E85 production is an environmental catastrophe

A recent report leaked from sources at the World Bank indicates that biofuel production is responsible for 75% of the recent increase in food costs worldwide; this is in stark contrast to the 3% which our Department of Agriculture recently conceded to. According to the article found here, sources believe that the document has been complete since April 2008; it was kept a secret to avoid the embarrassment of our insane President.

But this is not just about saving face, the consequences of ignorantly pandering to lobbyists and personal friends are felt throughout the world: “The World Bank’s report estimates that rising food costs have pushed nearly 100 million people worldwide below the poverty line. The report also states that even massive droughts in Africa have had less of an effect on food prices than the US and Europe’s push for biofuel supplies.”

This would be bad enough if it weren’t for the fact that the bio-fuels currently being touted as a green solution are responsible for speeding the pace of rain forest destruction (in our efforts to ‘cut carbon’, we are destroying the only form of carbon sequestration that works, at an ever quickening pace.)  And to make matters even worse, it appears that corn-based ethanol has a few other problems as well.

The following quote comes from an article touting the idea that burning E85 improves air quality:

“Researchers at the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy have found that E85 lowers the smog-forming potential of emissions in flex fuel vehicles. [Source: National Resource Defense Council, Effect of Ethanol (E85) Versus Gasoline Vehicles on Cancer and Mortality in the United States, 2/19/07] Ethanol-blended fuels reduce tailpipe emissions of volatile organic compounds by at least 12 percent and reduce tailpipe carbon monoxide emissions by as much as 30 percent. [Source: Renewable Fuels Association, Ethanol Facts, http://www.ethanolrfa.org/resource/facts/environment/, accessed 7/8/08]”

This all sounds good, but does leave at least one puzzling question: if we are only cutting tailpipe emissions by 12 and 30 percent respectively for volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide, then are we actually making headway against the dreadful greenhouse gas emissions? Take for instance this article, which compares E85 vs. gasoline and finds that at a constant speed of 35 mph their test vehicles achieved 25 mpg with ethanol vs. 28 mpg using regular gasoline. This 11% drop in efficiency is slightly less than the 12% difference in volatile organic compounds emitted at the tailpipe, but does not factor in the extremely energy-intensive processes of growing, harvesting and processing corn into ethanol.

Furthermore, the article mentions that “E85 gets worse mileage on the interstate, usually only 17 to 18 miles-per-gallon.” Assuming that the gasoline vehicle achieves a constant 28 mpg at higher speeds rather than gaining efficiency–which is just as likely, this leaves the E85 vehicle roughly 35% less efficient than its gasoline counterpart. Once again, this does not take into account any energy expended to produce the fuel and ignores the fact that we are destroying Africa’s croplands, more rain forests and our own soil–and food supply–while actually turning the Gulf of Mexico green. Corn-based ethanol is an environmental disaster being used by corporate elites and foreign investors to exploit the good intentions of American consumers; we are desperately in need of a media capable of discussing facts in this case and applying truthful scientific scrutiny.

There are green solutions, but they do not include E85,clean coal (also hugely inefficient and environmentally disastrous) or artificial carbon sequestration (trees and plants are good; costly, untested technology below water table is bad.) We need to focus our efforts on expending energy more wisely and developing renewable sources of power.  Solar and wind technologies are already viable everywhere but the U.S., where our government still refuses to even support the meek tax incentives of the past.  Either Congress needs to start acting logically or they need to simply get out of the way and let the bureaucratic dinosaur die in peace.  Starting over from scratch with just the internet and the Constitution may be the only option we have left for developing a sensible energy solution.

If we establish energy policies based on scrutinized scientific understanding rather than emotional opinions, we might find a way to make bio-fuels sustainable; but we should probably start with the crop that George Washington felt was vital to our nation, the same crop that Henry Ford actually started to “grow our transportation” with before it was somehow made illegal.  The first crop man ever domesticated has been used by virtually all great civilizations of the past, and is still an industrial and food staple the world over.  The United States, inventors of the current “War on Drugs,” is the only industrialized first-world nation not to grow the crop.  There are also many third-world countries which do not cultivate the industrial fiber, as our Drug Enforcement Agency fears that they might confuse it with the marihuana–the devil weed.

Never mind that our laws only serve to create bloody rivalries while encouraging and heavily financing terrorist organizations, our government obviously knows best which chemicals we should and should not be putting into our bodies, right?  Let’s hope so, because they are currently ignoring a demand by over 150,000 medical doctors (the American College of Physicians) to recognize a patient’s right to use cannabis as medicine if they are  abiding by state law.  Why would Congress refuse even to budge this little bit?  If our federal government concedes that marijuana has medical value then Congress no longer has the authority to deem it illegal.  Since marijuana is responsible for roughly 80% of spending in the War on Drugs, this would effectively eliminate the need for the DEA to exist.  All of those dollars wasted fighting against our own hypocrisy could be used for things like funding renewable energy research; but then all of these things would make us less dependent on our federal government for our daily needs, which appears to be the last thing that they want.


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