Summary of “How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor”

In the article, “How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor,” authors C. Ford Runge and Benjamin Senauer capture the ideas that biofuels could cause unfavorable consequences for the world’s poor. Converting a percentage of the world’s corn crop into biofuels is a resourceful way to moderate the country’s precarious reliance on imported oil which will then help farmers.. Notably, the production facilities for biofuels will play a crucial role in future production of biofuel technology.

In the beginning of the article, Runge and Senauer explain that in the 1970s, President Jimmy Carter conveyed his support for energy independence. The country then began to slowly purge the use of lead and enhanced ethanol production which incorporated government subsidies and tax breaks. As time went on, ethanol remained unimportant and the United States relied more on importing petroleum. It is suggested that now, with the increased price of oil and more government backing, ethanol is “all the rage.” The authors recognize that a comprehensive energy policy will halt the country’s dangerous dependence on fossil fuels.

Throughout the article it is mentioned that Europe, Brazil, and other countries are also producers of ethanol. Brazil utilizes sugarcane to produce ethanol while Europe is taking advantage of rapeseeds and sunflower seeds while exploring the possibilities of using sugar beets and wheat. Governmental measures are also being used to encourage biodiesel by the European Commission.

Runge and Senauer argue that the next generation of biofuels will lessen greenhouse gases but note the cost of developing these fuels. The government tax credits and subsidies have falsely maintained the ethanol business. The authors comment on how innovative sources of oil can be particularly pricey. Also, the article covers the issues that are passed on to consumers, such as of the increase of feed prices impacting the poultry and livestock industries. Runge and Senauer explain that the prices of chicken, turkey, pork, milk, and eggs will intensify and production will regress.

In addition to that, the authors point out that the cost of basic foods could drastically be affected by biofuels. If prices remain excessive, the most susceptible countries will be the impoverished ones and those that are dependent on petroleum imports. Although, countries that are major oil exporters are not necessarily safe considering the continued increase in the cost of food. Runge and Senauer comment on the cost of the materials that can be used to manufacture ethanol; they are expected to is if using them becomes viable.

In the end of the article, Runge and Senauer go on to compare biofuels and gasoline and the impact on the environment. They explain how using plants other than corn or soybean oils increase the benefits of ethanol and in contrast how harvesting and transporting these other plant matters are high in cost. The authors conclude that an energy-conservation program and investing in energy research will allow the future of our country to be brighter.

Works Cited
Runge, C. Ford, and Benjamin Senauer. “How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor.” Foreign Affairs
(2007). 26 Jan.2009
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