Al Gore is a giant windbag. Maybe he will become the next source of "alternative" energy, because it certainly should not be ethanol. Like most questions of environmental policy, a failed politician cum disastermonger is really the wrong person to listen to regarding serious discussions of economic reality, or any other kind of reality for that matter.
Ethanol is one such reality which, when examined closely, more nearly resembles a nightmare for "the planet" (Gawd, I hate that usage) than a salvation. Using food to supplement gasoline is just a horrible construct to begin with. And the short, middle and long-term effects will be a dirtier, costlier and less diverse ecosystem.
Let's begin with the obvious. America produces half the world's corn crop and most of its' exported corn. So, when the fed govt coerces gas producers to buy corn and add it to their product, guess what happens to the price of corn for everybody else (think private healthcare for the answer to this one)? Adding to that upward price pressure is that other crops will be plowed under to plant, that's right, corn. Which in turn runs up the cost of every other row crop. And guess who that affects most -- the world's poor. (Mexico City has already experienced what could be called "tortilla riots".) Josette Sheeran of the UN World Food Program has said they will not be able to feed nearly as many people as last year with the same number of donors. Heard any protests against ethanol lately from the usual "world hunger" suspects? Me neither.
Now, let's move on to the stuff itself. It takes 1.3 gallons of fossil to make one gallon of ethanol. (Ethanol can't be piped, it's got to be trucked. And because it also has to be planted, weeded, harvested, distilled and transported, It is an energy intensive source of energy.) In addition, ethanol is not as efficient as gasoline. For instance, if it takes 10 gals of gas to go 200 miles, it will take 15 gals of ethanol (or thereabouts) to go the same distance, so you use more of it. Not very promising so far. But it gets worse.
What about countries, or supergovernments like the EU, that don't have ready access to America's vast Midwestern breadbasket (cornbasket?) Well, they go to countries like Borneo (Malaysia) and Sumatra for palm oil, which also can be used as a biofuel. What is happening there? Not surprisingly, since the EU is bound by the Kyoto protocol to have 10% ethanol by 2020, producer countries are slashing and burning forests at an alarming rate. Highly intelligent Orangutans, beautiful Sumatran tigers and noble Asian elephants are being slaughtered because they interfere with the production of palm oil. No mention of this on the World Wildlife Fund's website where this travesty is generically described as "...the intense conflict between people and elephants...In Borneo and Sumatra, [where] commercial logging and conversion to agriculture are doing swift and irreversible damage..." Although their website is alive with entreaties to "Save the Planet," no mention of palm oil plantations is made.
Another product which can be used as biofuel is sugar. And a world of it exists nearby -- Brazil has vast reaches of soil perfectly situated to grow tons of it and plenty of inexpensive labor, too. The Carribean islands have been growing it since the 17th Century (for the rum 'ya know mon!) Indeed, ethanol from sugar costs .80 cents a gal to make while corn ethanol costs $1.10 per gal. So, essentially, it can be grown, harvested, distilled and transported to America for less than it takes to make a biofuel out of domestic corn. Why is this not done? That's right, sugar subsidies and protectionism. (Another holdover from WWII when sugar production was subsidized due to war scarcities.) So, similar to the EU mandates mentioned above, it's not "the market" or capitalism to blame, it's central planning and top down economics which leads to so much waste, cost and eco-destruction. (Here's a hint: the market has ALREADY figured out the most efficient fuels to use, duh.)
Next we come to nuclear. But sorry, the topic makes me so mad I can't think about it for long without, in Glenn Beck's colorful phrase, blood shooting out of my eyes. Suffice to say that if nuclear capacity had continued apace after Three Mile Island and "The China Syndrome", that is to say, had not been crippled by the econuts, we would actually be IN COMPLIANCE with the Kyoto protocols on CO2 emissions by now. (I thought liberals loved France, where 80% of their energy comes from nuclear.)
And what about the forests themselves? In fifty years, the average forest will absorb far more CO2 than will be saved by plowing it under, building a palm oil plantation or corn field, turning it into ethanol and burning it in your car. And the devastating effects on biodiversity have already been mentioned.
On top of all this, there is really no clear evidence that anthropomorphic global warming is anything more than a pipe dream. Far from the case being closed as the ANNOINTED ONE asserts, evidence continues to pour in that the man-made climate change is an equivocal theory at best. Global temperatures have cooled in the past ten years. The polar bear population is actually increasing (as are the ranks of caribou even after the Alaskan pipeline was built, in spite of anxious warnings from eco-extremists.) Reams of books have been written exposing one stupid enviro myth after another. (See Iain Murray's "The Really Inconvenient Truths" for a good start.) Alas, Al Gore's hometown, Nashville TN, recently marked several record-matching or record-breaking nightime lows for July. That's JULY. In the DEEP SOUTH. Anyway, I could go on and on, but you get the picture.
So, ethanol is just another enviro-hoax being perpetrated on the American public--and at great cost to them. Taxpayers subsidize its' production and then pay a heavy tax on its' use. It appears to be a giant transfer of wealth to Agribusiness which will have the net effect of harming the environment and impovershing the citizenry. Man, what a deal. Back in the day, I thought only Soviet Russian could offer largescale, widespread corruption like that. Now, I can enjoy it in the convenience of my own home.
Well, I need to close now so I can get out to the store and stock up on incandescent lightbulbs. Do you have any idea what a costly, environmental nightmare CLF light bulbs will be? Just don't break one unless you're wearing an industrial grade HAZMAT suit. First though, I have to clean up the mess from my low-flush toilet that doesn't work right (maybe if I flush it two or three more times...)