May 2008

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Joe Otten

OTOH it is good in beer. See: there's two sides to everything.


It seems to me that they support ethanol because it sounds to them like the best idea at this time. Maybe they're incompetent, maybe just too busy trying to get themselves elected to research anything thoroughly. Maybe both.

But you're not incompetent, at least not this time...because you actually offered some source material to back up your opinions and assertions, or at least show where they come from. It's your blog, of course; you're free to be sourced or unsourced, logical or illogical, with pants or without...but I will say, it's a huge improvement.


Your argument is based on the fact that the Time's article is right. But it has at least one blatant error: it says that all cars in Brazil run on ethanol. This is not true. There are also many other misinterpretations; I'd double check my sources before considering ethanol disastrous.

Of course there is an ethanol lobby, just as there is an oil lobby too. And if you ask me if I prefer to grow corn or to go to war, I'd choose corn hands down.


Interesting link:

I couldn't believe the US subsidy is $1 per gallon of blended fuel. This is wildly in excess of the value of any benefit in terms of reduced greenhouse gas emissions, even if it was for 100% biofuel. In fact, because most of the blend is actually fossil-fuel, it amounts to a direct subsidy for fossil fuel use (that has a little bit of biofuel added). Congress fucked up, and yes, all of the presidential candidates are incompetent.


2 years ago a 40 lb. Bale of hay cost me $1.50. Last week I paid $5 each. It's mostly because of planting so much corn. I live in central PA.


2 years ago a 40 lb. Bale of hay cost me $1.50. Last week I paid $5 each. It's mostly because of planting so much corn. I live in central PA.


When has good science ever gotten in the way of a political campaign? When has good science ever been heeded by a poltician? Even with all the problems of global warming theory (bad placement of temperature sensors, wrong theories about relation of air and water temps at sea, etc), the politicians are still bandying it about, even if cranking the "climate predictor program" backward doesn't postdict the Little Ice Age.

This is just one more instance of politicians ignoring the details.


Time is correct. Time is just like a watch that does not keep accurate time. Sometimes they are correct, but giving them credit for the accident does not make sense.


Anyone see the Al Gore piece on 60 minutes on Sunday? He showed the array of solar panels he has on his huge mansion. It probably couldn't power a 1200 square foot house, let alone a 12,000 square foot one like his. It is there totatlly for show.


"the next leader of the United States [will] be certifiably incompetent on day one, no matter what time the phone rings"

At least, that's the way I'm voting... not voting... um, hmm.

Is there going to be a checkbox on the ballot for "do-over"?


What else should we expect from a system that of uses popularity? Didn't work in high school. Doesn't work in politics. As the pool of people grows in size, majority will select people who are mediocre at best and down right ignorant at worst. It works like a bell carve. The larger the sample (more people that can vote for someone) the more average the person will be. It presses the more intelligent and informed voters out on the fringes of the bell. This might be the cause for radical left and right views. If anything, we should be encouraging people to stay home or find a new system of selecting people for office.

I like the idea of a lottery with a vote to continue in office. With our entrenched bureaucratic system it really doesn't matter too much if the person really knows that much anyways. Even if it is popular vote or not.


Mrzoom:"Solar is the only way."

So, you are for biofuels, which is solar energy collected through photosynthesis. I suspect that is not what you meant. But, I don't think we should give up on the collection of solar energy via photosynthesis.

There are only 5 sources of energy on the planet:
Nuclear Fission
Nuclear Fusion (non-solar)
Transfer of kinetic energy from the Earth's rotation to the moon's orbit (Tides)

The energy we do not want to use is ancient solar energy stored underground in the form of hydrocarbon deposits. If photosynthesis is the best method in a given situation then it should be used. With the caveat that sufficient photosynthetic solar energy needs to be collected to feed everyone.

Anarchy In Your Head

"...will the next leader of the United States be certifiably incompetent on day one, no matter what time the phone rings?"

Yes, and that's obvious even without the ethanol issue.


Based on everything I've heard all ethanol shouldn't necessarily be thrown out for economic reasons, but corn-based ethanol in America? Shitty idea.

As for things like sugar cane ethanol? More economical, but only because of human rights abuses.


(Matt - I work at a non-profit environmental and geographical research company. We have about 18TB of data just from the last year or so that chillingly rationalize that "prophetic fortune telling behavior" you mentioned.)

Solar is the only way. Ask any alien. All other forms of energy are diluted and inefficient, or produce horrible by-products. Maybe the recent advances in solar-cell efficiency (up to almost 40% now) will start to turn the tide. Even with the old cells, you can lease a whole-house solar generating system from CitizenRe for about $100/month. (I'm getting one.)

As far as politicians go, I don't care anymore. They are all living in a dreamworld. How can any hierarchy of publicly elected and privately appointed officials, modeled on prepositions which have been out of date for over 200 years, truly reflect the vast swarming mass of ideas, hopes, fears, and needs of 200+ million people? I doubt that any of them have ever played SimCity, much less read Richard Heinberg's book (except maybe Bill & Al.. who obviously read books with a little more substance than "The Pet Goat"). Heck, McCain claims that he doesn't even understand the economy!

Even a blind man knows when the sun is shining.

Within the next century, AI, nanotechnology, and genetic engineering are going to completely obliviate the need for our current systems of government, either by completely destroying the entire biosphere, or by transforming our entire existence as a species into something greater, and stranger, than anything we can now imagine.


Remember 'Stupidity Plus Luck Equals Leadership'?

Seems like another 'Leader' will move in to the white house :)


Just checked again: two other commenters mentioned the madness of the farm subsidies - good for them.

E: there is a good answer to "why not give the food surplus to hungry people?" You probably know this but the answer is, because that would destroy the livelihoods of farmers in those countries, where most people are farmers. They'd get loads of free (subsidised) US grain and have no income for anything else. In fact, the US has foisted parts of its subsidy-induced grain mountains onto developing countries, with exactly this effect, using various forms of blackmail.


Maybe my earlier post on the economics of biofuels wasn't sufficiently clear. Biofuels should be used if they are profitable or break even when the prices are right. To get correct prices we need:
- the removal of distortions such as subsidies, trade rules such as bans on the import of Brazilian sugar-cane-sourced biofuel, and mandatory levels of biofuel in oil production or sales.
- efficient pricing of carbon emissions and sequestration - the Kyoto Protocol provides the best available framework for this, despite its flaws. The signatories are working on how to efficiently price deforestation in developing countries, which should be a help.

A couple of comment's on Jeff's post. 1. New Zealand's Aquaflow company has basically mastered the production of ethanol from algae and is pushing toward commercialisation. 2. Geothermal power generation is not "speculative". It's thoroughly tested and commercialised. It's the main electricity source in Iceland and has been used in New Zealand for decades. Interested parties should contact Mighty River Power.

I'm delighted by "reason again" and his/her rhetorical question for Scott: "incompotent?"


The conservatives hate ethanol, the tree-huggers at the sierra club hate it, and everyone who has to pay for raising food costs hate it.

I would think that at this point PHB is looking like a better canidate for pres than any of those three.


Whatever gave you the idea that the environmental movement was actually about improving our environment? That is just the cover story to promote a feel-good luddite agenda.


Yes, ethanol and virtual all biofuels border on scams. The issue with biofuels (and hybrid cars) is that they extend the hegemony of the oil companies. Yes, you mix biofuels with gas, but it's still mostly gas. And yes, hybrids use a teensy bit less gas, but it's still gas.

When you add in the agricultural multinationals, it's not hard to see why money-hungry politicians support fuel made from a combination of corn extract and oil extract.

We need to shuck all these half-measures and move out of the age of hydrocarbons and into the Age of Hydrogen.


Jim Cramer from Mad Money on CNBC has long held that corn-based Ethanol is a disastrous "strategy" for energy independence. It wastes foodstuffs, energy, and water to make it, delivers fewer MPG by volume than gasoline, and is too corrosive to transport by pipeline. He has long contended that the only reason it's even on the table is because Iowa votes first.

Not that ethanol itself is a bad renewable strategy. Brazil is energy independent in large part because they produce cheap ethanol from sugar cane. But they can't import it to the U.S. because of prohibitive tariffs on both ethanol and sugar.

Cramer had Hillary Clinton on a few weeks ago and asked her about her support for ethanol. She defended corn-based ethanol as an interim solution until we can produce cellulosic ethanol economically. I can buy that -- it helps solve the chicken-and-egg dilemma of not having the infrastructure (train cars, pumping stations, etc.) because there are no ethanol-fueled cars, and not having the cars because we don't have the infrastructure.

I think history will look at us today and think we were freaking nuts to BURN oil! It's so crucial a raw material for all the stuff we make from plastic. And when it's gone, we can burn other stuff for fuel, but what else can we make plastic from? It seems just as stupid as our ancestors, who endured years of danger and deprivation sailing to the far side of the world to kill whales, so we could burn their fat in our lamps!



Hey, I beat Time by two years:

As far as "incompetent"... by definition, the President is always good at getting campaign money from Archer Daniels Midland. What else constitutes "competence" for a President?


Neither. Voters like being lied to. It feels good.

Marcas McPhee

Ethanol is indeed a terrible solution, but support for it proves nothing. Politicians support the issues that are best for themselves and a select constituency. For example, Senator Brownback from Kansas has no political option but to support corn based ethanol. Other senators can still support big oil, while making it appear that they care about the environment.

Unless we are going to demand that our politicians stop lying, we shouldn't worry to much that they support an economically and environmentally disastrous solution.

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