Saturday, September 29, 2007

Global Warming Insanity

While we are looking at postings from some of our favorite contributors on the topic of global warming, it seems only appropriate to include this recent piece from one of our Energy Counsel Members Paul Driessen. Like the last posting from Timothy Ball, Paul addresses the change in the NASA data.

Please pay special attention to his comment at the end of the document that addresses controlling energy use. Our research tells us that this is a major motivator and that the environmental extremists are having success in impacting legislative mandates that regulate the energy usage Americans—and even the rest of the world.

When do symbolic gestures turn into “doing something” about climate change?
“The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority,” Marcus Aurelius opined, “but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.”

An even worse fate would be to end up in minority status and an asylum. Recent developments suggest that this might be the destiny of climate change alarmists.

Now that NASA has corrected its US temperature records, the hottest year on record is no longer 1998, but 1934. Five of the ten hottest years since 1880 were between 1920 and 1940 – and the 15 hottest years since 1880 are spread across seven decades. This suggests natural variation, not a warming trend.

Plant and insect remains found at the base of Greenland’s ice sheet indicate that, just 400,000 years ago, the island was blanketed in forests and basking in temperatures perhaps 27 degrees F warmer than today.

Land area temperatures in South America, Africa and Australia have declined slightly over the last few years. Since 1998, sea surface temperatures over much of the world have decreased slightly, while globally averaged atmospheric temperatures have shown no change.

Many US temperature gauges are near air-conditioning exhausts, hot asphalt and other heat sources. Their readings are thus too high and must be revised downward – along with claims about rising temperatures.

Over the past 650,000 years, global temperatures almost always rose or fell first – followed centuries later by changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, as warming oceans exhaled CO2 or cooling seas absorbed the gas. (This inconvenient fact is what Al Gore is referring to when he says the temperature-CO2 relationship “is actually very complicated.”)

More scientists are pointing to solar energy levels, cosmic rays and clouds as determinants of climate – and saying CO2 plays only a minor role. Thousands of scientists have questioned claims that humans are causing catastrophic climate change, and over the past year dozens have publicly switched from believers to skeptics about climate Armageddon theories. There is obviously no consensus on climate change.

Latvia and seven other eastern European countries are threatening legal action against EU decisions to restrict their emissions, as they work to grow their economies after decades of impoverishment under Communism. China and India refuse to sacrifice economic growth to concerns about climate chaos.

China has surpassed the US as the world’s leading CO2 emitter – and EU carbon dioxide emissions have increased faster than those in the United States—which has both population and economic growth that is substantially higher than in Western Europe.

During the just-concluded UN climate conference in Vienna, a number of industrialized countries rejected binding targets of 25-40% greenhouse gas reductions by 2020 – while a bloc of 77 developing nations said industrialized countries should reduce their emissions 80% by that date.

The response of climate alarmists is fodder for psychological textbooks. Greenpeace says cataclysm skeptics are “climate criminals.” NASA scientist James Hansen calls us “court jesters.” Grist magazine wants “Nuremberg-style war crimes trials.” Robert Kennedy, Jr. says we should be treated like “traitors.”

Phil Jones at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit refused to reveal the methodology for his dire-sounding temperature data. “Why should I make the data available,” he asked, “when your aim is to find something wrong with it?” And Senator Barbara Boxer turned climate hearings into inquisitions for catastrophe skeptics, while Congressman Jim Costa walked out on a witness who pointed out that proposed legislation would dramatically increase energy and food prices, cost millions of jobs, and severely hurt poor families – while doing nothing to stabilize global temperatures.

Newsweek said climate holocaust “deniers” had received $19 million from industry, to subvert the “consensus” it claims exists about global warming. It made no mention of the $50 BILLION that alarmists and other beneficiaries have received since 1990 from governments, foundations and corporations – or of its 1975 article, which declared that scientists are “almost unanimous” in believing that a major cooling trend would usher in reduced agricultural productivity, famines and perhaps even a new Little Ice Age.

(Newsweek contributing editor Robert Samuelson called the global warming "denial machine” article “highly contrived” and based on “discredited” accusations about industry funding.)

Alarmists have blamed global warming for hurricanes, tornadoes, malaria, and even the Minneapolis bridge collapse, terrorism, Italian suicides, teenage drinking and “irritability” in mice. By combining far-fetched speculation with various computer-generated temperature projections and worst-case scenarios, they concoct even more ominous auguries, like this whopper from London’s Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre:

If CO2 levels keep rising, global temperatures could soar, ice caps could melt, oceans could rise dozens of feet – and all that extra water pressure could destabilize Earth’s crust, squeeze out magma and cause volcanoes to erupt. The volcanic gases and dust could then cool the earth, and cause a new ice age.

A 1993 blockbuster movie used a similar what-if pyramid scheme to generate terrifying encounters with raptors and tyrannosaurs. But when the lights came up, people knew it was just a movie.

When it comes to climate change, however, many seem unable to separate science from science fiction – or even distinguish between headline-grabbing pronouncements, preposterous disaster flicks like “The Day After Tomorrow,” and pseudo-documentaries like “An Inconvenient Truth” and “The 11th Hour.” Instead of fostering rational discourse and responsible action, alarmists insist that we “do something” immediately to prevent climate cataclysm.

Al Gore is buying carbon offset indulgences. Leonardo DiCaprio is replacing his incandescent lightbulbs. Cheryl Crow promotes one square per trip to the ladies room. Cate Blanchett will wash her hair less often in her new $10-million Australian mansion. Cameron Diaz promotes “indigenous” lifestyles in Third World countries.

But they all support laws mandating greatly reduced energy use and economic growth – outside of Hollywood and Nashville’s Belle Meade area.

In response, Congress has introduced a half-dozen “climate stabilization” bills – and state legislatures are reviewing 375 more – even as the scientific “consensus” fades, Europe’s united front on emissions trading collapses, and countries in the Asia-Pacific Partnership reject mandatory greenhouse gas cutbacks in favor of steady technological progress in pollution control and energy efficiency.

These bills would cost American consumers many billions of dollars a year. But they would reduce average global temperatures by a tiny fraction of the 0.2 degrees F that scientists say the Kyoto Protocol would accomplish by 2050 (assuming CO2 really is a primary cause of climate change).

It’s time to ask: At what point do symbolic gestures and political grandstanding become “doing something” about climate change? At what point do they amount to insanity?

Many suspect that anxiety about climate change was never really about preventing a global warming – or global cooling – catastrophe. Instead, they say, the real purpose is controlling energy use, economic growth and people’s lives. Alarmist efforts to intimidate climate catastrophe skeptics and legislate mandatory energy restrictions suggest that these suspicions are valid, and that climate doomsayers are becoming increasingly desperate.

Paul Driessen is author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power ∙ Black death ( and senior policy advisor for the Congress of Racial Equality and Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, whose new book (Freezing in the Dark) reveals how environmental pressure groups raise money and promote policies that restrict energy development and hurt poor families.

New NASA Temperature Data; Re-Assessing the Global Warming Scare

Have you been watching the weather reports that have been tracking the current crop of hurricane season storms? If you have, you’ve probably noticed that they use computer models to predict where there storms will go and at what intensity. Watching these scary scenarios, we go to bed with a prayer on our lips for those in the path of this week’s storm. In the morning we get up, turn on the news, and check out what happened. It seems that about 50% of the time the storm does not do what the computer models proposed. Where your prayers answered, or were the computers wrong? The answer is probably some of each—but surely the computer models have faults and prayers have strengths. When we extrapolate this out to global warming, might the computer models have faults—and prayers have strengths? Is it possible that like this seasons storms, global warming might not be as scary as predicted? Could the models be wrong? Could the data be faulty?

Here we offer an interesting perspective from one of our favorite sources: the Business and Media Institute. Does this make sense to you?

Faulty data abounds in the foundational arguments of climate change zealots.
Imagine basing a country’s energy and economic policy on an incomplete, unproven theory – a theory based entirely on computer models in which one minor variable is considered the sole driver for the entire global climate system.

This is precisely what Al Gore, Senate Environment Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer and others want their nation to do.

They expect Americans to accept on blind faith the thesis that human carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are causing catastrophic climate change. Boxer, Gore and their allies readily resort to emotional bullying against anyone who dares question this dogma.

Their pronouncements – Boxer’s juvenile “the American people have the will to slow, stop and reverse global warming” is a prime example – are merely displays of arrogance that expose their lack of basic science understanding (and their complete disrespect for public intelligence). The policies they advocate are wholly unjustified scientifically and have extraordinarily damaging economic implications for the developed world.

The scientific method, which even grade-schoolers know, provides that science advances through hypotheses based on a set of assumptions. Other scientists challenge and test those assumptions in what philosopher Karl Popper called the practice of “falsibility.” Trying to disprove hypotheses is what real science is all about.

Yet the hypothesis that human addition of CO2 would lead to significantly enhanced greenhouse warming was quickly accepted without this normal scientific challenge.

As Dr. Richard S. Lindzen, Professor of Meteorology in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences said, consensus was reached before the research had even begun. Adherents to the hypothesis began defending the increasingly indefensible by launching personal attacks, essentially trying to frighten scientific opponents into silence.

Much to the frustration of alarmists, however, solid scientific evidence continues to mount against the flawed notion that human CO2 emissions are a problem.

For instance, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) just made significant changes to its temperature records, downgrading the magnitude of recent rises.

This was precipitated by discovery of errors in NASA methodologies by Canadian researcher Steve McIntyre, already well-known for his debunking of the now-infamous “hockey stick” temperature graph that was a fundamental pillar of the 2001 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report.

Dr. James Hansen, as director of GISS, is responsible for NASA temperature records. An ardent Gore supporter, Hansen often plays conflicting roles simultaneously. Within one week of the change to the NASA record, he posted a blog diatribe – not officially through his employer’s channels, but as a private citizen.

In his blog post, he claimed the temperature changes were insignificant (in reality, they are highly significant) and likened climate warming skeptics to “court jesters” paid by industry.

Hansen also played this duplicitous game when he made a sensationalist climate change presentation to Congress – also as a private citizen. Such strongly held and outspoken views likely influence, and so are inconsistent with, his activities as a scientist/executive at NASA.

Before McIntyre’s discovery, NASA considered 1998 the warmest year in the continental U.S.; now it is 1934, with 1998 second and 1921 third.

Four of the 10 warmest years on record are now acknowledged to have occurred when human production of CO2 was minimal, in the 1930s. The past decade now includes only three of the 10 warmest years. Will Gore withdraw “An Inconvenient Truth” pending necessary corrections?

A second “proof” of human CO2-caused warming, according to the U.N.’s IPCC, was a claimed increase in global temperatures of about 1°F over 130 years. This was asserted to be outside natural variability. But the uncertainty in the measurements was more than ±0.3°F, meaning possible values could vary by as much as 66 percent of the total change.

The source of this temperature calculation, University of East Anglia’s Professor Phil Jones, has refused to disclose which temperature records were used and how he “adjusted” them. Clearly, the IPCC’s conclusions must be viewed with considerable suspicion until they provide full disclosure on the Jones data.

The meaning of these revelations is clear: computer models are the basis of all forecasts used by alarmists. These models used temperature data that is now known to be suspect or completely wrong. Will Gore, Boxer and the IPCC call for a rational re-evaluation of the global warming scare?

Don’t bet on it – accurate science was never a hallmark of this crusade.

Dr. Timothy Ball, Chairman of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project (, is a Victoria-based environmental consultant and former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg. Tom Harris is an Ottawa-based mechanical engineer and NRSP Executive Director. Ball and Harris serve as guest columnists for the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Carbon Credits to Offset Your Energy Usage

With the last several postings on biofuels and greenhouse gases, and the next few in line on global warming, this entertaining piece seems like the perfect transition. Sent to us from one of our Energy Counsel Members, Michael Economides from the October issue of the Energy Tribune, we are sure you will want to pass this on to everyone you know as we wanted to pass it on to you.

If you have been confused by the entire concept of carbon credits, this humorous application on the subject will help you grasp the true absurdity of this form on indulgences.

Please read on, leave your comments here, and pass this on to your friends!

Karma Kredits
Money may not be able to buy happiness, but it can pay sadness to go away. That’s the idea behind the much-hyped concept of “carbon credits” – which are a sort of climatological karma certificate allowing the bearer to emit gas without fear of social stigma, even if in a crowded space.

Greenhouse gases are the emissions in question, and buying a carbon credit is alleged to offset one’s own carbon dioxide emissions by paying some other unknown entity to not emit the same amount of CO2. This assumes the unknown entity was just about to emit extra gas, but then had his behavior suddenly changed by your payoff.

As proof that this occurred, you get a piece of paper that says “1 ton of CO2.” This then entitles you to feel good while emitting your next ton of said gas. In case you think I have oversimplified this scheme, I refer you to the following statement on the Web-site of TerraPass, a popular dealer of carbon credits:

We've heard customers tell us that the best thing you get when you purchase a TerraPass is the good feeling that comes from knowing you've taken a step toward fighting a serious environmental problem. Beyond that, you'll receive a certificate verifying the amount of carbon dioxide your purchase has removed from the atmosphere.

I’ve heard that the best thing TerraPass gets when you purchase a TerraPass is your money.

You could be an overweight jet-setting millionaire environmentalist (and former vice president) with a carbon footprint the size of Sasquatch in graphite clown shoes, and as long as you bought enough credits you could tread proudly through Eden itself.

I must admit that I have thought about starting my own carbon credits enterprise. The amount of environmental mischief I am thinking about committing – but could be paid not to commit – is surely limitless. For example, I’m thinking about building a 10 million barrel per day refinery out back beside my kids’ swing-set, but for $500, I’ll just put in a picnic table instead (made from sustainable-harvest, fair-trade softwood, by the way, so get that check in the mail).

However, I’m a bit worried that existing carbon credit companies might charge even less than me to do nothing, so I’ve decided to take the concept to the next logical step. I call this program “Karma Kredits.” If you’re thinking about doing anything bad, listen up. For a reasonable price, I’ll not do the same thing, which I assure you I was just about to do.

Suppose you’d like to sleep with your neighbor’s wife this Columbus Day. Well, you need not feel bad. For $750, I will promise not to sleep with your neighbor’s wife too (which activity I already have on my calendar for October 8th). Without your Karma Kredit, two bad things might happen. By paying me, you will surely have prevented one of them – right in your own neighborhood. Have at ’er, boy! Remember, just one wrong makes a right.

Act now, and I’ll include a certificate stating proudly: “1 Neighbor’s Wife” (suitable for framing, an ideal anniversary gift). If you are eyeing your neighbor’s husband, however, I can’t help you. But for a small commission, I suppose I could broker a deal with Sen. Larry Craig (in which case the certificate will be printed on toilet paper).

And if you’re fat (or headed that way), I have a holiday special. I plan on gaining around 400 pounds between now and Christmas. For $1 per pound, I will gain less than this, allowing you to gain that weight and feel good that our average (projected) weight has not changed at all. You may not be able to climb the stairs to your cardiologist’s office, but we’ll be exactly the same, in the aggregate.

Lastly, are you a jerk prone to road rage? For $12 per day, I will cut off no more than three people on my commute. For $18, I’ll actually let one person change lanes with a friendly wave, provided they signal first. This will free you up to go nuts on your next drive. How comforting it will be to know that I may be right behind you, happily waving in the octogenarian motorist you just forced into the esplanade. Together, we’re good people! Together, we’re karma neutral.

Mac Johnson Humorist for the Energy Tribune

Monday, September 24, 2007

Biofuels May Produce More Greenhouse Gas Than Oil

Here is an interesting piece from the British newspaper: The Times. It is written by their environment reporter Lewis Smith. We have left the article with its original use of the “Queen’s English.” Despite the clues in the article, we were unable to locate the exact report Smith is referencing. Please let us know if you find it.

A renewable energy source designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is contributing more to global warming than fossil fuels, a study suggests.

Measurements of emissions from the burning of biofuels derived from rapeseed and maize have been found to produce more greenhouse gas emissions than they save.

Other biofuels, especially those likely to see greater use over the next decade, performed better than fossil fuels but the study raises serious questions about some of the most commonly produced varieties.

Rapeseed and maize biodiesels were calculated to produce up to 70 per cent and 50 per cent more greenhouse gases respectively than fossil fuels. The concerns were raised over the levels of emissions of nitrous oxide, which is 296 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Scientists found that the use of biofuels released twice as much as nitrous oxide as previously realised. The research team found that 3 to 5 per cent of the nitrogen in fertiliser was converted and emitted. In contrast, the figure used by the International Panel on Climate Change, which assesses the extent and impact of man-made global warming, was 2 per cent. The findings illustrated the importance, the researchers said, of ensuring that measures designed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions are assessed thoroughly before being hailed as a solution.

“One wants rational decisions rather than simply jumping on the bandwagon because superficially something appears to reduce emissions,” said Keith Smith, a professor at the University of Edinburgh and one of the researchers.

Maize for ethanol is the prime crop for biofuel in the US where production for the industry has recently overtaken the use of the plant as a food. In Europe the main crop is rapeseed, which accounts for 80 per cent of biofuel production.

Professor Smith told Chemistry World: “The significance of it is that the supposed benefits of biofuels are even more disputable than had been thought hitherto.”

It was accepted by the scientists that other factors, such as the use of fossil fuels to produce fertiliser, have yet to be fully analysed for their impact on overall figures. But they concluded that the biofuels “can contribute as much or more to global warming by N2 O emissions than cooling by fossil-fuel savings”.

The research is published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, where it has been placed for open review. The research team was formed of scientists from Britain, the US and Germany, and included Professor Paul Crutzen, who won a Nobel Prize for his work on ozone.

Dr Franz Conen, of the University of Basel in Switzerland, described the study as an “astounding insight”.

“It is to be hoped that those taking decisions on subsidies and regulations will in future take N2O emissions into account and promote some forms of ’biofuel’ production while quickly abandoning others,” he told the journal’s discussion board.

Dr Dave Reay, of the University of Edinburgh, used the findings to calculate that with the US Senate aiming to increase maize ethanol production sevenfold by 2022, greenhouse gas emissions from transport will rise by 6 per cent.

The Biofuel Backlash

A plethora of possible postings has arrived in CARE’s in box in the last couple of weeks. Regrettably, other projects and deadlines have prevented us from making the blog a priority. Today, faced with a window of time to get to reviewing, editing, writing an opening, and posting these delicious new tidbits, we are presented with a different predicament: “Do we post them all now? Do we post one or two today and a couple more tomorrow or later in the week? Which ones should we select first? Should we arrange the postings thematically, or vary the topics?” What to do, what to do?

Because we have a couple items on biofuels are in our collection of articles awaiting posting—and the last posting was on biofuel, today, we offer you fodder for this ongoing discussion. The first has been edited for brevity—though it is still long. We have cut some of the text that we perceive will be less relevant to our audience. If you have an interest in biofuels in Europe, we encourage you to check out the full article at:

If you have wondered why biofuels have taken such prominent position in the energy security debate—especially when they seem to have such negative baggage, you will find this report looking at the agriculture sector to be insightful.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released a scathing report Sept. 11 calling for a dramatic drawdown in the subsidies and preferential trade laws granted to biofuel producers in OECD countries. Libertarian groups on both sides of the Atlantic applauded its call for a reduction in subsidies.

The report is one of a number of efforts designed to deflate support for biofuels in the United States and Europe. Increasing numbers of groups, especially in Europe, are beginning to question the wisdom of the current move toward biofuels as a replacement, at least in part, for gasoline and diesel in vehicles.

The critics, however, are running head on into the powerful agricultural lobbies in the United States and Europe that so successfully championed the issue in the first place. These advocates say that ethanol, biodiesel and other nonpetroleum-based transportation fuels reduce pollution, help fight climate change and improve national security by reducing dependence on foreign oil. Though many policymakers find these arguments compelling, the biofuels issue would not have achieved the political momentum it has without the intense lobbying by the agricultural sector.

In fact, the fate of the current wave of biofuel mandates and the pace at which industrialized countries offer biofuels at the pumps will largely be determined by agriculture interests. The implications are as strong and lasting for developing countries as for the industrialized countries involved.

Plant-based Fuels
The term "biofuels" refers to any number of combustible liquids derived from plants that can be used to create energy. Most biofuel development is directed at use in transportation, where biofuels are envisioned as a replacement for gasoline or diesel fuel. The most prevalent sources of biofuel now are corn ethanol (predominantly in the United States), sugar ethanol (mostly from Brazil) and rapeseed oil for biodiesel in Europe. Among the other current sources are palm and soy oil and various waste products (such as cooking waste) for diesel. In the future, researchers hope to make ethanol from unused portions of agriculture produce--cellulosic ethanol from corn stalks and waste from wood processing.

The creation of biofuels produces dramatically different levels of pollution, depending on the plant used. Ethanol is the same and burns similarly regardless of its source, but the pollution and emissions associated with the specific plant's production cycle vary widely. Corn ethanol, for instance, produces 0 percent to 3 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline when the factors of planting, fertilizing and harvesting the corn are taken into consideration along with the processing and transportation of the fuel, which in the best case requires dedicated pipelines and currently requires overland transportation.

In the United States and Europe, corn currently provides the bulk of ethanol. Europe has recently adopted a stringent biofuel mandate that calls for an escalating percentage of biofuel in its transportation fuel mix.

Politics of Ethanol
The energy bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives in August includes a call for more than 7.5 billion gallons of biofuels to be sold in the United States by 2009 and for the amount to escalate to 36 billion gallons by 2022. The catch is that most of the ethanol in 2022 will have to be from "advanced" sources, which is to say from next-generation cellulosic processes. (Europe's emerging policy has a similar clause.) The U.S. numbers will likely be scaled back in the conference committee, but some requirement to increase the use of biofuels will go forward. Once passed and signed, biofuels will be cemented in the national energy mix.

Environmentalists' support for biofuels is tied directly to their support for action on climate change. For environmentalists, imposing a cap on greenhouse gas emissions on the United States is their primary objective. They see a carbon cap as the prize, and they figure that anything done in the process of achieving that goal can be fixed later.

To achieve a carbon cap, supporters recognized that they needed not just the political backing of lawmakers from the West Coast and Northeast, but that they also needed a certain amount of political support from the middle of the country. Policymakers in Michigan, West Virginia and Colorado seemed unlikely to come on board because of the stake their states have in the automobile and coal industries. States such as Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota, however, have no clear stake in the climate issue so those battling for a carbon cap offered billions of dollars in subsidies and a guaranteed market for corn ethanol. That was something a farm-state senator could support.

The political support for biofuels already is paying dividends in both Europe and the United States. Corn prices are now more than 40 percent higher than they were a year ago, despite a 15 percent increase in planting. The rising price of corn meant reduced acreage of wheat planting, and this has coincided with a terrible drought in Australia and a falling dollar. As a result, wheat prices have doubled in the past year, to $9 per bushel for the first time ever (more than $10 in France). These are good times for farmers, and ethanol is playing a role in it.

Brazil's Challenge
For Brazil, the existing or proposed barriers to the importation of its biofuels present a severe challenge. It invested heavily in research and development of biofuels and has perfected a system that provides a replacement for gasoline at a competitive price and with a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (corn-based ethanol offers little to no greenhouse gas benefits). Brazil is moving its vehicle fleet to ethanol, which will take most of the country's output, but it has developed capacity to export ethanol as well.

Seeing its ethanol exports blocked by the United States and Europe, Brazil is learning that energy security and climate change were only a part of the reason countries looked to biofuels. Certainly, these arguments were important, but biofuel mandates would not have happened if not for the power of agriculture in both the United States and Europe.

Brazil's problem, then, is that it merely solved the problem politicians talked about--it has developed a fuel that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and comes from a place that is politically stable and friendly to both the European Union and United States. In solving the rhetorical problem without offering a political fix, it has placed U.S. environmental activists and EU politicians in a difficult position, and has not necessarily won markets. The larger problem, a problem that the OECD suggests but does not explicitly state, is that there is little interest in either the United States or Europe in staring down the agricultural interests.

Bart Mongoven is Vice President, Public Policy for Stratfor

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Are Biofuels Really The Right Choice?

With all the talk about biofuels—which includes ethanol, one would have to assume that they are the better choice for the environment; that they are “green.” The prevailing thought seems to be that all oil and gas is wrong and all biofuels are right. In fact many environmental extremist groups are actively working to halt all oil and gas production in America. Startlingly, they have had initial legislative success in their campaign. While most everyone agrees that we need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, completely eliminating oil and gas from the energy mix and replacing it biomass fuels is an exercise in destruction, not conservation. (Maybe it would conserve, but it would conserve oil and gas making them available once the biomass proponents have discovered the error of their ways and spent huge sums of money generating these new production facilities and infrastructure.) Read this interesting piece and think it through to its possible end game. Once you think about, please share your thoughts here.

Ecologist: “Increased Use of Biomass Fuels Criminal”

Our fear of global warming has now become the biggest threat to the world’s wildlife and forests, warns
Jesse Ausubel, one of the nation’s pioneer ecologists.

American farmers are clearing trees and draining wetlands to grow millions more acres of corn for ethanol, even though the United States would need to plant corn on virtually all of its 1.9 billion acres of land area to “grow” our gasoline supply. That would wipe out our forests and wild species.

Europe is importing massive amounts of palm oil for biodiesel from steep Indonesian slopes that used to be covered with tropical forest and endangered wild species—and where the annual monsoon rains deliver 100 inches of massively erosive rainfall in three months each fall. This is conservation? Of what?

New York City would have to turn all of Connecticut into wind farms to power its furnaces, air conditioners, computers and plug-in phones. The U.S. would need wind farms covering the land area of Texas—312,000 square miles—even under the false assumption that the wind would always blow at the right speed to generate power. Allowing for wind variability, would we need 640,000 square miles of windmill farms?

Canada would have to dam the land area of Ontario—360,000 square miles—behind concrete walls 60 feet high, to get from hydropower just 80 percent of the electricity that currently flows from its 25 nuclear power stations. How many species would be drowned out?

We’d have to take 150 square kilometers from nature, and “paint them black” with photovoltaic cells to match the output from a single 1000-megawatt nuclear station. Wouldn’t these massive solar arrays change the ecology?

“Renewable fuels may be renewable, but they are not Green,” says Ausubel. “As a Green, one of my credos is ‘no new structures’ but renewables all involve ten times or more [structures] per kilowatt than natural gas or nuclear,” he laments. “Increased use of biomass fuels in any form is criminal.”

Getting the electrical equivalent of one nuclear power plant would require corn from 2500 square kilometers of prime Iowa farmland, says the Rockefeller University researcher. That’s because an acre of corn yields only about 50 gallons worth of gasoline per acres per year, against the annual gasoline demand of 134 billion gallons.

That’s why Ausubel says building enough wind farms, damming enough rivers and growing enough biomass to meet global energy demands will wreck the environment.

This from a man who helped organize the first UN World Climate Conference in 1979. He is a fellow of both the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and Resources for the Future.

Ausubel notes that power sources such as natural gas and nuclear power gain from economies of scale. Renewable fuels, he says, are just the opposite: the best land for wind, hydropower, biomass and solar power will be used up first, leaving land without much sunlight for more solar panels, and non-windy areas for additional windmills.

DENNIS T. AVERYFormer senior policy analyst for the U.S. State Department, co-author Unstoppable Global Warming--Every 1500 Years