The Running Commentary


How clean is Clean energy?

lakeReading the latest issue of Time magazine I was struck by the article by Michael Grunwald entitled The Clean Energy Scam. The article makes for some very interesting reading and causes one to re-look the issue of biofuels. I am not going to spend a huge post of re-doing the article suffice it to say that if you are interested in the state of our planet and understanding the impact that the biofuel industry may have on the economy, then you need to read this article. I have below highlighted some interesting “facts” that have been mentioned by Michael.

1) Can biofuels reduce global warming? – Only sugarcane based ethanol is efficient enough to cut emissions by more that it takes to produce the fuel. The rest of the “green fuels” are net carbon emitters
2) The amount of corn required to produce ethanol to fill an SUV with one tank of gas could feed one person for 365 days
3) 750 000 Acres of Brazilian rain forest lost in the last six months of 2007 – these being lost to cattle farmers who have been forced to vacate their current land as a result of land prices booming for agriculture to supply corn for ethanol production.

For me the most startling point from the article is the following passage (I simply re-typed the paragraph):

“Not every kernel of corn diverted to fuel will be replaced. Diversions (for fuel) raise food prices, so the poor will eat less. That’s the reason a U.N. food expert recently called agrofuels a “crime against humanity.” Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute says that biofuels pit the 800 million people with cars against the 800 million with hunger problems. Four years ago, two University of Minnesota researchers predicted the ranks of the hungry would drop to 625 million by 2025; last year, after adjusting for the inflationary effects of biofuels, they predicted instead a rise to 1.2 billion.”

This paragraph would, to me anyway, indicate that certain of the biofuel industry have the potential to commit the largest injustice on the weakest part of the global population. I am no scientist but certainly if any of what has been said is this article is true then we need to educate ourselves on this topic even more. I know that I will be spending time on researching this to ensure that I make informed decisions. I certainly would not want to be part of a decision to support this industry if it means more global warming and increased poverty issues

Mike • April 10, 2008

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  1. Dwayne Bailey April 15, 2008 - 5:02 am

    Mike you’re late! But at least you’ve arrived in the blogging world…

    Funny how biofuels don’t change the general consumption attitude but this time around the people paying are the poor. How about people driving less? How about simply taxing SUVs out of this world or hammering the US for putting legislation in place that caused the rise in SUVs

    Here are some other ideas for you to mull over….

    Where do photovoltaic panels come from? Yip those lovely dunes in St Lucia and these devices too have only recently become net energy creators.

    The Eskom crisis proved one thing to me as everyone ran out for the Diesel generators. We are so tied to our consumption that people simply bought themselves out of a problem, paying very little attention to reducing consumption or even understanding how their little generator * 100,000 was going to make a not so good impact on their own lives.

    Funny how nuclear is gaining acceptance again. A fuel that is controlled and clean. Think how many tonnes of radioactive yuck goes up the smoke stacks of Eskom power stations. Plus the absolutely massive mountains of ash that are leaching radioactive substances into the surrounding area. At least Koeberg will only produce about two swimming pools (although about 9m deap) of highly radioactive waste… over 40 years!

    Mike go buy an electric scooter 🙂

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