Peter Raven lecture

Heard Peter Raven lecture just last Friday, and it was excellent. Can’t find too much of his stuff online though, but here’s one link.

He was asked about ethanol by e_f to which he simply said “It is a terrible idea.” Finally, someone in Saint Louis, heart of the corn belt, saying the truth about ethanol.

But I was able to get the question in, and he answered at some length, referring to the food riots that are presently occurring all over the world.

Why don’t we have people like Peter Raven in positions where they can influence public policy more? It might have something to do with: the deliberately confused picture painted by the media, don’tcha think? A prime example can be found right over at Reason magazine’s website.

I find it interesting that ethanol was pushed like crazy by a few big corporations, but now that it is clear that ethanol is really, really bad for the environment there is a lot of revisionism going on. And that’s what the piece from Reason magazine “The Biofuel Brew ha-ha: How the greens are making it more expensive to get blotto” is: revisionism.

Apparently, now that ethanol has been outed and found to be just a little greener than open pit coal mining, the libertarian party line is: Let’s blame the greens!

The blame is attached in an assertion made in the article’s sub-title. The author, Peter Suderman very wisely never revisits the sub-title in his article, because if he did that he might actually have to produce some evidence. Instead, after he makes his sideways assertion, he talks about the rising price of beer.

But he never revisits the assertion he makes in the subtitle, that the greens are somehow responsible for the ethanol market, when it is quite demonstrable that most greens have opposed ethanol, quite vigorously.

So it fits in with sideways adjective category, even though it’s really a sideways assertion, but let’s not split hairs here:

The Biofuel Brew Ha-Ha
How the greens are making it more expensive to get blotto
Peter Suderman | April 9, 2008

Thanks to these crop shifts, the price of barley has doubled in the past two years, an increase that eventually gets passed along to consumers. Some brewers have raised their prices already, and many others are planning on raising them soon. German beer drinkers are already feeling the hit on beers like Erdmann’s Ayinger, which raised its price from 6.10 euros to 6.40 euros over the last year. That’s roughly fifty cents a beer for Germans who consume an average of more than 30 gallons of beer person each year.

But that seems like a fairly small price to pay for such a worthy cause, right? After all, if, as scientists like NASA climatologist James Hansen say, global warming threatens humanity with imminent catastrophe from climactic shifts and sea level rise, then biofuels might be a little more important than brew prices.

Problem is, it turns out that even if you consider climate change a serious threat, biofuels are hardly an effective means of preventing it. In fact, they just might exacerbate the problem. These days, anyone saying otherwise—like, for example, European regulators—must be sloshed.

Two studies published in the journal Science at the beginning of February indicate that, rather than producing less carbon emissions than regular fuels, biofuels, once the full production costs are taken into account, probably produce greater overall emissions than their traditional counterparts. And the difference isn’t tiny, either.

Peter Raven lecture

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