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Apr. 07, 2011

Hoist With Our Own Petard

by Carl Flatow

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We are engaged, once again, in the food versus fuel debate, and I, for one, am mad as hell and not going to take it without a fight.

It is not a coincidence that, within a few days of President Obama talking publicly about alternative fuels, there appears an article on the front page of the NY Times with the headline, Push For Biofuels Sends Food Prices Soaring. I find it very informative that just a few days before, Forbes published a story with the opposite headline, Experts: Farmers Not To Blame for High Food Prices.

If I had a nickel for every time I read or saw the claim that we have to choose between food and fuel I’d be sitting on a beach in Tahiti sipping a cool one. Let’s take corn, for example. The simple truth is that corn is involved because we grow so much of it to feed our livestock (yes, the vast majority of the corn we produce feeds the meat eaters) AND, after we make ethanol out of the carbs in the corn, we feed what remains to our animals because it still has all the protein left. Food AND fuel. Imagine that.

Yes, I know that corn is a very inefficient crop for making ethanol, and I know that the cattle to which we feed this corn are better off eating grass, instead. This is just an example based on the loudest complaint. But ask yourself why they trot this one out every time we start talking about renewable energy.

My answer is, They know that anyone who believes that the price of oil is rising, right now, because of the natural market forces of supply and demand will believe any story they peddle loud enough and long enough.

About Carl Flatow

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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