Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

The Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman once said, "One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results."

When Congress passed legislation to greatly expand America's commitment to biofuels, it intended to create energy independence and protect the environment.

But the results have been quite different. America remains equally dependent on foreign sources of energy, and new evidence suggests that ethanol is causing great harm to the environment.

In recent weeks, the correlation between government biofuel mandates and rapidly rising food prices has become undeniable. At a time when the U.S. economy is facing recession, Congress needs to reform its "food-to-fuel" policies and look at alternatives to strengthen energy security.

On Dec. 19, 2007, President Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act. This legislation had several positive features, including higher fuel standards for cars and greater investment in renewable energies such as solar power.

However, the bill required a huge spike in the biofuel production requirement, from 7.5 billion gallons in 2012 to 36 billion in 2022.

This was a well-intentioned measure, but it was also impractical. Nearly all our domestic corn and grain supply is needed to meet this mandate, robbing the world of one of its most important sources of food.

We are already seeing the ill effects of this measure. Last year, 25% of America's corn crop was diverted to produce ethanol. In 2008, that number will grow to 30%-35%, and it will soar even higher in the years to come.

Furthermore, the trend of farmers supplanting other grains with corn is decreasing the supply of numerous agricultural products. When the supply of those products goes down, the price inevitably goes up.

Subsequently, the cost of feeding farm and ranch animals increases and the cost is passed to consumers of beef, poultry and pork products.

Since February 2006, the price of corn, wheat and soybeans has increased by more than 240%. Rising food prices are hitting the pockets of lower-income Americans and people who live on fixed incomes.

While the blame for higher costs shouldn't rest exclusively with biofuels — drought and rising oil costs are contributing factors — the expansion of biofuels has been a major source of the problem.

The International Food Policy Research Institute estimates that biofuel production accounts for between one-quarter and one-third of the recent spike in global commodity prices.


Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

Senator Hutchison chairs the Senate Republican Policy Committee and is representing Texas in her third full term in the Senate.