Monday, May 30, 2005


The current debate about U.S. oil policy is ... dominated by a special-interest lobby whose primary interest is to enrich automakers and alternative-fuel producers, and by journalists whose enthusiasm for the green agenda has clouded their understanding of basic economics. In 2004, the Apollo Alliance was patched together as an election-year opportunity to promote $300 billion in federal subsidies and tax breaks, largely for ethanol and methanol to (as the Kerry campaign put it) "help farmers and coal miners." This year, it has again endorsed a $12-billion subsidy plan.

Meanwhile, Set America Free, a group associated with the Apollo Alliance, has made a highly publicized claim that the government could painlessly bribe or compel Detroit (but not BMW or Infiniti) to make cars that get 500 miles per gallon. This bizarre number starts with the Toyota Prius, which gets about 44 mpg. What they don't tell you is that the figure would fall to 32 mpg if the Prius ran on the group's proposed mix of 85 percent ethanol. They claim such a car's mileage per gallon could be doubled by adding heavy batteries to be plugged in for short trips on electricity (i.e., 67 horsepower and no air conditioning) alone.

Even if drivers were willing to do this, it would be bad for the environment. As the Sierra Club's Dan Becker notes, "coal is more polluting than gasoline, and nearly 60 percent of U.S. electricity is generated by burning coal." Yet the plug-in supposedly gets us up to 100 mpg, which magically rises to 500 by assuming one out of every five or six gallons consists of gasoline and the rest is ethanol or methanol (and pretending those fuels can be produced without energy). They mean gallons of petroleum, not fuel. But it takes a lot of petroleum to farm corn (fertilizer, pesticides, and farm-equipment fuel), convert it to ethanol, and get it to market. By the same logic by which the IAGS came up with that 500 mpg figure, an all-electric car or a methanol-powered giant truck could be said to get infinite miles per gallon.

A closer look at some of Set America Free's supporters sheds a little light on the group's political objectives. Aside from their association with the Apollo Alliance - whose raison d'etre is to promote ethanol and methanol subsidies - the group is significant in that one-third of their masthead consists of directors and advisors to the Institute for Analysis of Global Security (IAGS), although just two are identified as such. Other individuals not directly affiliated with IAGS or Apollo include a few prominent names identified only by their past government jobs, even though some now have conflicting interests in energy companies and electric utilities. IAGS's directors and advisors include an executive director of the International LNG Alliance, the vice chairman of the International Committee on Coal Research, an executive director of the Gas Technology Institute, a founder of DCH Technology Inc. (a fuel-cell company), a founder of Global Energy Investors LLC, and a principal of Energy and Communications Solutions LLC.

What such disinterested advisors have in common is that they want to send $4 billion to U.S. automotive manufacturers to build the hybrids Japan already sells, $4 billion to "demonstration plants" to produce methanol or ethanol and provide the related pumps, $2 billion to those who will "continue work on commercializing fuel cell technology," and $2 billion to the incentive bin in the form of tax breaks for those rich enough to afford a $48,535 Lexus 400h or the larger new hybrids coming from GM and Ford (many of which promise only 10 to 15 percent better mileage than gas-powered equivalents).

The IAGS is a "global security" advocacy group, interested in energy economics only as a roundabout means to their global (not national) foreign-policy objective. They want to impose stern conservation on U.S. (not foreign) motorists. Putting possible special-interest conflicts aside, the ideological rationale of IAGS is to use austerity in driving as unilateral economic warfare against two identifiable Middle Eastern oil producers.

Their argument begins by feigning alarm that "22 percent of the world's oil is in the hands of state sponsors of terrorism." But only three of the seven countries on the State Department's list of terrorism sponsors are oil exporters, and one of those is now occupied by U.S. forces. That leaves Iran and Libya, who account for merely 7 percent of world production. Reserves are irrelevant. Governments are paid for what they produce, not for what remains in the ground. A full 93 percent of the proposed austerity in U.S. oil demand would be aimed at oil-producing countries who are not state sponsors of terrorism, notably Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. itself.

The IAGS nonetheless theorizes, "Reducing demand for Middle East oil would force the petroleum-rich regimes to invest their funds domestically, seek ways to diversify their economies and rethink their support for America's enemies." This echoes the "geo-green" theme of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who wrote in January that "if we put all our focus on reducing the price of oil - by conservation, by developing renewable and alternative energies and by expanding nuclear power - we will force more reform [of Middle Eastern politics] than by any other strategy." He promised $18 a barrel would guarantee "political and economic reform from Algeria to Iran."

But the process of replacing older vehicles with ethanol-fueled plug-in hybrids would move with glacial slowness, and would not shrink global oil demand enough to collapse oil prices. That is why Friedman proposes to further decrease demand by raising U.S. taxes high enough to keep gasoline above $4 a gallon regardless of the price of crude. In practice, this would simply mean that we would pay much more for gasoline so other nations could pay less.

Even if world oil did fall back to $18 a barrel, as Friedman would like, there would be no incentive for Asia or Europe to economize on oil use at all, nor for anyone to supply or demand expensive alternatives. Besides, the price of oil was below $18 nearly all the time from February 1986 to June 1999 - falling as low as $11 at the end of 1998 and remaining below $20 through the end of 2001. Yet cheap oil did nothing to promote economic or political liberty in Algeria, Iran, or anywhere else. This theory has been tested - and it failed completely....

More here


Those who remember Paul Ehrlich will know the answer to that one

Mass famine and starvation due to a collapse of agricultural production ranks high among myriad catastrophes environmentalists claim human-induced global warming will cause. Fortunately, this is one global warming bogeyman that's easy to slay. Regardless of the cause of the current warming, the best available evidence indicates a warmer planet should result in bountiful crops. The modest warming many scientists expect should result in longer growing seasons, more sunshine and rainfall, while summertime high temperatures change little. And a warmer planet means milder winters and fewer crop-killing frosts.

History shows the Earth's climate is less stormy and more stable in relatively warm eras. The present warming trend has not resulted in agricultural water shortages. Indeed, rainfall is increasing moderately over most of the world because global warming evaporates more water from the oceans, where it falls back down to earth in a reinvigorated hydrological cycle. Thanks partly to increased rainfall, infrared satellite readings show worldwide vegetative activity generally increased 6.17 percent between 1982 and 1999. The world is getting greener. Continued warming should increase, rather than reduce, rainfall.

In addition, global warming also increases carbon dioxide (CO2), which acts like fertilizer for plants. As the planet warms, oceans naturally release huge tonnages of additional CO2. (Cold water can hold much more of a gas than warmer water). CO2 in the atmosphere has increased more than 30 percent in the past half-century. CO2 is a critical component of photosynthesis, the process by which plants use sunlight to create carbohydrates -- the material that makes up their root and body structures. Increasing CO2 levels not only speeds the growth of plants, it improves their water use efficiency. More CO2 also decreases water loss in plants, which is beneficial in arid climates or during droughts. Botanists pump large volumes of CO2 into their greenhouses to enhance plant growth.

A series of 55 experiments by research scientist Sherwood Idso, formerly of the Agriculture Department, support botanists' faith in CO2's beneficial effects. For example, when Mr. Idso increased CO2 by 300 parts per million (ppm) above the current atmospheric level of more than 370 ppm, plant growth increased 31 percent under optimal water conditions, and 63 percent under water scarcity. With a 600 ppm CO2 increase, plant growth was enhanced 51 percent under optimal water conditions and an astonishing 219 percent under conditions of water shortage. CO2 enrichment causes plants to develop more extensive root systems that allow plants to reach additional pockets of both water and nutrients in the soil, reducing the metabolic energy required to capture vital nutrients. More extensive, active roots also stimulate and enhance the activity of bacteria and other organisms in the soil that are beneficial to plants. Since many of today's plants evolved when CO2 levels were much higher, some scientists fear today's plants are literally starving from CO2 deprivation.

Based on nearly 800 scientific observations around the world, a doubling of CO2 from present levels -- would improve plant productivity on average by 32 percent across species. Controlled experiments have shown that, that under elevated CO2 levels, average yields of cereal grains, including rice, wheat and oats are 25 percent to 64 percent higher. Tubers and root crops, including potatoes, and cassava, yield 18 to 75 percent more under high CO2 conditions. And yields of legumes, including peas, beans and soybeans, increase between 28 percent and 46 percent. So far, since 1950, in a period of global warming, these factors have helped the world's grain production soar from 700 million more than 2 billion tons last year.

Humans can help nature along. Recently, Egypt genetically engineered a drought-tolerant wheat plant -- containing a gene from the barley plant -- that needs to be irrigated only once, rather than eight times per season. The new wheat is expected to dramatically increase food production in semi-arid climates. In addition, constantly improving transportation systems help reduce localized food shortages. The real famine threat will come not in the present warming, but rather the next Ice Age when huge ice sheets will once again cover Canada and Russia, and the Northern Plains will be too cold to farm. Fortunately, that test may not come for another 10,000 years. By then, unless regulations interfere, the world should have genetically engineered a set of even higher-yielding and still more stress-tolerant crop varieties to feed humanity on dramatically reduced acreage.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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