TCS Daily


Putting the Tort in Tortilla

By Alvaro Vargas Llosa - February 7, 2007 12:00 AM

For half a century, Western guilt made the lives of the poor even worse by propping up despots and corrupt bureaucracies through foreign aid. A new form of Western guilt, environmental fundamentalism, is making the lives of the poor even worse in Mexico after triggering a huge rise in the price of corn -- the chief component of the tortilla -- thanks to a government-induced increase in the demand for ethanol in the United States.

This constitutes poignant evidence that the drive for carbon reduction can be costly. And not just for the poor: Many European countries, who attacked the United States savagely when it refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, will not meet their goals in terms of reducing emissions by 2012 because they have discovered what a high school student could have told them: Life is one constant trade-off. Meeting the Kyoto goals would mean sacrificing the economic well-being of many Europeans at a time when fewer and fewer people are sustaining an ever-growing number of retired citizens.

Environmental fundamentalism has made it a sacrilege to even raise a brow at some of the premises of those who predict an apocalypse if massive carbon reductions are not made mandatory. Even though a number of scientists indicate that global warming is not as bad as is generally assumed and that historical precedent points to recurring patterns, it is now very hard to argue that a much more thorough debate is needed before any drastic action is taken and that governments need to carefully weigh the consequences of the mandatory caps that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is proposing.

Scientists are sometimes good at making bad predictions. In 1972, The Club of Rome famously drew attention to the fact that the known reserves of oil would last only 30 years and that economic growth was doomed because the world was running out of raw materials. However, in the last 50 years the consumption of various raw materials has risen by a factor of between 2 and 10. The known reserves of oil have kept going up -- and now there is even talk of oil possibly being a renewable resource.

In the 1960s, it was fashionable to predict that, at the going trend, the total world population would soon exceed the capacity to produce food. And yet, in the last half-century developing countries have seen their agricultural output rise by more than 50 percent.

Now the guilty minds of the West are telling everyone that if we sacrifice 1 percent of the world's GDP every year, about $500 billion, we will save the planet in the next few decades. The same body that sponsored the recent IPCC report on the environment, the U.N., told us a few years ago that if the rich gave out $75 billion to underdeveloped countries annually, poverty would be extinct before long. These two competing forms of guilt are mutually -- and absurdly -- exclusive. Implemented together, they would amount to making the world poorer in order to make it cleaner, so that the rich could continue to have a planet in which to send unproductive money to the poor so that the poor could continue to pollute the Earth because they will lack the wealth to invest in clean energy -- and therefore end up extinguishing the planet anyway.

It gets so absurd that, according to Bjorn Lomborg, the author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist," if we take into account various scientific estimates, the cost of global warming in the next 100 years would be pretty much the same as the cost of implementing Kyoto, which would have a very small effect on greenhouse gases anyway.

Thinking about, and discussing, global warming is a good thing. Investing in clean energy can be a good thing, too. But opting for measures that could provoke an economic catastrophe for people in whose name we are trying to save the planet may be the worst case of friendly fire ever to come from Western guilt.


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297 Comments

Abiotic Oil
I don't think there is a convincing argument for the existence of abiotic petroleum and natural gas. Even if there were, the formation rate is certain to be orders of magnitude lower than our current consumption so it's moot anyway.

Peak (cheap, conventional) oil is a fact, the only question is when. If Kenneth Deffeyes (Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak) is correct, we've already seen peak world production and production in 2015 will be 90% of what it is today. With the current global warming hysteria, good luck getting, say, coal to oil plants built in time to do any good.

Don't be so pessimistic
If the earth was really on it's way to running out of oil we would see the prices soar much higher than now. Smart speculators would know that if they kept the oil in the ground or stored it somewhere they would get a much better price in, say 15, or 25 years. So why are we not seeing prices rising so dramatically?

Because oil traders know that before we run out of oil we will undoubtedly have found new alternatives. In 15 years windmills or solar plants could easily be competetive.

So there is no reason for concern as long as the government don't enforce price regulations because oil industry would start hoarding oil (to sell it more expensive in the future).

Quote "The Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones. And the Oil Age will not come to an end because we run out of oil."

Nuclear Power
When the enironmental fundamentalist begin to advocate for nuclear power, then I MIGHT believe they are not socialists trying to destroy the west.

Green Nuclear Power advocates
I think a few environmentalists have advocated nuclear power, but they are the rare exception.

Patrick Moore, GreenPeace founder, is there. Bjorn Lomborg is there. But that's about it and they are ostracized by their peers.

peak oil
The evidence that we have reached peak oil can only be acheived by ignoring the obvious.
Deffeyes makes the mistake of mixing proven reserves with estimated reserves.

In the past 5 years, 3 huge new deposits have been found.

At current consumption levels, Canada and the US have between them, some 400 years worth of shale oil and tar sands. Several oil companies are building plants to process shale oil, because at current prices, shale oil is cost effective.
When that runs out, we have over a thousand years worth of coal. Coal can be burned directly, or converted to oil or gas.

Another enviro for nukes
I think his name is Lovelock? The guy who came up with Gaia Theory. He's been very active in his support for nuclear power. And the other enviro's have turned on him for it.

Pig Manure Converted to Crude Oil
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/07/0701_040702_pigoil.html


If pig s**t can be converted to crude oil in a lab in 15 minutes, why do you think it would take a long time for subducted organic material to be converted to crude oil?

Mexicans can eat something else.
The poor Mexican corn farmer might be able to sell his corn for more money than he would get from the local tortilla factory.

He can use the profits to buy something else to eat.

Thermal depolymerization
Any organic waste can be converted into oil-- that is, into the medium-length carbon chains we find so useful when fed into a combustion engine. Hospital waste, grass clippings, slaughterhouse offal (a large pilot plant is operating now in Missouri), even topsoil, can be fed into the chamber and out comes your oil.

Only problem, it's not cheap. Not in terms of dollars and, more importantly, not in terms of energy. The magic ingredients are heat and pressure. And that means you need an energy source-- natural gas, maybe-- to create the energy store-- your instant hydrocarbons.

So it turns out to be one of those quickie panaceas, all the rage for a season. Like hydrogen was last year. You can get therms out of the back end, all right-- so long as you put therms in the front end.

Then there's the need for raw organics, to feed the hungry machine. If you need to run America's vehicle fleet you want to supply what, a half billion tankfuls of gas each week? That means you have to come up with several billion tons of unwanted organic waste each week. I don't think the American public can flush fast enough to keep up with this demand.

Bottom line, our gasoline-powered economy works well only to the extent that fuel can be gained at little cost beyond pumping it out of the ground, nearly ready to burn.

There is a proven method to get oil out of the sand?
Cause I think its all theory. Saying that I think there has allread been some considerable investment in buying land and setting up exploration.

ethanol is efficient but why use it now
Gas has about 2 times the energy of Ethanol, as I recall, and Gas is way cheaper. The thing that bothers me is I still hear people stating that it costs more (in energy) to produce Ethanol then you get out of it. This is based on 70's tech.

Nowadays you get about 2 times the energy that you put in. The problem is where do you get the corn? or sugar beets, or what ever. Price will go up.... no choice there.

So I want gas until it aint at the pump no more.

On the Cheap
Only problem, it's not cheap.


This is where some aptitude with economics would be helpful. "Cheap" is a relative term- once one good rises in price, the alternative looks better.

So why isn't gas more expensive?
"If the earth was really on it's way to running out of oil we would see the prices soar much higher than now."

We will. It's just getting started.

It was only back around 2002 that the experts in oil imagined prices would stabilize between $30 and $40 a barrel, according to everything they thought they knew. They were wrong.

If you're reading TCS, I assume you believe in the link between commodity supply and demand that determines price. Then why not google up the S/D curve for oil, and see why the price has suddenly jumped to $60?

Production is currently running flat out, with a razor thin margin for increasing production. Demand is scheduled to grow very sharply, as the emerging rich in places like China and India purchase their first family autos.

The smart money understands that in the long run prices will be going nowhere but up. But the spot market (deliveries over the next six months or so) could go a little up, or a little down. The time scale you're thinking in matters a lot.

The stone age did not end because we ran out of stones. But until we find something new to power our vehicles, gasoline will be getting more expensive as time goes on.

And corn-based ethanol is a dumb idea on many levels-- it's more expensive than gas and it's an inferior fuel. It burns out the soil, it's energy-intensive to make (massive natural gas inputs required) and it pollutes the downstream environment with agricultural runoff (excess fertlizer). The only good thing you can say about it is that it makes businesses like ADM and Cargill very rich.

That's why it's being touted as this year's cure-all.

The energy source of the future
Corn based ethanol is just a gimmick to subsidize corn growers and run the price up. It's designed to boost the corn market and provide the illusion that we're doing something about our current buzzword, "energy independence".

Last year large corn operations took $9,500,000,000 of our tax dollars in subsidies. Even so, adding ethanol to the gas raises the pump price-- it doesn't lower it.

Plus, you get fewer therms out of a gallon of ethanol than you get out of a gallon of gas. Your jalopy gets fewer MPGs.

Plus, Mexicans find they can't afford to eat tortillas any more. And as a result we'll be seeing more of them show up in this country, looking for work.

Plus, corn farming on a large scale is energy intensive. It uses up the soil, so you need to add massive amounts of fertilizer. Where does fertilizer come from? It comes from burning huge amounts of natural gas.

Plus, overapplication to the soil in the Mississippi watershed results in a huge, intractable Dead Zone in the Gulf. Where there could be shrimp, if we didn't grow so much corn.

It's a waste of good topsoil and it's a waste of good dollars, just to have an expensive fuel that performs poorly. But, it's this year's quick fix for all that ails us. It's those Ay-rabs forcing us into this corner.

No Subject
"If the earth was really on it's way to running out of oil we would see the prices soar much higher than now."

We will. It's just getting started.

If you are really that sure then why don't you buy lots of oil now? If the price is sure to go up as much as you say, it would be a perfect long-term investment. But it's not. Do you really believe you have information than the market?

"Production is currently running flat out, with a razor thin margin for increasing production. Demand is scheduled to grow very sharply, as the emerging rich in places like China and India purchase their first family autos."

and still prices are not higher? (60$ a barrel is not much for a commidity so important and which we will soon run out of)

Wind and nuclear energy are ok alternatives. You can even use the energy they generate to produce hydrogen which can be used as a fuel. Although they are still more expensive today than oil-produced energy, according to oil-price they should be competetive in the future.

Oil Shale: History, Incentives, and Policy
Oil Shale: History, Incentives, and Policy
Summary
from: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL33359.pdf

Oil shale is prevalent in the western states of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.
The resource potential of these shales is estimated to be the equivalent of 1.8 trillion
barrels of oil in place. Retorted oil shale yields liquid hydrocarbons in the range of
middle-distillate fuels, such as jet and diesel fuel. However, because oil shales have
not proved to be economically recoverable, they are considered a contingent resource
and not true reserves. It remains to be demonstrated whether an economically
significant oil volume can be extracted under existing operating conditions. In
comparison, Saudi Arabia reportedly holds proved reserves of 267 billion barrels.
Federal interest in oil shale dates back to the early 20th Century, when the Naval
Petroleum and Oil Shale Reserves were set aside. Out of World War II concerns for
a secure oil supply, a Bureau of Mines program began research into exploiting the
resource. Commercial interest followed during the 1960s. After a second oil
embargo in the 1970s, Congress created a synthetic fuels program to stimulate largescale
commercial development of oil shale and other unconventional resources. The
federal program proved short-lived, and commercially backed oil shale projects
ended in the early 1980s when oil prices began declining.
The current high oil prices have revived the interest in oil shale. The Energy
Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT) identified oil shale as a strategically important domestic
resource, among others, that should be developed. EPACT also directed the
Secretary of Defense to develop a separate strategy to use oil shale in meeting
Department of Defense (DOD) requirements when doing so is in the national interest.
Tapping unconventional resources, such as oil shale, has been promoted as a means
of reducing dependence on foreign oil and improving national security.
Opponents of federal subsidies for oil shale argue that the price and demand for
crude oil should act as sufficient incentives to stimulate development. Projections
of increased demand and peaking petroleum production in the coming decades tend
to support the price-and-supply incentive argument in the long term.
The failure of oil shale has been tied to the perennially lower price of crude oil,
a much less risky conventional resource. Proponents of renewing commercial oil
shale development might also weigh whether other factors detract from the resource’s
potential. Refining industry profitability is overwhelmingly driven by light passenger
vehicle demand for motor gasoline, and oil-shale distillate does not make ideal
feedstock for gasoline production. Policies that discourage the wider use of middledistillates
as transportation fuels indirectly discourage oil shale development.
Because the largest oil shale resources reside on federal lands, the federal
government would have a direct interest and role in the development of this resource.
This report will be updated as new developments occur.

What is the heat and pressure at 10-20 miles in the earth?
Nucler reactors, in particul breeder reactors can reactors can create hydrogen from the ocean forever.

Holy Frijoles!
Except for two minor details...

The poor Mexican farmer probably doesn't own the land or the crop and the poor Mexicans living in the slums of Mexico don't have land, crops, jobs, or cheap food. There is plenty of government corruption but apparently it's not very filling.

Want to stop the illegal immigration? Regime change in Mexico...

I knew it was cold...
but I didn't expect Hell to freeze over.

I agree with this entire post.

Interesting note on IPCC report...
The release of the IPCC's political document: Assessment Report 4, Summary for Policymakers, is not the actual IPCC report. As it says it is a political summary.

What is interesting is that the actual report will be retained for another three months to facilitate editing TO SUIT THE SUMMARY!

The IPCC procedures state that:

"Changes (other than grammatical or minor editorial changes) made after acceptance by the Working Group or the Panel shall be those necessary to ensure consistency with the Summary for Policymakers or the Overview Chapter" - Appendix A to the Principles Governing IPCC Work

Please tell me what field of science allows for the body of the study (you know the part with the actual science in it?) to be altered to conform with the political summary.

I know many of the true believers of AGW believe that consensus = science but even this should be a raised alarm that science has taken a back seat at the IPCC.

yes
there are cost effective ways of extracting - given the current price of oil
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_shale

Good point
This foolish nonsense needs to be stopped. Release the information your study is based on the the actual study and summary; not some politically altered crap.

Greenies and Oil Shortages
Folks like Roy are right when they state that our oil refineries are running "flat out" and we have "razor thin" margins of oil-based fuel supplies. They're wrong when they attribute those thin margins to declining supplies of crude oil. Our refineries are running "flat out" because Greenies and their pet politicians have been successful in stopping construction of new refineries in many parts of the U.S. California, for example, has not allowed a new refinery to be built within the state since the 1970s. Meanwhile, domestic demand, along with demand from China, India and other developing nations has grown exponentially. Gee, you think there might be a connection between skyrocketing demand, a refusal to build new refineries and the high cost of fuel? Who would have thunk?

Syncrude
Open this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syncrude

Canada is once again, our best friend. I was an early investor in Canadian oil sand trusts, but their tax structure is loopy and about to change for the worse, so I am regretfully, out.

Making corn pay
Thanks-- this is the most cordial response I've seen from you in some time.

TDP (thermal depolymerization) and allied processes is not cheap-- either in terms of dollars or in therms of energy produced. It's close to being ready for prime time, but it's not there yet.

And of course I say this in the knowledge that anything on earth is only cheap or dear in relation to its replacement commodities. Air is cheaper than cheap, for instance. But if you have a scuba tank and know a drowning man, you could sell it to him for all the wealth he possesses.

So let's say the alternative fuel is gasoline. And the one you are trying to put a price on is corn-based ethanol. Let's see... it costs more to produce, and it doesn't make your car go as far... what to do?

I have it! You bribe your Congress members to introduce legislation funding it through the back door of subsidies at the production level and again at the refining level. It's capitalism at its purest!

Exactly
Why commit suicide when the patient has a cold?

Liberal Democrats
And all theis Ethanol is brought to you courtesy of the Democratic Party. It is stupid. We need to develop oil here, like in Alaska short term, build Nuclear facilities and then start looking at water decomposition to generate hydrogen. Since it is a net energy loss Nuclear is the only choice for decomposition. All this corn and biodiesel is a crock of waste.

Until the left gets real things will decline. Of course, it is not about the enviornment, it is about power...

sheesh
In your world, geo-political concerns have no impact on oil prices?

Production in some places is running flat out. In other places it has been cut way back. In other places lack of investment in infrastructure has caused production to fall.

Once the enviros stop preventing us from getting new oil, the price of oil will drop dramatically.

fables
roy has told us on many occassions that it is not the greenies who are preventing new refineries from being built.

Since the oil companies run the govt, they are the ones preventing new refineries, so that the oil companies can charge obscene prices and blame it on the shortage.

yes
there are a number of methods.
One that I've read of involves steam.
Another involves the use of solvents.

Ah, yes...Big Oil Baddies....Now I get it.
How dumb of me! Yeah, it's Big Oil that's behind the high costs! They're behind the war in Irag, too, aren't they? And they're causing Global Warming, (it used to be Global Cooling, but let's not talk about that!), and probably the fact that your shoes are pinching. Greenies have nothing to do with our oil problems. They're the good guys. They just want to help mankind. Yeah, right!

more "science" from the SPM
In the SPM, they note that there are 9 major factors that are used to simulate the climate in the models. (In the last report, it was 12.)

Of these 9, 6 are known with low, to low-medium confidence.

If 2/3rds of your input factors are known with less than medium confidence, then this isn't science, it's nothing more than wild a**ed guessing.

And to think the Kyoto backers keep telling us that the science is settled.

Nope, the ethanol mandate is bi-partisan stupidity
A lot of things the Democrats do are stupid.

A lot of things the Republican do are stupid.

Colossal stupidity on the level of the ethanol boondoggle requires the support of both parties.

The ethanol mandate is a big win for the parties. They get to spend a lot of money, they look like they're doing something and they still get to bash Big Oil for the high cost of the ethanol-gasoline fuel. They mandate a solution and they have no responsibility for the outcome.

I don't disagree with your solutions, just that the ethanol mandate is restricted to the Dems.

The Tortilla War
As a Mexican (in Mexico), you must realize that a lot of things get exagerated. Especially by those who monopolize a lot of the goods and services in my country. The tortilla issue is just one more of those things.
Warehouses with tons of corn were discovered. Hording in order to increase the price, is supposedly illegal. We have yet to see anyone prosecuted. I doubt that we ever will.
Another issue at play here is the inadequate use of farm land. There are millions of acres which are non-productive, simply because bad politics gets in the way.
If the U.S. really had a vision of future corn production, the best road would be paying more attention to Mexican corn production, instead of paying for oil to a quasi-governmental company like PEMEX.
Until someone sees a clear picture of what is actually happening in this country, opinions like yours are a dime a dozen.

The author's big mistake is in assuming
The author's big mistake is in assuming live is less valuable than GNP.

With press releases displaying greed ethics like his, it is no wonder that people are confused when science tells them what is really happening.

There is no debate. You do not 'debate science'. The statement we use in science is theory guides, measurement dictates.

The measurement evidence is in. Anthropogenic greenhouse gases are producing global warming. This is resulting in climate change that is killing people and ruining economies. Katrina is case in point.

We also now know that spin doctors, many who were bought by Exxon-Mobile, have lied to the public-at-large. This not only resulting in a critical situation with regard to global climate change, but also has damaged the status of science in general. I suppose we will have fewer American children choosing science as a career. We will therefore grow even more dependent on EU and Asian technology as time goes on.

It is difficult for the real science to be heard above the propaganda put out by corporations like Exxon-Mobile. The later have the money to brainwash the public. Scientists are busy doing their jobs and so don't see this as a fight. But it is a fight for truth. This propaganda attack could well harm the very fabric of our society and America may fall, not because of terrorism, but because of corporatism.

The flaw in Pimentel's argument
The flaw in Pimentel's argument against the use of biofuels is he was basing his energy estimates on current agriculture practice. That is why he could only get his work published as a chapter in an obscure encyclopedia. His science reviewers saw through the poor logic. Among other flaws, like miscalculating energy costs, which were later correct by DOE scientists, he added the energy cost of fertilizer, etc. into his equation.

Turns out that one need not even use agricultural production as a feedstock for biomass-based fuels. The December 8 issue of Science magazine showed that range grasses actually have better yields than corn or sawgrass. Biodiversity wins again and no one was really surprised.

Just thought you should know that while you are stuck in the past (like a true fossil) science is moving forward.

What science isn't...
is perfectly on display in Stephen's post.

The science is complete! No more discussion is possible. A simple and simplistic tactic to end the debate before it even begins.

BTW: where the hell did you come up with the idea that science is not debatable? Scientists have been doing so for hundreds of years. Usually the debate centers around the thoeries and the facts, not the politics and the money as the AGW debate does. This is yet another unscientific tactic that intends to shut down honest skepticism by changing the definition of debate.

All skeptics are paid for by Exxon! It is mere greed! Yet another favorite which shows the anti-Capitalistic leanings of the AGW alarmist crowd. Quite out-of-date since a great many skeptics have received no money from Exxon at all.

It is interesting that a scientist can have their educated and seasoned opinion thrown out of a debate due to a $10,000 grant but the billions flowing into the pockets of those who affirm AGW theory remain unquestioned.

This is my favorite:

>"Katrina is case in point."

What case is that? That you are an idiot? Even the IPCC report, or at the least draft version, says that Katrina can not be connected with AGW based on the actual data. If they won't connect the two that should give you an idea as to how weak that connection is.

>"It is difficult for the real science to be heard above the propaganda put out by corporations like Exxon-Mobile."

That sentence should read:

It is difficult for real science to be heard when real science is thrown aside for such anti-scientific concepts of consensus, theoretical conditions only found in computer models, and alarmism for the purpose of pushing policy.

There. That's better.

Yes
But the Democrats are the primary party that opposes anything except these stupid programs. Otherwise we would be pumping oil in Alaska and refining it in new refineries...

If Deffeyes is wrong it has nothing to do with mixing proven and estimated reserves
Which you would know if you had actually read either of Deffeyes' books instead of relying on someone else's incorrect analysis. The key Hubbert plot (Beyond Oil, paperback, 2006 p.43) is annual production (P) divided by cumulative production (Q) versus cumulative production or P/Q on the y axis and Q on the x axis. There are no reserves in the data either proven or estimated. The world production data from 1983 to 2005 can be fit to a straight line with a negative slope and and intercept on the x axis of two trillion barrels. As of 2005, cumulative production is slightly over one trillion barrels. As the saying goes, do the math.

Nobody questions that total fossil fuel reserves vastly exceed total available petroleum. The problem is that gasoline and diesel are not replaceable in the near term (20 years or so) and it takes time, money and political will to build plants to make gasoline and diesel from other fossil fuels in sufficient quantity to replace those fuels currently produced from petroleum. I do note see that happening fast enough. Given that these plants produce lots of CO2 and the current global warming hysteria, I don't see it happening any time soon either.

As far as recent discoveries of oil fields in deep waters in the Gulf, it will take at least a decade before those fields can be developed enough to make a significant contribution to world oil production. The result will be like Prudhoe bay and US oil production. There will be a bump in the smooth curve, but total production will not exceed the peak.

Saudi reserve estimates
I would take published Saudi and other OPEC country reserve estimates with a large grain of salt. They want to discourage what they would consider the premature development of alternate fuels. Inflating reserve estimates discourages the development of alternatives.

Don't debate; measure.
Once you have the measurements in hand, there is little else can be said.

Science "debate" takes place in the science literature, not in the popular press.

According to the statement you agreed to when you reviewed the contents of the 4th IPCC assessment report, you were not to reveal the contents.

So I assume you are an earth scientists then?

Exxon Mobile ran a propaganda campagne against global warming scientists. This is all coming out now and under congressional investigation. Thank heavens for the turn over in our government's politics!

Beware the Pusher
Funny-- I thought it was the President who was pushing ethanol as a sure cure. Along with a bunch of corn state reps, of course-- many of which are Ds.

Do you suppose he is a Manchurian Candidate? What have they done with the real Dubya?? We need him now-- more than ever. :)

Just an old fossil
Actually I'm in a couple of discussion groups now who are working with the issue. And I think you could profitably study it a little more deeply.

Corn looks fairly attractive compared with ordinary farm chaff from the standpoint of money. But it still doesn't compare with fossil fuel. And it does use a huge amount of fossil fuel. Please recall that the outfits making the money are huge midwestern concerns, and that the only way they can farm tens of thousands of acres productively year after year is with high-input, mechanized farming methods. Inherent to having them supply corn in even a fraction of the amount needed is the need for them to employ energy intensive methods.

To give you an idea of the scale required, if every acre being put up in corn in the United States were devoted to ethanol production, and none to the food supply, it would only replace 12 percent of our current oil consumption.

Agricultural chaff and prairie grass are good, abundant feedstocks. But they don't price out yet at curent prices. Call us back when gas hits four bucks.

Also there is a need to return corn, wheat and other agricultural stubbles to the soil, to retain tilth. You might want to look very closely at this aspect of the conversation.

The short version is that we haven't found any magical approach yet. But we're working on it. Corn based ethanol ain't it. And ordinary weeds and stubble aren't quite there yet either.

Uncertainties
To determine the importance of the system boundary, "Groode compared her own analysis, the study by Pimentel and three other reputable studies, considering the same energy-consuming inputs and no co-product credits in each case.

"The results show that everybody is basically correct," she said. "The energy balance is so close that the outcome depends on exactly how you define the problem." The results also serve to validate her methodology: Results from the other studies fall within the range of her more probable results."

http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2007/ethanol.html

The energy equation
"Among other flaws, like miscalculating energy costs, which were later correct by DOE scientists, he added the energy cost of fertilizer, etc. into his equation."

If you're trying to compare ethanol to oil in terms of value as a fuel, why would you not include the energy inputs required to produce it? This argument makes no sense.

In the extreme, if it cost one gallon of oil to make one gallon of ethanol, the yield for your efforts would be zero. In fact it would be somewhat less than zero, as there is less usable energy, gallon for gallon, in ethanol than there is in oil.

Best current estimates are that you do gain a small amount of energy by converting natural gas plus sun plus soil plus water plus everything else into auto fuel. But not enough to make it that good an idea.

"Anthropogenic greenhouse gases are producing global warming."
Where is that data?

Because you don't necessrily need those inputs.
There is a big difference between growing biomass and growing a crop for food.

Just about anything that grows can be converted to ethanol with the appropriate bacteria/yeast.

The flaws in Pimentel' arguments related to the fact that we don't have to use corn, and even if we do, it does not have to be grown the way it is grown for food.

Several reports have been published in the science literature that address Pimentel's work, which dod not go through the regular peer review process, by the way.

After rereaing your statement regarding the use of a gallon of oil to produce a gallon of ethanol, I think we are on different levels here.

You might do some background work here...

http://www.eere.energy.gov/afdc/altfuel/eth_energy_bal.html

or here...

http://pubs.acs.org/isubscribe/journals/cen/85/i01/html/8501gov1.html

Hummm still stuck on those number guesstimates from the 60's I see.
This is perhaps the best.

The fact is you guys are not thinking outside the box. You cling to 60's vintage nay sayers like Pimentel instead of looking at were the new science is actually going.

Read this...

http://pubs.acs.org/isubscribe/journals/cen/85/i01/html/8501gov1.html

Aloo try to get hold of the December 8 Science magazine with the article mixed range grasses for ethanol feedstock. No ag. No fertilizer. No irrigation. Just let it grow, cut and use for fuel feedstock.

Also, do you remember the upset caused by the Science artile that showed that you could get as much as 90% or so of crop yield without all the chemical fertilizers, etc.?

So the big flaw in Pimentel's inputs is in al the energy needed to produce corn by modern (AKA high fossil fuel input) ag practice. We don't need to use those practices as addressed herein...

http://www.eere.energy.gov/afdc/altfuel/ethanol.html

Oldie but a goodie
"Such weak predictions feed and contribute to what I have already described as a societal instability that can cascade the most questionable suggestions of danger into major political responses with massive economic and social consequences. I have already discussed some of the reasons for this instability: the existence of large cadres of professional planners looking for work, the existence of advocacy groups looking for profitable causes, the existence of agendas in search of saleable rationales, and the ability of many industries to profit from regulation, coupled with an effective neutralization of opposition. It goes almost without saying that the dangers and costs of those economic and social consequences may be far greater than the original environmental danger. That becomes especially true when the benefits of additional knowledge are rejected and when it is forgotten that improved technology and increased societal wealth are what allow society to deal with environmental threats most effectively. The control of societal instability may very well be the real challenge facing us."

Richard S. Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Vol.15, No. 2, Spring 1992


http://www.cato.org/pubs/regulation/regv15n2/reg15n2g.html

Patience
The data is published everywhere. You might wait for the 4th assessment report. But here's the rub.

http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/docs/wg1_LAMediaGuide.pdf

Suggestions to Assist Authors in Dealing with other Scientists and the Media During the Assessment Process

[...]

6. Finally, we will be ready to state our findings in 2007 - and not before
It should be self-evident that IPCC's findings will only be available when the report is completed. Material in interim drafts is subject to revision and hence is not available for citation or presentation. No WG1 results can be released in scientific meetings or any other format before the final plenary in January, 2007.

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