A New, Global Oil Quandary: Costly Fuel Means Costly Calories

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Rising prices for cooking oil are forcing residents of Asia’s largest slum, in Mumbai, India, to ration every drop. Bakeries in the United States are fretting over higher shortening costs. And here in Malaysia, brand-new factories built to convert vegetable oil into diesel sit idle, their owners unable to afford the raw material.

This is the other oil shock. From India to Indiana, shortages and soaring prices for palm oil, soybean oil and many other types of vegetable oils are the latest, most striking example of a developing global problem: costly food.

The food price index of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, based on export prices for 60 internationally traded foodstuffs, climbed 37 percent last year. That was on top of a 14 percent increase in 2006, and the trend has accelerated this winter.

In some poor countries, desperation is taking hold. Just in the last week, protests have erupted in Pakistan over wheat shortages, and in Indonesia over soybean shortages. Egypt has banned rice exports to keep food at home, and China has put price controls on cooking oil, grain, meat, milk and eggs.

According to the F.A.O., food riots have erupted in recent months in Guinea, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyEnergy, Natural Resources

3 Comments
Posted January 20, 2008 at 6:09 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. TACit wrote:

A sentence from the previous post seems to sum up this distressing situation:
“Yet science is running ever further ahead of society’s ability to reflect and assess the wisdom of the latest technological advance. We cannot stop the tide of knowledge, and nor should we want to. But we can and must find better ways of deciding how that knowledge is used, or risk the profound social consequences of what we have unwittingly allowed.”  (boldface is mine)  Could no one see the sociological consequences coming?

January 20, 7:29 pm | [comment link]
2. Katherine wrote:

As one example, converting food to fuel (corn to ethanol) is raising prices of corn and corn oil for human consumption, plus consuming more fuel.  Biofuel from waste products makes some sense; biofuel from food doesn’t turn out to be so smart.

January 21, 2:14 am | [comment link]
3. sarahsnemisis wrote:

There are some things that would make sense- but we aren’t willing to sacrifice a little and give up some of our independence:

Drive Less- maybe have just one car.
Use less energy in the home.
Buy fewer products (or make products that last longer)
Increase and create outstanding public transportation.

Just to name a few.

January 21, 11:44 am | [comment link]
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