The Resilient Earth Press is happy to bring you an interesting interview with the well known economist Ed Dolan. Courtesy of Oilprice.com, Dolan gives his perspective on oil prices, the prospects for cheap energy, Russia's growing uncertainty and how the natural gas boom is hindering renewable energy efforts. We think you will find a number of thought provoking statements and ideas to ponder in the views expressed in the interview, which appears in its entirety below.
Most Americans have noticed that the price of gasoline at the pump has started to rise again. Gasoline prices have surged 30 cents since mid-July and now average $3.70 a gallon, higher than year-ago levels in 39 states. While some sources have blamed the recent refinery fire in California and others a rise in crude oil prices there is one hidden source of increasing fuel costs few are willing to mention—ethanol. Mandated by Congress to make up 10% of automotive gasoline, ethanol made from corn accounts for a quarter of recent fuel price increases while at the same time contributing to rising food costs and shortages world wide. Not satisfied with this astounding government largess, an unnatural alliance of eco-activists and big agribusiness is lobbying to raise the mandate to 15%. It is time for this blatant government kickback to end.
Nostradamus, the famous prognosticator, was said to have received his visions of the future by scrying—staring into a pool of ink for hours on end. The climate science equivalent of a gazing pool is the computer climate model, huge collections of complicated computer code that supposedly crank out frightening visions of the future. Most of the discussion about climate change has centered on the global aspects of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW), but now a number of climate mystics are turning their modeling dark arts to doing regional predictions. Why? The better to frighten the public and elicit funding from government coffers. Unfortunately, as climate researchers struggling to sharpen their fuzzy picture of what the future holds one fact has been ignored—there is even more uncertainty in regional models than in the global ones.
Maize, called corn in the US, is one of the world's great staple crops. It is consumed directly, fed to food animals, and processed into oil and sweeteners. The US is the largest consumer and producer of corn, growing more than twice as much as next largest producer China. A rise in corn prices causes a rise in food prices in general, and shortages have even caused riots in some countries. As important as corn is to the world's food supply it would seem the height of insanity to convert corn into automotive fuel. Yet last year, for the first time, more of the US corn crop went into the manufacture of ethanol fuel than for livestock feed, corn's traditional main use. About 40% of US corn now goes to ethanol, and though there is serious talk about dropping the $0.45 per gallon government subsidy, ethanol producers remain sanguine about their future. Why? Because the federal government will still mandate the mixing of ethanol with gasoline even if it no longer subsidizes its use directly.
Recently, the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium decided to hold a trial, charging humanity with ruining the planet. Based on the so called 9 Planetary Boundaries, a jury of 20 Nobel Laureates sat in judgment while “compelling evidence” was presented showing that “humanity may now be capable of radically altering the remarkable conditions for life on Earth.” The Planetary Boundaries approach was developed by 28 scientists, who estimated that three of the boundaries, climate change, the nitrogen cycle and biodiversity loss, have already been crossed and that several others are all ready in dangerous territory. We have all been charged with transgressing boundaries laid down by a group of scientists most people have never heard of, judged and found guilty by a gaggle of Nobel Prize winners, and been remanded to the UN for punishment. This sham trial does not represent justice but an attempt to place humanity in ecological bondage.
When night falls, many insects come out to feed, often on human food crops. Helping to turn back the pillaging insect hoards is an aerial armada of unsung and unloved heroes—bats. Bats are voracious predators of nocturnal insects, helping to control the populations of many crop and forest pests. Tragically, several migratory tree-dwelling species are being killed in unprecedented numbers by wind turbines across North America. Recent analysis presented in the journal Science suggests that reduced bat populations cause agricultural losses estimated at more than $3.7 billion/year and could rise as high as $53 billion/year if bats are driven to extinction. Oblivious to the carnage being caused by wind turbines, climate change alarmists and green political dupes have continued to push for rapid expansion of wind power. It is time to call a moratorium on wind park construction until a more realistic and less damaging policy can be formulated.
As public concern rises over the safety and ecological soundness of renewable energy sources like solar and wind, the nuclear power industry is quietly ramping up to build new, smaller types of reactors that can be deployed as sealed power units. Russia is moving ahead with plans to locate floating nuclear power plants along its northern coast and a French company has designed a small offshore nuclear power plant called Flexblue. At the same time, efforts by the US Department of Energy's Savannah River Site to host a range of proof-of-concept units from several vendors has run afoul of bureaucratic infighting. Around the world, nuclear power is progressing, while former nuclear technology leader America founders.
Al Gore, the high prophet of ecological doom, has stunned the climate change faithful by recanting his support for ethanol fuel. Now he tells us that supporting corn based subsidies was a mistake and that it had more to do with his desire to cultivate farm votes in the 2000 presidential election than with what was good for the environment. This announcement comes at a time when the US Congress has an opportunity to set things right. The current $0.45 per gallon tax credit for adding ethanol to gasoline automatically expires December 31, and all senators and congressmen need to do is nothing. Continue to dither and taxpayers will save six billion dollars plus the air will be cleaner. Unfortunately, the corn ethanol lobby has its hooks well planted in the US Congress, including many Republicans who supposedly have seen the light of spending reduction. Will Congress betray the people yet again?
Evidently 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity, a year long celebration of Earth's glorious variety of species and ecosystems. Unfortunately, the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has failed to meet its ambitious goal: a significant slowdown in biodiversity loss by 2010. The AAAS journal Science has acknowledged this celebration with special News Focus section and a Review article. “After failing to meet its major conservation goal, the Convention on Biological Diversity is setting new targets for stemming the loss of species,” its lead article states. But the news is not all bad. In some countries, conservation efforts have helped species recover and reportedly large-scale deforestation in the Amazon has declined by 47.5% over the past 12 months. With eco-alarmists shifting their panicked attention from climate change to biodiversity, it is time to look at the facts.
Through generous subsidies from the US government, secured by corn-belt politicians, 25% of America's corn (maize) crop is turned into ethanol for use in automobiles. Ignoring the negative impact this has on food production, agricultural runoff and land use, there is new talk of raising government mandated fuel mixture proportions to use even more ethanol. At the same time, the idea of turning farm and forest wastes into "cellulosic" ethanol, a biofuel to power cars and trucks continues to languish. Because of the ongoing economic slump, a plentiful supply of ethanol made from corn, and uncertainty among policymakers, companies have delayed plans to build commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants, some canceling them altogether. Evidently, even the hundreds of millions of dollars on offer from the Department of Energy (DOE) are not enough to lure investors to participate in this latest biofuel boondoggle. Industry understands what biofuel advocates do not—biofuels make no sense in terms of energy policy: neither environmentally nor economically. Instead of propping up wasteful and nonviable biofuel schemes, Congress should stop all biofuel subsidies and kill all ongoing ethanol projects.
With the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico emboldening all the denizens of the eco-underground, some voices are once again calling for increased production of biofuels—ethanol and biodiesel—and accelerated research into clean coal. Ignoring the fact that biofuels take as much energy to produce as they provide and that they are only competitive with heavy government subsidies, biofuel boosters are again trying to sell their snake-oil to the public. But the single most damning aspect of biofuel production is the exorbitant amount of water it takes to cook-up a gallon of the stuff. Now it appears that the other great energy scam, clean coal, will also increase water usage—by a whopping 80%. With the world facing a real water crisis in the near future, the last thing any government should be doing is wasting their citizens' money on are “green” energy scams that are really just subsidies for coal companies and big agribusiness conglomerates.
Across the southeastern US, the nitrogen-fixing legume Pueraria montana, more commonly known as kudzu, has been an impossible to eradicate invader for decades. While its direct impact on native ecosystems is highly visible—a smothering green blanket that swallows up shrubs, trees and even houses—what is not as apparent is kudzu's effect on the atmosphere. Its spread has the potential to raise ozone levels by increasing nitric oxide (NO) emissions from soils by as much as 100%. Since NO is a potent greenhouse gas, the spread of the pesky vine could be a contributing factor to climate change. That's right: kudzu causes global warming!
A report out from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting, which was held in Barcelona, identifies peaty wetlands as a major source of CO2. Marshes, swamps and bogs emit about 1.3 billion tonnes of CO2 a year as a result of human activity that drains them. If those dried out former swamps catch fire that amount can double and large amounts of aerosols can be emitted as well. With governments offering subsidies for growing biofuel crops the question is, how do we stop people from draining the world's remaining wetlands?
In the face of ever mounting evidence that CO2 is incapable of causing the level of global devastation prophesied by climate change catastrophists a new villain is being sought. The leading candidate is nitrous oxide (N2O), better known as laughing gas. A report in Science claims that N2O emissions are currently the single most important cause of ozone depletion and are expected to remain so throughout the 21st century. The IPCC rates N2O as 310 times as potent a greenhouse gas as CO2 on a 100 year time scale. Is this a greenhouse gas bait and switch, or are the global warming alarmists trying to up the ante?
It is no surprise to anyone who has studied the history of our planet and the life it harbors that CO2 levels have been falling for billions of years. Despite all the hoopla over rising CO2 levels, eventually Earth will have lost so much carbon dioxide from its atmosphere that plants and trees will suffocate, signaling an end to life as we know it. Now, a team of scientists from the California Institute of Technology, led by physicist King-Fai Li, have proposed a way to avert disaster—get rid of much of the atmosphere.