As the director of Iowa State University’s Bioeconomy Institute, Dr. Robert C. Brown has all the right credentials when it comes to discussing the impacts of increased ethanol production on food prices and land use. He tackled both these debates in yesterday’s Des Moines Register.
On food prices:
The starvation hypothesis is a popular one, but it has been easy to disprove. There is no correlation between world hunger and the amount of U.S. corn available to export. As recent corn-price declines have indicated, there is not even a correlation between the price of food in the supermarket and the price of corn.
On land use:
There is no scientific evidence indicating that deforestation is driven by biofuels production. Whereas the world has lost 500 million acres of rain forest in the past 10 years, the U.S. biofuels industry has diverted less than 20 million acres to ethanol production. Something else is responsible for the epidemic of deforestation.
On the benefits of ethanol:
The solution to our loss of rain forests and the resulting emission of greenhouse gases is not to shut down the U.S. biofuels industry, which has played an important role in reducing our dependence on imported petroleum and improving rural economies. The solution is to expand agriculture research and outreach in those parts of the world struggling with loss of farmland due to soil degradation.