Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ignorance may really be bliss (or not)

Did you know that Dave Matthews' tour bus is a diesel and runs on recycled deep-fryer restaurant oil? I'm not sure what about that is more twisted - the thought that Dave Matthews fills up his gas tank with Mickey D's left-overs, or that we actually eat food fried in something that can power a rock band's tour bus.

Remember that scene in Sleeper, when Woody Allen asks for wheat germ and organic honey? And they gently tell him that it's steak and hot fudge that are good for you, that the other stuff will kill you? The biofuel thing is like that - just when you thought you had it all figured it out (petroleum bad, ethanol good) - wham, bam. Strike that, reverse it.

"Any biofuel that causes land clearing is likely to increase global warming," says ecologist Joseph Fargione of The Nature Conservancy, lead author of the second study. "It takes decades to centuries to repay the carbon debt that is created from clearing land." (read it and weep)

Because, evidently, it's not all about what happens when you burn the fuel...it's also about what happens when you make the fuel. Oh, right. That. Plus, it turns out some ethanol is more equal than others - soy may be better than corn. But still bad. And switchgrass (don't ask, I have no idea) better than both. Not sure if it's better and still bad, or better and good. But it seems to be better.

And, as usual, the politicians don't seem to be quite on the same page as the scientists (haven't we seen that movie before - just recently in fact, with Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal? It wasn't half bad, if I remember correctly, RT:46) - the EU recently made this announcement, and I must quote, because I couldn't paraphrase nearly as well:

Despite intense debate surrounding the growing global food crises, the European Union today defended expanding the use of biofuels in all 27 member countries...“You can’t change a political objective without risking a debate on all the other objectives,” meaning that changing biofuels targets could lead to questioning the entire climate change package.

You know what they say, "don't let the facts get in the way."

But wait, there's more...

None of these costly impacts get considered when politicians tout the alleged societal benefits of corn-based ethanol. Nor do proponents like to mention the huge amounts of petroleum needed to grow corn for ethanol. (Conventional fertilizers and pesticides are made from oil.)
By most calculations – including those of the new Swiss study – these energy inputs match or exceed the energy provided by ethanol made from corn. In other words, we are wasting public money and irreplaceable water and soil resources in pursuit of a false promise of energy independence. (
there really is more)

Repeat after me: Ignorance is bliss. Ignorance is bliss. Funny, no matter how many times I repeat it, I don't believe it anymore either. I guess I'll go figure out what on earth switchgrass is. And if it's better and still bad, or better and good. Check back - I'll share.

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