World Bank Report Not Secret, Not Anti-Biofuels

John Davis

An article that ran in the British newspaper, the Guardian, claimed that the World Bank had kept secret a report that said biofuels were responsible for 75 percent of the rise in food prices. But now it turns out that the report was not secret and the number was not nearly that high.

This story in the Wall Street Journal says the World Bank is making it known that the Guardian just didn’t get it right:

Bob Davis of the WSJ spoke with Donald Mitchell, the author of the draft report—which wasn’t secret at all, but a working paper. And like all working papers, it doesn’t reflect the official position of the World Bank.

The report was meant to contribute to a World Bank position paper on rising food prices, which was released at the Bank’s spring meeting in mid-April.

The final April report didn’t include his specific calculation. But, Mr. Mitchell says, “I never saw that as political.” Instead, he says he believes the changes were made because of “editing.” He said that he has been encouraged by World Bank management to explore the issue of biofuels and the overall rise in food prices. “I had input” into the final report that was released at the spring meeting, he said.

Now, because of the misinformation put out by the Guardian, the World Bank is trying to finish up the report by the end of this week to set the record straight. A draft of that report indicates that higher energy prices are the real culprit for any rise… something that biofuels backers, such as National Biodiesel Board CEO Joe Jobe, has been saying all along and reiterated that point today:

“The U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy say that biofuels-related feedstock demand plays only a small role in global food supply and pricing. Worldwide, the estimated increase in the price of soybeans and soybean oil would increase the global food commodity price index by 1-2 percent. In the U.S., according to the Department of Energy and USDA, food prices have increased by about 4.8 percent. Of that increase, ethanol and biodiesel consumption accounted for only 4 or 5 percent while other factors accounted for 95-96 percent of the increase.

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