The much talked about “oil for food’ program had it’s share of problems. Corruption, mostly. Not to be wondered at, give we’re dealing with the UN there. But apparently, trying to exchange food for oil isn’t much better, as James Joyner at OTB this morning, notes :
The drastic rise in prices for corn, rice, and other staples that is wreaking havoc in parts of the developing world is due in large part to Western investment in biofuels, according to a recent report  of the World Bank.
World Bank President Bob Zoellick was on NPR  this morning talking about this.
Demand for ethanol and other biofuels is a “significant contributor” to soaring food prices around the world, World Bank President Robert Zoellick says. Droughts, financial market speculators and increased demand for food have also helped create “a perfect storm” that has boosted those prices, he says.
The soaring costs of food and fuel led to riots in Haiti and Egypt and a general strike in Burkina Faso this week. Skyrocketing food prices are topping the agenda this weekend of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund annual spring meetings in Washington.
Zoellick held up a bag of rice during a news conference Thursday to illustrate the severity of the food crisis. “In Bangladesh a two-kilogram bag of rice … now consumes about half of the daily income of a poor family,” he said. “The price of a loaf of bread … has more than doubled. Poor people in Yemen are now spending more than a quarter of their incomes just on bread.”
And Zoellick says prices for basic staples will remain high for an extended period of time. “I think you have a perfect storm of things coming together,” he tells NPR’s Steve Inskeep in an interview. “You have high energy prices. You have the increase in demand from some of the developing countries. … As the Indian commerce minister said to me, going from one meal a day to two meals a day for 300 million people increases demand a lot. “You have some of those countries moving to a different diet. So more meats require more grains. You have the biofuels expansion, which is a big source of demand.”
It has long struck me as wrongheaded, if not immoral, to take cheap, efficient sources of nutrition to turn them into expensive, inefficient fuels. A gallon of ethanol produces roughly two-thirds the energy of a gallon of gasoline and is far more expensive. And, while farmers and, especially, processors make more money by the increased demand for biofuels, it means that food is now out of reach for millions.
I say it’s time.