Energy/Environmental Policies requiring Ethanol cause Hunger and Economic Devastation throughout the World

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 4th, 2012

Week in Review

As if the Great Recession wasn’t bad enough already.  Bad economic policies and bad regulatory policies have already beaten this economy into the ground.  And now the government is going to pile on with bad energy/environmental policies.  Making the American people say “ouch” (see Corn for Food, Not Fuel by COLIN A. CARTER and HENRY I. MILLER posted 7/30/2012 on The New York Times).

…By suspending renewable-fuel standards that were unwise from the start, the Environmental Protection Agency could divert vast amounts of corn from inefficient ethanol production back into the food chain, where market forces and common sense dictate it should go.

The drought has now parched about 60 percent of the contiguous 48 states. As a result, global food prices are rising steeply. Corn futures prices on the Chicago exchange have risen about 60 percent since mid-June, hitting record levels, and other grains such as wheat and soybeans are also sharply higher. Livestock and dairy product prices will inevitably follow.

More than one-third of our corn crop is used to feed livestock. Another 13 percent is exported, much of it to feed livestock as well. Another 40 percent is used to produce ethanol. The remainder goes toward food and beverage production.

Previous droughts in the Midwest (most recently in 1988) also resulted in higher food prices, but misguided energy policies are magnifying the effects of the current one. Federal renewable-fuel standards require the blending of 13.2 billion gallons of corn ethanol with gasoline this year. This will require 4.7 billion bushels of corn, 40 percent of this year’s crop.

Almost half (40%) of our corn goes to produce ethanol.  That alone has raised the price of our food.  And a lot of our food has corn in it.  Including cows.  As in corn-fed beef.  Dairy cows, too, eat corn.  They give us milk and cheese.  Chickens eat corn.  Providing us with low-fat chicken breasts.  Eggs.  And those delicious Chicken McNuggets our kids love.  Our energy/environmental policies have been increasing the cost of groceries for families.  And the drought is only going to increase them more.  Making it ever harder for the American family to put food on the table.  Especially when a lot of them are struggling to get by on less thanks to an already bad economy.  So why do we use food to fuel our cars?  Because the government has dictated that we do.

The price of corn is a critical variable in the world food equation, and food markets are on edge because American corn supplies are plummeting. The combination of the drought and American ethanol policy will lead in many parts of the world to widespread inflation, more hunger, less food security, slower economic growth and political instability, especially in poor countries…

Any defense of the ethanol policy rests on fallacies, primarily these: that ethanol produced from corn makes the United States less dependent on fossil fuels; that ethanol lowers the price of gasoline; that an increase in the percentage of ethanol blended into gasoline increases the overall supply of gasoline; and that ethanol is environmentally friendly and lowers global carbon dioxide emissions.

The ethanol lobby promotes these claims, and many politicians seem intoxicated by them. Corn is indeed a renewable resource, but it has a far lower yield relative to the energy used to produce it than either biodiesel (such as soybean oil) or ethanol from other plants. Ethanol yields about 30 percent less energy per gallon than gasoline, so mileage drops off significantly. Finally, adding ethanol actually raises the price of blended fuel because it is more expensive to transport and handle than gasoline.

Ethanol isn’t what they say it is.  In fact it makes a pretty poor fuel.  And it will propagate hunger and economic devastation throughout the rest of the world.  Especially in poor countries.  So there is no good reason to use food to fuel our cars.  It would appear the only reason why the government dictates this policy is that the lobbyists make it worth their while to dictate this policy.  Amazing what you can get away with when you veil your special interests in the cloak of environmentalism.  The media and the court of public opinion eviscerate any non-environmental corporation for doing what the ethanol lobby does.  But if you want to make evil profits all you have to do is say ‘global warming’ and no one will fault you for your greed.

Families will have to cut out their visits to McDonalds as these high prices hit pretty much everything on their menu.  Which is an unintended consequence the government may actually like.  For they say our kids are too fat.  But this won’t make our kids happy.  They like their McNuggets.  Which can mean only one thing.  Our government hates kids.

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Sir Tim Rice drops Support for Conservatives because they Support and Subsidize Wind Farms

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 25th, 2012

Week in Review

Sir Tim Rice is one of the greatest lyricists to ever write a lyric.  Yes, Lord Lloyd-Webber can write a catchy tune.  But it was Sir Tim’s lyrics that really made Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita come alive on stage.  Which is a very big reason why these shows still tour.  The man is brilliant.  And as it turns out, in more ways than one (see Sir Tim Rice on his new musical and working with Andrew Lloyd Webber by Roya Nikkhah posted 3/25/2012 on The Telegraph).

Falling out of love with the Conservatives, for starters. Once a stalwart party donor and fundraiser, his support has waned as the Tories’ enthusiasm has grown for “insane” policies such as supporting and subsidising wind farms.

“I recently declined to support a Conservative function because I’m so incensed about these wind turbines. Like all so-called climate-change doubters, I am very pro the environment, but I strongly believe that it is something that can only be cured locally. Some insane overall scheme isn’t going to cure all the problems. And the money that is wasted! As a landowner in Scotland [Sir Tim owns the 33,000-acre Dundonnell estate in Wester Ross on the west coast], I’ve been offered vast amounts of money to stick up wind turbines, which not only will make me richer, it will make less well-off people poorer, and will damage the environment. These schemes aren’t doing any good – just making rich people richer, and it’s depressing to see great areas of these useless objects up there.

“It’s a scam – a con – and until the Government has the brains to actually say, hang on, we’ve got it wrong, this is a total economic and environmental error, then I find it hard to give total support to them.”

It is so refreshing to hear someone in the arts community speak out against silly environmental policy.  Which is rather rare.  For people in the arts pursue their passions.  Their love of art leaves little room for much else.  So they don’t spend a whole lot of time studying the issues of the day.  Their industry as a whole has a position on these issues.  Which many artists simply endorse.  Thinking they are well thought out positions.  But they’re not.  And are usually guided by their desire for further government funding.  Requiring higher taxes on businesses.  And as a result artists tend to be anti-business.  Because they ‘take money away’ from the arts.  Even though they accept grants from them and will display their names prior to a performance.  But in general they don’t much care for business.  And tend to come down on the side in favor of environmental regulation and green energy.  But not Sir Tim.  Who apparently has studied the issues.  And has made an informed decision. 

The reason why we use coal, natural gas and nuclear power is because these sources of energy are highly concentrated sources of energy.  A little of them will produce a lot of electricity.  And they are reliable.  They’ll produce electricity rain or shine.  Day or night.  Wind or no wind.  Wind power is none of this.  It is not a concentrated source of energy.  So it takes a lot of windmills to produce a little electricity.  And if the wind doesn’t blow they don’t produce any electricity.  So this is a lot of money to produce a little electricity.  It is not cost-efficient.  A terrible waste of investment capital.  And taxpayer money.  Which is the point Sir Tim is making. 

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LESSONS LEARNED #57: “Environmental policy is a zero-sum policy; save the planet, kill man.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 17th, 2011

DDT gets rid of Mosquitoes and Malaria

No one thinks much about malaria in big American cities.  Because they’re modern, paved cities.  So there aren’t a lot of mosquitoes.  At least, not like there used to be.  In colonial times, summers were bad.  Anywhere there was standing water.  Thomas Jefferson hated to be anywhere near tidewater areas during the summer months.  Because people got malaria.  He thought it was the air.  It wasn’t.  It was the mosquitoes.  Unpaved areas in tidewater streams just bred mosquitoes wholesale. 

As our concrete cities grew these wetlands went away.  As did malaria.  In the United States.  Other nations, though, were not so fortunate.  Especially sub-Saharan Africa.  Where malaria kills hundreds of thousands of children each year.  Why?  Because much of sub-Saharan Africa is impoverished.  With no modern, paved cities.  And it’s a mosquito paradise.  For awhile, that is.  Because man stepped in and used chemistry.  Created a miracle synthetic pesticide.  DDT.  And went to war against mosquitoes.  Campaigned especially fiercely in the tropical countries that really favored mosquito breeding.  Armed with DDT, it was a lopsided war.  Areas that saw millions of people infected by malaria each year had less than a hundred people infected after the DDT campaign.  It was a huge success.  Chemistry saved the children.  It was so successful they also used it in agriculture.  Food yields improved with the resulting pest elimination.  The mosquito and other pests were on the run.  But then an unlikely ally saved them.  Rachel Carson.

Carson wrote Silent Spring.  Published in 1962, she saved malaria.  And started the environmental movement with her attack against chemistry.  It was hurting the environment.  DDT was thinning egg shells.  And some other nasty stuff.  And perhaps it was.  But there were two uses of DDT.  Heavy agricultural uses.  And the lighter anti-malaria uses.  Some of the things she cited may have been more on the agricultural side.  In any event, environmentalism was born.  DDT fell out of favor and nations banned it or discouraged its use.  And malaria returned in force, killing hundreds of thousands of kids each year.

Firebreaks stop the Spread of Wildfires

Smokey the Bear says only we can prevent forest fires.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  We can’t change the weather.  Oh, sure, we can change the climate by warming the earth with manmade greenhouse gases, but we can’t make it rain.  Or stop the lightning.  Put the two together (a long time without rain then a lightning storm) and it will start a forest fire/wildfire.  And there’s nothing we can do about it.  Well, there’s nothing we can do to prevent it from starting.  But we can limit the severity of the wildfire.  By cutting firebreaks in the forest.

Dried trees burn very well.  And dried brush makes excellent tinder.  As a forest burns, the trees burn and flick off embers.  The wind blows the embers downwind.  Where they land on dried brush (i.e., tinder).  A fire smolders.  Then takes hold.  Flames grow.  And jump to the trees.  Which flick off embers.  That blow downwind.  And so on.  This is how fires travel.  And sometimes you can’t stop them.  They get too big to try and douse with water.  So they burn.  And the only thing that will stop them is the lack of fuel.  And this is where a firebreak comes in handy.  If you cut firebreaks into the forest at strategic locations the fire will spread until it comes to one of these fire breaks.  The embers flicking off of trees will then fall harmlessly on the firebreak.  Where there is no fuel.  And the embers will burn out.  Without starting a new fire.  Depending on the strength of the winds and the width of the firebreak, you can stop a lot of fires.  As long as there isn’t a rat living in the area.

Fire struck Riverside County outside Los Angeles in 1993.  It was huge.  And hungry.  That fire advanced and ate everything in its path.  Trees.  Brush.  And houses.  Homeowners in Riverside Country wanted to plow in some fire breaks to protect their homes.  Unfortunately for them, they shared their habitat with the kangaroo rat.  Which was on the Endangered Species List.  And plowing in those firebreaks may have harmed those rats burrowed shallowly in the sandy soil where all that tinder was growing.  So they were forbidden to cut in those firebreaks.  To save the rat.  And the fire burned through their houses.  And kept on burning.

The Food Chain Turned Upside Down

The San Joaquin Valley in central California is one of the most fertile farmlands in the world.  The Westlands.  Some call it the food basket of the world because they grow so much stuff there.  The San Joaquin River is fed from the snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and drains into the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.  And it’s from this delta the government has helped the farmers pump water to irrigate their farmlands.  That is, until drought hit the area.  And a little fish.  A tiny smelt.

In the Delta there lived a fish.  This fish was on the Endangered Species List.  And this fish liked to hang around with man.  And the things man built.  Like water pumps.  With the prolonged drought, those irrigation pumps were pumping a lot of water.  And apparently killing a lot of smelt.  That were hanging around the pump inlets.  So a federal judge ruled in 2008 to shut off the irrigation pumps.  To save the fish.  And they did.

Without water farmers can’t farm.  So land went unused.  Farmers planted fewer tomatoes.  And fewer of their other crops.  Worse, some farmers had to destroy some of their healthy crops.  Such as almond trees that took 30 years to grow.  Without water they’d died.  And dead trees attract pests.  That can spread to healthy trees.  So it was either cut down some of their trees.  Or face pest infestation and lose all of their trees.  So food production in the fertile San Joaquin Valley dropped.  There was less food.  Which, of course, raised food prices.  All to save a small fish.

Diverting Corn from Dinner Tables to Gas Tanks 

Some say that we have to find an alternative to oil.  Because oil will run out one day.  Soon.  They’ve been saying this for decades.  And we haven’t run out yet.  But that’s beside the point.  The point is that they say it will run out because of our increasing demand for gasoline to drive our cars.  And that rising demand one day will exceed the oil supply.  One of their solutions?  BiofuelsEthanolFlex FuelE85.  Made from corn.  Our food.  And others.  For we feed a large part of the impoverished world with our surplus corn.

Back in the summer of 2008, gas hit $4/gallon.  That hurt.  The pain was so bad that it made people change behavior.  They bought smaller cars.  Hybrids.  And cars that ran on the ‘cheaper’ E85 (ethanol).  Which sold for something like fifty cents less than unleaded gas.  It seemed like quite the bargain.  Until you used it.  As those who had a significant commute to work soon learned.  One tank of gas let you commute to work for a whole week.  A tank of ethanol?  It didn’t take you quite as far.  People often learned this the hard way.  After having to stop in an unseemly part of town to refuel late night on the way home from work after hearing that ‘low fuel’ chime unexpectedly.  Those of us who did soon switched back to gasoline.  Why?  To prevent late night surprises like that again.  And because we just don’t like pumping gas.  Or, should I say, ‘fuel’.

You see, ethanol has less energy than gasoline.  So it takes more of it to go as far as gasoline takes you.  When you crunched the number you were actually paying more using the ethanol.  Because you were buying more of it.  Which brings us back to the interesting argument of why we have to replace oil.  Because our growing demand will eventually use it all up.  Now, let’s apply that logic to ethanol.  And the fact that it takes more ethanol to drive as far as with gasoline.  What does that tell you?  They will divert an enormous amount of our corn crop from dinner tables to gas tanks.  Making less food available for us.  And for export.  Which will do what?  That’s right.  Make some people go hungry.  And increase food prices.

Trading Humans for non-Humans

Advancements in environmental policy come at the expense of man.  Every time they protect an endangered species man has to yield ground.  When we fight global warming it is man who makes the ultimate sacrifice.  We have to lose some liberty.  Pay more for food.  Or eat less.  When they ban life-saving chemicals people die.  Hundreds of thousands of them.  Especially children in sub-Saharan Africa.  All in the name of saving the planet.

Environmentalists are okay with this.  For they must know about it.  And yet they pursue their agenda.  So they don’t mind the zero-sum game they play.  Trading humans for non-humans.  Because they favor the non-humans over the humans.  So when it comes to saving the planet or saving man, their choice is an easy one.  They save the planet.  And kill man.  For the human dead are acceptable collateral damage in their war to save the planet.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #57: “Environmental policy is a zero-sum policy; save the planet, kill man.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 15th, 2011

What do Cows and Dinosaurs have in Common?  They’re both a little Gassy.

Bovine flatulence contributes to global warming.  That’s a theory at least.  Cows fart.  It’s a byproduct of the digestion process.  Like with people.  As things break down chemical things happen.  It releases nutrients.  And gas.  Methane.  Until nothing is left but solid waste.  The nutrients help other things grow (people, animals, plants, etc.).  And the gas just dissipates into the atmosphere.  Or annoys your significant other when you do it under the covers.  We poop the solid waste.  As do cows.

But farts aren’t just fun and games.  Because the chemical compound for methane is CH4.  That’s one Carbon atom and four Hydrogen atoms.  In other words, methane is a hydrocarbon.  As in carbon footprint.  Yes, that’s right, methane is a greenhouse gas.  And cows are indiscriminately farting it out like there’s no tomorrow.  And the larger the human population gets, the more cows we raise for food.  Which means more cows are farting.  Which creates more greenhouse gases.  Which leads to more global warming.

So you can see it’s a problem.  All this farting.  I mean, it’s one of the theories why the dinosaurs went extinct.  Dinosaur farts.  Of course this raises an interesting point.  Currently, man is causing global warming by raising more and more cows to feed our growing population.  Among other things.  Man wasn’t around for the dinosaurs, though.  They killed themselves off without any help from man.  Which can mean only one thing.  That global warming predated man.  Or the dinosaur theory is a silly theory.

It’s Man or the Environment

So while smug environmentalists may enjoy the smell of their own farts, they want to cut back on bovine flatulence.  And the easiest way to do that is to just have fewer cows.  Reduce the food supply.  And gamble with our lives with that smaller food supply.  That’s because they worry about the planet today.  They don’t care what happened in the past.  Whether dinosaurs raised the earth’s temperature more than man has ever done.  Or that there were ice ages.  And that those ice ages ended.  Without man’s help.

Once upon a time the glaciers covered a lot more of the earth than they do today.  And when they last melted there were no man-made greenhouse gases.  Except maybe a camp fire or two.  And the occasional fart.  Man did less than at any other time in his existence to warm the planet.  Yet the planet warmed.  So much so that the glaciers moved farther than they have in the last 2,000 years of man’s existence.  Something warmed the planet back then.  And it sure wasn’t man.

But today it is only man who is responsible for global warming.  With his man-made greenhouse gases.  From our polluting industries.  Or from the cows we raise to eat.  Man has been the curse of this fair planet.  And the more advanced he got the greater his environmental destruction has been.  In fact, the environmentalist will say that the world was a better place before man came along to spoil it.  And a lot of what they do today tries to right this great wrong. 

Bigger, Heavier and Safer or Fuel Economy

Engineering is a balance between tradeoffs.  Take cars, for example.  There are two driving features of cars these days.  Safety.  And fuel economy.  They’ve made a lot of safety innovations in the last few decades.  Seatbelts.  Crumble zones.  Airbags.  Telescoping steering wheels.  And the list goes on.  And we added a lot of these because of that other feature.  Fuel economy.  To get better gas mileage we made cars smaller.  And lighter.  And a smaller and lighter car does not fare well in an accident with a bigger and heavier car or truck.  So the tradeoff between fuel economy and safety really became a tradeoff between fuel economy and people.

The environmentalist is okay with this.  In fact, they added to this tradeoff.  With the emissions equipment they want.  Catalytic converter.  Secondary air injection.  Evaporative emissions control.  Etc.  Pop the hood on a car today and much of what you see is for emissions control.  More equipment added to the car.  Some of which is belt-driven.  Increasing the car weight.  And the engine load.  Requiring weight reductions elsewhere to meet required CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) regulations.  Thus making cars less survivable in accidents.

Some will argue, though, that cars are safer today than when they were all big and heavy.  Well, yes, cars are safer today compared to the bigger and heavier cars we used to drive.  But if you put seatbelts and airbags into those bigger and heavier cars, they would be safer than the cars today.  How do we know that?  Because we have cars today that are a lot like those bigger and heavier cars of yesteryear.  We call them SUVs.  And they are very popular.  Especially with parents who have kids to drive around.  Because they are bigger and heavier and safer.  And parents are more than willing to spend a little more in gas to drive those big honking things around to protect their kids.

From Global Cooling to Global Warming

But there are other tradeoffs besides fuel economy and people.  There’s the tradeoff between energy and people.  As populations grow they need more energy.  The energy of choice is electricity.  Produced by power plants that burn fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas).  Fossil fuels are, of course, hydrocarbons.  Those poor, hated, misunderstood hydrocarbons.  When we burn these to make electricity we create greenhouse gases.  And you know what that does?  That’s right.  Global warming.  At least, that’s what the environmentalists tell us.

There was another alternative.  Nuclear power.  It’s clean.  But there was a big problem with that.  A movie.  The China Syndrome.  And then Three Mile Island.  Both in 1979.  A growing nuclear power industry came to a screeching halt.  And we haven’t built another nuclear plant since.  The partial meltdown at Three Mile Island released a negligible about of radioactive steam into the atmosphere.  But the safety features worked as designed.  There was no China Syndrome.  But there was a movie.  And that was enough.  Nuclear power became the redheaded stepchild of energy generation.

There wasn’t a lot of talk about global warming in 1979.  Back then we were still talking about global cooling and the approaching ice age.  Then things changed.  The Nineties were all about global warming.  So not only did we shut down the nuclear industry, they so attacked fossil fuels that opening a new power plant was a regulatory nightmare.  So by the end of that decade our energy demands were taxing our energy supply.  Blackouts were becoming more and more common.  The elderly and infirmed suffered during these power outages.  Some died from heat stroke because there was no air conditioning.  With no escape from the heat there was other trouble.  Hot temperatures created hot tempers.  Often resulting in violence.  Looting.  And murder.

The Smug and Pretentious

The theory of global warming is a theory.  And not a very good one at that.  As those emails leaked from the University of East Anglia clearly showed (they were massaging the data to support the theory).  And making policy based on this theory has consequences.  It has altered the free market.  Regulated our lives.  Reduced our liberty.  And killed people.

No surprise, really.  Because environmentalists hate man and his impact on the planet.  So a few deaths along the way is a small price to pay.  And it thins out the herd of some of the less desirable.  Those who drive.  And energy hogs who use air conditioning.  But the environmentalist will live in his air conditioned ocean-side mansion (Al Gore).  But that’s okay.  Because some people have to show the way for the rest of us.  Not by example.  But by telling us how to live our lives.  Because caring is enough for them.  Makes them special.  Better than us.  So these smug and pretentious can sit back and enjoy their big carbon footprints.  And spend their days enjoying the smell of their own farts. 

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