Monday, September 17, 2007

Food v. Fuel

Back in April I posted a critique of a Foreign Affairs article by Benjamin Senauer and Ford Runge. If you remember, Senauer and Runge argued that the U.S. ethanol industry could potentially starve the world's poor. As a solution, they proposed that Congress should drop the import tax on Brazilian ethanol. I still think this is a pretty good idea (except for the part about burning down the rain forest). Brazil can produce sugar cane ethanol with fewer environmental and food security threats than corn ethanol.

Last week, Foreign Affairs published a response to this article by Tom Daschle and a rebuttal by Senauer and Runge. As an ethanol lobbiest and a former South Dakota senator, it should be no surprise that Daschle disagreed with the conclusions of our University of Minnesota economic powerhouse. He optimistically thinks that we can produce food and fuel with America's bounty. This argument requires some technological optimism that I do not share (because technological advancement relies on political will), plus some number fudging that I will leave to Runge and Senauer to explain. Furthermore, Daschle does not appear to have read The Omnivore's Dilemma, since he still thinks it's a great idea to feed cows corn. He's still way better than John Thune, but I think that Runge and Senauer should take home the title in the Food v. Fuel debate.


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