Saturday, November 10, 2007

Biofuels: Environmental Kneejerk Disaster

A common argument for human caused global warming is "even if we're wrong and it's not mankind's fault, shouldn't we do something anyway, just in case?"

Biofuels is the perfect example of why not. Here's the chain of events: Fossil fuels, oil, is blamed for causing global warming. Since everything uses oil, government is petitioned to find alternative sources of energy. As government is wont to do, they identify a solution that is really expensive, provides massive benefits to big business, has been proven to fail in the past and has little prospects for success in the future, and will wind up hurting the poor in the end.

Ethanol and its cousins are the biofuels of choice for most of the world, including the US government. It is made from corn and other plant products. Although it was tried and failed in the past, the recent excitement over global warming has convinced our Congress to shovel money into a failed product. The current farm bill would allocate billions of dollars to biofuels, the majority of which uses corn. Coincidentally, the Senate committee head overseeing the bill is from Iowa, where 12.5 million acres of land is used to grow corn. In addition, the Department of Energy recently gave a Spanish corporation half the cost of building a $35 million biofuels plant in Nebraska.

All of this public money flowing to private coffers, and for what? A highly suspect fuel source that, according to the UN, will be catastrophic for hungry people around the world as it diverts food and land from human consumption. The riches of business and politics come at a heavy price, as the number of starving people, which now takes the life of a child every 5 seconds, stands to increase exponentially.


steve u. said...

Wow! Well said.

I'm thinking, "Who is this guy?" I look at your profile, and am even impressed by your interests.

But then I see Robin Hood as one of your favorite movies. Robin Hood? The Kevin Costner version? Please say it isn't so. Even Morgan Freeman couldn't save that ship -- though Sean Connery's cameo was perfect.

If you feel you need a Kevin Costner movie -- and by no means am I saying you do -- Silverado, Dances with Wolves, and Bull Durham are acceptable choices. They are good old-fashioned high-octane petroleum. RH is ethanol.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

One should not forget that the biggest winners are agribusiness, which lobbied hard for this particular bit of corporate welfare. Corn-based ethanol is a huge fave here in IL, so I usually remain mum on the issue, because so many farmers see even bigger dollar signs across their acres when talking about biofuels.

Cameron said...

Thanks Steve. Got a job in the legislature for me? :-)

Yes, the Costner version. Highly underrated film. Costner at his peak, Freeman's always good, Severus Snape as the bad guy, plus one of the all time great movie love songs by Brian Adams. What's not to like? Other than Christian Slater that is.

Now Dances with Wolves is a good flick too. I could put that on the list I suppose. But then I'd have two Costner's on there, and I'd have all sorts of comments about it, I'm sure.

Cameron said...

Geoffrey, right on. There are farmers all over the country, big and small, that are considering converting to corn solely because the government is subsidizing billions of dollars of it. And it's not just the US. The UN said that wheat prices have doubled in the past year because of this sort of thing.

And the kicker is that ethanol won't solve anything.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

While it is true that ethanol emissions are more than marginally cleaner than octane or dirty diesel, the production of ethanolized octane is among the dirtiest processes in chemical engineering. Yet, the farmers and agribusiness (like Monsanto and ADM) want the corporate welfare, the demand drives up prices for corn over all, at a time of increasing stagnation in the economy, and there is no real benefit to the environment. This is one subject about which I tend to keep mum in local circles because the farmers are convinced this is the golden egg laid by the government goose.

As long as Charles Grassley and Richard Durbin continue to represent Iowa and Illinois respectively in the Senate, and as long as the first major pre-presidential contest takes place in Iowa, we will continue to hear about ethanol, because Monsanto and ADM give these folks far too much money to be ignored.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

BTW, one of my guiltiest pleasures is enjoying Costner's Robin Hood. And, sadly, yes, I even like the song. It also contains one of the funniest exchanges I have ever heard:
"If you don't do it, I'll cut your heart out with a spoon!"

"A spoon? Why a spoon?"

"Because it will hurt more."

Cameron said...

I almost brought up the spoon thing myself. See Steve, it's a classic! And the Bryan Adams song is awesome for two main reasons. 1) It was the favorite at dances because the extended version last forever 2) You cannot beat the Spanish version. Instant worldwide classic. Nothing will ever top Adams singing "todo lo que hago, lo haaaaaago por ti. Oh, yeah"