Will power plants get caught in ethanol’s food fight?
Lori Burkhart is Fortnightly’s managing editor.
The debate over food vs. fuel never has been louder. Using corn to make the biofuel ethanol is perhaps the best known point of argument. Everyone is asking: Should the United States require a certain percentage of U.S. corn crops be turned into fuel in the face of global food shortages and exorbitant food prices? And what are the effects of diverting food croplands into producing fuel? About one quarter of all corn produced in the United States last year went for ethanol production. While U.S. government studies claim biofuel demand accounts for only 3 percent of the global increase in food prices, a recent World Bank study suggests a far greater correlation—as much as 75 percent (see “Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis,” The Guardian, July 4, 2008).
But the food-vs.-fuel dispute might affect the electric power industry too.