Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

Evan’s family is cleaning up

Posted by Rich Sweeney on April 4, 2008

While the rest of us are being forced to DRINK LESS :(

From Greenwire:

Corn prices — already up 30 percent this year — yesterday jumped to a record $6 per bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade….Worldwide demand for corn to feed livestock and produce biofuels is putting enormous pressure on global supply, and with the U.S. planting less corn this year, the supply shortage will worsen….Corn growers are reaping record profits……

Couple things. First, why is that I can’t turn on the news without hearing, invariably in very tragic terms, about soaring gasoline prices, yet there is almost no coverage of soaring food prices? According the the BLS, American’s spend about 3X as much of their income on food as they do on gas.

Second, in light of the “record profits” being reaped by corn growers, how long until Ed Markey hauls these greedy farmers before Congress? Let’s just say I’m not gonna hold my breath. Until then though, anyone care to explain to me how these two commodities are different?

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6 Responses to “Evan’s family is cleaning up”

  1. Evan Herrnstadt said

    My parents just bought a bio-fueled Bentley with their subsidy check.

  2. [...] Sweeney wonders why you hear so damn much about gasoline prices rather than the cost of food: [W]hy is that I [...]

  3. JIN said

    Actually Americans spend more on transportation than food. According to the data linked above, the annual average expenditures on food and transportation is $6,111 (12.6%) and $8,508 (17.5%), respectively, out of annual average expenditures of $48,398 / year. Not sure where you got the idea that food was 3 x transportation…

    Regarding the price of food, yes we are feeling a squeeze, but prices are rising mainly on conventionally produced food. Organic, free-range, local, etc food is much less affected by the current trends in ethanol and petroleum industries since they do not utilize these products nearly as much for growing corn (for animal feed,)fertilizers, and transport. The price disparity between conventional and more sustainably-raised food has declined.

  4. Rich Sweeney said

    actually i said “American’s spend about 3X as much of their income on food as they do on gas.” not transportation. average gas expenditures in that data are $2,227. and i’m not really sure what the point is about the disparity between conventional and “feel good” foods has to do with anything. as long as the latter is higher, if people switch, then their average bills are still going up, no?

  5. [...] Most importantly, he’s drawing attention to an issue that deserves it: food prices (read Rich’s post on this). I’m constantly complaining about how poor people get fucked more by high energy [...]

  6. JIN said

    No point in paying for gas without the vehicle to put it in… Doesn’t make sense to just consider it alone…
    Anyways, the point of the food-related comment above was that the rise in corn and gas prices does not affect all foods equally. More sustainable, local, free-range foods are not as dependent on the amount of petroleum and corn as the current industrial farming system is. These are not just “feel-good” qualifiers, these characteristics are better for people, animals, and the environment in a number of ways (energy savings, pesticide reduction, humane treatment, ability to have viable small farms, biodiversity, etc.)
    Relative to the rest of the world, we spend such a small percentage of our money on food, and we should be supporting better foods and better production methods in general. Ironically the rising of the gas/corn prices you mentioned above may help us to do that, since more sustainable food will become relatively more attractive based purely on economics…

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