By Dan Shapley
Across the country and in every grocery aisle, Americans are seeing the same thing: The same bar code on familiar products is registering a much higher price. What they may not realize is that price spike has everything to do with energy -- its cost now and the struggle to find a clean energy future. The cost of food is directly related to the cost of fuel, so consumers can usually expect food prices to inch up as the price at the pump does. But a bigger driver of the current spike -- the biggest food price inflation in more than a quarter century -- is the price of corn. New government incentives for corn-based ethanol, a gasoline alternative almost universally loved by politicians seeking "energy independence," have led to a boom in corn production for fuel, rather than food or feed. Corn is an ingredient, at some stage of production, for a huge percentage of foods in American grocery stores. Milk, meat and eggs? Dairy cows, chicken, cattle and livestock eat corn feeds. Processed foods often include corn syrup, corn starch or other corn-based products. If there's a lesson to take from this episode in the American marketplace, perhaps it is this: Food really is fuel, as dieters and athletes know, and finding the right balance between our energy needs and food needs will be a key part of the nation's diet plan going forward. The scale, for now at least, is askew, according to a story in the June 13 Christian Science Monitor. Related Stories U.S. Biofuel Tax Credit Benefits European Drivers CSI: Gulf Dead Zone Beer vs. Biofuels Fertilizer Firms Are Flush. Thanks Ethanol Grains Of Truth About Ethanol Ethanol Drives Up Food Costs Alternative Fuel -- With More Pollution?