Gas alternatives affecting food prices

April 29, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
The search for alternatives to gasoline is one of the factors that's driving up food prices.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice conceded that for the first time on Monday.

The Bush Administration has long been a supporter of biofuels, arguing they can help moderate oil prices, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and boost rural economies.

But is growing corn for fuel instead of food adding to a rise in food prices and a global hunger crisis?

At a news conference on Monday with Peace Corps directors, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said there is a connection.

"There has been apparently some affect an unintended consequence from the alternative fuels effort," said Rice.

Silicon Valley tech companies addressing the global energy crisis with their own initiatives, say it is important not to overstate the role bio fuels may be having on food prices.

"I don't think the amount of biofuels being produced right now is such that's it's a having a major impact on food prices. I think food is being affected by lots of global issues," said Google Green Energy Czar Bill Weihl.

Instability in poor countries, rising consumption in China and India and higher transportation costs associated with high oil prices are just some of those global factors.

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren supports ethanol production which uses corn but wants to see other biofuels developed that don't rely on farm land.

"We are close but not yet there to be able to use switch grass, which is a natural grass that is low intensity in terms of water and power but can provide fuel," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D) San Jose.

Lofgren and others want to see a continued use of incentives and mandates to encourage biofuel production.

In light of rising food prices though, no one wants to be trading one problem for another.

"As everybody is rushing to get the solution, you need to be thinking about the unintended consequences and that's really the concept of big picture thinking, sustainability, sustainable development," said Intel Director of Corporate Responsibility Dave Stangis.


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