This will be short and,
trust me, sweet, because I am rushing to get this written
before I have to get on a plane to … guess.
Dear Mr. Mullings:
PLEASE don’t tell us you’re going to Iraq.
No, silly. I’m going to Jeddah. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Weren’t you arrested the last time you went to Saudi
Well, yes. Sort of. But I’ll get back to this trip
In another one of those
“unintended consequences” deals, this was the headline in
yesterday’s Wall Street Journal: “Why Sugar Costs More and
In a piece by reporter
Patrick Barta, we learn that because President Bush, in his
State of the Union address, “called for more ethanol
investment to help reduce oil imports from the Middle East
Where you happen to be going as we read this?
Yes. Where I happen to be going. Do you mind?
“… hedge funds and other investors are betting that more
sugar will be needed” to meet the ethanol demand.
According to Barta (who was
writing from Bankok, Thailand), the nearly doubling of the
price of sugar “could apply to other commodities such as
corn and palm oil – even tapioca, a root starch perhaps
more familiar to pudding lovers.”
Perhaps? I thought tapioca
was sugar. I had no idea it was its own plant. In
fact, Take the Tapioca Test: Go around your office and ask
people where tapioca comes from. I guarantee you no one
will say “Oh, Tapioca. That’s from the cassava plant
No one except my
brother-in-law, and my former Iraqi office mate Don
Hamilton each of whom knows 95% of everything worth
knowing, and 107% of everything else.
When the President made his
pitch for using cellulose-based plants to make ethanol, I
do believe he was thinking in terms of corn stalks and wood
I, myself, have set about
cornering the market on kudzu; that pesky vine which,
according to the National Parks Service, “Once established,
grows rapidly, extending as much as 60 feet per season, at
the astonishing rate about 1 foot per day.”
You don’t have to tend this
stuff, you throw a stalk into the woods and stand
I want to be the conqueror of
kudzu. The kudzu king. The caliph of kudzu!
Back to the WSJ. According
to the article, Brazil is making ethanol from more than 50%
of its sugar cane crop. A Thai sugar maven told the
reporter that sugar cane has “moved from being a food crop
to being an energy crop.”
I can hear my friends in
Texas pouring sugar syrup into their gas tank; “Runs sweet,
Here’s a good thing. I spend
a day and a half with the good folks at the Robert Wood
Johnson Foundation in Princeton, NJ this week where they
held a meeting with folks who are working night and day on
looking at ways to curb childhood obesity.
Sugar futures have gone from
under 10 cents a pound to nearly 19 cents over the past few
If that’s the case then Coke
and Pepsi and Hersheys and everyone else who makes those
yummy products which make children’s tummies protrude will
have to raise their prices accordingly.
Higher prices; fewer sodas
and candy bars.
This has the potential for a
very good outcome.
So, what about the trip?
I am going to Jeddah to
appear at the annual Jeddah Economic Forum which begins on
February 11 and ends on the 13th.
Some people get to stand on
the snow-covered hillsides of Davos, Switzerland. I get to
stand on the side of a sand dune in Jeddah.
Life, as you may have heard,
is not fair.
On a the Secret Decoder
Ring page today: A description of tapioca, a
Mullfoto from along I-95 in Maryland and a Catchy Caption
of the Day.