Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Rising Costs of the Undergraduate Experience

There is no hiding the fact that attending college is an expensive endeavor. Certainly, it is well worth the cost particularly at a great place like Lasell College. The US Census reveals that a college degree nearly doubles annual earnings. While financial aid, loans, and assistance from mom and dad may help to cover tuition costs, there are still those other expenses that directly hit students. Things like maintaining a car, textbooks, and the iced lattes all add up. For those students that are of the legal age and choose to consume alcohol in a socially responsible manner, I have some more bad news. Beer prices are rising!

What? How can this be? Rising oil prices and global warming are two of the major reasons. Farmers can choose what type of crop to grow on their land. As oil prices continue to rise, more farmers are choosing to grow crops that can be turned into ethanol. If farmers choose to grow a crop to be turned into ethanol, there will be less crop available for things like cereal and beer. Recently, there has been a significant decrease in the production of hops and barley resulting in rising costs. Add to this the impact of global warming. A study in New Zealand found that global warming is resulting in lower yields of malting barley because of less precipitation.

It is scary that our food economy is linked to our oil economy. Biofuels are not the answer to global warming. To grow the crops that are turned into fuels means there will be less crop produced for food. Food prices will rise. Dining Services at Harvard University recently had to adjust their menu because food prices had risen so quickly in the middle of a budgeted year. The cost of dining plans are likely to increase at most schools.

As the potential to make money from ethanol continues to increase, it is also a threat to natural resources across the globe. Particularly in the Amazon where deforestation is increasing to make way for soy production. Soy production is increasing in the Amazon as American farmers are dropping soy for corn that can be turned into ethanol. In terms of carbon sequestration, forests are much better than farms. Clearing forests to grow fuel is not a good idea.

Biofuels are a nice idea but not a sustainable solution to our liquid fuel demands. The rising price of food is going to hurt many people especially the poor. Then there are those college students looking for a cheap cold beer. Sorry guys.

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