Monday, Apr 7, 2008, 9:39 am
The bigger global crisis
Paul Krugman details a pressing global crisis that's too often overlooked.
These days you hear a lot about the world financial crisis. But there’s another world crisis under way — and it’s hurting a lot more people.He covers all the bases -- Chinese meat consumption, the price of oil, poor farming weather, and what he calls "the rise of demon ethanol and other biofuels." The last cause is particularly insidious: Time recently called our focus on biofuels as a substitute for oil "The Clean Energy Scam."
I’m talking about the food crisis. Over the past few years the prices of wheat, corn, rice and other basic foodstuffs have doubled or tripled, with much of the increase taking place just in the last few months. High food prices dismay even relatively well-off Americans — but they’re truly devastating in poor countries, where food often accounts for more than half a family’s spending.
But several new studies show the biofuel boom is doing exactly the opposite of what its proponents intended: it's dramatically accelerating global warming, imperiling the planet in the name of saving it. Corn ethanol, always environmentally suspect, turns out to be environmentally disastrous. Even cellulosic ethanol made from switchgrass, which has been promoted by eco-activists and eco-investors as well as by President Bush as the fuel of the future, looks less green than oil-derived gasoline.Sasha Abramsky detailed America's food shortage problem for us last month, too, and if you haven't read it, do so now.
Adam Doster, a contributing editor at In These Times, is a Chicago-based freelance writer and former reporter-blogger for Progress Illinois.