Saturday, April 21, 2007

New Study: Ethanol Bad for Health and Environ...

A new study appearing in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology April 18 finds ethanol a health hazard that would likely increase the number of respiratory-related deaths and hospitalizations. Ethanol is touted as a “green” alternative to gasoline, but the author of the study, Mark Jacobson, says, “It's not green in terms of air pollution.” Jacobson is a civil and environmental engineering professor at Stanford University, who studied atmospheric conditions in 2020 if all vehicles ran on ethanol.

The study found that E85 reduces atmospheric levels of two carcinogens, benzene and butadiene, but increases two others—formaldehyde and acetaldehyde—indicating cancer rates similar to gasoline. However, E85 significantly increases ozone, a prime ingredient in smog. This would increase ozone-related mortalities by about 4 percent in the United States and 9 percent in Los Angeles.

The study noted the deleterious health effects of E85 will be the same, whether the ethanol is made from corn, switchgrass or other plant products.

The new study simply confirms the results of previous studies on this subject. See our posting of September 2006 on “Ethanol Damage” for similar conclusions from studies by the National Academy of Science, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and the National Research Council. For more, see also our book MAKERS AND TAKERS, available from American Liberty Publishers.

Furthermore, studies indicate that ethanol is a net energy loser as well as a financial loser. Our previous postings (Jan. 24, '07, Feb. 2, '06, Aug. 8, '05) have discussed the fact that the production of ethanol (planting corn, harvesting it, distilling the alcohol, etc.) requires more energy that can be obtained by burning the ethanol. But ethanol is a financial loser as well. A gallon of U.S. corn-based ethanol costs about $1.90, wholesale, even after a 51 cent per gallon federal subsidy. But Brazil produces ethanol from sugar cane at $1.75 a gallon—including transportation from Brazil and a 54 cents per gallon import tariff imposed by the U.S. government. Brazil has more hours of daylight, warmer temperatures, lower labor costs, doesn't need the extensive fertilizers of corn; and the alcohol can be extracted more efficiently from sugar cane than from corn. (Cutting back fertilizers for U.S. corn is counterproductive because the yields would be reduced too much.) No wonder Brazil exported well over 400 million gallons of ethanol to the U.S. in 2006, compared to only 31 million gallons in 2005. Jamaica, the Netherlands, China and even Pakistan find it economic to ship ethanol to the U.S. Total U.S. imports of ethanol more than quadrupled last year, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Global Warming: Kerry and Gingrich

This week Senator John Kerry and Newt Gingrich engaged in a debate on global warming. It's hard to believe they would both agree to debate a subject about which they are so uninformed and thus broadcast their ignorance to the nation. They showed a lack of not only scientific knowledge but of basic economic principles, as well as an inability to think analytically and make sound judgments. They demonstrated why neither man is fit to be president of the United States.

Kerry spoke first. He made prominent mention of Sir Nicolas Stern's report as a basis for his views on global warming and his onerous program for combating it. He described Stern as an expert whose views should carry weight. Kerry was either lying outright or has no knowledge of Stern, his report, or the harsh analyses of it from scientists and economists who know something (e.g. the award-winning economists Robert O. Mendelsohn and William Nordhaus of Yale University and Sir Partha Dasgupta of Cambridge University). Stern knows nothing of climate science; he was an economist with the British Treasury Department, a post he resigned in December after the government essentially ignored his October 2006 report as unworthy of action. And while his ignorance of science might be expected, the economics of his report are so absurd as to be startling.

For example, Stern assumed that future economic growth rates would be less than half the present rate, while assuming a population growth rate 60 percent higher than that generally accepted by international demographers. He used absurd discount rates to underestimate the costs of cutting carbon emissions—and simultaneously used a higher rate to calculate benefits! He concluded the cost of harm from global warming would be as much as 20 percent of world economic product per year—while the cost of significantly reducing global warming would be less than 1 percent. Laughable! Moreover, he made no allowances for adaptive changes, such as building dams or raising structures to avoid flooding or planting different crops or using different areas for agriculture. He assumed farmers would continue growing the same crops in the same areas even if unsuited to changing conditions. Kerry uncritically accepts all this crap. He is evidently unfamiliar with (or simply unable to evaluate) contrary economic reasoning and historical and research evidence that the economic effects of global warming would, on balance, be beneficial rather than negative.

Kerry is likewise either unfamiliar with (or simply in denial of) research that simply and unequivocally demonstrates that solar cycles—not carbon dioxide—are the driver of global temperature changes. Does he know that Mars is experiencing global warming and so is Jupiter, Pluto, Neptune, and Titan, the largest moon of Saturn? These heavenly bodies have never had humans to create man-made global warming, and the warming they are experiencing correlates very well with solar cycles—as does the warming of the earth. (The correlation is much better than with carbon dioxide levels.) How can the sun be causing global warming elsewhere in our solar system but not on earth?

Newt Gingrich disputed none of Kerry's assertions about global warming or the economic consequences of it. He, too, is probably lacking in the knowledge to argue these issues. His only difference with Kerry was in what kind of government program should be undertaken. He flatly stated he did not believe in free-market economics. Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee.

In the January 2007 issue of Access To Energy, Dr. Arthur B. Robinson, President and Research Professor, Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, wrote: “The proponents of human-caused global warming are without humility and without interest in experimental information. They predict the weather 100 years in the future with unverified computer models and then state with absolute certainty that they must turn off half of humanity's energy supplies and heavily tax the remainder. This is neither science nor environmentalism. It is fraud.” That description fits not only Al Gore but Kerry and Gingrich, too.