Will the High Price of Oil Make Americans Skinnier?
We enjoyed Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner's book Freakonomics; they used their economists training to look at social issues in a different way. We also like thier blog, where they do this regularly. They suggest that the ethanol craze, which has raised the price of corn by 60% since last summer, will drive producers of sweet stuff away from high fructose corn syrup toward other sweeteners. According to some researchers, "The body processes the fructose in high fructose corn syrup differently than it does old-fashioned cane or beet sugar, which in turn alters the way metabolic-regulating hormones function. The end result is that our bodies are essentially tricked into wanting to eat more and at the same time, we are storing more fat." They posit: "So, as higher oil prices continue to drive demand for corn-based ethanol, which drives the price of corn higher, which makes cheap corn syrup more expensive, which leads food manufacturers to seek out potentially less fattening sweeteners, will Americans get skinnier?" ::FreakonomicsCoincidentally, on the same day the blog Environmental Economics said:
In ECON 101 we'd say, an increase in the demand for corn increases the price of corn. Since corn is an input into the production of the corn chip (I hope), the price of corn chips will rise. This might lead to an increase in the price of potato chips (a substitute for corn chips) and a decrease in the price of salsa (a complement of corn chips). The price of beer might fall if beer consumers require a salty snack to go along with a bottle of cold refreshment. Or, maybe that's the tail wagging the dog? ::Environmental Economics