Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

Views from the Center

CGD experts offer ideas and analysis to improve international development policy. Also check out our Global Health blog and US Development Policy blog.

 

Can We At Least Contain Ethanol’s Damage?

“Corn ethanol is a done deal…. There’s no stopping it.”

Princeton University scholar, Tim Searchinger, on The Grist blog in 2009

In response to this year’s severe drought and surging corn prices, the governors of North Carolina and Arkansas asked the Environmental Protection Agency to waive the mandate for blending ethanol into gasoline. Governor Perry of Texas filed a similar request during the price spikes of 2008 that the EPA rejected. After that, global debate over the implications of crop-based renewable fuels for food prices and climate change escalated. Some policymakers responded, but only by tinkering around the margins: the US Congress allowed $6 billion in subsidies to expire last year in the face of intense budget pressures, and the European Commission recently proposed halving its mandate for food-based biofuels.

President Bush Should Order the EPA to Waive the Ethanol Mandate Next Week

Governor Rick Perry of Texas, representing a major livestock-producing state hammered by rising feed costs, has petitioned the Environmental Policy Agency to suspend half of the mandated level for blending ethanol in gasoline. The EPA has the authority under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to suspend all or part of the mandate for up to a year if there is a "significant renewable feedstock disruption or other market circumstance" and the administrator is supposed to respond to Governor Perry's petition by July 24.

Scrap the G8

Once again the G8 has come up tragically short on climate change and a host of urgent problems affecting poor people in developing countries. The good news is that they are at least discussing the right topics. The first Hokkaido G8 document, on the World Economy spills lots of ink on relations between rich and developing economies, including for example, reaffirmation of support for the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

Trade Policy for a New Deal on Hunger

This is a joint post with Arvind Subramanian

In a Q&A published today, CGD non-resident fellow Peter Timmer estimates that soaring global food prices and panicky starve-thy-neighbor rice export restrictions in Asia could lead to 10 million or more premature deaths in the region if the current high prices are passed along to poor rice consumers.

The Global Food Crisis: Time for Action, Not Panic

The New York Times yesterday (and Paul Krugman earlier in the week) called on rich countries to "step up to the plate" in confronting the food crisis in developing countries -- in the short run by increasing their donations of food aid. and in the medium run by getting rid of economically inefficient, inequitable, and environmentally unsound subsidies for biofuels, especially corn-based ethanol.

Improving Climate Projections and Adaptation: A Hot Research Topic in Bali

Besides the official negotiations and speeches, the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bali that I've been attending also provided opportunities for sharing new research and ideas. Two subjects dominated the schedule: adaptation and forestry (no doubt reflecting the preferences of our Indonesian hosts). Here I briefly discuss the use of climate models in adaptation -- a critical issue for those in the development community. [In a separate post to follow I'll note some new efforts in the measurement and monitoring of forest carbon.]