Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ethanol is a Net Energy Loser

In his State of the Union speech, President Bush called for increasing ethanol as a way of reducing petroleum consumption and dependence on foreign oil. It will do just the opposite.

Many studies over the years have concluded that it takes more energy for growing the corn (for farm machinery, pesticides, fertilizers) and distilling the alcohol than you can get from burning the ethanol that is produced. The best known of these is by Prof. David Pimentel of Cornell University, which is featured in the Encyclopedia of Physical Sciences and Technology. But his work has been criticized by the ethanol industry and others promoting ethanol, including the National Corn Growers Association, the Renewable Fuels Association, and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. They have come up with their own studies, the best known of which is by Hosein Shapouri, an economist with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

Pimentel says “The reason [they] come up with positive returns and we do not is that they omit about half of the inputs.” One he has cited is the energy needed to make and maintain farm equipment. He asks, “Have you seen many farmers raising corn by hand?” He also says Shapouri “draws the bounds too close to the gates of the ethanol plant.” But the most important dispute involves the amount of energy credited to byproducts from ethanol production, whose principal use is cattle feed. Shapouri charges 34 percent of the energy to this purpose, leaving only 66 percent charged against ethanol. Pimentel, on the other hand, says the appropriate credit should be the amount of energy needed to grow and produce soybean meal, which can be used for the same purposes—and requires vastly less energy. The cost has to be competitive or no one would use the product. Why would anyone substitute a high cost product for a low cost one? Only by crediting an unrealistically high energy cost to the byproduct can the cost of ethanol be held artificially low enough to make it appear net-energy efficient and economic. (If it were energy efficient and economic, it would not need government subsidies.)

The ethanol advocates claim Pimentel used old data and that the industry has gotten more efficient since his study several years ago. They say it now results in a net gain in energy. However, just two moths ago Pimentel and his colleague Ted Patzek, of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at University of California-Berkeley, provided an update. Writing in BioScience, they state:

"Our up-to-date analysis of the 14 energy inputs that typically go into corn production and the 9 invested in fermentation and distillation operations confirms that 29 percent more energy (derived from fossil fuels) is required to produce a gallon of corn ethanol than is contained in the ethanol. Ethanol from cellulosic biomass is worse: With current technology, 50 percent more energy is required to produce a gallon than the product can deliver."

They also state that “the environmental impacts of corn ethanol are enormous,” including severe soil erosion, heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides, and 1,700 gallons of water (mostly to grow the corn) for each gallon of ethanol, plus 6 to 12 gallons of noxious organic effluent.

Once again, government intervention in the market is worse than if it did nothing. It is substituting a more expensive product at a net loss of energy, with greater consumption--not conservation--of petroleum resources and with more severe impact on the environment than would occur if the outcome were simply left to the free market. It is another illustration of the wisdom of Nobel Prize-winning economist Friedrich Hayek when he said it is a “fatal conceit” that government can do better than the market in determining the economic actions that can best advance society.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Slanting the News on Global Warming

Last night the NBC Evening News was a good example of how the media falsely reports stories about global warming, turning them into propaganda hype instead of factual reporting. The story featured temperature measurements showing alarming warming on the Antarctic peninsula. Most viewers are unfamiliar with the geography of Antarctica and would therefore assume what they were told was representative of the whole continent. That was obviously the intent of the NBC report. It said nothing about the temperatures anywhere else in Antarctica. Nowhere did the program inform viewers that the peninsula is not representative, that it is the part of Antarctica that is furthest from the South Pole, that it comprises only 2 percent of the continent—and that the other 98 percent of the continent has been cooling since regular temperature records began in 1957! Not a word was said about that. So it was obviously dishonest of NBC to claim its story showed evidence of global warming.

I live in Minneapolis. The major newspaper here, the Star Tribune, hypes global warming just like the major TV networks. For years I have tried to get the paper to print something of the scientific evidence to the contrary. I have sent at least 11 letters (I think actually 12 or 13), complete with scientific references so they could verify the truth of my statements, but they never printed one word of any of letters. They simply don't want the public to know the other side. An issue that comes to mind here concerns the melting of the ice cap on Mount Kilimanjaro. The Star Tribune devoted considerable space to this issue as evidence of global warming: “Perhaps the best line of evidence for global warming is the melting of mountain ice caps in the tropics….Given rates of current melting, there will be no ice on top of Mount Kilimanjaro…within the next couple of decades.”

But history and satellite temperature measurements tell a different story. Measurements were made of the Kilimanjaro ice cap in 1912, 1953, 1976, 1989 and 2000. Kilimanjaro lost 45 percent of its icecap between 1912 and 1953. Had this trend continued, those glaciers would already be gone. But the period 1953 to 1976 was a period of global COOLING (minus 0.13 degree F)—and Kilimanjaro’s glaciers still lost another 21 percent! Another 12 percent has disappeared since 1976, the lowest rate since 1912. Thus, contrary to the hype of the global warming proponents, Kilimanjaro’s icecap has been melting more slowly in recent decades, not faster.

Moreover, since 1979, we have satellite temperature measurements, which are far more accurate than ground-based measurements and give us measurements at various elevations. At the height of Mt. Kilimanjaro, 19,000 feet, they show a COOLING of the Kilimanjaro area of 0.40 degrees F. since 1979. This cooling rate (0.17 degrees F. per decade) is exactly the same as the warming rate from 1912 to 1953. Kilimanjaro is just one more example of trying to scare the public with a global warming story that has no basis in fact.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Which is it: Global Warming or Cooling—or Neither?

The earth warmed about 1 degree F. in the past century. But even this small total is not a steady trend but rather the sum of several short-term warming and cooling cycles of 20 to 30 years or so. These cycles are simply too small to indicate global climate change, despite the hype attached to them. Pronouncements of climate cooling 20 or 30 years ago sound very much like the arguments made today for global warming. For example:

"The world's climatologists are agreed," said Science Digest (Feb. 1973), “that we must prepare for the next ice age."

The journal Science (Dec. 10, 1976) warned of "extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation."

"Warning: Earth's Climate is Changing Faster Than Even Experts Expect," headlined the Christian Science Monitor (Aug. 27, 1974). It said glaciers "have begun to advance," "growing seasons in England and Scandinavia are getting shorter," and "the North Atlantic is cooling down about as fast as an ocean can cool."

“A major cooling of the climate is widely considered inevitable,” said The New York Times (May 21, 1975), adding that it is "well established" that the Northern Hemisphere's climate "has been getting cooler since about 1950."

On Sept. 14, 1975 The New York Times said global cooing "may mark the return to another ice age."

On July 24, 1974 Time Magazine published an article entitled "Another Ice Age?" Here's the first paragraph: "As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic upheaval. However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time, when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing. Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age."

Reminds me of the old saying: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Friday, January 12, 2007

Tell Us Your Story

A reader recently responded to our blog entry “More Fraud, Misconduct at EPA” with a personal experience. He described how his family's electro-plating business was destroyed by EPA, which claimed it was polluting the groundwater. His parents lost everything, and 50 employees were thrown out of work. But then the groundwater tests failed to show there was any pollution after all. (See the Comments section for that blog posting.)

Also, we have recently heard from several people having problems due to the Endangered Species Act because of an eagle nest on their property, just as we described in our blog posting of December 29, 2006.

If you have been a similar victim of EPA or any other government agency or any regulation cited in our blog postings, and would like other people to know about your personal horror story, please tell us about it. You may send it to us via the “Comments” section at the end of every blog posting or by e-mailing it to American Liberty Publishers at

Monday, January 01, 2007

More on Polar Bears and Global Warming

This week the Bush administration proposed that polar bears be placed on the endangered species list as a “threatened” species because of global warming. But as Investor's Business Daily (Dec. 28, '06) put it, “The only thing endangered about polar bears is the truth.”

Three environmental groups—the Center for Biological Diversity, National Resources Defense Council, and Greenpeace—had sued to force the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to designate the bears as “threatened.” But a 12-page report to the U.S. F&WS from Mitch Taylor, a government polar bear biologist in Canada, states: “No evidence exists that suggests that both bears and the conservation systems that regulate them will not adapt to the new conditions.” In the Toronto Star in May, Taylor wrote: “Of the 13 populations of polar bears in Canada, 11 are stable or are increasing in number. They are not going extinct, or even appear to be affected.”

The current polar bear population is said to number 22,000 to 25,000, but a half century ago there were only 8,000 to 10,000. Polar bears evolved from grizzly bears about 250,000 years ago and became a distinct species about 125,000 years ago, when the climate changed. In just the last few thousand years they have survived far greater climate changes than they face today, as shown in our chart of four-thousand years of temperature records from ice-core samples in Greenland.

If polar bears are losing weight, as has been reported, it may be because of increased populations competing for the food supply—a condition that may be improved by global warming. Reduced ice cover creates better habitat for seals, the bears' main food. It also means more sunlight, which produces more phytoplankton, thus increasing the supply of other food sources.

The proposal to list the polar bear as “threatened” mentions areas of open water in the Arctic that were frozen solid 30 years ago. But these same areas were reported as open water by explorers in the early 20th century. These areas subsequently froze during several decades and have now merely returned to their previous condition.

Last week the media widely reported a large ice sheet had broken off from a glacier on Ellesmere Island and was evidence of global warming. The ice chunk was said to be the size of Manhattan Island. Big deal. Huge ice chunks have been breaking off for centuries. Nautical records have routinely listed such occurrences for at least 200 years. In 1954 or 1955 the U.S. Navy reported that an ice mass the size of the state of Connecticut had broken off from Antarctica. That was before the big increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide and the worldwide proliferation of factories and automobiles that occurred in the past half century—and before the environmentalist groups and the media were trying to scare the public with propaganda about global warming. So the Connecticut-size ice chunk wasn't newsworthy. Now tell me how the puny ice cube that recently broke off is newsworthy and shows man-made global warming.