The history of human progress is essentially the history of man's mastery of ever more powerful and effective sources of energy. Today, with misguided “greens” attempting to roll back the clock on energy production, it is a good time to teach our children and remind ourselves where we came from. The following is an entertaining history of humans and their energy sources by Viv Forbes—a science graduate, geologist, mineral economist, farmer and Chairman of the Carbon Sense Coalition—with illustrations by cartoonist Steve Hunter.
It is Earth Day today, a chance for all tree huggers, green activists and other self absorbed eco-types to feel good about themselves by disparaging their neighbors. There was a time when environmental issues were rightfully at the top of people's concerns—the skies above our cities were brown and noxious, our rivers and streams poisoned with pollution, lead was accumulating in the environment and our children. The problem is, though most major problems have been addressed, the bureaucracy that was created to fix the environment cannot help but look for new problems that demand solutions, even if the problems are slight and the solutions draconian. Chief among these new problems is “carbon pollution” by which the eco-enforcers mean CO2 emissions. The tragedy of Earth Day is that governments spend billions of dollars on meaningless efforts to curb carbon dioxide while billions live in poverty and squaller around the world.
Over 4,000 years ago, the Harappan Civilization of the Indus Valley faded and disappeared. Never heard of the Harappans? Theirs was a Bronze-Age civilization located where Pakistan and northwest India are today. With large, well-planned cities, municipal sewage systems and writing that has never been deciphered, they had a civilization equal to Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Greece. But the Harappans fell victim to what most view as a modern horror—climate change. Sometime around 2,100 BC the monsoon cycle, vital to all of South Asia, faltered. The reliable rains stopped, and man's earliest civilizations fell. Now we are told that California—that progressive paradise on the Pacific—is poised on the brink of its own drought spawned disaster. So desperate have things become that one restaurant chain has threatened to stop serving guacamole and vintners are turning to witchcraft. Can the total collapse of Californian civilization be far behind?
In 2012, a research group led by Gilles-Eric Séralini, a molecular biologist at the University of Caen, France, published a controversial paper that claimed genetically modified (GM) maize (corn) causes serious disease in rats. But analysis by the scientific community concluded that the study was fatally flawed. Critics asserted that the small number and type of animals used in the study meant that “no definitive conclusions can be reached.” Regardless, many anti-GM activists touted the paper as proof that GM crops were dangerous and called for a ban on all GM crops. Now, the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology has withdrawn the disputed paper over the authors' objection—sometimes science does work.
Often ignored in times of calamity, and eclipsed in the media by faux crises like Global Warming, humanity is facing the very real possibility of food shortages in the future. Given that the average citizen of a developed country consumes eight times their weight in food each year, this is no small problem. Not to fear, dedicated teams of scientists and technologists are on the job, trying to invent the food of the future. Many of the proposed solutions center on being able to print edible objects using 3D printing technology. This would allow raw feed stocks of protein, carbohydrate, starch, and other substances to be combined into food on demand in our homes—food tailored to individual nutritional needs with less waste than conventional preparation. Moreover, the raw material could come from unlikely sources: algae, seaweed, mealworms and insects. Will future food save the planet?
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.