Give some credit to environmentalists: they don’t just tell us that we are killing the Earth they do frequently have “environmentally sound” boatloads of solutions which we can employ to “save the Earth”. Of course, many of those solutions come down to reversing the industrial revolution and all of us going back to living in caves, but they do have some other ideas, too. Take biofuels. Touted as being far more environmentally friendly than gasoline biofuels have been mandated to be incorporated into the fuel mix of many Western nations including those in the EU, Canada and US. But now comes this story from the EU and all of a sudden we have the makings of another enviro-boondoggle:
BRUSSELS:Signaling a major retrenchment, European Union legislators on Monday proposed ratcheting back an ambitious target to raise Europe’s use of biofuels.
At the same time, a new report for the British government cast fresh doubt on using fuels from crops in the fight against climate change.
Until recently, European governments had sought to lead the rest of the world, setting a target for 10 percent of transportation fuels to be derived from biofuels by 2020. But the allure has dimmed amid growing evidence that the kind of targets proposed by the EU are contributing to deforestation and helping force up food prices.
“I think when we will look back we will say this was the beginning of a turning point for Europe on biofuels,” said Juan Delgado, a research fellow specializing in energy and climate change expert at Breugel, a research organization in Brussels. “It will be very difficult now for Europe to stick by its targets.”
And as far as being a sensible, economically smart alternative to gas in reducing greenhouse gases, well environmentalists might have oversold that a bit, too:
Britain also signaled a new course Monday. Ruth Kelly, the British transport minister, said the introduction of biofuels should be slowed down, citing a newly released report warning that current targets for biofuel production could cause a global rise in greenhouse gas emissions and an increase in poverty in the poorest countries.
And with all this reevaluating going on in Europe, across the Atlantic in Canada a very similar dissatisfaction seems to be taking hold:
An Angus Reid poll released on May 13, 2008 shows that only 53 per cent of respondents believe “ethanol is a great alternative to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.” Furthermore, a remarkable 44 per cent believe “corn or wheat-based ethanol should be banned, because it is ethically wrong to use food to produce fuel” in light of global food shortages.
Of course big government being big government, the common sense of the people is rarely a real consideration (the Brainiacs in the bureaucracy always know best).
The Conservative government has committed $200 million to biofuel production through the ecoAgriculture Biofuels Capital Initiative (ecoABC) alone and today introduced Bill C-33 which would make mandatory a minimum five percent biofuel content in all fuels by 2010.
There does seem to be a voice of sanity in Canada, however in the form of Dennis Young, the Libertarian Party leader who has said,
Newly elected Libertarian Party leader Dennis Young added that his party would scrap the biofuel mandates and subsidies to the industry: “Good ideas find support in the market. Bad ideas require government subsidies and mandates.” Young argued that alternative energy solutions should come from the free market: “High oil prices are driving innovations in alternative energy. Let’s remove the government barriers to successful innovation and see what alternatives prove the most viable.”
Here in the States, The Heritage Foundation (of course) has done a rational analysis of the biofuels dead-end:
America’s energy policy has been on an ethanol binge, and now the hangover has begun. The federal renewable fuels mandate is an unfolding failure, and more Members of Congress are taking notice. If repeal of the mandate is not yet possible, Congress should at least freeze ethanol use at current levels while the nation reassesses its renewable fuels policy.
Mandates for renewable fuels, chiefly ethanol derived from corn, have steamrolled through Washington as few other issues have in recent years. The 2005 energy bill contained the first-ever requirement that these fuels be mixed into the nation’s gasoline supply. Beginning in 2006, the mandate came on top of massive subsidies and tax breaks already enjoyed by domestic ethanol producers.
The mandate quickly proved to be a mistake—raising rather than lowering fuel costs, sparking food price inflation, and invoking environmentalist opposition during its first two years. Nonetheless, a bill to increase the requirements nearly fivefold passed Congress easily and was enthusiastically signed by the President in December 2007. Thanks to this measure, America is now committed to 9 billion gallons of renewable fuels in 2008 and 36 billion by 2022. For at least the next few years, almost all of this mandate will be met by corn ethanol.
With Americans squirming under the weight of ever more costly energy how long will support for ethanol last when the following information sinks into their heads?:
The AAA calculates that ethanol has recently cost 20 to 30 cents per gallon more than regular gasoline. And that does not take into account the heavy taxpayer subsidies, including a 51-cent-per-gallon tax credit, without which ethanol would be even costlier.
Proponents insist that economies of scale will kick in and make ethanol more affordable as the mandated levels are ratcheted up, but there is no sign of that actually happening. The opposite is more likely. For example, ethanol costs more to transport than gasoline, and the expanding mandates necessitate usage well outside of its Midwestern home base.
Ethanol is also more expensive to use in the summer: It contributes to smog and in several markets can be used only with a costlier base blend that compensates for this shortcoming; but this blend must be used year-round. Over the longer term, the law requires that corn alternatives like cellulosic ethanol
be used as well. Cellulosic ethanol—made from certain grasses, wood, or crop waste—is currently far more expensive than even corn ethanol.
Barack Obama, continuing to leave a gargantuan issue opening that John McCain seems unaware he should be exploiting, has a policy on ethanol would exacerbate the problems and continue the upward spiral of energy costs. His policy on ethanol found on his official website show this plainly:
Support Next Generation Biofuels
Deploy Cellulosic Ethanol: Obama will invest federal resources, including tax incentives, cash prizes and government contracts into developing the most promising technologies with the goal of getting the first two billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol into the system by 2013.
Expand Locally-Owned Biofuel Refineries: Less than 10 percent of new ethanol production today is from farmer-owned refineries. New ethanol refineries help jumpstart rural economies. Obama will create a number of incentives for local communities to invest in their biofuels refineries.
Establish a National Low Carbon Fuel Standard: Barack Obama will establish a National Low Carbon Fuel Standard to speed the introduction of low-carbon non-petroleum fuels. The standard requires fuels suppliers to reduce the carbon their fuel emits by ten percent by 2020.
Increase Renewable Fuel Standard: Obama will require 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels to be included in the fuel supply by 2022 and will increase that to at least 60billion gallons of advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol by 2030.
John McCain, who has flirted with ethanol in the past seems to be coming to his senses on the issue recently.
Sen. John McCain Monday joined other GOP senators urging environmental regulators to ease rules demanding a sharp increase in ethanol use to help head off further increases in food prices.
Ethanol is proving to be yet another policy foisted on the public by the environmental lobby among others with the assurance that it is part of the “answer”. Instead what we are learning more clearly with every passing day is, not only don’t the environmentalists have the “answer”, they don’t even understand the question.
Nocomme1 also posts at Because I’m Right