Luxury and Stupidity

Last week, I noted a December story from the New York Times regarding the shrinking global supply of food. That story was buried in section C.

Today’s Times carries a more prominent piece on the global shortage of food oil, palm oil particularly. Like the earlier piece, this story highlights the competition between the first world’s luxury (we’re converting food crops to biodiesel for our cars) and the third world’s survival. In between are the emerging economies, India and China, who are trying to live more like the first world and less like the third.

The spike in prices means even more trouble for the third world, as poor people are pushed off their land and forests are leveled to make room for more oil crop plantations – which will accelerate global warming from both ends.

Today’s Times piece mentions that one reason for the spike in demand for oil is that US farmers are converting soybean fields to corn, which they sell for ethanol. The article doesn’t expand on this point, but it seems the height of stupidity. Why would any farmer switch from soy, which yields approximately 48 gallons of vegetable oil per acre, to corn, which yields about 18 gallons per acre?

The only answer I can think of is that legislators, lobbied heavily by the corn industry, have provided richer subsidies for corn than soy.

The time of crisis is upon us and we have responded by doing exactly the wrong thing.

One Trackback

  1. By Luxury and Stupidity on 1/19/2008 at 4:52 pm

    […] Sebastian Blanco wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptLast week, I noted a December story from the New York Times regarding the shrinking global supply of food. That story was buried in section C. Today‚Äôs Times carries a more prominent piece on the global shortage of food oil, palm oil particularly. Like the earlier piece, this story highlights the competition between the […] […]

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