Biofuel: feeds cars, starves people

Interesting paper by a trio of complexity theorists about the near-term implications of the US drought. Abstract reads:

Recent droughts in the midwestern United States threaten to cause global catastrophe driven by a speculator amplified food price bubble. Here we show the effect of speculators on food prices using a validated quantitative model that accurately describes historical food prices. During the last six years, high and fluctuating food prices have lead to widespread hunger and social unrest. While a relative dip in food prices occurred during the spring of 2012, a massive drought in the American Midwest in June and July threatens to trigger another crisis. In a previous paper, we constructed a model that quantitatively agreed with food prices and demonstrated that, while the behavior could not be explained by supply and demand economics, it could be parsimoniously and accurately described by a model which included both the conversion of corn into ethanol and speculator trend following. An update to the original paper in February 2012 demonstrated that the model previously published was predictive of the ongoing price dynamics, and anticipated a new food crisis by the end of 2012 if adequate policy actions were not implemented. Here we provide a second update, evaluating the effects of the current drought on global food prices. We find that the drought may trigger the expected third food price bubble to occur sooner, before new limits to speculation are scheduled to take effect. Reducing the amount of corn that is being converted to ethanol may address the immediate crisis. Over the longer term, market stabilization requires limiting financial speculation.

Comments are closed.