There’s a guest post today (Thursday July 19th, 2012) at ThinkProgress from Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell at something called “The Center for Climate and Security”, yet another “action-oriented think-tank” churning out facile analyses of complex issues. Their argument in their guest post on this year’s drought, and the effect on food supply and price, is quite spectacular for the way in which it heroically avoids any mention of the “elephant in the room” when it comes to food prices : government subsidies and mandates for biofuels, especially ethanol from corn.
Femia and Werrell spend the first five paragraphs painting a grim picture of drought-stricken America (and more widely, the world) and linking it to global warming. Having sketched out the background to their argument, they then present their case:
In lieu of the recent drought, the U.S. Department of Agriculture adjusted its prediction for corn yields, the country’s largest export crop, down by 12%. This, and any subsequent adjustments, will likely impact global corn prices, but also meat and dairy prices, as corn is used for animal feed. Meanwhile, beef prices are still high from last year’s drought in Texas.
As a leading exporter of corn and soy, the U.S. is intricately linked to the global food market. Drought and crop failure in the U.S. could spike world food prices and have serious implications for places like Mexico, China, Central America and India, who rely heavily on imports of these crops, as well as animal feed.
To recap their case then: Their first point is that man-made global warming is adversely affecting the weather right now, leading to more frequent and severe droughts such as the ones this year. Their second, subsequent, point is that if the predictions of a 12% reduction in US corn production this year are correct this could have “serious implications” globally. The authors point to a swathe of hazards, from food riots to instability and even possible American military involvement in countries destabalised by rising food prices – all caused by a 12% reduction in corn this year apparently. What, the article ponders, might happen in future if worsening climate reduced production of corn and other crops even further . . .?
Bizarrely – and this is truly surreal – the article does not once make any reference, directly or obliquely, to the massive impact on food prices that government mandates and subsidies for ethanol and other biofuels are having. As an article only a few days before on ThinkProgress pointed out the scale of the diversion from food to fuel is truly massive and truly moronic:
. . .as of July 11th, this year’s corn crop is no longer projected to be history’s largest. At the same time, almost 1 billion people world wide are going hungry. However, plans remain in place to use about 40% of America’s corn crop, the world’s largest, for biofuel purposes.
The nearly 5 billion bushels of corn that will be cordoned off for to create ethanol could feed about 412 million people for an entire year. Instead, it will be turned into 13.5 billion gallons of corn ethanol
This is an astonishingly unbiased and open-eyed article for ThinkProgress. The author points out that far from diminishing yields, this year’s crop was on track to be the largest in history before the drought struck. Even with the drought, it will be substantially higher than normal yields from twenty years or so ago. And don’t forget, the US, Europe, and many other areas of the world hold vast reserves of grain against such temporary drops in production.
No, as the author of this earlier article correctly identifies, it isn’t the mouse of drought we should be concerned about, at least immediately. It’s the elephant of diverting what should be food into a completely pointless and counter-productive attempt to create an alternative fuel. Almost half of all US corn production is earmarked for biofuels this year. Even Joe Romm argued that ethanol was stupid and in many circumstances worse than petrol. He also argued that they will “push millions into hunger” and won’t have any effect whatsoever on supposed global warming, at least not before 2050.
Femia and Werrell’s focus on the possible 12% reduction in US corn production this year is dwarfed by the diversion of a food product into a moronic attempt at making a renewable fuel that doesn’t work, costs millions, and pushes up food prices. So why don’t they even mention this, if only in their conclusion as a recommendation? In this author’s opinion, it’s unprofessional to purport to present an analysis of a serious situation that steadfastly refuses to acknowledge that in the here and now, today, it isn’t the project reduction of around 12% by drought that will affect food prices and possibly cause instability, it’s the 40% diversion into a program that many warmists pushed for, before its adverse consequences became apparent. Even the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food himself, way back in 2008 slammed the US and Europe for taking what he termed “a criminal path” in pursuing biofuels, warning of a “horrifying” increase in deaths and disturbances that would be caused by food price rises because of biofuels.
I think readers will agree with me that a case doesn’t get much clearer than this: biofuels push up food prices, cause instability and misery for millions of the world’s poor. Do biofuels kill? I’ll leave that particular discussion to others. But perhaps Femia and Werrel and their “Center for Climate and Security” would do well to take their eyes off the mouse and acknowledge the elephant in the room.