Author Archives: Sheila Tefft

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Food vs Fuel Debate–Matt Wu Podcast

Yeji Park

Anchor Intro (Food versus Fuel Debate)



About 10 years ago, awareness for global warming began and stirred call for clean, renewable energy.

The United States found ethanol made from corn to be a viable option and launched the Clean Energy Act of 2005. The law pushed for increased alternative fuel production to combat global warming.

By 2022, the United States wants to produce 36 billion gallons of ethanol. Compared to 2008, this is a 4-fold increase.

But the initiative also sparked the food versus fuel debate where some believed that corn should be used to fight hunger and others to save the environment.

Matt Wu reports on the ongoing debate for the future of ethanol for Emory, News, Now.





Yeji Park—Anchor Intro (0:00-0:38)

TRT (3:28)

Yeerin Kwon

Emory University Student (1:06)

Eri Saikawa

Emory University Professor (1:37)

Eri Saikawa

Emory University Professor (2:04)

Eri Saikawa

Emory University Professor (2:33)

Lance Gunderson

Emory University Professor (2:53)

MW (:28)


Used as a fuel, corn-based ethanol has great potential to be green by lowering certain greenhouse gases.

Last year by incorporating ethanol into gasoline, carbon dioxide emissions from transportation were reduced by 39.6 million metric tons. Imagine removing 8.4 million cars from the road for an entire year.

Some argue that ethanol production is worthwhile because it promotes the planet’s well-being. Emory University student, Yeerin (YEH-rin) Kwon (KWAHN), shares why we should be environmentally conscious.

SOT (:13)

Yeerin Kwon

Emory University student

It’s important to be green because it affects both our physical and psychological well-being. Also, the environment affects our everyday lives and our future.


MW (:17)


However, the corn grown for ethanol, requires heavy fertilizer use. These fertilizers emit other greenhouse gases, but since these emissions come from the soil, they are unregulated.

Eri (EAR-ee) Saikawa (PSY-kah-wah), an environmental health expert at Emory


University, says growing corn for ethanol can produce more greenhouse gases than use of the fuel saves.


SOT (:14)

Eri Saikawa

Emory University Professor

Now we don’t have any standard of how much fertilizer can be put and what kind. Depending on what type of fertilizer you put, you get different types of emissions. You can definitely get more greenhouse emissions.


MW (:11)


While corn can be made into a fuel, it still has great value as a food source.

Around the world, it is considered a staple of many populations.

However, Saikawa (PSY-kah-wah), explains that limited resources make growing enough corn for both food and ethanol difficult.

SOT (:14)

Eri Saikawa

Emory University Professor

I don’t think it’d be possible to use the land for energy and serving of for people in terms of food. It would be less food for people in the countries.


MW (:13)


In 2013, 5 billion bushels of corn were used to produce ethanol in the U.S. This would be enough to feed 500 million people for an entire year.

If biofuel production continues, ultimately corn producers will be the most impacted, says Saikawa.

SOT (:09)

Eri Saikawa

Emory University Professor

The money that goes for exports don’t necessarily go for farmers. If we were to do that, the poor will still go poor and more hungry.


MW (:11)


SOT (:23)

Lance Gunderson

Emory University Professor

There’s a link between energy and money. The economic systems are not neutral. There are preferences in terms of guiding the trajectory of development. For example, the agricultural price support system drives corn-based ethanol and supports a corn-based ethanol solution.

MW (:11)


At the moment, the food versus fuel debate remains unresolved.

The environment and hunger problems both carry weight of their own, but for now, ethanol will continue to be made.

Matt Wu, Emory News Now.







Cami’s podcast:

Post feature story final versions here

Post podcast script rough drafts

Post feature story rough drafts

Claire Brisse

Feature Story: Oil Use in the US

Students buzz around the cafeteria as Aubrey Tingler and I discuss her future vehicle choices during lunch, electric versus gasoline. She is a senior at Emory University who is passionate about the Keystone Pipeline and oil use in the United States.

“I’m one of those optimists that thinks if you can make if your voice heard, things will start to happen.” She believes that students can have an influence on the government and preventing oil’s business as usual mentality.

In her opinion, she described the future as mixed energy, and prefers to transition away from oil stating that, “I don’t think digging deeper and causing more environmental degradation is the solution.”

Aubrey is discussing one of today’s hot topics in society – oil use in the United States.On February 24 of this year, President Barack Obama vetoed the construction of the final 60% of the Keystone Pipeline.1

If passed, this pipeline would have connected Canadian tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico. Stretching 2000 miles in total, the pipeline would have transported 830,000 barrels of oil a day.2

This controversial issue has highlighted oil use in the United States, reminding individuals of how they get their energy. Currently, America is the number one user of oil in the world, with roughly 18.9 million barrels of oil that are consumed daily.

Oil is one of the three regularly used fossil fuels, oil, natural gas and coal. America has progressively moved away from coal, due to its environmental consequences, however, the states are still extremely reliant on the oil industry.

The primary uses of oil in the US is transportation, roughly 70% of total use.5 Due to America’s infrastructure and size there is a strong dependency on private vehicles and long travel times. Gasoline, the primary fuel for these vehicles is made from oil.

The concern over oil use is the negative impact on the environment. Oil spills, climate change and the impacts on human health are arguments against oils’ use and production.

This strong reliance on oil, in addition to other fossil fuels, has caused America to lead the way in CO2 emissions. Carbon dioxide is the primary byproduct of oil use. Out of the 32,155 metric tons of CO2 emitted annually, the US is responsible for 5,270 of those.6

Carbon dioxide is an example of a greenhouse gas. These gases include water vapor, methane, and nitrous oxide.4 They act as a blanket, trapping the sun’s heat close to the Earth’s surface. This allows humans to live comfortably with the temperatures on earth.

Currently, average temperatures have climbed roughly 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit.3 By the year 2100 this number is predicted to raise another 2-11.5 degrees Fahrenheit.3 This increase in temperature is due to a parallel increase in these greenhouse gases.

Dr. Barry Ryan from Rollins School of Public Health discusses that, “We’re at a point of saturation in carbon dioxide,” and the consequences of this are more energy in the atmosphere. This results in more dangerous and powerful storms.

This increase in global temperature also affects sea level, melting ice, and increases in oceanic acidity and extreme events. Dr. Ryan specifies that many countries have low altitude and would be greatly impacted by this sea level rise.

Another environmental danger is oil spills. Gary Harper from the Environmental Protection Agency describes the protocol for oil spill clean ups. Roughly once a week or 50 times a year the EPA responds to an oil spill in the southeast.

The oil spills range dramatically in size. However, they can impact the local water and wildlife. Any coated vegetation either dies or is removed by the state or EPA. Birds and other wildlife are particularly influenced and there is always the potential need for human evacuation due to health hazards.

Despite the negative environmental issues, oil remains one of the key drivers of the United States and other global economies. “Oil is liquid money,” and “it helps keep our country strong,” Dr. William Size a geologist from Emory University clarifies.

Oil has a high content of energy compared to other energy sources like coal and wood. There’s very little waste from burning, it’s easily transported, has a strong infrastructure base and is a political and economic giant. It boosts other industries that use oil for their production.

Oil brought the US into the industrial age. It provided a method for economic development. However, besides the environmental flaws, oil is also only 30% efficient. The other 70% is lost energy.

However, this economic power isn’t distributed equally and causes political and economic disparities between countries. It has caused wars and conflicts in the past.

Dr. Ryan from Rollins also mentions that oils use is a balancing act. Removing oil from the economy may boost human health by removing the pollution from the atmosphere, stop rising greenhouse gas levels and preventing oil spills.

However, what would the consequentially health effects be? He mentioned the loss of jobs and the loss of health insurance, which could trigger a decrease in overall human health. “It’s a balancing act,” between human health, environmental health, oil and economics.

In order to eventually move away from fossil fuels it’s important to invest in alternative energy. However, so far according to Dr. Size, there have not been enough substantial financial investments in this field.

Dr. Size goes on to explain that, “It’s human nature not to get serious until things really get bad. It may take a calamity,” to shift away from the massive oil industry.

The Keystone Pipeline controversy had similarly strong arguments for and against. The project would have created 42,000 temporary jobs and roughly 50 permanent jobs, boosting the economy.

However, the pipeline would have increased CO2 emissions by 24.3 million metric tons per year.9 Plus the oil from Alberta, Canada is extremely dirty. The area holds several tar sands, which once refined and burned release three or four times more CO2 emissions than conventional oil.7,8

Others argue the oil will continue to be pulled from the tar sands and delivered to the gulf even without the completed pipeline. The alternative will simply be by trains, which have much larger carbon footprints.

The pipeline would also cut through one of the largest natural aquifers in the US, the Ogallala Aquifer. This aquifer provides water for farms and people in eight states in the Midwest.

If the pipeline were to run through that area, it may trigger contamination and reduction of this essential water source.

Dr. Tracy Yandle an environmental science professor at Emory says, “It [the veto] was an empty gesture. It’s not going to accomplish anything,” because ultimately the oil will continue to be refined and travel through alternative measures.

Ultimately, oil use in the United States has its limit. Environmentally, there will be a point when it’s no longer economically viable to continue using fossil fuels.

It is important to begin now by researching and creating alternative energy sources and building the infrastructure so that eventually the other options are available. This is essential to keep the US economy strong, even without its oil industry backbone.



Word Count: 1179









Dr. Tracy Yandle

tyandle [at] emory [dot] edu




Dr. William Size


wsize [at] emory [dot] edu



Dr. Barry Ryan


bryan [at] emory [dot] edu



Aubrey Tingler

Aubrey [dot] elise [dot] tingler [at] emory [dot] edu


Daniel Rochberg

Daniel [dot] rochberg [at] emory [dot] edu



Greg Harper

harper [dot] greg [at] epa [dot] gov



  1. Brady, Jeff, and Scott Horsley. “What You Need To Know About The Keystone XL Oil Pipeline.” NPR. NPR, 17 Nov. 2014. Web. 02 Feb. 2015.
  1. FactCheck. 2014. “Pipeline Primer: The Keystone XL project: We examine the facts about jobs, spills, climate change and gasoline prices.” Accessed:


  1. United States Environmental Protection Agency. 2014.“Climate Change: Basic Information.” Accessed:


  1. Facing the Future. Accessed: astFacts/tabid/175/Default.aspx#.VOJuXJUmW0s


  1. The Sierra Club. facts.html




  1. Friends of the Earth. “Keystone XL Pipeline.” Accessed:


  1. Pembina Institute. “Climate Impacts.” Accessed:


  1. Levi, Michael A. 2009. “The Canadian Oil Sands: Energy Security vs. Climate Change.” p 11. Council on Foreign Relations.


Post anecdotal leads on lab visit here

Matt Wu–Anecdotal Lead

What do a dartboard, an African mask, and electric bug zapper have in common? They can all be found in the Kitron-Prokopec lab of Emory University.

Located in Emory University’s Math and Science Center, the Kitron-Prokopec lab is one of the nation’s leading environmental science labs and studies emerging diseases and environmental risk factors.

A native of Minnesota, Andrea Lund, has a master’s degree in global epidemiology and is the lab manager of the group. Wearing a vibrant red scarf, sweater, and jeans, you would never guess that her current research involves the transmission of a deadly disease, West Nile Virus (WNV).

Moreover, her work is very important to a certain group of people: the residents of Atlanta.

Prior to her involvement, the old Atlanta sewer system discharged high volumes of sewage and rainwater into creeks whenever it rained. This discharge or combined sewage overflow (CSO) provided the essential nutrients for mosquitoes to rapidly grow and reproduce. It gave rise to high numbers of Culex quinquefasciatus, an urban mosquito and known carrier of the disease.

As rain is a common occurrence in Atlanta, the sewage overflows therefore put the citizens at risk for contracting West Nile Virus. However after Lund and her group treated the sewage discharges, mosquito levels were greatly reduced and people were much less likely to get the disease.

West Nile Virus is a vector-borne disease that is transmitted between birds and mosquitoes, and sometimes humans. Left unchecked, it can lead to encephalitis or swelling of the brain and symptoms such as seizures, stroke, and brain hemorrhages.

Before 1999, West Nile Virus existed only in the temperate and tropical parts of the world.

Fast forward to 2015 and this disease has spread across the entire continental U.S. “No matter what, you’re going to get bitten,” explains Lund regarding when mosquitoes are present.




Post WaterHub blogs here

Matt Wu

The world’s drinking water supply is running out. In just 15 years, we will need 40 percent more water than is available.

Emory University is tackling the water crisis head-on, both locally and globally. Emory is lessening the waste of drinking water through the utilization of water reclamation and the new WaterHub plant located just off of Eagle Row.

Mother Nature is the star. Instead of harmful chemicals, WaterHub harnesses the power of natural biological systems to obtain clean water.

This plant process extends the life cycle of used water by turning waste into a valuable resource. Reclaimed water, while not consumed in the U.S., can be distributed for tasks that do not require drinking water, such as plumbing and plant irrigation.

Water reclamation also cuts down on pollution since less energy is used to transport drinking water from distant places such as the Chattahoochee River, metro-Atlanta’s main water source. The use of nearby sources lowers the carbon footprint because water does not have to travel far.

As the first major water reclamation site in North America, Emory is the pioneer in major water recycling efforts. A difficulty in being first is Emory can’t model Harvard, Johns Hopkins, or other prominent institutions. However, WaterHub offers the university a novel and sustainable way forward.

The process begins when you flush the toilet, sending wastewater into the sewer line and back to Emory’s primary treatment system.

The primary treatment system uses reactors made of BioQuartz, a synthetic material, which acts as a surface where bacteria can grow. Live bacteria then have the job of converting unwanted compounds to harmless ones. They also minimize toxic hydrogen sulfide formation, which is deadly like cyanide or carbon monoxide.

The process of humans using bacteria for positive gains has actually been around for some time. If you’ve eaten yogurt, then you’ve benefitted from bacteria. Special bacteria turn milk into the healthy breakfast alternative!

After primary treatment, the water is transported to a greenhouse and lower sites, located just off of Eagle Row. These facilities have hydroponics, which are plants grown without soil.

“The magic is in the (plant) roots,” says Corey Hagemann, Emory’s WaterHub project manager. These roots provide optimal growth surfaces for bacteria, which complete the process of converting nitrates into nitrogen gas.

This process of combining hydroponics and live bacteria cultures is natural and self-sustaining. The healthy environment created here allows for the emergence of new species

Harmless snails thrive alongside the roots and bacteria since they have everything to survive. Hagemann compares the environment to diners at the Golden Corral where, “if you have air and chicken wings, then you have happy people.” The snails are evidently very happy.


(pictured on left, Corey Hagemann holding a snail found living on the hydroponic plant roots)

Before the water can be reused, two more phases of the treatment process must occur. The first involves settling and eliminating unwanted solids from thewater. At this point, bacteria are present in the water so some live cultures are saved and recycled back into the initial steps, which utilize them.

The rest of the water is subject to cleaning out through small amounts of chlorine and ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV is high intensity radiation, the same type of radiation that causes sunburn. It can kill microorganisms and damages DNA to prevent potential growth.

Finally, the reclaimed water can be used for non-potable (non-drinkable) tasks like washing clothes or stored for a later time.

It’s only a matter of time before reclaimed water becomes popular and is widely used!

Post healthy human habitat blogs here

Matt Wu

Santa Monica: Making Healthy Living Easy

If you’re looking for a change of pace from your sedentary lifestyle, look no further. Welcome to Santa Monica. Located in sunny Southern California just outside of Los Angeles, Santa Monica offers everything you need to begin your new healthy and active lifestyle.

According to Howard Frumkin’s TedTalk, “Healthy Human Habitats,” a healthy community is one that allows humans to thrive.

A healthy community can grow in many different ways. It comes through regular social interaction, routine physical activity, accessibility to nature, and the lack of a drive-thru culture (yes, finally for once, not having something is good). Thriving communities also have regular community engagement and large sidewalks for walking.

In today’s fast paced lifestyle, it’s easy to get lost in the grind and delay becoming physically active.

The longer we do, the more our health is jeopardized. An inactive lifestyle puts us at a greater risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death for both men and women in America.

Santa Monica combines healthy living with the essentials. In this city, it’s easy to do.

Everyone has to eat. We would all love to go to a sit-down restaurant but most of us simply don’t have the time to do so. So what would most opt for in a time crunch? Probably fast food–the type that’s quick, cheap, greasy, and made even before you ordered.

Instead of flocking to fast food joints, residents gravitate towards the growing culture of food trucks, a healthy alternative. During lunch hour, local food trucks park near businesses. This eliminates the need for employees to potentially drive to a fast food restaurant.

People walk to browse the selection of food-trucks and converse with vendors to find out about daily specials. What could have been a greasy lunch now became an opportunity to exercise and eat something wholesome.

There are no food deserts in Santa Monica. Instead, there are many farmer’s markets scattered in the city that occur all throughout the week. Local farmers and growers bring their produce and goods to allow the public to buy the current season’s best products.

Live music performers also showcase their talents for entertainment, which adds to the experience. The farmer’s market strengthens the community by bringing people together and promoting healthy social interaction.

After all of this eating, it should be time to hit the gym…or not. In Santa Monica, workout spots can be found everywhere. The cliffs overlooking Pacific Coast Highway and the crashing waves of Malibu are a popular place to do yoga under the sunshine. The Santa Monica Mountains offer scenic hiking trails with varying difficulties and levels of adventure.

Frumkin emphasizes that reconnecting with nature is a great way to unwind from everyday stresses. Studies have shown that being in a nature-oriented environment lowers tension and can increase happiness. Spending regular time in nature has also shown to increase the value in community and the appreciation of others.

If moving to Santa Monica is out of the question, then at least you know what to look for and do in your hometown. The lifestyle change to being healthy and active may not be easy or fast, but once it happens, you’ll be glad you did.

Post final op-eds here

Matt Wu

Food versus Fuel: A Pointless Fight Right Now

Government subsidies that boost ethanol production need to stay—at least for now.

Politicians wrangle over whether to use corn for food or fuel. One faction says ethanol production from corn pays a green dividend because the fuel burns cleaner than gasoline. The other side says turning corn into fuel raises food prices and the danger of starvation.

Let’s call a ceasefire. Food and fuel are complex issues and intertwined. We need more understanding and clarity to find the way forward and proper solutions.

While the pro-food argument appears logical, it overlooks one key factor. Oil prices complicate the situation and its role in rising food prices.

According to a study by the World Bank in 2013 on long-term drivers of food prices, oil prices are positively correlated with rising food prices. This means that as oil prices continue to rise, so will food prices.

The price of oil is highly variable. Because oil and food prices are linked, the price of food is therefore also highly variable. Kimberly Amadeo, an economic analyst and business planner for major international corporations, explains that three major factors go into setting the price of oil.

The first factor relates to traders who use certain criteria to bid and buy oil at an agreed upon price. Although the same criteria are used, the variables themselves are dynamic: output of oil, accessibility to oil supplies, and oil demand.

The second factor involves the Organization of Petroleum Exporting (OPEC). In order to keep oil exportation profitable for all countries, this organization sets the amount of oil that can be sold in a given time. Even though rising food prices/conflict affect everyone, countries are interested in immediate economic gain; therefore higher oil prices and profit trump lower food costs.

The third factor considers oil projected demand and use. The U.S. Energy Information Administration, which gathers data of national oil use, has shown that oil use is rising and will continue to do so. With a limited available oil supply, current oil spending practices are making the cost of oil rise, and consequently the cost of food.

Even though pro-food advocates incorrectly blame ethanol for rising food prices, international developments and natural disasters are actually the ones to blame. Without warning, these events can sharply lower the supply of oil and cause oil prices to skyrocket.

Outside of the control of both food and fuel supporters alike, world crises can strike. In 2012, Iran had a nuclear weapons scare so the U.S. and E.U. placed financial sanctions on the country. This greatly limited the worldwide supply of oil and the effects were tremendous. Gasoline prices rose to nearly four dollars per gallon and higher transportation costs caused food prices to soar.

Mother Nature is also unpredictable and relentless. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina violently struck the U.S. Gulf Coast causing major damage and displaced some 400,000 people. Hurricane Katrina also destroyed numerous oil refineries, affecting 19% of U.S. oil production and gas prices rose to five dollars per gallon.

It is apparent that the price of oil is very variable and as it continues to rise, it will also drive up the cost of food.

The pro-food position seems reasonable, but there is no direct evidence that ethanol production is linked to climbing food prices.

In 2012, rising food prices prompted a big push by pro-food advocates to stop ethanol production (under the Renewable Fuel Standard program) in the U.S. However, after examining 500 scenarios involving corn, food, and fuel-prices, 89% of them were not negatively impacted by the RFS and ethanol production continued.

Furthering the disconnection between corn-ethanol production and food prices are the annual rates of corn use and food inflation. If ethanol production was truly the culprit for worsening food prices, then the two rates would be similar, but it is not the case. The rate of food inflation more than doubles the rate of corn use for ethanol. There is therefore no causal relationship between ethanol production and food inflation.

Although ethanol has been speculated to worsen the food epidemic, it may do just the opposite. Because ethanol production relies on corn, farmers grow more of the crop than if it was only grown for food alone. The more plentiful supply of corn, according to the UK Department of Environment and Rural Affairs, may stabilize food supplies and thus lower the cost of food.

The process that determines the price of food is not simple. While oil strongly affects the price of food, it is not the sole driving force. Many other factors go into the price of corn flakes on the supermarket shelf.

As the world continues to advance and become more affluent, people change their preferences. For example, they may begin to prefer regularly consuming meat over grains, instead of as an infrequent occurrence. This shift in demand changes what farmers produce and their new output puts the food economy and prices into flux.

The exact formula for determining the price of food is very complex. The time and effort spent on deciding how corn should be used is better spent on discussing ways to prevent real issues like global warming. Therefore, further quarreling in the food versus food debate is pointless until new evidence from research is found.


Works Cited

Amadeo, Kimberly. “Why Are Food Prices Rising?” 24 Nov. 2014. Web. 17 Feb. 2015. <>.

Amadeo, Kimberly. “What Factors Determine Oil Prices?” How Are Oil Prices Determined? 1 Feb. 2015. Web. 17 Feb. 2015. <>.

Baffes, John, and Allen Dennis. “Long-term Drivers of Food Prices.” WorldBank. 6 May 2013. Web. 2 Mar. 2015.

“Corn, Ethanol, and Food Prices.” National Corn Growers Association. 3 Feb. 2014. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.

“USDA ERS – Food Dollar Series: Documentation.” USDA ERS – Food Dollar Series: Documentation. 24 May 2014. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.































Op-ed rough drafts

Food prices are on the rise and so are ocean levels due to global climate change. As a green fuel alternative, some environmental advocates praise corn-derived ethanol as the answer for carbon dioxide emissions. On the other hand, some are widely against using corn for ethanol and offer a pro-food argument that suggest corn should be reserved for nutrition alone. Despite concern for associated food problems regarding corn syrup diabetes and its nutrition, the Food vs. Fuel debate holds a weight of its own. This argues whether or not a crop should be used for food or fuel.

In the past, anti-ethanol advocates attempted to link rising corn prices and ethanol production with rising food prices. Within the past two years, the price of corn has dropped with continued ethanol production, yet the cost of food continues to rise. Essentially, even if the price of corn decreases by 50%, that doesn’t mean that the price of corn flakes will also drop 50% in explaining how land utilized to grow crops for fuel rather than food would be the exact reason for rising food prices. The process that determines the price of food is not that simple. Many factors go into the price of corn flakes on the supermarket shelf. Price discrepancy when considering corn products comes from the price of oil needed for the transportation and manufacturing of foods and the world’s demand for food. So, before accusing ethanol production as the culprit for rising food prices, more factors should be analyzed.

While ethanol’s role in rising food prices is questioned, the rising cost of oil is positively correlated with the rising cost of food. However, the cost of oil is highly variable. According to Kimberly Amadeo, president of, a group that analyzes the economy and formulates business plans for major international corporations, there are three major factors that determine the cost of oil. The first factor relates to traders’ bids to buy oil at an agreed upon price based on certain criteria. This criterion includes the output of oil, access to future supplies and oil reserves, and U.S. oil demand. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting (OPEC) sets prices high enough to keep oil exportation profitable for all countries while limiting available supply (In the past month, the U.S. has significantly dropped oil prices due to the heavy onset and implementation of fracking practices). To determine projected U.S. oil demand, the U.S. Energy Information Administration gathers data to predict nationwide seasonal oil use, which is continuing to rise. In effect, as current demand rises and supply remains constant, the price of oil will also increase simply due to higher oil/gasoline use rather than from ethanol production and these fracking measures cannot be permanent or sustainable.

The second and third factors are less related to consumer use, but more due to international developments and accidents in the world. In response to world crises such as the 2012 Iranian nuclear weapon scare, the U.S. and E.U. placed financial sanctions on Iran, which limited the worldwide supply of oil. As a result, gasoline prices rose to nearly four dollars/gallon, and indirectly raised the price of food through higher transportation costs. Mother nature can also be unpredictable in terms of her destructiveness. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina, which affected 19% of U.S. oil production, hit the U.S. and gas prices rose to five dollars per gallon. It is apparent that the price of oil is very volatile and as it continues to rise, it will also continue to drive the price of food up.

What should be explored more is ethanol’s disassociation with food prices. In 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency denied to waive the Renewable Fuel Standard program (RFS) which pushed for increased corn-ethanol production because, after examining 500 scenarios involving corn, food, and fuel prices, 89% of them saw no negative impact from the RFS. However, corn is government subsidized and the leading and most-used food product in the U.S. Corn’s conversion into biofuel may not detract from its conversion into what it is primarily used for: corn syrup. While some may be quick to point out that all corn produced should be used as food and thus solve the worldwide food shortage epidemic, the UK Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs says otherwise: “Biofuel policy tends to increase the aggregate supply of grains in any given production year and, in principle, this could be a stabilizing influence.” Even if crops are not used directly to feed people, having increased ethanol production may ensure greater food price security, stability, and food accessibility to the majority of the population.

Furthering the disconnection of food prices, the annual rate of corn used for ethanol and the annual rate of food inflation rise at different speeds, 1.1% and 2.7%, respectively. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service sector, between 2002 and predicted values for 2014, there has been a dramatic increase in corn use for ethanol (4450 million additional corn bushels).

It is evident that even as ethanol production rates markedly rise, differences in food prices do not rise at the same rate, casting the entire system into a state of further question. The food/ethanol equation is not fully understood and corn’s impact on the soil and the economy has not been formerly studied. As a result, congress should be pressured to do research on corporations and gather data. Until enough data is collected, action should be seized because any measures taken may polarize the situation.

Works Cited:

Amadeo, Kimberly. “Why Are Food Prices Rising?” 24 Nov. 2014. Web. 17 Feb. 2015. <>.

Amadeo, Kimberly. “What Factors Determine Oil Prices?” How Are Oil Prices Determined? 1 Feb. 2015. Web. 17 Feb. 2015. <>.

“Corn, Ethanol, and Food Prices.” National Corn Growers Association. 3 Feb. 2014. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.

“USDA ERS – Food Dollar Series: Documentation.” USDA ERS – Food Dollar Series: Documentation. 24 May 2014. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.



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