Ethanol spawns a new crisis?
The record-high prices for soybeans, corn and wheat brought about by the ethanol craze are a boon to long-suffering Canadian grains and oilseed farmers who have struggled in recent years. But what’s good for some farmers spells economic disaster for others as the high prices drive up the costs of livestock feed for cattle, sheep and swine farmers.
And if you think that this won’t affect you since you’re not a farmer, think again. The sky-high commodity prices are starting to impact consumers as well because they mean food is getting more expensive. For those of us in the wealthy west, we may feel the pinch as our wallet gets thinner, but given that we have long enjoyed some of the cheapest food prices in the world, my argument is that it’s not going to bring us to the brink of disaster.
In other countries, though, it will – or already has – come to that. Food riots last week in Egypt and Haiti, where the government has fallen over sky-rocketing food prices, made headlines. The media is rife with stories of a looming global food shortage that is the result of high prices, drought, and the diversion of land formerly used to grow food into ethanol production.
The United Nations (UN) released a report last Friday saying that the situation is going to get worse before it gets better, adding that price controls, tariff reductions and export restrictions have done little to offset dwindling reserves of rice and wheat around the world. People are already dying of starvation, said a spokesperson of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which is causing the growing global unrest.
Other experts are saying that ethanol may, in fact, not be the magic solution to our environmental problems that it has been touted to be. The jury is still out on that one, but our fixation on ethanol production is helping create a whole other set of problems that may be more difficult to solve and may have far more tragic consequences.