Tuesday 4 September 2012

Food prices, speculation and eco-folly

Max Keiser is a joy, just a joy. In this latest broadcast he lays about him gleefeully, smacking "nay-sayers should commit suicide" Bertie Ahern and faux-libertarian followers of the Mises and Adam Smith Insitutes, and describing Rupert Murdoch as a failed, lifelong anti-competitive, octogenarian porn merchant who should just get out of the Internet's way.

But since I've been touching on food and land recently, I find Keiser's interview with Professor Yaneer Bar-Yam particularly intriguing. The prof published a report in May that finds corn prices in Mexico are three times higher than they would otherwise be, thanks to (a) the diversion of corn into ethanol production and (b) commodity speculation (legalised in 2000).

Here's the graph:

"Fig.1 Corn price (blue line) and curves showing the causes of price increases according to our quantitative model (red dashed line). The green dashed dotted line is the supply and demand equilibrium impacted by the demand shock due to increasing corn to ethanol conversion. The quantitatively modeled speculation contribution to prices is the difference between the total and the supply and demand curve. The corn price without ethanol shock or speculation would be essentially constant (black dotted)."

Similarly, financial greed converts into distress and hunger for the poor. And as Max and his colleague note, the investment "terrorists" think it's funny.

INVESTMENT DISCLOSURE: Mostly in cash (and index-linked National Savings Certificates), but now planning to build up some reserves of physical gold via regular saving.

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