Apr 15 2008

The Problem With Alarmists

Published by at 7:31 am under All General Discussions

The far left seems to be afflicted with a common ailment – they see Walter Mitty fantasies where they see themselves saving the world from global warming or genetic defects when, in fact, they don’t have the knowledge to discern a con from a cure. One of the biggest cons is ethanol fuel made from food is cleaner than gas made from oil. It has never been proven and I doubt it will be. Gasoline is a mixture of chemicals which can be created from various sources, but in the end it is the same thing basically.

When I went to research this topic I found some stunning admissions. It seems the ethanol fuel was never rigorously tested against regular gasoline to understand whether it was a better solution or not. I found this report and this statement:

In a more subtle manner, ethanol’s efficiency has been brought into question as representatives of the automotive and oil industries have stated at various times that a ten percent blend of ethanol provides 3% less fuel efficiency. These comments were based on the fact that a ten percent blend of ethanol has a BTU content 3% lower than gasoline, and the assumption that the lower BTU content would result in 1-to-1 reduction in mileage per gallon.

The ethanol industry has traditionally held the belief that ethanol’s properties as an oxygenate would provide more complete burning of the base fuel, and offset some of the BTU loss. Furthermore, since ethanol blends are traditionally less expensive than straight gasoline, it stands to reason that if MPG of both types of fuel were similar, the ethanol blend would be the better value in terms of cost per mile of operation.

Prior to ordering this pilot study, ACE was able to locate only one study on fuel economy variances between ethanol-blended and non-ethanol-blended gasoline. A 1996 study by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee compared several types of oxygenated reformulated gasoline to conventional unleaded. The sample also used only 5.7% ethanol as opposed to the more common 10% blend, and several of the ethanol fuel samples used had wide variations in BTU content. The study used vehicles manufactured from 1979 to 1994, and the sample vehicles and drivers showed some very wide deviations from expected results. Even so, the overall variance in those tests showed that ethanol blended RFG provided 98% of the MPG performance of conventional unleaded gasoline.

The study I found was from about 2005, so only two efforts to see if ethanol was the panaces it was claimed to be. In the end, for gas mileage, ethanol is actually not a better solution, and as you add more ethanol you get worse mileage – requiring more gas.

It is not necessarily cleaner either – as this study notes. So what is left as a clear benefit? It is cheaper. Much cheaper, which means bigger profits. The only problem, we are dipping into our food resources for fuel – two of our most ravenous needs. And this has led to pressures on food prices, as the NY Time now admits:

The idea of turning farms into fuel plants seemed, for a time, like one of the answers to high global oil prices and supply worries. That strategy seemed to reach a high point last year when Congress mandated a fivefold increase in the use of biofuels.

But now a reaction is building against policies in the United States and Europe to promote ethanol and similar fuels, with political leaders from poor countries contending that these fuels are driving up food prices and starving poor people. Biofuels are fast becoming a new flash point in global diplomacy, putting pressure on Western politicians to reconsider their policies, even as they argue that biofuels are only one factor in the seemingly inexorable rise in food prices.

In some countries, the higher prices are leading to riots, political instability and growing worries about feeding the poorest people. Food riots contributed to the dismissal of Haiti’s prime minister last week, and leaders in some other countries are nervously trying to calm anxious consumers.

This is the product of alarmists who grasp at fad-like concepts to ‘save the world’. And it has been predicted for many years. Bio-based fuels are significantly cheaper, even though they do not perform as well. So where would a capitalist go maximize profit? Food of course. The prices are going up, so if the cost goes down the profit will go up too. In fact ethanol is so much less expensive I would wager a good chunk of the oil companies’ obscene profits are from following this fool’s errand.

We cannot have cars and transportation fighting us for our food. When that battle happens the poor loose out. If you want a policy then it should be food has a priority over everything else since it is basic to living and key to a good, healthy life. The Global Warming fanatics are no different. They have not proven their theories yet – in fact they have proven their models are wrong and their theories don’t work. But zealots still claim their is a miracle there and want to cripple the world economies to prove it. Another area were snake oil is king is embryonic stem cell research, which has never produced even the hope of a cure while adult stem cell research has produced dozens. There is a pattern forming here folks. Alarmists are causing hurt and suffering and problems from their half-baked fears of the end of civilization. In the end it is just another person trying to be a hero and save the world. Talk to Alfred Nobel about how saving the world always comes at a price.

Addendum: I need to add that alarmists would do less harm if they did not have doe-eyed enablers in the news media buying their claims and excuses hook, line and sinker. Take this bit of illogical rationalization:

Many specialists in food policy consider government mandates for biofuels to be ill advised, agreeing that the diversion of crops like corn into fuel production has contributed to the higher prices. But other factors have played big roles, including droughts that have limited output and rapid global economic growth that has created higher demand for food.

That growth, much faster over the last four years than the historical norm, is lifting millions of people out of destitution and giving them access to better diets. But farmers are having trouble keeping up with the surge in demand.

What a moronic excuse for denying the obvious! The person is saying that the problem with the food supply has to do with drop in production AND more demand for food itself, not the fact the demand is made worse because the supply needs to feed people AND fuel cars. Clearly more food would be available if it was not being diverted to the cars, especially in years where production suffers! And that is why it is a bad idea, for years when supplies are tight and demand is still growing we need to feed people first.

What really amazes me is this reporter spouts this pretzel logic with a straight and serious tone as if it makes total sense and defuses the issue that when cars compete for our food they leave us hungry. It just boggles the mind.

12 responses so far

12 Responses to “The Problem With Alarmists”

  1. dave m says:

    And it’s a stunning waste of ethyl alcohol.
    The best thing to do with ethanol is drink the stuff,
    a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou….
    (And the only known rhyme for “orange” – namely
    Dressed in orange she
    sips her Glenmorangie)

    We already know how to make energy, lots of it.
    We can run the USA on nuclear fission for about 3000 years,
    and that’s more than enough time to get nuclear fusion down pat.

    The greenies are now mounting a campaign against bio-fuels.
    If we discovered cold fusion really does work, they’d be mounting
    a campaign against that. Greenies will mount a campaign against
    any empowering discovery of energy because they hate
    mankind as they hate themselves. If you want to return to the
    7th century, vote green – otherwise vote Republican.

    Republicans ain’t perfect – but they are the best chance wot we have got.

  2. MerlinOS2 says:

    BRUSSELS (AFP) – The EU Commission on Monday rejected claims that producing biofuels is a “crime against humanity” that threatens food supplies, and vowed to stick to its goals as part of a climate change package.

    “There is no question for now of suspending the target fixed for biofuels,” said Barbara Helfferich, spokeswoman for EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas.

    “You can’t change a political objective without risking a debate on all the other objectives,” which could see the EU landmark climate change and energy package disintegrate, an EU official said.

    Their comments came amid growing unease over the planting of biofuel crops as food prices rocket and riots against poverty and hunger multiply worldwide.

    UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food Jean Ziegler told German radio Monday that the production of biofuels is “a crime against humanity” because of its impact on global food prices.

    EU leaders, seeking to show the way on global warming, have pledged to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by 2020.

    As part of a package of measures the 27 member states have set a target of biofuels making up 10 percent of automobile fuel by the same year.

    “We don’t have an enormous danger of too much of a shift from food production to biofuels production,” said Michael Mann, spokesman for EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel.

    Mann, like Helfferich speaking to reporters in Brussels, stressed that the 10 percent target would in part be achieved through higher yields and increased production.

    Ziegler also accused the European Union of subsidising its agriculture exports with effect of undermining production in Africa.

    “The EU finances the exports of European agricultural surpluses to Africa … where they are offered at one half or one third of their (production) price,” the UN official charged.

    “That completely ruins African agriculture,” he added.

  3. norm says:

    whoa big fella…i know hyper-partisans like you live to point the finger of blame at the other party… but there is plenty of pox for both houses in this debacle. in george bush’s 2007 state of the union he pushed for ethanol production saying that the government should sharply raise the mandate for ethanol use to seven times the current ethanol output by 2017. jeb bush is a co-chair of the interamerican ethanol commission which promotes the usage of ethanol. both john mccain and fred thompson opposed ethanol before they were for ethanol.
    unfortunately the need for alternative energy sources has never been taken seriously. now it is cause for alarm…yes because of the environment…but more so because of foreign policy concerns, and because of gas prices that have more than doubled since george bush took office. so spineless politicians on both sides of the aisle grasp at anything to make it look like they are doing something…and the most immediate solution is ethanol. this is a classic case of doing nothing for a long time…then overreacting in a ill-advised manner. in fact it’s just exactly like terrorism.

  4. AJStrata says:


    I am an independent – have been for years. The only party affiliation I ever had was Democrat. I know Bush is wrong on this issue, which is why I hinted the partisans left and right are a problem – folks like you too uninformed to make any judgement but you do anyway.

    Not my fault partisans sometimes come incredibly ill-equipped to grasp the complexities of issues.

  5. dave m says:

    I suppose websites collect trolls.

    What is presented here is pretty much an engineering problem.
    Energy prices are high and will climb higher because our capacity
    to produce petroleum fuels has been outstripped by the consumption
    now that China and India have become massive consumers.
    The good old UN (useless nobodys) suggests that it is all the
    fault of “those rich western countries”. They would say that.

    We can, and maybe we should, produce much more oil by
    removing our restrictions against drilling, but that is only a temporary
    Problem: There isn’t enough oil for everybody.
    Solution: There is enough nuclear energy to fix this for 3000 years.
    Solution: After 3000 years, fusion will convert water into energy.

    Now we can mess about interminably trying to say Karl Marx was
    right or it’s really all Bush’s fault, which will solve exactly nothing.
    Hard left democrats dream of being able to turn the world back to
    a pre-industrial era (except for themselves of course) without
    understanding the massive violence which would accompany
    such an enterprise if it even began to succeed. Try watching
    Quatermass. Hard right conservatives believe the private sector
    will solve everything.

    Sorry. The private sector, by which I mean the oil companies,
    are having a bit of a party at the moment. Oil at $120/bbl =
    Yippee! That is their right. Private enterprise doesn’t work so
    well when the investment needed is so large, and the payback
    period so far into the future, that the initial companies making
    the investment are unlikely to survive. (Channel Tunnel).

    We will need to go into deep space one day – don’t wait for
    Richard Branson to pony up the dough.

    Before then, we need a powerful new energy infrastructure.
    It is a program as important as our initial response to Sputnik,
    probably more so. Both Republicans and Democrats are for
    now hopeless in the matter – tinkering about with toy solutions,
    a few windmills, some wave power, and oh yes, some ethanol
    distilleries. Just be seen to be doing something and I almost
    forgot, raise taxes – that always works. (Not) But it is what they
    know how to do.

    The energy problem will need to get a lot worse before anyone
    starts to solve it, and lastly: globalization and free trade only
    work well in a world without imminent war and not beset by
    crippling shortage.

    Like being in an airplane and receiving that message to
    affix your own oxygen mask before helping your relative’s,
    we need to secure America’s energy independence first –
    whether that is by private enterprise or by government
    program, I don’t care.

  6. AJStrata says:

    Dave M,

    You nailed it. This is one area government must step in and stop playing to the far left and right who have no answers, just bumper stickers. The private sector will not pony up the money required to make this happen. They cannot show their investors any return in the near term. CD’s would provide more return.

  7. norm says:

    aj…your very first line “…The far left seems to be afflicted with a common ailment…” in your mind now becomes: “… i hinted the partisans left and right are a problem…” do you even know what you write? if my judgment on this complex issue had any bearing we wouldn’t even be discussing ethanol today. and we sure as hell wouldn’t be spending 3 billion dollars this week refereeing a struggle for political power between sadr and maliki. but in your judgment that is a good thing and equates to success. so yeah…you should really question my judgment.

  8. 75 says:

    Did I read that right from Norm? Environmental overreaction is the same as the reaction to terrorism?

  9. VinceP1974 says:

    Do you Leftists really think in the manner revealed by norm’s comment.

    We’re talking about enviromental exteremist activists and his mind wanders to anything ANYTHING so that he can attack Bush.

    Is this what you folks do with everything? Don’t you ever examine your own side? Ever?

  10. dave m says:

    Off topic but worth mentioning,
    The struggle between Sadr and Maliki was really the Iranian
    attempt to seize Basra and southern Iraq. Maliki’s surprise
    pre-emptive attack caught Iran’s proxy forces headed by
    Sadr off guard. You can read the whole thing over
    at http://fallbackbelmont.blogspot.com
    Wretchard, who writes over there, is pretty good too.
    The whole thing was a flop, and Mooky was kicked out
    of Iran (Qom) a couple of days ago and was forced to
    return to Najaf.
    FWIW AJ, something seems imminent with Iran, Israel has today
    just been hooked up to our Ballistic Missile Early Warning System.
    That has happened only twice before, and each time was broke
    out in the region shortly afterwards. (debka)

  11. dave m says:

    and each time war broke out in the region shortly afterwards.

  12. WWS says:

    Dave, you’re very correct in saying that the problem will have to get a lot worse before it can be solved. The hardest part is cutting through all the lies that masquerade as unquestioned truth. One of them is thinking that anything close to energy independence is possible without a massive investment in nuclear facilities.

    I am (and always have been) in favor of massive drilling programs in the Gulf and Alaska, but now we’ve waited so long that even if those areas come in fantastically they will only temporarily slow the decline in our own production, not delay it. Few people realize that Prudhoe Bay, which was producing 1.5 million BPD just 20 years ago is now producing only 1/3 of that and is declining steadily – by 2019 it will be gone, and that’s our best field. We have to drill madly just to stop that decline, getting ahead of the game on that score is impossible. Doing nothing as we are doing, of course, is suicide.

    “Alternative” energy is primarily a pipe dream for non-specific people who want to live in a dream world and then complain when they wake up and their dreams haven’t come true. Take every alternative plan out there, multiply it’s efficacy by 10, give it umpty-billion dollars as seed money, and you STILL will generate only 10% of the energy we use daily. The numbers just aren’t there, and I’ve run them.

    Another problem I see all the time in the political world – people love to blame “the oil companies” for oil prices without acknowledging that the 4 largest individual oil producers in the world, in order, are the governments of Saudi Arabia, Russia, Norway, and Iran. Why doesn’t Congress call the Russians, Saudi’s, and Iranians in to ask why prices are so high? Well, that’s a silly question. But it does point out how foolish it is to think pressuring any private company is going to do anything at all when the real heavy hitters are a variety of governments seeking to maximize their resources.

    We’re in a bad way on energy, and the solutions of every side of the political class are to sit back, put their hands over their eyes, and say “No we’re not.” And there’s a huge problem in waiting for a crisis to galvanize people – major energy projects take many years, even in the best circumstances. If we wait until a crisis occurs to address this, we guarantee ourselves at least 5 years of financial chaos before any of the solutions begin to take hold.

    I hate to say this, but I think that time begins about 2010.