The “food v. fuel” argument revolves around whether using farmland or crops for biofuels production is a detriment to food supply and causes a rise in food prices. This debate has been around since the beginning of biofuels and involves strong views on both sides. While this debate seems to have quieted in recent years as newer, non-edible feedstocks have emerged in biofuels production, the issue still merits conversation. While this “food v. fuel” argument is frequently heard from those with significant interests on both sides, it is important to know the truth. First, the price of food has steadily increased over the years, most often tied to rises in inflation. In fact, the years in which food prices have undergone the most significant increases were well before the advent of biofuels. There are other factors in food prices. The price of oil is always significant in this debate, as when it becomes more expensive to transport food, the costs go up. Also, food prices have risen as the world’s population has become more affluent – eating more grains and meat (fed by these grains). Food prices also rise as an indirect result of our changing climate. This is because greenhouse gases are emitted and heat is trapped, resulting in rises in air temperatures with this hotter air absorbing more moisture. This results in less rain, and the drier the farmland the more difficult it is to farm. As any farmer will attest, under those conditions, when it finally does rain, water is more likely to run off rather than be absorbed – creating flooding. These factors all negatively impact grain prices. These things are important to understand so that as we discuss the impact of biofuels on the cost of food, we deal with the full picture. The picture that seems to be evolving is that global warming and climate change are causing much of the damage we see, and biofuels are a better solution there.
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