US Ethanol Requirements Could Cause a Global Food Crisis

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The United States is a major provider of the world’s food, and particularly corn, one of the most globally significant foods. Corn feeds people, livestock, and, when it's turned into ethanol, cars. The government requires a certain amount of the nation's annual corn crop be converted to the clean-burning, domestically produced fuel — just over 13 billion gallons this year. 

But as the country faces its worst drought in more than 50 years, can we afford to turn that food into fuel? Professor Yaneer Bar-Yam says no. The president of the New England Complex Systems Institute has found a link between rising food prices and crises around the world, including 2011's Arab Spring. Bar-Yam says waiving the ethanol requirement could prevent food riots this year.


Yaneer Bar-Yam

Produced by:

Ben Bradford

Comments [4]


The problem with using other crops is that it still uses farmland needed to grow food. The only way it could work is if fuel efficiency in cars increased dramatically lowering demand and then you would need much less supply.

Sep. 24 2012 02:00 PM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

*COULD* cause a global food crisis?

How about it already has. The cost of corn is higher because the U.S. taxpayer subsidizes the production of ethanol from corn and people go hungry because of that price difference. Your tax dollars are going to make other people hungry. The Senate FILIBUSTERS every attempt to end these subsidies.

Ethanol can be produced from just about any plant - saw grass, hemp, sugar cane, lawn clippings...Why don't we at least shift ethanol production to a crop that doesn't draw down food supplies?

Aug. 22 2012 03:41 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

the opening music sounded like the sound track to Bonnie and Clyde.
I have made moonshine out of corn with my friend. This segment made me want to make a batch today.

Aug. 22 2012 12:29 PM
Jessie Henshaw from way uptown

The scientist has a very good point, but is missing the other half of the story.

It's that the direct competition between food and fuel demands is NEW. It comes about as a result of the world resource demands pressing the natural limits of the earth, so demand is growing faster than supply at the old price. It's throwing whole sectors of a growing economy into new conflict with each other.

A short scientific study of the whole set of relationships is

Aug. 22 2012 07:57 AM

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