On Thursday, May 29, Agriculture Department Secretary Ed Schafer said skyrocketing oil prices make biofuels all the more necessary and that U.S. ethanol production is “not distorting the global price of food. Schaeffer added that ethanol production specifically has come from increased yields in the corn crops and that corn exports from the U.S. are up. He made the comments during a press conference with reporters ahead of his trip to the United Nations food and agriculture conference on food and world security June 3. An excerpt from the press conference transcript:

SECRETARY SCHAFER: We think that policy-wise in the United States of America — and certainly in the rest of the world — that as we see the price of oil and petroleum escalate dramatically beyond anybody’s imagination, that one of the ways to deal with that is to produce biofuels which are renewables, better for the environment, and help lower that cost.

I would point out that in the United States and in other countries as well, all ethanol production specifically has come from increased yields in the corn crops. So we’re not pulling out any traditional markets. Our export markets are up in corn out of the United States. The yield increases are taking care of it, and certainly the benefits derived are much more than the 2 to 3 percent that is contributing to the rising inflation in food costs internationally.

We think it’s an important initiative, and while people do have some concern I think we can point out the facts here, not the emotions but the facts, that this is not distorting the global price of food. And it’s an important direction we need to go…. What I can say is, we have set guidelines in the United States. We’ve set targets out there and said, “This is how we’re going to create energy independence in this country. And we urge others in the face of this rising price problem with energy to look at alternative means, one of which certainly is biofuels.”

Power Politics

June 1, 2008