One of the more significant findings of a Purdue University study released this week on food price drivers is that ethanol policy is only responsible for $1 of the $4 price increase in corn prices since 2004.
Economist Wally Tyner says between 2004 and the beginning of 2008, oil went from $40 per barrel to $120 per barrel at the same time corn prices increased from $2.00 a bushel to $6.00. “Of that $4 increase, about $1 is due to the US subsidy and about $3 is due to the higher crude oil price,” Tyner told a Farm Foundation forum on the study earlier this week. “So even if all the subsidies go away tomorrow, corn prices would still be high, unless we chose to ban use of corn for ethanol.”
University of Nebraska policy specialist Brad Lubben, who gave his analysis of the study at the forum in terms of public policy, said this is an important point to consider when attempting to change the Renewable Fuels Standard in an effort to lower food prices because it is the “easiest” to manipulate. “It’s an important consequence to realize that the easiest policy to attack may have relatively little significance and little impact on the current supply and demand balance for these ag commodities and for energy,” Lubben said.
Lubben pointed out that while it may seem that changing the RFS is easy, EPA has already had to postpone its decision on the request for a partial waiver of the RFS because of the challenges they are having in analyzing all the comments and data they have on the issue.