OK, so it’s not really fair to use a porcine analogy when discussing U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. But it is nice to see that someone generally so wrong about public policy has figured out the ethanol racket, as Bloomberg Businessweek reports.
With 40 percent of the gross U.S. corn harvest turned into fuel, the rest of the world has tried to make up for the lost food supply. While ethanol use has helped cut carbon emissions in the U.S., increased farming in the rest of the world releases large amounts of carbon as dense forest is cleared to create more farmland. When ethanol plants ramped up across the U.S. in 2006, corn prices rose 88 percent over five months. In January 2007, tortilla prices doubled in Mexico, sparking riots. “It was sudden and unplanned,” says Harry de Gorter, an agriculture and trade policy economist at Cornell University. “It’s a huge cost to society to draw resources into ethanol and away from the food supply.”
On Dec. 12, Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn and California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced a bill to eliminate the corn-ethanol blending requirement for refiners. Oklahoma is the country’s fifth-largest oil producer, while Feinstein has long opposed use of corn ethanol, saying it raises food prices and hurts the environment. While the bill has broad Senate support, Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), head of the Senate’s Environmental and Public Works Committee, strongly supports the current standards.