Fill ‘er Up with Tapioca … And Check the Rice Pudding

Posted: Feb 10, 2006 9:43 AM

  • 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 Arabia?

    Well, yes. Sort of. But I’ll get back to this trip later.

  • In another one of those “unintended consequences” deals, this was the headline in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal: “Why Sugar Costs More and More”
  • 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 root.”
  • 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 chips.
  • 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 back!
  • I want to be the conqueror of kudzu. The kudzu king. The caliph of kudzu!
  • Tapioca. Feh.
  • 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, don’t she?”
  • 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 weeks.
  • 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.