Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Independent's big lie on bio fuels

On Monday, as I was preparing to go the the Adam Smith Institute bash in London the Libdemograph, formerly the Independent, published a front page article with the headline "The Big Green Fuel Lie" and a leading article to accompany it, which is here.

I will deal with the trite nonsense published on the front page. It gives bio fuels a hard time, on 3 grounds.

Brazil produces its own from sugar cane, which involves burning off the cane in the field causing localised particulate air pollution.

Brazil may have cut down lots of rain forest to do so.

The vast sugar cane estates limit biodiversity.

Well, you don't need to do any of that to grow biofuels, so all we are arguing about is production methods.

The article then goes on to say:
While Brazil's tropical climate allows it to source alcohol from its sugar crop, the US has turned to its industrialised corn belt for the raw material to substitute oil. The American economist Lester R Brown, from the Earth Policy Institute, is leading the warning voices: "The competition for grain between the world's 800 million motorists who want to maintain their mobility and its two billion poorest people who are simply trying to stay alive is emerging as an epic issue."
This of course shows the utter ignorance of Independent journalists. They have not asked for example, what the role of dumping subsidised American and European agricultural crops on the third world has on food production there, and indeed whether or not it does in part cause poverty amongst agricultural classes. In short there is no money in farming in large parts of agriculture which is the sort of work that a lot of people can get. If the price of local produce were to rise, because we stopped dumping on them it would seriously help.

However the leader makes some odd assertions as well. For example:
Sadly, that's not enough. Ethanol may sound like the kind of "friendly" energy the world has been waiting for. But for ethanol production to rise to the levels Mr Bush is hoping for, huge amounts of the world's remaining forests will have to be cut down and turned over to corn or sugar cane.
No, that is rubbish. For a start in the UK and indeed other parts of the Eu we are paying farmers set aside money, virtually not to farm, whilst countries like the Ukraine can feed itself and Europe to the west. There is no need to cut down anything more. However rationalising the Common agricultural policy is a must.
The existing hectarage devoted to agriculture will not be remotely large enough to produce the quantity of fuel needed. In other words, paradoxically, a growing reliance of renewable energy may accelerate the destruction of the rainforests we so desperately need to moderate the planet's temperature.
Like above, it assumes we carry on growing rubbish we won't buy at taxpayers expense which then gets dumped in Africa making sure their farming does not work either. What is more it cites no studies or any other useful way of checking that nonsense.
Besides, according to the World Conservation Union, growing corn uses far more energy than the finished fuel produces.
Sorry are they saying that a tractor uses more fuel working a field to get fuel from it, or is this an argument against using fossil fuel derived fertaliser to grow non fossil fuel? Clearly there is little point in doing the latter, whilst the former is rather obvious nonsense otherwise Brazil would be a
There is another downside to the ethanol boom. As demand rises, the price of the cereals from which it is partly made soars as well. Tortilla prices in Mexico are already surging as a result of ethanol demand in America. This threatens the precarious livelihoods of many of the world's poorest people.

Actually not necessarily so. It gives people more chance of earning a living from farming, and a good agricultural economy is where most prosperity starts.

No comments: