Obama Administration Deserves an F-minus on Global Food Security

by William Yeatman on May 25, 2011

in Blog, Features

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The non-profit Chicago Council on Global Affairs this week gave the Obama administration a B-minus grade for its progress in furthering food security in poor countries, according to a story in today’s ClimateWire (subscription required).

I do not understand how any rational foreign policy expert could award the Obama administration a B-minus for its performance on global food security. This high a score is possible only if the U.S. was graded on a curve with North Korea and Zimbabwe.

During the period under evaluation by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, America’s Soviet-style production quota for ethanol, a motor fuel distilled from corn, increased almost 4 billion gallons, or 104 billion pounds of maize. This year American farmers will dedicate about a third of the U.S. corn crop—the largest in the world—to ethanol. As I explain here, here, and here, this massive distortion pushes up the price of foodstuffs on the global grains and oilseeds market, which harms urbanites in developing countries. Simply put, our stupid ethanol policy is one of the greatest threats to food security in the world today, if not the greatest.

The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act codified a gallons-per-year corn ethanol production schedule (this year, it is about 13 billion gallons), but the Obama administration has the authority to adjust it down. And because it hasn’t used this authority, the President deserves an F-minus for promoting food insecurity since 2008.

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