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Greens again bait and switch on energy

By Dennis T. Avery
web posted November 16, 2009

Back during the bad old Bush presidency, the eco-movement loudly endorsed ethanol, particularly cellulosic ethanol, as a good eco-substitute for gasoline. Now they've changed their minds. They're finally admitting that you can't grow ethanol and food on the same acres. If you're going to add ethanol to your shopping list, you need to clear more land to grow the feedstock. When forest or grassland is cleared and plowed, huge amounts of carbon stored in the soil gas off into the air. If Global Warming is man-made, this is a serious problem.

This gem of newfound wisdom has just been published in the October 23 issue of Science, and dutifully repeated by the Washington Post and the other Green media collaborators. The lead author is Princeton's Tim Searchinger, formerly a lawyer for the Environmental Defense Fund.

Where were these "environmentalists" when Bush and the Congress installed their ill-considered mandates for corn and cellulosic ethanol? Three full years ago, I did a study with the Competitive Enterprise Institute titled Biofuels, Food or Wildlife:  The Massive Land Costs of U.S. Ethanol. I warned back then that making any useful amount of ethanol would force us to plow millions more acres of wildlands—first for corn and then for poplar, pine, and other fast-growing trees to make wood chips for cellulosic ethanol.

I warned there wasn't enough land to go around. Nobody cared; because the Greens approved it. But the Greens are playing bait-n-switch. First it was solar, but the sun only shines for half of each 24 hours. Clouds interrupt too. How can we keep the lights on at the school and the hospital? 

Then it was wind turbines. But a big EU power provider has testified that wind is so erratic you need 90 percent of your installed wind capacity matched in "spinning reserve"—burning fuel—from fossil or nuclear. Why bother to make the wind turbines at all? 

Corn ethanol nearly doubled world food prices in three years, and is set to do it again whenever there's a short corn crop. Cellulosic ethanol is still unworkable and the environmentalists are now telling us not to bother.

They don't want us to have energy! Paul Ehrlich and Maurice Strong—the Canadian "grey eminence" of the UN—agree that the threat to the earth is "too many rich people." And energy is the key to the affluence. So we must tax away the energy.

What about more nuclear plants that don't emit CO2?  The Obama administration won't allow spent nuclear fuel to be stored at Harry Reid's Yucca Mountain, and it won't permit reprocessing. Strike it off the list!

Now we learn that the energy-tax bills currently in the Congress contain a little clause that lets the White House renege on all those emission permits the big companies have sold their souls for—if CO2 levels go too high. That's not temperatures too high, but CO2 levels in the atmosphere too high. So what if CO2 has almost no linkage to our temperatures? As the oceans recover from their Little Ice Age chill, the laws of physics guarantee higher and higher CO2 concentrations in the air. Talk about legislative sleight-of-hand! 

Again I will warn the Green movement:  If children are starving for lack of nitrogen fertilizer for the crops (made with natural gas); if elderly voters are literally freezing to death in their homes for lack of coal; those laws won't be worth the paper they were drafted on (considerable as the paper piles already are).

In fact, the Congress itself will race to change the laws before you can say "tea party."  ESR

Dennis T. Avery is an environmental economist, and a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC.  He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer, of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Hundred Years, Readers may write him at PO Box 202, Churchville, VA 24421 or email to cgfi@hughes.net.

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