17 May 2007

Cuanto Cuesta Esta Tortilla?

The biofuel debate is not getting much political mileage in Canberra at the moment. And I still cannot buy bio-diesel here on the Gold Coast. But major energy corporations around the globe are quickly moving to stake their ground. And given the sad state of global business and politics, there are some predictably disturbing results.

Here, Noam Chomsky examines a sudden 50% jump in the price of tortillas in Mexico:
The “free trade” regime drives Mexico from self-sufficiency in food towards dependency on US exports. And as the price of corn goes up in the United States, stimulated by corporate power and state intervention, one can anticipate that the price of staples may continue its sharp rise in Mexico.

Increasingly, bio fuels are likely to “starve the poor” around the world, according to Runge and Senauer, as staples are converted to ethanol production for the privileged — cassava in sub-Saharan Africa, to take one ominous example. Meanwhile, in Southeast Asia, tropical forests are cleared and burned for oil palms destined for bio fuel, and there are threatening environmental effects from input-rich production of corn-based ethanol in the United States as well.

The high price of tortillas and other, crueler vagaries of the international order illustrate the interconnectedness of events, from the Middle East to the Middle West, and the urgency of establishing trade based on true democratic agreements among people, and not interests whose principal hunger is for profit for corporate interests protected and subsidised by the state they largely dominate, whatever the human cost.
I remember hearing, when the ethanol debate first surfaced in Australia some years back, that the top ethanol producer in Australia was also a close personal friend of the PM. Funny, that.