Ethanol demand has, in fact, raised Americans’ food costs

A recent op-ed in The Hill, “Don’t blame ethanol for higher food prices” (Oct. 18), didn’t quite tell the whole story. Current proposals to increase the renewable fuels standard (RFS) call for 15 billion gallons of ethanol to be produced from corn. Too much corn into ethanol is already having an unintended, adverse impact on Americans’ pocketbooks, and we believe if the Senate RFS is adopted the situation will only be exacerbated.

While we support diversifying our nation’s energy supplies and addressing the challenge of global warming, the evidence is mounting on the adverse consequences of an over-reliance on corn ethanol — on the cost of food, both domestically and internationally, and on the environment.

•  Farmers are growing 93 million acres of corn — up 16 percent from last year — displacing soybeans, wheat, cotton and other crops.

•  The United States is already diverting 20 percent of its corn harvest to ethanol production — a number surely to grow if higher mandates are enacted.

•  Despite major increases in corn production, corn prices have nearly doubled to more than $3.50 per bushel. Soybean and wheat prices have also dramatically increased as supplies of those crops have tightened.

•  Feed prices have increased, placing new pressures on livestock operators, dairy farmers and food producers.

•  U.S. food prices have risen well above the Consumer Price Index. Rising crop prices caused in part by the current RFS have contributed to higher consumer prices for staples such as eggs, dairy and meat.

•  At a time when the food industry is endeavoring to replace transfat with healthier oils, farm acreage currently used for soybeans and other crops used to create those oils is instead being diverted to plant corn.

While other factors contribute to higher food costs, the fact remains that an ethanol policy that uses arbitrary mandates to divert corn from food into fuel — and does so by subsidizing the sector with billions of dollars in taxpayer money — strains the supply for a commodity that increases prices for all users. It’s foolish to think otherwise.

Congress should place the focus of any increase in the RFS on the development of cellulosic biofuels from non-food crops. In addition to reducing pressure on food crops, these advanced fuels can produce significantly more energy and environmental benefits than ethanol produced from corn.

Washington


Judging Obama too soon
From Casey Leier

The Hill’s recent editorial “Not resonating” (Oct. 25) stated “although Obama has recently re-emphasized his differences with Clinton over Iraq, it has not translated into political momentum.” This statement, and the overall tone of the editorial, implies facts that are at best too early to tell, and at worst simply untrue. Obama only sharpened his message two weeks ago.

The only way to determine whether Obama’s new message is resonating is to see data from before and after he upped his rhetoric. In Iowa, where Obama’s nomination prospects are likely to be decided, only one such poll exists. A Strategic Vision poll taken before shows Obama with 21 percent support. Two days after Obama announced “Phase II” of the campaign, his support in that same poll increased to 23 percent. Additionally, he surpassed Edwards and moved into second place. Obviously it’s still early, but the results are very encouraging. To say Obama’s new message isn’t translating into political momentum, after only two weeks and one poll, is simply unfair and an example of journalistic jumping the gun.

Denver