An editorial published in the Washington Post has brought reaction from Growth Energy, the coalition of U.S. ethanol supporters. In his editorial, Tim Searchinger, a research scholar at Princeton University and a fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, pointed to a multitude of reasons why food prices could go higher. He pointed to the weather, feeding a world population, rising meat consumption in China, long-term underinvestment in agricultural research and increasing demand for ethanol.
Searchinger proclaimed that the market is out of equilibrium. Biofuels have grown rapidly now consuming more than 6.5% of grain and 8% of vegetable oil last year. But he said, "Relief is possible if we can just limit biofuel growth. At the same time Europe must rethink its mandates and the Obama administration needs to focus on fuel sources that do not compete with food, such as garbage and crop residues, and not grasses grown on good cropland."
Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, says ethanol is both a food and a fuel business. What is ignored in this piece is that every ethanol plant in the country turns out animal feed as well as fuel, as only the starch is taken out of the corn kernel but put all the protein, fiber and oils right back into the food supply as 'dried distillers grains.' Even then, ethanol's use of the global grain supply is a fraction.
"The notion that ethanol is causing today's food crisis ignores reality: the reality of the market, the reality of global trade agreements, the reality that other countries have their own domestic farm policies, and the reality that Wall Street's rampant speculation is driving up food prices," Buis said. "All of these facts are well-documented. There is only one commercially-viable alternative to this country's dependence on foreign oil, and that is domestic ethanol."