The Biggest Green Mistake

Biofuels and the global food crisis

In the last year, the price of wheat has tripled, corn doubled, and rice almost doubled. As prices soared, food riots have broken out in about 20 poor countries including Yemen, Haiti, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, and Mexico. In response some countries, such as India, Pakistan Egypt and Vietnam, are banning the export of grains and imposing food price controls.

Are rising food prices the result of the economic dynamism of China and India, in which newly prosperous consumers are demanding more food—especially more meat? Perennial doomsters such as the Earth Policy Institute's Lester Brown predicted more than a decade ago that China's growing food demand would destabilize global markets and signal a permanent increase in grain prices. But that thesis has so far not been borne out by the facts. China is a net grain exporter. India is also largely self-sufficient in grains. At some time in the future, these countries may become net grain importers, but they are not now and so cannot be blamed to for today's higher food prices.

If surging demand is not the problem, what is? In three words: stupid energy policies. Although they are not perfect substitutes, oil and natural gas prices tend to move in tandem. So as oil prices rose above $100 per barrel, the price of gas also went up. Natural gas is the main feedstock for nitrogen fertilizer. As gas prices soared, so did fertilizer prices which rose by 200 percent.

As a report from the International Center for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development (ICSFAD) notes, applying the fertilizer derived from 1000 cubic feet of natural gas yields around 480 pounds of grain. That amount of grain would supply enough calories to feed a person for one year. Rising oil prices also contribute to higher food prices because farmers need transport fuel to run their tractors and to get food to urban markets.

Even worse is the bioethanol craze. Politicians in both the United States and the European Union are mandating that vast quantities of food be turned into fuel as they chase the chimera of "energy independence." For example, Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed misbegotten legislation requiring fuel producers to use at least 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022-which equals about 27 percent of the gasoline Americans currently use each year and is about five times the amount being produced now. And the European Union set a goal that 10 percent of transport fuels come from biofuels by 2020.

The result of these mandates is that about 100 million tons of grain will be transformed this year into fuel, drawing down global grain stocks to their lowest levels in decades. Keep in mind that 100 million tons of grain is enough to feed nearly 450 million people for a year.

As Dennis Avery from the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues points out, the higher corn prices that result from biofuels mandates mean that farmers are shifting from producing wheat and soybeans to producing corn. Less wheat and soybeans means higher prices for those grains. In the face of higher prices for wheat, corn and soybeans consumers try to shift to rice which in turns raises that grain's price. In addition, higher grain prices encourage farmers in developing countries to chop down and plow up forests. It also hasn't helped that some traditionally strong grain exporters such as Australia have experienced extreme weather.

So what to do? In the short run, there is some good news. High prices are encouraging farmers to shift back toward wheat and soybeans which should relieve some of the pressure on grain prices. Second, the biofuels mandates must go. If biofuels are such a good idea, entrepreneurs, inventors and investors will make them into a viable energy source without any government subsidies. Thirdly, both high and low technologies are addressing high fertilizer prices. On the high tech front, Arcadia Biosciences has created biotech rice and corn varieties that need much less nitrogen fertilizer that conventional varieties require. In Bangladesh and other poor countries, farmers are embedding low tech fertilizer-infused briquettes in the soil to deliver nitrogen to rice. This boosts crop production 25 percent while cutting fertilizer use by 50 percent.

Expanding acreage to grow biofuels is bad for biodiversity and may even boost the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to man-made global warming. Avery notes that food production needs to double because there will be more people who will want to eat better by 2050, at which point world population begins to slide back downwards. Turning food into fuel makes that goal much harder to achieve. Avery is right when he argues, "Biofuels are purely and simply the biggest Green mistake we've ever made and we're still making it."

Ronald Bailey
is Reason's science correspondent. His book
Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.

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  • Flux Capacitor||

    The absolute best deals on fuel prices today can be had by purchasing a siphon and a plastic gas can. :)

  • ||

    After (very)briefly skimming the article, I call bullshit based solely on the absence of the traditional, yet required, Bailey disclaimer.

    After I actually READ the article, I may have something of more substance to post here.

  • ||

    A well assembled and brief explanation of why biofuels are such a bad idea from a world-health perspective, Bailey.

    I'm pretty comfortable in the idea that, in the future decades, we'll need to get used to having a much more diverse set of energy sources. Some things will use electricity provided by nuclear/hydro/(wind?/solar?) power, some things may have fuel cells of various sizes, some things may operate on bio-fuels created from agricultural, industrial, and commercial waste (but not so much from crops grown for fuel), and we'll probably still be consuming a lot more oil than people pretend that we will be.

    But holy crap, this push for ethanol/biofuels (or any other single technology) has got to stop. We probably won't have a single source of energy for positively everything until some major scientific breakthrough occurs. With all kinds of competition in energy sources, there will be a lot of incentive to come up with the next "oil," but until then, there's no need for us to try to designate one before it's ready.
    In the meantime, people may actually end up finding new efficiencies during the period of high energy costs that they'll keep through to even after energy becomes cheaper again (if it ever does). Development of our buildings may become more mixed and less dependent on personal transportation to keep costs down.

    I guess what I'm trying to say to those of the energy-apocoliptic viewpoint... just chill, ok?

  • Read Me||

    http://www.nrel.gov/

  • ||

    China is a net grain exporter. India is also largely self-sufficient in grains. At some time in the future, these countries may become net grain importers, but they are not now and so cannot be blamed to for today's higher food prices.



    Further along you properly identify the chimera of "energy independence." But surely you are using the chimera of agricultural independence here. Whether China and India import or export grain is not relevant to a first order in determining worldwide commodity grain prices. To refute the doomsters' claim, you need to show that their grain production has risen to match their grain consumption, not that they are presently net exporters of grain.

  • ||

    I think a lot of the biofuels backlash is due to corn-based ethanol being the biofuel of choice. As far as I know the most generous estimate for net energy gained from "growing ethanol" is 16%. That is, for every unit of petroenergy expended in the process, you get back only 1.16 units of bioenergy. That alone should have been reason enough to look elsewhere. Now, because of farmers all over the world clearing forests to grow corn, it's not only inefficient, it's putting more CO2 into the air than petrofuel it replaces.

    I still hold out hope for algae biodiesel and maybe cellulosic ethanol and I think once the technology is there for them, the energy independence they bring will be important. Any wealth that the U.S. can generate within our own country will improve our standard of living.

  • ||

    In the US, fuel costs are probably a bigger issue concerning the cost of most of our food. Consider that just a very small portion (I believe something along the line of 5-15 cents) of a box of cornflakes is actually the cost of corn. A lot of the cost of many food items are from marketing, labor and transportation, rather than the actual food products involved. However, the closer you get to the actual food without all the marketing, etc. such as meat and vegetables it may have more to do with the price of grain. However, in regard to most fresh vegetables they aren't competing with corn or wheat too much in determing what will be grown in most fields.

    Now in other countries corn and wheat prices probably have more to do with food prices, but then again much of the food is being transported to those countries and if you haven't noticed the price of oil/gas has more than doubled from just a couple of years ago.

    Now biofuels may actually be keeping the price of gas slightly lower than it would otherwise.

    Now I am not saying that high grain prices aren't at least partially to blame, but high fuel prices, which biofuels may actually be keeping slightly lower, may actually be as much to blame.

  • ||

    Another major source of high natural gas and therefor high fertilizer cost is the needless use of natural gas to generate electricity. A lot of such plants were built for not other reason than aesthetics or to gain a notional reduction in pollution.

    A fundamental problem with environmentalism and other forms of leftism is that they have intuitive sense of how just interconnected everything in the world is. They seem to have no concept that some high minded action they take today will have unintended consequences on the other side of the planet or decades down the road.

    It's a killing arrogance that has dogged humanity for the last 100 years and shows no signs of ever abating.

  • ||

    Shannon Love -
    a lot of people have a pet issue where they can see how everything is interconnected, whether it be economic, environmental, or otherwise. I've always tried to relate economic consequences to environmental activists in just those terms, but usually run into wall. Many people just can't accept that there are negative consequences to well-intentioned actions, be they economic or environmental, even if they can admit that there are additional negative consequences to actions they view as not well-intentioned.

  • New World Dan||

    >I still hold out hope for algae biodiesel and maybe cellulosic ethanol

    No matter where you get your ethanol from, it's still terribly expensive to refine. Also, the first step in making ethanol, regardless of the source, is to waste 40% of your potential energy. It makes infinately more sense to burn it for heat than it does to try and make motor fuel out of it. Actually, if all the corn that's currently going into ethanol was used to heat homes (say, as a replacement for fuel oil or natural gas), we would see some real savings on oil consumption.

    As far as biodiesel from algae is concerned... it's a neat technology, but I don't think it's going to scale very well. I think a better bet would be for the gene splicers to get involved and import those algae genes into a soybean that positively drips with vegetable oil. Either way, as a motor fuel, I think biodiesel has a much bigger future than ethanol.

  • ||

    "Biofuels are purely and simply the biggest Green mistake we've ever made and we're still making it."

    And as long as Iowa has a disproportinate influence in the presidential race, we will continue to make it.

  • Neu Mejican||

    At least the subsidy recognizes that other alternatives farther from commercial implementation need more of a boost than corn...which needs more of a boost than oil.

    But since oil doesn't need the subsidy...let's start by zeroing out that line-item...then take another look at how to use incentives to encourage the biofuels that avoid the problems corn has as a fuel source.

  • ||

    I don't think it's fair to blame ethanol -- despite the rising demand and prices, farmers are planting less acreage of corn in the US. It seems you can make more off of soybeans, and the cost of growing corn has increased.

    The likely culprit is probably rising oil costs -- corn is a rather energy intensive crop the way we grow it.

  • New World Dan||

    >And as long as Iowa has a disproportinate influence in the presidential race, we will continue to make it.

    I'm not quite sure that's the reason. People have an emotional connection to farms. Even without Iowa, national politicians will continue to pander to farming interests. Sadly for me, computer programming isn't quite as romantic.

  • Kolohe||

    As far as biodiesel from algae is concerned... it's a neat technology, but I don't think it's going to scale very well.

    Scalability is improved over terrestrial sources by the the fact that large chunks of the ocean (far larger than any land area) are pretty much homogenous and whose entire area is at the same potential in the earth's gravity well. So even a lower energy density could be made up by less energy required to harvest, and easier to implement automation.

    However, not knowing any particulars of the science of algae biodiesel, (but not letting that stop me from commenting :) )there is undoubtably lots of stuff I missing that hinders scalability

  • Neu Mejican||

    New World Dan,

    Good point.

    Home/building heating and cooling and lighting is, of course, the elephant in the room. Most of the solutions involve no new fuels, but better design to reduce building energy costs (but pair that with fuels with a lower footprint and...). Depending on where you build, many large building can end up being energy producers rather than energy sinks. Excess energy produced by the office building where you work can be used to help power your vehicle for getting there... etc...

    In other words, the solutions are not always in better ways of doing what we are already doing, but in finding different things to do.

  • Douglas Gray||

    Mr. Bailey does not mention that the amount of grain fed to livestock can also feed at least 800 million people. That also does not scale up well in India and China, who as he also does not mention, have moved closer in recent years to being grain importers

  • Neu Mejican||

    An in-depth look at the issue.

    Covers the challenges and the potential.

    http://www.rmi.org/sitepages/pid274.php

  • ||

    Mr. Bailey does not mention that the amount of grain fed to livestock can also feed at least 800 million people.

    Unless you also tell me how many people the livestock feed, this is not helpful.

  • ||

    your points are valid, but any discussion of the huge increases in commodity prices over the last 7 years that ignores the rapid increases in money supply over those same 7 years is missing a huge part of the picture. The devaluation of the dollar is not a mystery, the tendency for otehr countries to weaken their currency as a reaction reinforces the rising nominal commodity prices....oil, gas, coal, uranium, nickel, copper, gold, silver platinum, steel, grains, eggs, milk, meats, fertilizer all that and more have been increasing with the huge addition of dollars.

    It would also be nice to see more people point out that Iraq is producing less oil than before the invasion AND the US military consumes more fuel than any other single consumer out there.

  • ||

    At least Time Magazine recently FINALLY began to expose ethanol for the giant, fraudulent rip-off it really is. Maybe the MSM is catching on.

  • ||

    Mr. Bailey does not mention that the amount of grain fed to livestock can also feed at least 800 million people. \

    Perhaps because its not relevant to his point?

    He also didn't mention that the fuel we use for transportation of people and goods could be used to fertilize, cultivate, harvest, and transport to market enough food to feed at least [insert factitious number of your choice here] people.

  • ||

    Cesar,
    Do you really believe it is fraudulent? like someone should go to jail for committing fraud? or was it just a accident that the well intentioned government messed up this program and accidentally subsidized ADM and lots of really rich landowning political contributors and senators?

  • ||

    Ron, you missed something. Yes, the subsidies and mandates with respect to biofuels need go to. On the other hand, so does the policy of allowing fossil fuels users to dump their garbage in the pubically-owned atmosphere.

    Get rid of both. If you can't, its better to have both and try to balance them than it is to eliminate one and then be assured that you are out of balance.

  • ||

    Is it possible that some smart business men knew this would be good for them and they lobbied politicians to help make it happen, hired PR farms, paid some useful idiot environmental groups, paid to have some silly studies trumped up and then conspired to buy up the remaining neccessary votes with PAC contributions?

    or does this violate your ideas that conspiracies are impossible?

  • ||

    "Fraud" as in it doesn't do what they said it would, and done mostly so Presidential candidates can run in Iowa.

    Also, include the gross over-representation of farm states in the Senate which gives them way more influence than they deserve.

  • ||

    Gabe-

    This isn't some secret conspiracy. Its well known and out there for anyone that wants to look at it. Academic papers have been written on it, the MSM has reported on it.

  • ||

    Chad, If your talking about Mercury SOX and NOX emissions I agree they should be reduced further. However, that in know way justifies the wasteful ethanol subsidies. The point is than net btu consumption is increased by the ethanol craze...it is not energy efficient...coal demand has gone through the roof as more gas is needed for fertilizer feedstock and the CO2 nuts have made it dangerous to build coal power plants due to uncertainty regarding carbon tax schemes.

  • ||

    Screw "clean" coal too, nuclear plants are the way to go.

  • ||

    Cesar,
    I don't know Ochalms razor, it seems like a honest mistake to me, much simpler than some elaborate cabal of cigar smoking corn farmers. You think Senator Obama knew that this fraud was being committed? He surely would have said something..too many people would have to be in on this scam, it would have leaked out to the MSM before now. There still isn't any real proof. What next are you going to tell me there is a secret group of gas refiners who sought to have complex gas additive mixture requirements to help stifle new entrants?

  • ||

    Gabe, I'm not saying all the evil corporations got in a back dark room somewhere with a group of Senators and said "Lets rip of the American taxpayer for billions of dollars and raise the price of food! BRILLIANT! Meanwhile, we'll lie to them and tell them we're doing it for the environment!"

    Its more like, "Gee, I need to tell my constiutients I'm doing something about global warming and energy independence. At the same time, I need to win the Iowa caucus and/or get more money for my campaigns from agricultural interests. So I'll say I'm supporting ethanol, it really doesn't do much but it sounds good".

  • ||

    At the same time, what they are doing is GOOD for the farm states but bad for everyone else. Since the corn-growing farm states are grossly over-represented, the Senators are representing their constituents by strenthening their economies even if it makes things worse generally.

  • ||

    Conventional uranium nukes aren't so great with $140 uranium/ pound....but prices are back down to $70/pound. Still up from the cheap days of $19 uranium in 2002. At $140 dollars variable costs are as bad as a gas plant...with higher fixed cost.

  • ||

    Gabe its still better for the environment than any other option. Also, even if uranium is expensive we don't have to buy it from the Saudis.

  • ||

    Gabe Harris,

    As Cesar notes, these things aren't "secret."

    The pattern followed is universally the same...

    1. A "progressive" issue gets media, public, and political attention.
    2. Politically connected interests co-opt the issue, effectively writing the legislation to favor themselves over their real or potential competitors.
    3. Congress passes the new law in the progressive spirit of the public commonweal to much fanfare.
    4. The politically connected interests become more powerful and more entrenched.

    No conspiracy required.

  • ||

    Well I think your idea of how it works is probably pretty accurate. I will say that I worked at PG&E when they sponsored environemntal groups who lobbied against natural gas pipelines that would have been competing with our gas pipelines.

    I'm sure that a company isn't gonna sell stuff to a politician that way, but it happens. Usually after a company gets raped by the government at some point they start trying to think of better ways to make it work in their favor. Did you ever see the John Stossel interview withthe ADM CEO? it was pretty good...at the end the guy says basically ya it is a scam but we'd rather have the government butt out completely ...if they are gonna create this corrupt game we are gonna try to compete.

    As much as I don't like what the Rockefellers or the Morgans have done they both generaly started out as free-market independent types and gradually got involved in seeing how corporate/state cooperation could be made to benefit them and help them in their effort to fight off the continually arising new competitors....then they started doing more and more evil shit.

  • ||

    You guys aren't totally wrong but some secrets do exist as this proccess goes on. For instance a company like PG&E will fund a phony environmental group to tie up a proposed competitive gas pipeline.

    They don't publicize that sort of thing...they will pay off politicians in different ways and they will try to keep it secret...whether it is by using a certain politically connected law firm with ridiculous rates or a hundred other secret ways to pay people off. If you think it is all in the open your naive. If your kneejerk response to any claim that something is kept secret is to shout "conspiracy nutter" then your not gonna find out how the world works.

  • ||

    Cesar,
    Buying it from the Saudis is not a problem, we buy a small percentage of our oil from the Saudis...and very little of that goes to our power plants. We buy 1.4 million barrels a day from Saudi , 1.9 from Canada, 1.1 from Mexico. We consume about 21 million barrels a day.

    The Suads need our money and the political elite in our country would rather tounge kiss a chic than eat dinner with you or me. The Bin Laden family has been doing business with the Bushes and Rockefellers for a couple generations. There is no danger of the Suads not selling us oil.

    While I agree that the nuke option is a good one and a fraction of the 3 trillion dollar war budget could have easily helped us develop thorium nuclear plants(making the war for oil argument preposterous), along with the fact that Cheney came into office saying oil prices were too low and the sauds(and US by proxy) was constantly threatening Sadam to lower oil production!

    anyway the thorium nuclear power option is useful to know about if uranium prices skyrocket again....eliminates the nuclear weapon problems.

    http://djysrv.blogspot.com/2007/12/thorium-fuel-prospects-advance.html

    http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/003536.html

  • ||

    Gabe I wish the nuke lobbying groups were as effective as the oil.agricultural interests. Japan and France, two highly developed nations, get 90%+ of their energy from nukes and theres NO reason we can't either eventually.

    The eventual solution is truly renewable sources like solar and wind but thats a loooooong way off and nuke power is the bridge to that.

  • Travis||

    Consumer Reports had an article a few years back called the "The Ethanol Myth" they looked into ethanol & came back with the conclusion that ethanol consumes close t 30% more energy than it produces. I don't know if that's correct or not but it seems plausible. I live in Iowa which produces 1/3 of America's ethanol those combines & tractors use alot of diesel fuel, than you have to transport the grain to the co-op grain silos, than you have to transport the grain to the ethanol plant which uses huge amounts of coal or natural gas to refine the ethanol, and ethanol gets less gas mileage than regular gasoliine.

  • ecnomist||

    Beer is also way more expensive! Down with the pigs! Support the revolution! You have nothing to lose but your morning hangover!

  • Travis||

    One thing about ethanol the national media never mentions about ethanol & the Iowa media downplays is the enviromental polution caused by ethanol refining plants. The EPA has fined ethanol refineries here in Iowa for air & water pollution resulting in fish kills. Enviromentalists instead of opposing new enthanol plants(a new ethanol plant is being financed by the Des Moines City Council) just demand that all new ethanol plants use only Natural Gas for refining. Almost all homes in Iowa are heated by natural gas & the price is skyrocketing.

  • Everballs||

    Just because China's a net grain exporter does not mean that it is not partly responsible for the increase in grain prices. The amount China exports should be taken into account. If China helps feed the world through its grain exports(which it does) then any decrease in these exports will lead to an increased cost in world grain prices. Even though China is still a net exporter.

  • Chad||

    "Consumer Reports had an article a few years back called the "The Ethanol Myth" they looked into ethanol & came back with the conclusion that ethanol consumes close t 30% more energy than it produces. I don't know if that's correct or not but it seems plausible."

    It's plausible, but probably not correct. Most studies find that there is a slight net gain in usable energy via corn-based ethanol. However, plowing up land releases a great deal of CO2, so that if we expand crop-land in order to grow the corn, it will take hundreds of years to "pay back" this carbon via the small amount of carbon profit we make by switching to corn-based ethanol.

    Corn is largely a stepping-stone to better crops with higher energy/emission ratios, generally based off using the whole plant (ie, the cellulose) rather than just the fruit and/or seeds.

  • GILMORE||

    Kwix | April 8, 2008, 3:16pm | #

    After (very)briefly skimming the article, I call bullshit based solely on the absence of the traditional, yet required, Bailey disclaimer.


    hey man, thats MY joke.

    Seriously. Or as they say in Baltimore, "surrous" I been busting Bailey balls over disclaimology for *ev*

    Also, Reason is way late on the global food prices thing. The Economist has been on this for months.

  • GILMORE||

    As a second point, I worked for a (premarket) ethanol company out of berkeley that had a bioengineering idea out of producing from cheap sugar cane from brazil, and had some case about being able to do it at 1/10th the carbon footprint, and ultimately 1/100th the cost, but that might have been some fantasy story they tell to sell themselves to govmint and investors for all I know. I was just schooling them on fuel behaviors in the US.

  • Chad||

    "Chad, If your talking about Mercury SOX and NOX emissions I agree they should be reduced further."

    I'm talking about SOx, NOx, CO2, particulates, methane, mercury, radioactive material and a variety of toxic or smog-inducing VOCs.

    SOx and NOx are the only ones really being accounted for at the moment. If you make the polluters pay a fair price to dump their garbage in our air, and many renewables won't need subsidies to compete. And if you want to complain about "uncertainity", you only have a weak point. Sure, we might not know whether CO2's optimal price should be $20/ton or $100/ ton. But we can be sure beyond a reasonable doubt that it isn't $0/ton, which is what we are charging now.

    There are many things to be done, and it starts with preventing any further growth in coal usage. Coal is simply hideous for both the environment and human health, both when it is mined and when it is burned.

  • ||

    Sure, we might not know whether CO2's optimal price should be $20/ton or $100/ ton.

    Or $7/ton.

    But we can be sure beyond a reasonable doubt that it isn't $0/ton, which is what we are charging now.

    Given that $20/ton is 20¢/gallon of gasoline and the evident inelasticity of gasoline consumption under that sort of price change, I am skeptical that many renewables become competitive even under a fairly applied carbon tax.

  • Chad||

    "Or $7/ton."

    $7/ton is well outside the range any honest calculations...numbers like $30-50 are typical.

    And that is only for CO2. Tax gasoline users for the smog, particulates, etc that they are spewing, and you quickly creep towards a dollar per gallon.

    I think gasoline usage is more elastic than you think. It just changes slowly, because people cannot change fuel use overnight. I don't know anyone who is planning on buying a less efficient car next time around.

  • ||

    $7/ton is well outside the range any honest calculations...numbers like $30-50 are typical.

    Is William Nordhaus dishonest? Or his he simply well outside the range of your reading?

    Page 91 of Nordhaus's upcoming A Question of Balance: Economic Modeling of Global Warming [PDF] has numbers in dollars per ton of carbon. Multiplying by 0.27 gets you dollars per ton of CO2.

    One of the most important calculations in the DICE model is the social cost of carbon (SCC). Our estimate, shown in Table 5-1, is that the SCC with no interventions is about $28 per metric ton of carbon [i.e., $7.6/metric ton of CO2] in 2005. This result is slightly below the average reported in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. The SCC is always at or above the optimal carbon tax, but in our calculations the difference is relatively small in early periods.



    Furthermore, since the IPCC AR4 Summary for Policymakers [PDF] says...

    Peer-reviewed estimates of the social cost of carbon in 2005 average US$12 per tonne of CO2, but the range from 100 estimates is large (-$3 to $95/tCO2).



    ...I'd have to say that $7/ton is well within the range of honest calculations while your initial scare tax of $100/ton is not.

  • LarryA||

    or does this violate your ideas that conspiracies are impossible?

    "Cooperation" is a group of people helping each other to reach a goal. "Conspiracy" is a group of people helping each other to reach a goal you don't like. Both cooperation and conspiracy are quite possible, and even quite common. Keeping a conspiracy secret (JFK assassination, 9/11, etc.) is what's impossible.

    Its more like, "Gee, I need to tell my constituents I'm doing something about global warming and energy independence. At the same time, I need to win the Iowa caucus and/or get more money for my campaigns from agricultural interests. So I'll say I'm supporting ethanol, it really doesn't do much but it sounds good."

    I think it's more like, "By God we're the Government and we're gonna fix this thing. Get out of my way and don't confuse me with facts."

    That morphs into, "Well we screwed things up again. But if we admit it and change policies people will start thinking Government isn't the solution for everything."

    Can't have that.

    In defense of Ronald, if he'd covered everything this long thread says he missed we'd still be downloading the article.

  • ||

    Shannon Love: "A fundamental problem with environmentalism and other forms of leftism is that they have intuitive sense of how just interconnected everything in the world is."

    Although this article is entitled "The Biggest Green Mistake", nowhere does it suggest biofuels were instigated by *any* environmental agenda. It states clearly and correctly that these are promoted as energy security measures. They have also been promoted primarily by administrations knee-deep in oil investments, ie. US and Canada.

  • ||

    But we can be sure beyond a reasonable doubt that it isn't $0/ton

    Once again, assuming the conclusion. CO2 is a naturally occurring gas present in vast quantities in our atmosphere. It is not harmful to plants or animals; indeed, it is an essential plant nutrient.

    The only way to conclude that CO2 emissions impose any kind of cost is to buy into the rather more extreme AGW scenarios.

    Which, given the current ten-year plateau in global temperatures, aren't looking so good.

  • ||

    The upside to high wheat prices:

    In parts of Helmand Afghan farmers are this year sowing wheat instead of poppy - not because they have suddenly been converted to the argument that producing heroin is not in the national interest.

    Market forces have been the deciding factor - with wheat prices doubling in the past year, and the street price of heroin falling, it is now more cost effective to grow wheat.





  • ||

    it seems that most of us agree that mercury, SOX, NOX radiation etc are actual polutants...whereas some people thing the true damage of CO2 is -3$/ton...so why don't the environmental wackos concentrate on the real pollutants and once they prove they are effective at stopping those and we have more evidence that GW is going to trun us into cannibals...then we can start implementing carbon taxes?

    I guess it is becasue the environemntal propagandist don't care about real pollution.

  • LarryA||

    Avery is right when he argues, "Biofuels are purely and simply the biggest Green mistake we've ever made and we're still making it."

    Maybe. But I'd nominate the assassination of the U.S. nuclear power industry as numero uno.

  • ||

    Hugh Campbell you said,

    Although this article is entitled "The Biggest Green Mistake", nowhere does it suggest biofuels were instigated by *any* environmental agenda.

    Better tell that to the NRDC. The fact is the environmental activist community is up to their necks in the promotion of biofuels.

    Biofuels report from the National Resources Defense Council

    This new report from the National Resources Defense Council presents an aggressive plan for ending America's oil dependence. It concludes that if the U.S. government provides incentives for the development of biofuels, "America could produce the equivalent of nearly 7.9 million barrels of oil per day by 2050.



  • ||

    Chad you said,


    Ron, you missed something. Yes, the subsidies and mandates with respect to biofuels need go to. On the other hand, so does the policy of allowing fossil fuels users to dump their garbage in the pubically-owned atmosphere.

    Chad you are missing two points.

    1. The increasingly obvious fact that fossil fuels are more environmentally friendly then many of the products that are being pushed to replace them. Biofuels are a good example of this.

    2. Outside of Nuclear none of the alternatives have the ability to supply the amount of power needed.

    Trying to push the alternatives before they are technically ready is going to continue to cause environmental and supply problems while simultaneously ruining the brand image of all fossil fuel alternatives.

  • Chad||

    "it seems that most of us agree that mercury, SOX, NOX radiation etc are actual polutants...whereas some people think the true damage of CO2 is -3$/ton"

    Actually, I doubt the authors of that article believe that number to be real. It is probably the outlying result of ONE set of assumptions of ONE of their models. When you have hundreds of groups measuring and calculating something, and you see a range of values, you pick something in the middle or near where the values cluster as your best guess, not the outlier. The cluster falls around $30-50 per ton of carbon (sorry for confusing that with ton of CO2 earlier, btw).

    "1. The increasingly obvious fact that fossil fuels are more environmentally friendly then many of the products that are being pushed to replace them. Biofuels are a good example of this."

    This may be true for a few first-generation biofuels. But solar, wind, geothermal, and a host of other technologies have huge environmental benifits. All of these have the potential to provide 100% of our current power. Solar could do it ten thousand times over, actually. Nuclear is a acceptable stop-gap, however.

  • ||

    Bio-Fuels are a great example of what happens when religious fanatics with power who are simply lying about their free-market love and who do NOT believe that we can actually really harm the, God's, environment - find a creative way to support their friends (large rich farmers) with even more unearned tax money. They have done this for the few oil barons and they have done this for the defense and slaughter industries..

    The least capitalist, free industries in the US thanks to the religious right are:

    Food (specially food that needs to be enslaved and slaughtered)
    Security
    Energy

    Bio-Fuels and ethanol stem from these legacies and have very little to do with real "Greens" who, for example Green-peace, have been fighting ethanol long before Reason even knew what it was.

    Ethanol is NOT a GREEN problem - it is a special interest issue.

    The MOST pathetic thing I have heard in this context tough was: "it is harming food prices" ethanol is the same thing as the farm bill and has been set up because of the farm bill. The farm bill IS hurting food prices - not one subsidized crop out of dozens.

    Imagine what could have happened if Non-Greens had supported a carbon tax or a cap&trade system back when the farm-ethanol bill was discussed? Rather than giving tax money to large land-owners without demanding REAL results aka real reduction in CO2 - friends were handing out billions to a handful - NOT being interested in CO2...

    Because the RIGHT did NOT believe in a MARKET approach to the environment - we are NOW stuck with a typical USDA tax-burning project...

    Great idea to project it onto some imagined green-left... DOING THAT will HELP us ALL SOO MUCH...

    Please REASON! Why don't you post another million articles - years after it was sexy to discuss - about how ethanol is a bad idea. Greenpeace was writing this about 5 years ago... Way to catch up...

    NEXT REASON HEADLINES: CD-ROM sales slow down...

  • ||

    Ron,

    For once I have to say that your story is totally off the mark. What is driving up world food prices is the extremely cold weather in Asia this past winter. Western journalists are attributing the catastrophic prices to "Abnormal Weather", "Bad Weather" and "Erratic Weather". The only word they are not using is "C O L D". Did you know that accounting to the Vietnamese Communist Party news sources over 70% of the rice crop was killed in the Northern provinces of Vietnam? Vietnam is one of the world's largest rice exports. The Chinese Communist Party news sources are not reporting statistics on crop loses but the damage in China is catastrophic as these reports indicate.

    China's War on Snow Havoc
    http://www.xinhuanet.cn/english/08snow/index.htm
    http://www.xinhuanet.cn/english/08snow/tn.htm

    Some to the news stories from Vietnam are even more graphic. It is a sad commentary on the state of Western Journalism that one has to resort to reading Communist Party news feeds to learn about any event which doesn't conform to the Anthropogenic Global Warming playbook.

    The even bigger back-story is that the sun has been behaving erratically for the last 16 months now and again this story is not being reported. Some of us are beginning to seriously discuss the possibility that the "Gore Minimum" is starting over ten years earlier than expected. If the "Gore Minimum" has in fact started, and at this point that is still a very big "IF", the planetary impact will be catastrophic. Today's Sunspot Number is again ZERO and we have not yet reached Solar Minimum.

    Mike

  • Guy Montag||

    That settles it, I am converting my vehicles to steam power and skipping all of this refining nonsense. Would like to make a comparison between crude oil and corn to heat the water, but I don't have a good crude oil source, so will just have to run them on corn for a while.

  • Richard D. Masters||

    WIND, SOLAR, WAVE, GEOTHERMAL, AND OTHER NEW CLEAN ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES THREATEN THE FOSSIL AND NUCLEAR MONOPOLY THAT OWNS MOST SENATORS AND CONGRESSMEN.
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    WHILE OTHER COUNTRIES HIKE GAS TAXES TO FINANCE RENEWABLE INFRASTRUCTURE, A U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE CALLS FOR A GAS TAX HOLIDAY.
    AND THE CYNICAL PURPOSE OF THE GREAT ETHANOL FRAUD IS TO DRAW OFF FUNDING FROM TRUE RENEWABLE SOLUTIONS.
    YEARS OF TAXPAYER INVESTMENT IN NEW ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES IS SQUANDERED AS COMPANIES SEEK FOREIGN MARKETS OR ARE ACQUIRED BY FOREIGN INTERESTS.
    THE LACK OF EFFECTIVE ENERGY ALTERNATIVES KEEPS THE PRICES OF OIL PRODUCTS HIGH, WHILE OUR MILITARY HAS BEEN HIJACKED TO SERVE THE NEEDS OF INTERNATIONAL OIL CORPORATIONS AND DRACONIAN FOREIGN DESPOTS -- ALL THIS HAS BEEN PAID FOR BY LYING TO TAXPAYERS ABOUT INFLATION AND TRUE COSTS, THEN ROBBING THEM OF THEIR SAVINGS VIA DISHONEST FINANCIAL MANIPULATIONS, RESULTING IN A DEVALUED CURRENCY.
    THERE IS NO PLAN FOR THE FUTURE.
    THERE IS NO VISION.
    INERTIA RULES RAMPAGE.
    THIS COUNTRY IS BROKEN AND WE ARE IN BIG, BIG TROUBLE.

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