June 2008
On the Edge of Common Sense

Explaining the Food Crisis

by Baxter Black, DVM

At the top of the agenda for reporters this news cycle is the global food crisis. Jay Leno observed the world is suffering from a food shortage and obesity at the same time! Pundits, who seem to have the attention span of a Bartlett pear, are busily looking for someone to blame! The conservative bloggers are plotting a conspiracy theory which blames the environmentalists. It goes like this:

As recently as the 90s, a squadron of green politicians were clamoring to place a federal surtax on gasoline to raise it up as high as $5.00 a gallon. Their logic assumed Europeans pay that much, why shouldn’t we? The high price of gas, they postulated, would make people limit their driving, buy more gas-efficient automobiles and seek alternative energy sources.

At first, they were thrilled with the production of ethanol. They assumed it would cost more than the gasoline it replaced. Therefore, the price of fueling your car would go up no matter what, which was their original unspoken intent. However, because of the overwhelming response of farmers who switched to growing corn instead of wheat, biofuel soon cost less than gasoline! The opposite of what the environmentalists wanted, so they have taken extreme measures.

They continue to protest against nuclear power plants, against oil exploration in Alaska, to building more oil refineries, even fighting wind power in Nantucket. The green Europeans are encouraged to resist the import of genetically modified foods which reduce production costs and makes food cheaper. They continue to enlist the help of celebrities to promote extravagant energy use: Robert Redford’s SUV, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Humvee, Al Gore’s Tennessee castle, Condelezza’s trips to the Mideast and corporate jets flying movie stars and C.E.O.s around the world.

And, if the conservative’s theory is right, it seems to be working; the price of gas continues to rise. The liberal bloggers, on the other hand, blame the oil companies’ greed and point-out subsidized farmers produced more corn just to make money, but under the guise of producing environmentally-friendly fuel. And in the prices of over-production, they use more oil and gas to plant and harvest! Thus the oil companies make money on both ends which isn’t fair. Who says you can’t have it both ways? It appears to me both sides want the price of gas to stay high, but for their own reasons.

Which still doesn’t explain how we can blame the global food shortage on the oil companies OR the environmentalists. Here’s my convoluted reasoning: Gas prices go up. People drive less, they stay home and eat more, thereby getting fat and simultaneously reducing the world’s food supply which then stimulates farmers to grow more grain to meet the demand, use more fuel, so the price of gasoline stays up, forcing people to drive less, to stay home more, eat more and get fatter which reduces the world’s food supply which then…

Baxter Black is a former large animal veterinarian who can be followed nationwide through this column, National Public Radio, public appearances, television and also through his books, cds, videos and website, www.baxterblack.com.