Daily Archives: November 9, 2018

How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor | Foreign Affairs

By C. Ford Runge and Benjamin Senauer

In 1974, as the United States was reeling from the oil embargo imposed by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Congress took the first of many legislative steps to promote ethanol made from corn as an alternative fuel. On April 18, 1977, amid mounting calls for energy independence, President Jimmy Carter donned his cardigan sweater and appeared on television to tell Americans that balancing energy demands with available domestic resources would be an effort the “moral equivalent of war.” The gradual phaseout of lead in the 1970s and 1980s provided an additional boost to the fledgling ethanol industry. (Lead, a toxic substance, is a performance enhancer when added to gasoline, and it was partly replaced by ethanol.) A series of tax breaks and subsidies also helped. In spite of these measures, with each passing year the United States became more dependent on imported petroleum, and ethanol remained marginal at best.

thanks to a combination of high oil prices and even more generous government subsidies, corn-based ethanol has become the rage. There were 110 ethanol refineries in operation in the United States at the end of 2006, according to the Renewable Fuels Association. Many were being expanded, and another 73 were under construction. When these projects are completed, by the end of 2008, the United States’ ethanol production capacity will reach an estimated 11.4 billion gallons per year. In his latest State of the Union address, President George W. Bush called on the country to produce 35 billion gallons of renewable fuel a year by 2017, nearly five times the level currently mandated.

The push for ethanol and other biofuels has spawned an industry that depends on billions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies, and not only in the United States. In 2005, global ethanol production was 9.66 billion gallons, of which Brazil produced 45.2 percent (from sugar cane) and the United States 44.5 percent (from corn). Global production of biodiesel (most of it in Europe), made from oilseeds, was almost one billion gallons.

The industry’s growth has meant that a larger and larger share of corn production is being used to feed the huge mills that produce ethanol. According to some estimates, ethanol plants will burn up to half of U.S. domestic corn supplies within a few years. Ethanol demand will bring 2007 inventories of corn to their lowest levels since 1995 (a drought year), even though 2006 yielded the third-largest corn crop on record. Iowa may soon become a net corn importer.

The enormous volume of corn required by the ethanol industry is sending shock waves through the food system. (The United States accounts for some 40 percent of the world’s total corn production and over half of all corn exports.) In March 2007, corn futures rose to over $4.38 a bushel, the highest level in ten years. Wheat and rice prices have also surged to decade highs, because even as those grains are increasingly being used as substitutes for corn, farmers are planting more acres with corn and fewer acres with other crops.

This might sound like nirvana to corn producers, but it is hardly that for consumers, especially in poor developing countries, who will be hit with a double shock if both food prices and oil prices stay high. The World Bank has estimated that in 2001, 2.7 billion people in the world were living on the equivalent of less than $2 a day; to them, even marginal increases in the cost of staple grains could be devastating. Filling the 25-gallon tank of an SUV with pure ethanol requires over 450 pounds of corn

Herculean Climate Rant to Rouse Humanity

Paul Beckwith
Published on Nov 8, 2018

I am only wearing a T-Shirt in this RANT as I walk to school in Ottawa. Problem is that we are in November, and I am at at latitude 45 N and it is a balmy 10 C (50 F). Dude, where is winter?? I chat on Rapid Climate Change, Arctic darkening, Hope vs Hopelessness, Compassion, Resilience, Stoic Stoicism, CDR, SRM, Iron Salt Aerosols, Marine Permaculture Arrays, Sulphur, Biomimicry, Trees, Artificial Cement, Sucking Carbon from the Sky and Water, and a lot of other cooling things.

Stop biodiversity loss or we could face our own extinction, warns UN | Environment | The Guardian

Jonathan Watts Tue 6 Nov 2018 08.47 EST First published on Sat 3 Nov 2018 02.00 EDT

Deforestation in Indonesian to make way for a palm oil concession. Photograph: Ulet Ifansasti/Greenpeace

The world must thrash out a new deal for nature in the next two years or humanity could be the first species to document our own extinction, warns the United Nation’s biodiversity chief.

Ahead of a key international conference to discuss the collapse of ecosystems, Cristiana Pașca Palmer said people in all countries need to put pressure on their governments to draw up ambitious global targets by 2020 to protect the insects, birds, plants and mammals that are vital for global food production, clean water and carbon sequestration.

…(read more).

See related full series

Taxing red meat would save many lives, research shows | Environment | The Guardian

Damian Carrington Environment editor@dpcarrington Tue 6 Nov 2018 13.00 EST

The cost of bacon and sausages would double if the harm they cause to people’s health was taken into account

A ‘sin tax’ on on meat products such as beef, lamb and pork is inevitable in the longer term, say some experts. Photograph: Holger Burmeister/Alamy

Taxing red meat would save many lives and raise billions to pay for healthcare, according to new research. It found the cost of processed meat such as bacon and sausages would double if the harm they cause to people’s health was taken into account.

Governments already tax harmful products to reduce their consumption, such as sugar, alcohol and tobacco. With growing evidence of the health and environmental damage resulting from red meat, some experts now believe a “sin tax” on beef, lamb and pork is inevitable in the longer term.

The World Health Organization declared processed red meat to be a carcinogen in 2015, and unprocessed red meat such as steaks and chops to be a probable carcinogen. However, people in rich nations eat more than the recommended amount of red meat, which is also linked to heart disease, strokes and diabetes.

Edge of Extinction: Malpractice vs Telling the Full Truth

Nature Bats Last
Published on Nov 7, 2018


Message from Afrizen: “In my journey through the “DABDA” stages of grieving, regarding my understanding and expectation of what is to come in terms of anthropomorphic climate change, this song expresses my time in the first A – Anger. With time and reflection I’ve made it through to the second A, Acceptance, and my position regarding my lyrics has changed.

They made sense when my assumptions were

1. that humanity and nature are separate,
2. that humanity is “committing crimes” against nature, and
3. that humanity will be punished for doing so.

My thinking now is that

1. I don’t see a fundamental distinction between our species and the rest of nature, and
2. humanity is behaving exactly in accordance with its evolved genetic imperatives to survive, thrive and multiply today, regardless of the consequences tomorrow.

I think my lyrics’ vitriolic theme and tone are misplaced and I suspect the song’s effect might possibly be to either foster or reinforce anger and bitterness in listeners. These are natural and appropriate emotions when first waking up to the predicament we are in (as I understand it) but, in my personal experience, anger and bitterness are unhelpful and detrimental if not worked through and overcome. The upsides of this new perspective for me are greater compassion and tolerance for my fellows, greater peace of mind and general happiness. I can only wish the same for others who are going through this.”