National Review Online has an interesting article on the impact of increasing the ethanol content in gasoline. The idea sounds good: increase the amount of corn-based ethanol in gasoline to reduce our dependance on foreign oil and help protect the environment. Unfortunatley in practice it does a lot more.
Increasing ethanol in US Gas has increased corn tortillas in Mexico 55% – bad for poor Mexicans. Increasing the cost of food for the poorest people in Mexico is creating political instability there. If trends continue, Mexico won’t be the only one experiencing higher food costs. Not only will the cost of everything made from corn increase, but food that is fed corn (think meat) will increase in price as well.
The worst part is that the government is considering mandating a 20% level of ethanol into gas by 2017. The problem is that America doesn’t have that much corn. If all the corn grown here was converted to ethanol instead of food, we would be at a 12% level. So our great plan is to trade dependance on oil for corn while increasing the cost of living and destabilizing Mexico. Great idea guys.