Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Inconvenient Ethanol Irony

If your food bill is higher this summer you can put some of the blame on the Kyoto Kultists who are pushing ethanol and biodiesel production.

Terence Corcoran explains the ironic sequence of events that will eventually hurt the 'poorest of the poor' in terms of food supply and prices; i.e. those very nations that the IPCC is fretting that global warming will impact the most.

In Mexico, for example, "corn-based tortilla prices have doubled." We're not talking gourmet food here.

I happened to catch a news clip on a local CTV station where a farmer talked about the cost of his feed doubling due to the rising price of corn. Of course this is going to impact the price he has to charge for the milk that goes to market.

It seems that no matter what we do, there are consequences. Even planting trees outside of the tropics may not necessarily be effective in reducing global warming.

Which makes me think that we should all just take a deep breath here (while we still can), and really think this thing out. Just running around like chickens with our heads cut off could very well end up being counter-productive.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

The move to ethanol in the US was never about sustainable fuel. It was about scoring political points with farmers who receive subsidies and environmentalists who like the optics. If it was anything more than crass politics they would never have done it. It’s basically Kyoto on a small scale. As long as people blindly support this stupidity they will get lots more of it.

Swift said...

Of course the forests absorb sunlight. they then use the energy to split CO2 molecules to carbon and oxygen(among other uses.) The energy gats stored in wood. I'm releasing some of that energy as heat right now in my fireplace. The hundreds of thousands of trees I can see from my yard are soring energy hat is not going to heat the planet until they decay or are burned. another half truth twisted into a lie.

Swift said...

Remember the enviornmentalist crusade in the nineties to stop the destruction of the tropical rain forests? Don't hear about it much any more do you? Ever wonder why? The forests are now being cut down to produce sugar cane. Not because everybody is eating more sugar, but to produce the green fuel ethanol. NOW THAT'S IRONY!

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Not because everybody is eating more sugar, but to produce the green fuel ethanol. NOW THAT'S IRONY!

Wow. Even environmentalists can be capitalists given the right incentives...

Anonymous said...

The saddest part of all this is that PM Harper is playing the game too. He knows that ethanol is a joke and really just an environut facade.
Got to keep the drooling classes happy with BS and half truths in order to win majority elections I suppose.

The world is going mad and Atlas will shrug...Eventually.

Metalguru

Red Tory said...

Hmmm. Just waking up to the issue are you Joanne, now that it's in the National Post?

You might be interested in reading this.

Perhaps you Conservatives should be taking Harper to task over the multi-billion dollar hoax he's pulling with ethanol as part of his lame attempt to pass himself off as giving a rat's ass about the environment.

Red Tory said...

And more here about the ethanol hoax. Blame it on environmentalists if you want, but they have moved past the idea of ethanol as a solution years ago.

Cool Blue said...

In the article the author complains that the latest budget gives money to ethanol research companies like Iogen but the author doesn't mention that Iogen specializes in producing ethanol from corn husks and stalks; the stuff that people don't eat.

Iogen is the future: producing ethanol from the stuff that farmers throw out.

mark said...

I'm glad the price of corn is going up. My father has grown corn all his life and he finally might be able to make a profit doing so. The price of corn has not gone up for years while everything made from corn has. About time farmers got a break.

liberal supporter said...

Joanne, you're slipping. You should be wondering whether Dalton will trust the farmers and the fuel stations with all that alcohol.

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps you Conservatives should be taking Harper to task over the multi-billion dollar hoax he's pulling with ethanol as part of his lame attempt to pass himself off as giving a rat's ass about the environment."

Really RT. So i guess this means Dion is twice as bad then, right?


"Mr. Dion also met with farmers about trade issues, farm income support programs, the battle to save the Canadian Wheat Board, and Saskatchewan's aspirations for ethanol and bio-diesel production.

He has always been a keen promoter of renewable fuels – especially where the growth of this sector also creates a new market for farmers.

Mr. Dion called for work to be done immediately to INCREASE Canada's existing bio-fuel targets.

The current objective is a minimum "renewable" content in all transportation fuels of not less than 5 percent by 2010. Mr. Dion wants to double that mandate to 10 percent."

liberal supporter said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
liberal supporter said...

Too bad Terence puts the word science in quotation marks. It kind of lets you know what his slant will be. He wants to chastise the IPCC for not highlighting the ethanol problems as much as the CO2 problems.

The difference, of course, is that ethanol is still in the discussion/small scale stage and the problems are fairly well known. Doing "nothing" about ethanol would have no effect, since it is not being used currently in a major way. Doing nothing about ongoing CO2 emissions could result in disaster, which is what IPCC is warning about.

There are large business interests pushing for an ethanol based fuel system, and there are lobbies for different crops to be used in this way. Currently, sugar cane in Brazil is viable, but corn in North America is much less so. It is always a difficult priority setting exercise to subsidize it just enough to compensate for the subsidies already present for fossil fuels, allowing normal growth and expansion, without creating a situation where getting the subsidy is the main business plan.

One problem is the amount of land required to grow large scale ethanol feeder plants (like corn). Switchgrass is better (more energy per acre), and I think hemp is also considered better.

The main advantage of ethanol is displacing fossil fuels. There are two parts to this. One is political, in reducing the amount of oil imported from the Middle East. Without oil revenues, the "other side" in the war on terror would not have the wherewithal to finance large scale terrorism. The second part is that the CO2 from burning the ethanol should be balanced by the CO2 used in photosynthesis in growing the grain. It isn't quite balanced, since the farming process typically uses fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuel, on the other hand, releases CO2 stored over millions of years.

Most environmentalists that I have read (at least on blogs) consider ethanol to be a very short term prospect. The idea of 5% or 10% ethanol is different than trying to go to 85% or more. For low percentages, it can be used in today's cars as is, and will have a consequent small effect on emissions. It is harder on the unmodified engine, but low levels will work. At high percentages, more modifications are needed. This is where some say completing the move to hydrogen is better.

liberal supporter said...

Joanne, could you delete my 8:58 comment? I had it in notepad which put a lot of extra line breaks in. Kind of hard to read, and 9:02 fixes it.

PGP said...

Those of us who happen to know something about the economics of energy have been telling you all that this is one of the consequences of growing crops for fuel.

That being said the US will go to great lengths and expense to mitigate their dependence on petroleum.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

L.S. - Done.

Using notepad is a good idea for a long comment though. I hate it when I go to the trouble to write something and then lose it because of Blogger not working right or something.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

You should be wondering whether Dalton will trust the farmers and the fuel stations with all that alcohol.

Ahhh!!! I just got that. Sorry, it's been a long day.

Gabby in QC said...

From the link Joanne provided:
http://www.buzzle.com/articles/133575.html
"Ways to cut carbon include:
· Introducing energy-saving light bulbs, which use 80% less electricity on average, reducing energy consumption and therefore the amount of pollution by power stations."

However, I saw a report on TV that some of those energy-saving light bulbs tend to literally melt, causing fires.

And Dr. Joe Schwarcz doesn't think the new bulbs are necessarily the answer either.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_A._Schwarcz
Schwarcz was saying on his radio show that with the regular light bulbs thermostats may be kept lower because the incandescent bulbs produce heat in addition to light, whereas the fluorescent light bulbs produce no heat, so the ambient temperature may be cooler & thus necessitate turning up the thermostats.
So what is really gained, except increased sales for bulb manufacturers?

Red Tory said...

Anon — The Liberals are out to lunch on this issue as well.

Anonymous said...

Environmentalists never cared much for poor people since they're not about to get much money from them. Environmentalists have to sell their message to people wealthy enough to support their eco-trendy lifestyles. That's all.

Dirk said...

Gabby in QC:

Do you turn on your lights in the summer time? If so, incandescent bulbs create heat that your air conditioner will need to remove. Bottom line: you don't always want heat with your light.

I've never seen or heard of a fluorescent bulb melting, and we've been using them in our house for some time.

Dirk said...

"Environmentalists never cared much for poor people since they're not about to get much money from them. Environmentalists have to sell their message to people wealthy enough to support their eco-trendy lifestyles."

Unbelievable.

I wish being an environmentalist would result in people giving me money.

Every time I come here, I can't help but shake my head at stuff like this. Why is it a bad thing to be an environmentalist?

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Every time I come here, I can't help but shake my head at stuff like this.

Ah, Dirk. You're back. To what do we owe this pleasure?


Why is it a bad thing to be an environmentalist?

I have an issue with the environmental extremists that want to force their beliefs down your throat. I also have a problem with Kyoto.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Cool Blue - Iogen sounds quite promising.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Just a few more quick comments here:

L.S. I just reread your 'thesis' here. Quite interesting and informative. I think getting away from our oil dependency as much as possible is a good thing. However, it is important to consider the ramifications of any action. Yeah, hydrogen may be a more practical alternative.

Metalguru and Red - I'm not happy with the way Harper is pandering to the environmentalist lobby. However, it may go back to the old expression, 'Be careful what you wish for'. The loudest voices usually tend to get their way, and the environmentalist lobby has a very strong voice. If environmentalism and new technologies (e.g. ethanol) are finding some kind of synergy, that would appear to be a win-win for politicians.

Gabby, I heard about the new light bulbs being a possible fire hazard as well. Some have been recalled. They must have rushed this to the market too quickly.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Anon — The Liberals are out to lunch on this issue as well.

Red, we finally agree on something.

Dirk said...

"I have an issue with the environmental extremists that want to force their beliefs down your throat. I also have a problem with Kyoto."

If it were a just question of beliefs, I could understand that. It's the automatic opposition to anyone who dares suggest that we need to reduce our CO2 emissions that baffles me. Anti-environmentalism seems to be the default stance here.

I'm glad you distinguished between Kyoto and environmentalism in your comment. Many people that care about the environment aren't fans of Kyoto either.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

It's the automatic opposition to anyone who dares suggest that we need to reduce our CO2 emissions that baffles me.

Dirk, I don't have a problem with an attempt to reduce CO2 emissions right here in Canada; especially if it helps reduce the choking summer smog in Southern Ontario.

Many people that care about the environment aren't fans of Kyoto either.

That's right. We may have more common ground than you realize.

Gabby in QC said...

"Do you turn on your lights in the summer time?"
- No, I read in the dark. :-)

"I've never seen or heard of a fluorescent bulb melting,"
- It's the new "twisty" "eco-friendly" ones, which sell for about $7.95 a pop when I bought mine, not the long tubes.
"Gabby, I heard about the new light bulbs being a possible fire hazard as well."
I knew I hadn't dreamt or invented that bit of news!