David Freddoso draws attention to a report by scientists that places part of the blame for spiraling food prices on the embrace of food-based biofuels (like ethanol). This report suggests that a moratorium of food-based biofuels could cut corn prices by as much as 20%. A World Bank study has claimed that the 60% rise in corn prices can be traced to the US ethanol program. Some at the White House put a lower rate of influence for the biofuel program.
Lester Brown and Jonathan Lewis, associated with two prominent environmental groups, think that ethanol has provided limited energy benefit and significant environmental damage. They provide this statistic: the US last year "burned about a quarter of its corn supply as fuel," and, for this quarter, saw oil consumption drop by 1%. That's a lot of corn! Transferring corn to ethanol takes a lot of (coal-based) energy, and the extension of corn crops would itself entail certain environmental pressures, so it's unclear how much energy/environmental benefit is derived from ethanol mandates. They urge Congress and other government institutions to withdraw biofuel mandates. President Bush remains a strong supporter of ethanol.