The Truth Behind The World Bank's Biofuels Scandal

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THE VINE JULY 8, 2008

The Truth Behind The World Bank's Biofuels Scandal

Turns out that Guardian may have been wrong about that secret biofuels report from the World Bank, which it claimed was suppressed for political reasons. World Bank officials told the Wall Street Journal today that the study--which argued that biofuels were responsible for 75% of the rise in food costs--was actually a working paper. As such, it was never made secret and doesn't reflect the official views of the Bank:

The report was meant to contribute to a World Bank position paper on
rising food prices, which was released at the Bank’s spring meeting in
mid-April.

The final April report didn’t include [the author, Donald Mitchell's] specific calculation. But,
Mr. Mitchell says, “I never saw that as political.” Instead, he says he
believes the changes were made because of “editing.” He said that he
has been encouraged by World Bank management to explore the issue of
biofuels and the overall rise in food prices. “I had input” into the
final report that was released at the spring meeting, he said.

The World Bank plans to release a final version of the working paper this week, given all of the hubbub. And while the Bank might not ultimately agree with all of the author's figures--officials say they will continue to review his findings--that doesn't necessarily mean they'll be backpeddling on the issue. The Bank has continued to stand strongly behind its official claim that the U.S. ethanol industry is the main culprit for skyrocketing feedstock prices.--Suzy Khimm

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