Worse, at least one prominent scientist worries that ethanol production could hurt the environment it’s supposed to protect. “Biofuel from corn doesn’t seem very beneficial when you consider its full environmental costs,” according to Dr. William Laurance, a scientist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
The $11 billion a year American taxpayers spend to subsidize corn producers “is having some surprising global consequences,” he says. That includes Amazon forests being clear cut so farmers can plant soybeans.
Unfortunately the cornfield isn’t the only place where federal policy is causing troubles. Our country is also experiencing a shortage of wheat -- partly because many wheat farmers have switched to corn, and partly because Washington pays them whether they grow wheat or not.
In 1996 lawmakers passed “legislation allowing wheat growers for the first time to switch to other crops and still collect government subsidies. The result is that farmers received federal wheat payments last year on 15 million acres more than were planted,” The Washington Post recently reported.
Corn is the answer to our food problems, not our fuel problems. The World Bank estimates that the amount of corn needed to fill the gas tank of an SUV is enough to feed one person for an entire year. That’s a tradeoff the world can no longer afford.