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Stop the rush to corn biofuel

An EPA ruling only helps Congress keep pumping a fuel that's escalating food prices.

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Despite a recent dip in gas prices, energy still tops the issues in the US campaign. The Bush administration stirred the debate last week by refusing a request to reduce a mandate for more corn ethanol in gasoline. Even John McCain opposes this false notion that converting a vital food into fuel helps energy security.

The Environmental Protection Agency shot down a plea from Texas to halve the biofuel quota in order to prevent severe economic hardship nationwide. With a near tripling of corn prices in the past three years, not only Texan livestock growers are hurting. All Americans are paying dearly for a mistake by Congress to force corn ethanol into fuel tanks. And the cost amounts to more than the expensive subsidies and tax breaks for the ethanol industry.

Nearly a third of Midwest corn goes into ethanol, raising prices for most grains and for food from Wheaties to chicken. In the first half of 2008, food prices were up 6.8 percent, with corn ethanol as a major culprit. And as stronger ethanol mandates kick in, consumers are expected to see even more food inflation – perhaps $1,200 more in 2009 compared with 2006.

This political catering to the powerful corn lobby, combined with Europe's parallel rush to biofuels, is raising food prices worldwide, triggering riots in many countries and spreading hunger. A World Bank study found biofuels are responsible for up to 75 percent of the rise in food prices since 2002. And all this for a fuel that contains one-third less energy than gasoline, reduces mileage per gallon and, for many vehicle owners, damages engines.

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