Yes, we are here!

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we have been educating folks about the benefits of self-reliance for 50 years. That includes researching and sourcing the best books and products to help individuals master the skills they need in times like these and beyond. Our online store is open and we are here to answer any questions you might have. Our customer service staff is available Monday through Friday from 8a.m.-5p.m. CDT. We can be reached at 1-800-234-3368 or by email. Stay safe!

Biofuel Production is Increasing Food Prices

We need to find cleaner fuels, but biofuel production - particularly ethanol fuel - may be doing more harm than good.

| April/May 2008

  • corn prices graph
    Increased demand for corn has raised the price. Data courtesy of (Future prices in dollars per bushel.)
    Graph by Nate Skow
  • wheat prices graph
    Increased demand for corn also has an effect on the price of soybeans, wheat and other grains. Data courtesy of (Future prices in dollars per bushel.)
    Graph by Nate Skow

  • corn prices graph
  • wheat prices graph

Biofuels, particularly ethanol fuel, have had plenty of recent hype as a possible homegrown replacement for gasoline. However, biofuel production in the United States is driving up grain prices and possibly harming the environment.

A recent report from the Earth Policy Institute says that grain used for alternative fuel sources in the United States alone exploded from 54 million tons in 2006 to 81 million tons in 2007. This doubled the annual growth in world demand for grain. The report also says that world grain production has failed to meet demand in seven of the last eight years, and using grain in biofuel production is increasing this deficit. Some countries have even restricted or banned grain exports to avoid further rises in domestic food prices. The resulting “agflation” has created record prices for corn, soybeans and wheat.

The Union of Concerned Scientists adds that when you consider the energy-intensive inputs that go into some methods of growing corn (such as tilling, increased land use, and fertilizer and herbicide/pesticide use), plus the biofuel production itself, ethanol fuel may not represent a viable long-term solution. 

Alan D. Smith
9/2/2009 12:23:20 PM

Something is terribly wrong with this picture. Someone is getting screwed, probably Us. Producing ethanol from corn shouldn't increase the price of corn at all. Production of ethanol from corn actually extends the nutrient value of corn by about fifteen percent, because the substrate (corn matter that's left over) has been pre-digested by the process. Livestock consuming this dried substrate can more easily digest it with a net gain of about fifteen percent more protein. Hence, the dried substrate should bring a higher price as feed than raw corn. So, farmers who supply corn to distilleries should contract only rent the corn to the distillery, then to get the substrate back to sell as livestock feed or for extraction of its many other valuable components. Hence, there would be no cost of the base material (corn) to produce the ethanol. In fact, the farmer could make more on the corn while offering it to the market for less. The current situation of "ethanol production raising the cost of corn" makes no sense. Someone is making a quiet killing here.

Royce Vines
2/13/2009 4:55:01 AM

An I always thought you seppo's were smart. Trying to make ethanol from corn is too ineffient. The Bazilians woke up to this 30 odd years ago and used sugar cane and its waste products. Many other plants, grasses etc. also make better producers that corn. This idea sounds like a sop to the corn farmers lobby. Why won't the U.S. allow Brazil to export some sugar cane ethanol to America? I think they are now running 20 or 25% ethanol/petrol fuel now. I can also advise that no modifications are required to modern cars. In fact G.M. Holden exports Commodores to Brazil with no mods at all. These use the Ecotech V6 and the Gen III V8. Wake up America.

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters

click me