Will US Presidential Candidates Walk Back Support For Corn-Based Ethanol?


"Buttermilk Skillet Cornbread" Image credit:SanFranAnnie, Flickr, excerpted.

As reported on Dow Jones Newswires, the Chairman of Tyson Foods, John H. Tyson, last week made a speech in which he stated ""there's no doubt" food costs are rising because of ethanol, which is expected to use 40% of the U.S. corn crop this year." (Tyson Foods commissioned a survey and found that 24% of 1, 500 adults surveyed were "very or fairly concerned about being able to afford food at some point in the next year.")

If you vote the pocket book.
With unemployment a continuing problem, struggling consumers are simultaneously experiencing more expensive gasoline and more expensive food. Just in time for the presidential primaries. Food and fuel prices are in a dynamic and tightly-coupled equilibrium controlled principally by government policies. Soon we'll see if Iowa voters understand that linkage.Will presidential primary panderers have the guts to say to Iowans that making fuel from food is a bad idea if taken too far? Or, that if EPA and fuel refiners agree to cut back the ethanol to just what is needed as an oxygenate, food prices will go down, but fuel costs will go up?

More important, will television reporters covering the Iowa primary have the nerve to point out that you can't come out ahead on both, that there must be a trade-off?

Though the life of John H. Tyson is not the point of this post, his statement is a seminal one which ought to spark insights beyond the fuel/food cost trade-off. I was impressed to learn, according to this story on Minyanville.com, that Mr. Tyson is a devout Christian and a CSNY fan. And that one of Tyson's 'core values' is customer respect.

My point is?
Presidential candidates will of course be required to listen to populist outrage. It's there and it's powerful - Tea Party or no Tea Party. Maybe this primary season, however, they'll also sit down with a few captains of industry who don't live in New York City, who don't sell fossil fuel, and who have given some thought to what their customers are feeling.