demand by 20% by 2017.

The corn to ethanol program really is insane. Unfortunately, the rest of the article is rubbish:

Empty shelves in Caracas. Food riots in West Bengal and Mexico. Warnings of hunger in Jamaica, Nepal, the Philippines and sub-Saharan Africa. Soaring prices for basic foods are beginning to lead to political instability, with governments being forced to step in to artificially control the cost of bread, maize, rice and dairy products.

In Caracas at least, we know what th problem is.  There are shortages because the government has stepped in to artifically control the price….if you price something below cost then it will not be available.

Experts describe various scenarios for the precarious food supply balance in coming years. An optimistic version would see markets automatically readjust to shortages, as higher prices make it more profitable once again to grow crops for people rather than cars.

Unfortunately, we can only expect them to do that, markets to work, if people don\’t try to control the prices. Oh, and get rid of the absurd imposition of requirements for biofuels. This isn\’t, in fact, a crisis caused by markets. It\’s one caused by idiot politicians. Hang them and the markets will indeed sort it out.

 

One comment on “Lester Brown Says Something Sensible!

  1. The corn biofuel projects are a nonsense: enormous pollution while producing little more fuel than fossil fuel consumed in making the damn stuff. It wouldn’t survive if it weren’t for politicians interfering.

    It’s a different story with sugar cane, though, since that can produce 8x the fuel consumed in making it (and that fuel itself can be bio-fuel: burning the waste from processing the cane to drive the distillation).

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