Even as Congress was mandating large increases in the consumption of biofuels a decade ago, the world was changing. In the early 2000s, replacing fossil fuels with biofuels made from corn, sugar, or oilseeds seemed like a good idea. Increased crop demand would prop up prices for farmers, and replacing petroleum with renewable energy would reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and promote energy independence.
Scarce resources. Climate change. Population growth. Rising food prices. Feeding the world’s hungry will require a giant leap in agricultural innovation. In a new working paper, senior fellow Kimberly Elliott explores how advance market commitments could pull the private sector into producing for the world’s poor.
While the precise contribution of biofuels to surging food prices is difficult to know, policies promoting production of the current generation of biofuels are not achieving their stated objectives of increased energy independence or reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Reaching the congressionally mandated goal of blending 15 billion gallons of renewable fuels in gasoline by 2015 would consume roughly 40 percent of the corn crop (based on recent production levels) while replacing just 7 percent of current gasoline consumption. The food crisis adds urgency to the need to change these policies but does not change the basic fact that there is little justification for the current set of policies.
Global Warming and Agriculture: New Country Estimates Show Developing Countries Face Declines in Agriculture Productivity
This CGD Brief, based on Global Warming and Agriculture: Impact Estimates by Country, by senior fellow William Cline, explores the implications of global warming for world agriculture, with special attention to China, India, Brazil, and the poor countries of the tropical belt in Africa and Latin America. The brief shows that the long-term effects on world agriculture will be substantially negative: India could see a drop in agricultural productivity of 30 to 40 percent; China's south central region would be in jeopardy; and the United States may see reductions of 25 to 35 percent in the southeast and the southwestern plains.
In this new book, Bill Cline, a joint senior fellow at CGD and the Peterson Institute for International Economics, provides the first ever estimates of the impact on agriculture by country, with a particular focus on the social and economic implications in China, India, Brazil, and the poor countries of the tropical belt in Africa and Latin America. His study shows that the long-term negative effects on world agriculture will be severe, and that developing countries will suffer first and worst.