In the last year or so, biofuels – at least first generation biofuels such as those derived from corn and soybeans – have been criticized for driving up global food prices. The argument is simple: growing crops for biofuels reduces the amount of crops grown for food and raises food prices. However, Jim Greenwood, president and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) issued a statement today claiming that the high food prices seen this past year correlate strongly with oil prices, not biofuel production.
Now, obviously Mr. Greenwood is representing a lot of biofuel companies and he’s not exactly an unbiased judge of things. But the figures he quotes certainly make one wonder. He points out that in July, when oil was $140 a barrel, a bushel of corn was $7.50 a barrel. Now that oil is down to around $65 a barrel, corn is less than $4 a bushel.
Although food prices are certainly influenced by multiple factors, Mr. Greenwood makes a fair point. Agriculture technology is constantly increasing the quantity of crops that can be grown within a limited space. Food prices have dropped since the summer despite the fact that we have not seriously scaled down biofuel crops. And besides delivering renewable energy, the biofuel industry creates thousands of jobs and keeps energy dollars within the US. So maybe we should reconsider our criticisms of the industry.
written by alan, November 19, 2008
written by Kyle White, November 20, 2008
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