When Will Media Expose Gore's Ethanol Investments?

As media turn against ethanol due to the growing international food crisis, there's one idol they need to topple: Nobel Laureate Al Gore.

After all, this man has not only been strongly advocating the use of biofuels for years, but has also admitted to having investments in companies involved in such agri-business.

Of course, it's possible press members aren't convinced enough about the the connection between ethanol and rising food prices around the world that they're willing to fell their Green God.

If this is the case, might I recommend such fence-sitters immediately read Marlo Lewis's spectacular piece "Food for Fuel Is No Laughing Matter" published at the NRO's Planet Gore blog Monday (emphasis added throughout):

Both World Bank President Robert Zoellick and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Domenique Strauss-Kahn warn that the increase in world food prices could force 100 million people back into absolute poverty (defined as a household income of $1 a day or less), wiping out all the gains the poorest billion people achieved during the past decade.

The price of wheat jumped 120 percent in the past year, hitting a 28-year high in February. The price of rice, the staple for billions of Asians, is up 147 percent over the past year, hitting 19-year high. The price of corn tripled in the past two years, increasing from $2.00 a bushel in January 2006, to $3.05 in January 2007, to $4.25 in January 2008, and hitting $6 a bushel in April 2008.

The consequences are appalling. El Salvador’s poor are eating only half as much as they did a year ago. Afghans are now spending half their income on food, up from a tenth in 2006. In Bangladesh, a two-kilogram bag of rice now consumes about half of the daily income of a poor family. Many Haitians try to assuage their hunger by eating toxic patties made of dirt, spice, and cooking oil.

Astounding, as is Lewis's evidence of just how linked ethanol is to such problems:

According to the USDA, total U.S. corn production was 11.8 billion bushels in 2004/05 and will reach an estimated 13 billion bushels in 2007/08 — an increase of 1.2 billion bushels. Corn production for ethanol was 1.3 billion bushels in 2004/05 and will reach an estimated 3.2 billion bushels in 2007/08 — an increase of 1.9 billion bushels. Ethanol manufacture is consuming all the increase in total U.S. corn production, and then some.

Indeed, according to the World Bank, “Almost all of the increase in global maize [corn] production from 2004 to 2007 (the period when grain prices rose sharply) went for bio-fuels production in the U.S., while existing stocks were depleted by an increase in global consumption for other uses.” The World Bank explains: “From 2004 to 2007, global maize production increased 51 million tons, biofuel use in the U.S. increased 50 million tons and global consumption for all other uses increased 33 million tons, which caused global stocks to decline by 30 million tons.” That bears repeating: “Almost all” the increase in global corn production from 2004 to 2007 went to produce ethanol in the United States, and in the process global corn stocks declined by 30 million tons. How could that not have dramatic effects on global corn prices?

Exactly, Marlo. And, this is not just impacting corn prices:

A major reason wheat prices are so high is that wheat inventories are at record lows. Wheat inventories are low because U.S. farmers, responding to the ethanol mandate, increased corn acreage by 18 percent over the past year but increased wheat acreage by only 1 percent. Moreover, corn competes with wheat not only for land but also for customers. This means that when Congress artificially increases the demand for and price of corn, wheat farmers are able to charge more for their product and still be competitive.

And, as there are speculative arbitrages between all agricultural commodities futures, typically when one goes up in price, they all do. With that in mind, Lewis crescendoed to a marvelous conclusion that should convince even the most "Gorish" of media members:

The one factor exacerbating world hunger that Congress can do something about is U.S. biofuel policy. Repealing the corn ethanol mandate would free up billions of bushels to feed people and livestock. Grain prices would fall — by an estimated 20 percent for corn and 10 percent for wheat, according to IFPRI.

When you get right down to it, the ethanol mandate is just a Soviet-style production quota system in green garb. Even the green tint is rubbing off as experts document how corn ethanol produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the gasoline it displaces, and how Europe’s biofuel directive is bankrolling rainforest destruction and species loss in Indonesia and Malaysia. Even Time magazine, a voice of global warming alarmism, now calls the U.S. and EU biofuel programs a “clean energy scam.”

And, as Gore is right in the middle of this flimflam, the time has come for media's disgust with ethanol to begin exposing those that advocated it, and are financially benefiting from it.

If it makes them feel better, they can follow such reports with another segment on Dick Cheney having run Halliburton years ago.

Oil & Gas Prices Environment Global Warming Biofuels Ethanol National Review Marlo Lewis
Noel Sheppard's picture

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