Ethanol starves the poor


Yet more evidence that current biofuels policy, subsidizing wasteful, inefficient corn-based ethanol, is bad for humanity and the planet. Two professors from the University of Minnesota summarize how biofuels will starve the poor in the new issue of Foreign Affairs magazine:

The International Food Policy Research Institute, in Washington, D.C., has produced sobering estimates of the potential global impact of the rising demand for biofuels. Mark Rosegrant, an ifpri division director, and his colleagues project that given continued high oil prices, the rapid increase in global biofuel production will push global corn prices up by 20 percent by 2010 and 41 percent by 2020. The prices of oilseeds, including soybeans, rapeseeds, and sunflower seeds, are projected to rise by 26 percent by 2010 and 76 percent by 2020, and wheat prices by 11 percent by 2010 and 30 percent by 2020. In the poorest parts of sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where cassava is a staple, its price is expected to increase by 33 percent by 2010 and 135 percent by 2020. The projected price increases may be mitigated if crop yields increase substantially or ethanol production based on other raw materials (such as trees and grasses) becomes commercially viable. But unless biofuel policies change significantly, neither development is likely.

The production of cassava-based ethanol may pose an especially grave threat to the food security of the world’s poor. Cassava, a tropical potato-like tuber also known as manioc, provides one-third of the caloric needs of the population in sub-Saharan Africa and is the primary staple for over 200 million of Africa’s poorest people. In many tropical countries, it is the food people turn to when they cannot afford anything else. It also serves as an important reserve when other crops fail because it can grow in poor soils and dry conditions and can be left in the ground to be harvested as needed.

Thanks to its high-starch content, cassava is also an excellent source of ethanol. As the technology for converting it to fuel improves, many countries — including China, Nigeria, and Thailand — are considering using more of the crop to that end. If peasant farmers in developing countries could become suppliers for the emerging industry, they would benefit from the increased income. But the history of industrial demand for agricultural crops in these countries suggests that large producers will be the main beneficiaries. The likely result of a boom in cassava-based ethanol production is that an increasing number of poor people will struggle even more to feed themselves.

The biofuels boondoggle is a stupid and tragic policy that needs eliminating as soon as possible. We are already seeing rises in food prices here in the US as a result:

The Agriculture Department says that retail food prices are likely to climb by 2.5% to 3.5% in 2007, fueled in part by strong demand for corn-derived ethanol. But Michael Swanson, an agricultural economist at Wells Fargo & Co., thinks the rise could be an even sharper 4.5%.

Food prices are volatile by nature, and economists generally shrug off such jumps because they tend to be offset over time by equally abrupt price declines. But Kenneth Beauchemin, a U.S. economist with consulting firm Global Insight, says that the difference now is that the government’s push to promote ethanol, unlike a storm or other temporary factor, “could affect prices for the next 10 years.”

Others also expect food inflation to persist. “Consumers are going to feel it at the meat counter first, and they’ll see marginal increases in other food products for awhile, but we see the price increases lasting for a period of years,” says Cal Dooley, president and chief executive of the Grocery Manufacturers and Food Products Association.

Food prices are already on the rise. The price of cereals and baked products increased 4.2% during the 12 months ended in February, according to the Labor Department. Meat, poultry and fish prices gained 2.7% over the same period.

So prices are rising for food and energy as a result of global warming alarmism. Gosh, the average Joe must be so happy Al Gore has brought this to the forefront of the power elite’s attention.

China Rejects Emissions Caps - Again


Remember last week when it was announced that China was going to take part in talks about a post-Kyoto regime (Chris Horner suggested why they might be interested in that here)? Well, this week’s news from China is that they aren’t willing to adopt emissions caps:

“Before generally accomplishment of modernization by the middle of the 21st century, China should not undertake absolute and compulsory emission reduction obligations,” said a translated summary of the report, shown to Reuters.

The document was drafted over four years in consultation with powerful ministries, suggesting a broad official consensus. The final version, which gives no figures for total current or future emissions, is not yet approved for publication. It is separate from a national plan on climate change Beijing is expected to unveil April 24.

Instead, China will focus on reductions in emissions intensity – just like the US under the current President – with set targets that sound impressive. My colleague Marlo Lewis, however, comments:

According to the International Energy Agency, CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion: Highlights 1971-2003, China’s emissions intensity in 2003 was 0.61 kilograms of CO2/GDP using Purchasing Power Parity (p. 86). China’s emission intensity dropped by 50.9% from 1990 (1.21 kg CO2/GDP) to 2003 (0.61 kg CO2/GDP). So it looks like China’s goals–a 40% drop in carbon intensity by 2020 and an 80% drop by 2050–will not require much if anything beyond BAU [business as usual].

As so often in the hyperbole-filled world of global warming alarmism, yet another “breakthrough” proves to be nothing of the sort.


Scratch one totem


A year or two ago, the disappearance of the snows of Kilimanjaro was the poster child for global warming alarmism. Unfortunately for them, it turned out that the Kilimanjaro area wasn’t warming and that the recent disappearance of the glaciers was more likely down to a climate dislocation in 1880 exacerbated by deforestation (my colleague Marlo Lewis summarizes the temperature evidence in Chapter II here, while Nature subscribers can find the article about deforestation here).

Now it seems that the Kilimanjaro glaciers are likely to be around for decades yet:

“About five years ago Kilimanjaro was being used as an icon for global warming. We know now that this was far too simplistic a view,” said Thomas Moelg.

“We have done different kinds of modelling and we expect the plateau glaciers to be gone roughly within 30 or 40 years from now, but we have a certain expectation that the slope glaciers may last longer,” added colleague Georg Kaser.

Of course, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth haven’t caught up with the science yet.

UN Security Council Greenhouse Gasbags


The United Nations’ Security Council will be discussing international responses to global warming today. What will be the result of their taking is issue up at this high level? It is hard to believe that it will bring more attention to the issue than it has already gotten lately, but will this meeting lead to new treaties or highlight faultlines — the areas of policy disagreement — between the different Security Council members with their different levels of development and agendas. My views are here.

They Shouldn’t Make It This Easy


Don Berry has this to say in the March issue of Prospect magazine:

“We need a planet-saving alternative to democracy. Mankind is set on exhausting the planet’s resources. Voters in rich nations will not want to give anything up; voters (or dictators) in developing nations will seek what the rich have. Since democracies must reflect what majorities want, they cannot stop this process. (Dictatorships won’t care.) Science will not rise to the challenge. Old ideas about philosopher-kings and benign dictatorships may be revived. Completely new ideas may emerge. Either way, democracy as we know it will not survive the century.”

I have a sneaking suspicion that Mr. Berry has a nomination for World Emperor (hint: his initials are DB).


“Kyoto will be disaster for Turkey, says State Planning Agency “


Que Idiota


Having dinner in Madrid last night with friends, I was informed that their local video-rental store — that is to say, yet one more poseur business and/or alarmist commentator whose livelihood depends entirely on the concept of people plugging things in and turning them on — has begun accompanying each rental with a gratis copy of “An Inconvenient Truth”, thereby “doing his part” in the struggle against catastrophic man-made global warming . . . also thereby marking the occasion by doubling each customer’s DVD-watching carbon footprint.

No word on how many squirrels they think it takes to run each customers’ DVD player.

Green propaganda in academia


Back in the saddle here in Detroit after a week touring college campuses in Virginia (Tech not among them). The Green religion (along with racial diversity, of course) has predictably taken hold in the leftist bastion of academia. “Save the Planet” flyers dot campus billboards at William & Mary and GW, the best parking spaces are reserved for hybrids at U. of Richmond, etc.


Still, I saw no evidence of the huge, Soviet-style propaganda posters or ubiquitous workplace signs that one sees at corporate facilities like Ford urging employees to be Green (or expounding on the virtues of diversity).


Academia may have met its match in the modern, politically-correct corporation.

Takin’ It (Global Warming) to the Security Council


Part Two of Hayward’s Theatrical Debut


Steve Hayward Gets His Turn: Watch Part One of Convenient Fiction Here:


Global warming rally cut short by cold weather


Yeah, I know this story has no logical relevance to long-term climate trends, but sometimes the cheapest shots are the funniest.

“More than two dozen demonstrators braved cold, wet weather Saturday in Reno to attend a rally designed to draw attention to global warming.

The event was cut short by heavy rain and sleet, said organizer Lisa Stiller of the Northern Nevada Coalition for Climate Change.

The storm prevented the use of solar ovens for a potluck picnic, Stiller said.”

I Seem to be in Good Company


K-Lo’s recent post of an op-ed by Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe is basically a platform for Richard Lindzen of MIT to express reasonable doubts about global warming hysteria.

Those who have read my prior article on this topic (hi mom!) know that I believe that any sensible reading of the technical literature leads to the conclusions that: (1) human activities are very likely causing some amount of global temperature increase, and that (2) nobody has been able to successfully quantify the magnitude of this effect with sufficient accuracy to predict reliably how much warming we will experience in the future.

In this op-ed, Richard Lindzen is quoted as saying very directly that long-range global-warming forecasts rely on computer models that are “inherently untrustworthy” because there is so much about climate dynamics that we don’t understand.

Freeman Dyson has repeatedly said virtually the same thing about global climate models:

“Concerning the climate models, I know enough of the details to be sure that they are unreliable. They are full of fudge factors that are fitted to the existing climate, so the models more or less agree with the observed data. But there is no reason to believe that the same fudge factors would give the right behavior in a world with different chemistry, for example in a world with increased CO2 in the atmosphere.”

It’s always encouraging to have your views on a scientific topic seconded by one of the world’s greatest living physicists. Of course, I’m sure he’s just a shill for ExxonMobil.

Jeff Jacoby


Stupidity Tax


The Washington Post today has an article about an online service that lets suckers bet on various global warming outcomes. The odds would make a Three Card Monte table look fair.

As an example, the site offers 150-to-1 that global sea levels will rise 6 inches within a year. Even Gavin Schmidt, one of the global warming theorists who lost the “Is Global Warming a Crisis” debate in New York last month, calls the odds of this “more like a billion to one” in this LiveScience article.

They say they’ve gotten thousands of wagers. I guess in about 12 months at least a few global warming fanatics will be bitterly converted to sanity.

Just a Little Irony on the Wire?



Skiers unfurled a protest banner in April snow on Whiteface Mountain on Saturday to kick off a nationwide day of demonstrations aimed at drawing attention to global warming.


Where is Al Gore planting his carbon offset trees?


From Russell Seitz in the Wall Street Journal (a sub. link):

The inconvenient truth — that ill-placed “carbon offset” reforestation schemes can backfire could give rise to a legal climate of fear. Will environmental lawyers chasing tree surgeons’ ambulances become the next big thing in torts? The climate modeling game affords few certainties, but it seems likely that carbon-offset lawsuits will sprout like kudzu from this fertile new research field. As it grows, will the green state attorney generals who took the EPA to the Supreme Court end up inviting the former next president back for an encore?

Imus comes to Planet Gore


My colleague John Berlau has a useful post on the Don Imuses of the environmental movement.

China Syndrome


OK, so the greens already trumpeted China’s recent assertion that it would undertake greenhouse emission reduction efforts…on its own, thank you very much, and conveniently coming mere days after influential Sen. Pete Domenici seemed to switch camps to reject the idea of supporting domestic US legislation unless China was on board some international program, or at least really looked like they were doing something, too.

Next up is a media-gasm over China purportedly agreeing to remove one of the two major Bush Administration objections to joining Kyoto, which are shared by a 95-0 Senate and then-Vice President Gore when he agreed with this standard on December 11, 1997: participation by key developing countries (not-so-secret code for China, India, South Korea, Mexico, Brazil and Indonesia, the giant economies all taking a free-ride on Kyoto as agreed). All available evidence indicates — contrary to John Kerry’s debate zinger to Newt that Europe just doesn’t know how to make carbon cap-and-trade work, but the US does, nyah nyah — that the other objection, that a pact must not substantially harm the US economy, can not be met under foreseeable technologies.

Those holding with a copy of the China-Japan statement referred to in the media (see here) inform me that “the media is spinning it. Nothing new there. China signed on to an ‘effective’ framework but with one with the common stockphrase from Europe ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ or something to that effect.”

To repeat: China did not agree to actual emission reductions, to becoming a covered “Annex I” Kyoto Party (though I suggest that is one major gambit that we should expect from them, for the following reasons), or even to changing the current dynamic. Remember, Kyoto’s extant structure is based upon the “common but differentiated responsibilities” loophole that allows anyone who insists on not threatening their economic growth stays outside of Kyoto’s rationing.

In brief, why we should expect China cleverly agreeing to become a covered Kyoto Party are as follow: the EU — facing no one to buy credits from post-2012 and thus the prospect of actually having to reduce emissions because cdm and ji aren’t capable of the necessary volume — will IMHO offer the Chinese a very favorable baseline and “reduction” (like Australia’s and much of Europe’s….that means an increase) in order to become Annex I. This would remove one major US objection and isolate us in a way we simply aren’t now.

China, of course, has no intention of ever reducing emissions or becoming anything other than a recipient of wealth transfers any more than does Russia. Russia, sage observers posit, will sell GHG credits to the best of its ability then hold out for another sweetie deal or walk…but will never agree to rationing (after all, as the argument goes, the richest countries still have yet to perform). It would just be the ideal way for them — and Brazil, India, SoKo, Indonesia and others — to play the game, getting paid even more simply to hobble everyone. This redefines foreign aid as Kyoto aid, but with far worse complications. Amazing if the US doesn’t aggressively find some way out of this trap first.

The Tyranny of Consensus


The 18 Doughty Street program Clare Fox News discusses the use of “consensus” in the scientific debate over global warming. Guests are Professor Sir Colin Berry, Tony Gilland of the Institute of Ideas and Brendan O’Neill of Spiked-online. Full program available for viewing here.


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