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Biofuels and the Food Price Crisis: A Survey of the Issues

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  • Kimberly Elliott

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Abstract

While the precise contribution of biofuels to surging food prices is difficult to know, policies promoting production of the current generation of biofuels are not achieving their stated objectives of increased energy independence or reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Reaching the congressionally mandated goal of blending 15 billion gallons of renewable fuels in gasoline by 2015 would consume roughly 40 percent of the corn crop (based on recent production levels) while replacing just 7 percent of current gasoline consumption. Moreover, while it has long been known that the net energy and greenhouse gas emission benefits of corn-based ethanol are relatively small because its production is energy-intensive, recent scientific studies suggest that the current generation of biofuels, including biodiesel made from palm oil, soybeans, and rapeseed, as well as corn-based ethanol, actually add to greenhouse gas emissions relative to petroleum-based fuels when land use changes are taken into account. That is, greenhouse gases are released when forests are cut down or grasslands cleared to plant biofuels, or food is planted on new acreage to replace crops diverted to fuel elsewhere. In sum, the food crisis adds urgency to the need to change these policies but does not change the basic fact that there is little justification for the current set of policies.

Suggested Citation

  • Kimberly Elliott, 2008. "Biofuels and the Food Price Crisis: A Survey of the Issues," Working Papers 151, Center for Global Development.
  • Handle: RePEc:cgd:wpaper:151
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    File URL: http://www.cgdev.org/content/publications/detail/16499
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    Cited by:

    1. Joe Dewbre & CĂ©line Giner & Wyatt Thompson & Martin Von Lampe, 2008. "High food commodity prices: will they stay? who will pay?," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 39(s1), pages 393-403, November.
    2. Nora Lustig, 2009. "Coping with Rising Food Prices: Policy Dilemmas in the Developing World," Working Papers 0907, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    3. repec:eee:rensus:v:78:y:2017:i:c:p:503-516 is not listed on IDEAS

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    Keywords

    food crisis; ethanol; biofuels; greenhouse gas emissions;

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