Alternative Fools

This January 8 article from the New York Times shows how dangerous it is to panic in a crisis. Real or imagined.

From the article:

For instance, under mandates adopted by Congress during the George W. Bush administration and supported by the Obama administration, as much as 30 percent to 40 percent of the American corn crop is being turned into fuel for cars each year, displacing about 6 percent of the nation’s demand for gasoline.

Several studies have found that the policy has helped drive up global food prices, has worsened some types of air pollution and has done relatively little to reduce overall emissions of carbon dioxide, the gas primarily responsible for global warming.


In the mid-1990s, as the climate change lobby was ramping up, biofuels were held out by scientists and policymakers as a solution to the twin problems of global warming and peak oil. Biofuels, we were told, are the ultimate alternative energy resource. Cheap, renewable, clean. –And governments bought this line. In a big way. In the last two decades, hundreds of billions have been spent on developing and subsidizing the new technologies.

Unfortunately, as anyone with a pocket calculator and some common sense can tell you, crop-based biofuels such as ethanol are grossly inefficient to produce relative to other energy sources. Worse, they take food crop land out of production, driving up food prices and contributing to hunger among the poor. And what’s it been for? Biofuels as we now know them will never supply a significant amount of our fuel needs.

Biofuel is an example of what you get when you combine scientific ignorance and hucksterism at high temperatures that typically obtain during a crisis. The product is not something new but rather the same old glop that has powered everything from alchemy to perpetual motion devices to cold fusion.

In other words, don’t think fuel oil. Think snake oil.

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