I’ll never hear the end of this…

…but I couldn’t help but notice three very interesting items topping the news this morning, this story about big escalations in food prices, this one about food riots in places like Haiti, and this one about the rediscovery of the potato as a staple crop. What’s the common denominator here? In a word: ethanol. Of course no one in Congress foresaw this when they decided to interfere in the natural evolution of markets and mandate production of a fuel that people may or may not have a use for 10 years from now. It’s also true that ethanol isn’t the sole culprit in the global food price spike (however it is safe to say it’s the leading one). What’s in operation here is what’s known as the Law of Unintended Consequences. Our legislators surely meant well when they set out to boost production of an “eco-friendly” fuel that also boosted farm incomes and got them plenty of extra votes in the bargain, but the end result is an expensive mess. Let’s hope they have the wisdom to reconsider some of these policies, which are making life harder on an awful lot of people, professional bakers not least among them.

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