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  #1  
Old 04-28-2008, 04:22 PM
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The Clean Energy Myth

subtitle: Biofuels disaster

This is the best article I've seen on the topic:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1725975,00.html

From his Cessna a mile above the southern Amazon, John Carter looks down on the destruction of the world's greatest ecological jewel. He watches men converting rain forest into cattle pastures and soybean fields with bulldozers and chains. He sees fires wiping out such gigantic swaths of jungle that scientists now debate the "savannization" of the Amazon. Brazil just announced that deforestation is on track to double this year; Carter, a Texas cowboy with all the subtlety of a chainsaw, says it's going to get worse fast. "It gives me goose bumps," says Carter, who founded a nonprofit to promote sustainable ranching on the Amazon frontier. "It's like witnessing a rape."

The Amazon was the chic eco-cause of the 1990s, revered as an incomparable storehouse of biodiversity. It's been overshadowed lately by global warming, but the Amazon rain forest happens also to be an incomparable storehouse of carbon, the very carbon that heats up the planet when it's released into the atmosphere. Brazil now ranks fourth in the world in carbon emissions, and most of its emissions come from deforestation. Carter is not a man who gets easily spooked--he led a reconnaissance unit in Desert Storm, and I watched him grab a small anaconda with his bare hands in Brazil--but he can sound downright panicky about the future of the forest. "You can't protect it. There's too much money to be made tearing it down," he says. "Out here on the frontier, you really see the market at work."


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Old 04-28-2008, 04:38 PM
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Good article. Woe the day Iowa becomes a corn importer! The distribution of food on the planet will be a heck of a lot different and more expensive!

Speaking of climate change and the costs associated with reversing it, this from today's WSJ (OPED). He's from the AEI, but the numbers are probably accurate.

The Real Cost of Tackling Climate Change
By STEVEN F. HAYWARD
April 28, 2008; Page A19

The usual chorus of environmentalists and editorial writers has chimed in to attack President Bush's recent speech on climate change. In his address of April 23, he put forth a goal of stopping the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2025.

"Way too little and way too late," runs the refrain, followed by the claim that nothing less than an 80% reduction in emissions by the year 2050 will suffice what I call the "80 by 50" target. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have endorsed it. John McCain is not far behind, calling for a 65% reduction.

We all ought to reflect on what an 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050 really means. When we do, it becomes clear that the president's target has one overwhelming virtue: Assuming emissions curbs are even necessary, his goal is at least realistic.

The same cannot be said for the carbon emissions targets espoused by the three presidential candidates and environmentalists. Indeed, these targets would send us back to emissions levels last witnessed when the cotton gin was in daily use.

Begin with the current inventory of carbon dioxide emissions CO2 being the principal greenhouse gas generated almost entirely by energy use. According to the Department of Energy's most recent data on greenhouse gas emissions, in 2006 the U.S. emitted 5.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, or just under 20 tons per capita. An 80% reduction in these emissions from 1990 levels means that the U.S. cannot emit more than about one billion metric tons of CO2 in 2050.

Were man-made carbon dioxide emissions in this country ever that low? The answer is probably yes from historical energy data it is possible to estimate that the U.S. last emitted one billion metric tons around 1910. But in 1910, the U.S. had 92 million people, and per capita income, in current dollars, was about $6,000.

By the year 2050, the Census Bureau projects that our population will be around 420 million. This means per capita emissions will have to fall to about 2.5 tons in order to meet the goal of 80% reduction.

It is likely that U.S. per capita emissions were never that low even back in colonial days when the only fuel we burned was wood. The only nations in the world today that emit at this low level are all poor developing nations, such as Belize, Mauritius, Jordan, Haiti and Somalia.

If that comparison seems unfair, consider that even the least-CO2 emitting industrialized nations do not come close to the 2050 target. France and Switzerland, compact nations that generate almost all of their electricity from nonfossil fuel sources (nuclear for France, hydro for Switzerland) emit about 6.5 metric tons of CO2 per capita.

The daunting task of reaching one billion metric tons of CO2 emissions by 2050 comes into even greater relief when we look at the American economy, sector-by-sector. The Energy Department breaks down emissions into residential, commercial (office buildings, etc.), industrial, and transportation (planes, trains and automobiles); electricity consumption is apportioned to each.

Consider the residential sector. At the present time, American households emit 1.2 billion tons of CO2 20% higher than the entire nation's emissions must be in 2050. If households are to emit no more than their present share of CO2, emissions will have to be reduced to 204 million tons by 2050. But in 2050, there will be another 40 million residential households in the U.S.

Today, the average residence in the U.S. uses about 10,500 kilowatt hours of electricity and emits 11.4 tons of CO2 per year (much more if you are Al Gore or John Edwards and live in a mansion). To stay within the magic number, average household emissions will have to fall to no more than 1.5 tons per year. In our current electricity infrastructure, this would mean using no more than about 2,500 KwH per year. This is not enough juice to run the average hot water heater.

You can forget refrigerators, microwaves, clothes dryers and flat screen TVs. Even a house tricked out with all the latest high-efficiency EnergyStar appliances and compact fluorescent lights won't come close. The same daunting energy math applies to the industrial, commercial and transportation sectors as well. The clear implication is that we shall have to replace virtually the entire fossil fuel electricity infrastructure over the next four decades with CO2-free sources a multitrillion dollar proposition, if it can be done at all.

Natural gas the preferred coal substitute of the moment won't come close. If we replaced every single existing coal plant with a natural gas plant, CO2 emissions from electric power generation alone would still be more than twice the 2050 target. Most environmentalists remain opposed to nuclear power, of course. It is unlikely that renewables wind, solar, and biomass can ever make up more than about 20% of our electricity supply.

Suppose, however, that a breakthrough in carbon sequestration, a revival of nuclear power, and a significant improvement in the cost and effectiveness of renewables were to enable us to reduce the carbon footprint of electricity production. That would still leave transportation.

Right now our cars and trucks consume about 180 billion gallons of motor fuel. To meet the 2050 target, we shall have to limit consumption of gasoline to about 31 billion gallons, unless a genuine carbon-neutral liquid fuel can be produced. (Ethanol isn't it.) To show how unrealistic this is, if the entire nation drove nothing but Toyota Priuses in 2050, we'd still overshoot the transportation emissions target by 40%.

The enthusiasm for an 80% reduction target is often justified on grounds that national policy should set an ambitious goal. However, claims on behalf of alternative energy sources biofuels, hydrogen, windpower and so forth either do not match up to the scale of the energy required, or are not cost-competitive in current form.

How on God's green earth will we make up the difference? Someone should put this question to the candidates. And not let them slide past it with glittering generalities.

Mr. Hayward is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of the annual "Index of Leading Environmental Indicators," from which this article is adapted.
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Old 04-28-2008, 05:03 PM
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Interesting piece. A while back, the long lost Peragro took issue with sugar cane in Brazil for this purpose. I disagreed somewhat, I mean it is supposedly a much better crop for it than corn, but the article points out that cane is a small drop in the bucket.

The article more or less claims that if they stayed with their current acreage of sugar cane, wouldn't be so bad, but they probably won't, and a bigger problem is the ongoing clearing of Amazon lands of other ag. pushed in large part by biofuels crops elsewhere.

They said savanna-ization of even desertification is not out of the question.

Holy crap, the Amazon rainforest, possibly heading towards desert category?!
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Old 04-28-2008, 05:05 PM
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Fortunately for Brazil, they have a HUGE (recent) offshore oil find that they are still trying to determine the extent of. It will probably make their state-subsidized biofuels industry economically untenable.
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Old 04-28-2008, 05:07 PM
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Anybody know what Al Gore's carbon footprint is? It can't be small with all the hot air he spews . . .
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Old 04-28-2008, 05:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Botnst View Post
Fortunately for Brazil, they have a HUGE (recent) offshore oil find that they are still trying to determine the extent of. It will probably make their state-subsidized biofuels industry economically untenable.

Perhaps one of the reasons the US Navy is re-activating the 4th Fleet to increase US presence in the South Atlantic. Keep the Western Hemisphere US "territory" and ferners (China & Russia) away. Global Politics.
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Old 04-29-2008, 02:31 AM
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According to the Supreme Court, CO2 is a pollutant, so we'll just have to stop breathing.
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Old 04-29-2008, 07:27 AM
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According to the Supreme Court, CO2 is a pollutant, so we'll just have to stop breathing.
Inhaling is okay, it's exhaling that causes worldwide problems.
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Old 04-29-2008, 08:15 AM
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According to the Supreme Court, CO2 is a pollutant, so we'll just have to stop breathing.
So when did the judicial system get the power to decide what is "science"?
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Old 04-29-2008, 08:23 AM
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So when did the judicial system get the power to decide what is "science"?
EPA regulates air & water quality. Any suit brought against EPA concerning it's jurisdiction that ends-up in federal court could make it all of the way to the top of the foodchain. The SC doesn't regulate air pollution per se, it decides on the constitutionality of laws that EPA enforces.
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Old 04-29-2008, 04:55 PM
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Originally Posted by dynalow View Post
Good article. Woe the day Iowa becomes a corn importer! The distribution of food on the planet will be a heck of a lot different and more expensive!

Speaking of climate change and the costs associated with reversing it, this from today's WSJ (OPED). He's from the AEI, but the numbers are probably accurate.

The Real Cost of Tackling Climate Change
By STEVEN F. HAYWARD
April 28, 2008; Page A19

The usual chorus of environmentalists and editorial writers has chimed in to attack President Bush's recent speech on climate change. In his address of April 23, he put forth a goal of stopping the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2025.
This is what you hear a lot from that sector. Using nukes sounds attractive at first glance but I suspect that the skinny I've heard on that -- which is that it would take a new nuke plant coming on line once a week for 20 or 30 years to produce the amount of BTUs we currently get from petro -- is in the ballpark of correct. Each plant produces multiple tons of plutonium in its lifetime, and only a few pounds are needed for a bomb.

The waste problem would go up exponentially. I'm thinking out of the frying pan, into the fire.

The current Mother Jones has a good article detailing the differences in various sorts of fossil fuel -- from sweet crude to tar sands, coal, and oil shale. It's not a happy picture.

My strong gut feeling is that we simply cannot afford -- in several ways at once -- to continue to maintain our Nascar/SUV/RV lifestyle much longer. I mean who in God's creation needs to haul a washer/dryer, shower, and toilet around with them on wheels?! Just whack . . . .
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Old 04-29-2008, 04:56 PM
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According to the Supreme Court, CO2 is a pollutant, so we'll just have to stop breathing.
Not ALL of us, just the politicians.
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Old 04-29-2008, 04:58 PM
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. . . My strong gut feeling is that we simply cannot afford -- in several ways at once -- to continue to maintain our Nascar/SUV/RV lifestyle much longer. . . . .
How dayah you besmirch owah beloved NASCAR suh!
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Old 04-29-2008, 05:53 PM
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This is what you hear a lot from that sector. Using nukes sounds attractive at first glance but I suspect that the skinny I've heard on that -- which is that it would take a new nuke plant coming on line once a week for 20 or 30 years to produce the amount of BTUs we currently get from petro -- is in the ballpark of correct. Each plant produces multiple tons of plutonium in its lifetime, and only a few pounds are needed for a bomb.

The waste problem would go up exponentially. I'm thinking out of the frying pan, into the fire.

My strong gut feeling is that we simply cannot afford -- in several ways at once -- to continue to maintain our Nascar/SUV/RV lifestyle much longer. I mean who in God's creation needs to haul a washer/dryer, shower, and toilet around with them on wheels?! Just whack . . . .
Out of the frying pan? Yep, probably.

My biggest concern is population growth. Even if we were able to reduce per capita consumption dramatically from current levels, what about all the new "capitas" coming down the road. They will be energy consumers too.
Who, if anybody plays god (or dictator) and forces cutbacks in population growth and energy consumption.

I guess we can always grow enough food to feed the worlds population to some degree, but what will 6 billion people do all day long with limited energy to live and work?

I don't have faith that our system has the force or will to tackle serious problems. And I speak of our society in general and the political ruling class. Shoot, we still convict the Jack Kevorkians for ending lives of misery and suffering. Keep them alive for what. To wast more limited resources and services in keeping them alive to endure more pain and suffering? WTF kind of reasoning is that? Goofy I say.

We have met the enemy and the enemy is us.
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Old 04-29-2008, 10:43 PM
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I first posted about Kunstler about three or four years ago, He's looking more and more prophetic as time goes by.
http://www.kunstler.com

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