I blogged recently about criticism of ethanol and other biofuels in some parts of the world. A meeting of over 180 national finance ministers with World Bank officials just gave the whole issue of food or fuel a much higher profile.
Political problems caused by hungry people in the streets has worried many governments around the world. One target of the blame: biofuel. Here's how the NYT put it: "Some ministers from poor countries, for example, are growing impatient with the way the West is addressing global warming by subsidizing and encouraging conversion of corn, sugar cane and other food products into substitutes for oil. The shift is helping to drive up prices, they say."
A Canadian take on the World Bank meeting, says there was much talk, no clear direction. "The finance ministers and central bank governors who oversee the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank left Washington yesterday without a definitive response to agricultural prices that have surged 48 per cent since the end of 2006, sparking a wave of hoarding and riots throughout the developing world."
Higher food prices, riots over starvation, haves vs. have-nots. This is making a Malthusian out of me.
The U.S. government has leaped into action on the starvation issue. President Bush has ordered two hundred million dollars to be used to buy food for needy nations. We're not giving food, just money. So all those folks in the agribusiness world will still get their mighty profits and none of the profit-first crowd have to worry that somehow the American government is going short-circuit the marketplace where all good things are known to grow. I'm sure Milton Friedman and all the prophets of profit can rest easily in their graves tonight. People may be starving but free enterprise will win out. And not a single ethanol plant will curtail its production across the American corn belt. And Brazil will continue to turn sugar cane into fuel. French rapeseed will become biodiesel fuel.
The White House wants you to know that the President and his Cabinet spent considerable time discussing the hunger thing.
A little perspective on the $200 million we Americans are giving away. More than most bloggers can make in a good year. That's a lot of money compared to the revenue of a small grocer in America. Nothing compared to the big chains' revenue. Just slightly more than the U.S. currently spends PER DIEM in Iraq.