COMMENTS: Food & Energy

"The cost of buying basics in America has just entered the record books," announced ABC's Betsy Stark (embargoed link) as all three networks looked at the rising price of food and fuel. CBS' Anthony Mason chose oil prices, with a barrel of crude now costing $119 and Winnebago scaling back production of recreational vehicles because high gasoline prices have damaged demand. Mason conceded that oil consumption in China, India, Russia and the Middle East is growing yet insisted that commodities speculation is also driving up prices. When the crude bubble bursts, energy analyst Phil Flynn told him, a gallon of gasoline will be 80c cheaper.

ABC's Stark pointed out that the stock market is "flagging" and the real estate market has "cratered" so pension managers and investment funds have "flocked to commodities" instead: corn costs 69% more than a year ago, wheat 72%, soybean 90%. NBC kicked off a series Against the Grain on the high global price of food. Carl Quintanilla of NBC's sibling financial news cable channel CNBC acknowledged that commodity speculation was a factor--but he added failed harvests, the diversion of farmland to the likes of ethanol and the high cost of shipping. The upshot is that the UN's World Food Program now has to feed 100m more people worldwide than six months ago. The WFP calls it "a silent tsunami of hunger."


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