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India, China's demand will drive up food prices: Obama

August 18, 2011 13:20 IST

US President Barack Obama on Thursday highlighted the need to develop biofuels out of things that do not involve fuel chain, arguing that increase in demand from India and China would drive up the food prices.

"As you see more and more demand placed on our food supplies around the world; as folks in China and folks in India start wanting to eat more meat and commodity prices start going up, it's going to be important for us to figure out how can we make biofuels out of things that don't involve our food chain," Obama said at a town hall meeting at Atkinson, Illinois.

Obama was responding to a question as to what his administration is doing to keep the ethanol plant.

"When I was a United States Senator, I was a strong supporter of biofuels. I continue to be a strong supporter of biofuels. Tom Vilsack, as our Agriculture Secretary, continues to be a strong supporter of ethanol and biofuels," he said.

"I will say that the more we see the science, the more we want to find ways to diversify our biofuels so that we're not just reliant on corn-based ethanol. Now, we can do more to make corn-based ethanol more efficient than it is, and that's where the research comes in," he said.

"But the key going forward is going to be, can we create biofuels out of switch grass and wood chips and other materials that right now are considered waste materials? And part of the reason that's important is because, as I think most farmers here know, particularly if you're in livestock farming, right now the costs of feed keep on going up and the costs of food as a consequence are also going up," Obama said, adding that only about four per cent of that is accounted for by corn being diverted into ethanol.

"This is a huge area of support," he said.

"This is another example of where we've got to make sure that our budget continues to invest in basic research, and that costs money. If all we're doing is cutting and we're not thinking about investments, then over time we're going to fall behind to countries like Brazil, where they've already got a third, I think, of their auto fleet operates on biofuels," he said.

"There's no reason why we should fall behind a country like Brazil when it comes to developing alternative energy. I want to be number one in alternative energy, and that's good for the farm economy," Obama added.
Lalit K Jha in Washington
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