Who says you should fight just one battle at a time? Even though
A group of 24 Republican senators has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to halt the country's plans to expand ethanol production amid rising food prices. Congress gave the EPA authority to waive renewable fuels' mandate if the mandate disrupted the economy by causing adverse and unintended effects.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) was quick to respond to the Republican call for abandoning the renewable fuels' mandate. On Monday, he called for the EPA to maintain the current mandate-- which Congress passed last year and increased corn ethanol to 15 billion gallons by 2015 and 36 billion gallons by 2022. But Republicans, including presidential hopeful John McCain (R-Ariz), said those rules should be suspended to put more corn back into the food supply and for livestock feed.
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), spearheaded a letter sent to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and urged him to waive the Renewable Fuels Standard for corn-based ethanol. Predictably, no senators from major corn-producing states signed the letter. Corn growers, after all, are enjoying record high prices for their crop and are quick to add that those prices are due to a complex list of reasons. They assure critics that lowering or eliminating the Renewable Fuels' Standard would reduce the price of their crop by pennies per bushel, if at all.
In the letter, Hutchinson and the other senators say government support for the ethanol industry is to blame for inflated food prices. "We need to put an end to flawed government policies that distort the markets, raise food prices artificially and pit producers against consumers," the letter said. "We must call on the EPA to exercise its authority to not exacerbate this already bad situation."
Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, said ethanol is being unfairly targeted for its role in food inflation. "Politicians are tripping all over themselves to lay some blame at the foot of the ethanol industry," Shaw said. "It's frustrating." He pointed to a study by the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development at
Undoubtedly, the rapid growth of developing nations around the world has had an impact in driving up prices for corn and all food. The same can be said for the rapidly escalating price of the
While it's easy to implicate one element as the cause of the problem; it's also easy to ignore Americans’ insistence on driving large vehicles that get low mileage, and the country's long-term failure to develop other alternative energy sources. These and several factors will continue to be overlooked as everyone wants to simplify the debate...and the blame.