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Getting heartburn over gas Pizza prices the latest victim of food chain to fuel chain conversion

OK, who ordered the corn pizza?

No? You wanted cheese, didn't you? Maybe extra cheese? Cheese comes from milk. Milk comes from cows. And cows eat corn.

And, because more of the corn that is grown these days is being turned into (highly subsidized) ethanol fuel, that means less corn is available to feed to people, and cows. So the price of corn is up, now sitting at some $4 a bushel, roughly twice the price of a year ago.

That, we are told, pushes up the price of milk, and of the products made from it. Like cheese. The benchmark price for a pound of cheese on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange recently climbed to $2.06, half again the price it was fetching just half a year ago. And the large pizza made with a lot of that cheese is now going to cost 50 cents or a dollar more, whether you are buying it from one of Buffalo's beloved corner joints or from a chain such as Pizza Hut.

Finally, a slam-dunk reason to give up on corn-based ethanol fuel. It doesn't only consume more energy than it produces and draw giant subsidies that candidates for president have to promise every four years to have a chance in the Iowa caucuses -- it messes up our pizza.

It is probably more complicated than all that. Other factors, from dry weather in the Corn Belt to easily manipulated markets, also make a difference.

We certainly need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. And the promise of fuel that grows on trees -- well, on stalks -- is appealing enough that, if it really worked, an additional buck for a pizza might be a small price to pay.

But the people who really have the future in mind -- including, on this issue at least, President Bush -- are already past corn-based ethanol and on to other sorts of bio-fuels, those that come more efficiently, less expensively and less dependent on government subsidies, such as sugar cane and switch grass.

Whatever promise those sources of fuel offer, at least they won't ding us at the pizza parlor.

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