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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Bad timing department

In the same week as Time magazine devotes a cover package ("The Clean Energy Scam") to the direct link between biofuel production and environmental destruction (not to mention high food prices), the B.C. Liberal government introduces a new law calling for gasoline to contain an average five percent ethanol within two years.

Question for Premier Gordon Campbell: Still Enjoying your ride on the climate-change bandwagon?

Posted by Terry O'Neill on April 3, 2008 in Science | Permalink


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By coincidence I heard Robert Zubrin interviewed on the radio this morning. He is the author of the 2007 book "Energy Victory". He argues that the way to win the war on Islamic terrorists is energy independence because radical Islam is financed by oil revenues. He says we need to greatly increase our use of bio-fuels, both ethanol and methanol to free ourselves of dependence on those who wish for our destruction. He says his book discusses the economic and agricultural imperatives for ethanol production, and the environmental implications of his plan, including a refutation of the argument that bio-fuels consume more energy to produce than they deliver when they are burned.

Zubrin says the key to winning the war on terror is to create a substitute for oil. He calls for a regulation to require that all new cars sold in the United States be flex-fueled (able to run on gasoline, ethanol or methanol, or any combination thereof). Very quickly such vehicles would beome the world standard, as occurred in the early 1980s with the introduction of catalytic converters. As a result, consumers would demand ethanol- and methanol-blended fuels due to their price competitiveness with gasoline, which would in turn prompt gas stations to instal biofuel pumps. Under such a situation, competition would drive oil prices down. Zubrin argues that biofuels should be subsidized in order to keep their price advantage over gasoline, as it is the only way to cripple OPEC.

He deals with the issue of electric cars, which some say, would be more beneficial. While this may be a longer-term solution, Zubrin concedes, a switch to biofuel can be achieved in a few years (as is already the case in Brazil). Additionally, existing cars can be retrofitted with flex-fuel capability for "between $100 and $500".

Ethanol is produced primarily via the fermentation of corn or sugar cane (or indeed any other glucose-rich crop). Methanol can be produced from any plant matter. As both of these products can easily be produced in developing countries, Zubrin contends that the resultant expanding market for farm produce would be greatly beneficial for third-world farmers. There would be no need for western nations to subsidize their own farmers, as third-would produce could be absorbed into the larger market without causing a price-crash that would bankrupt western farmers.

Posted by: JMD | 2008-04-03 1:08:06 PM

Zubrin's energy model does not consider a drastic cut in the price of oil. Such a cut would significantly slow down competition from bio-fuels and eliminate any easy political justification to subsdize alternate fuels. In this case, Zubrin's energy model would have a better chance of being adopted if the population could be frightened, say by fear of global warming or of war.

Posted by: dewp | 2008-04-03 9:59:53 PM

As the climate-modelling pseudo-science that props up global warming continues to unravel in the face of inconvenient scientific facts, the impetus towards bio-fuels from that direction will wither.

But freeing ourselves from the oil cartel, which is steered by regimes unfriendly to Western interests, will continue to make bio-fuels attractive. Wouldn't you just love to tell the Saudis to go eat sand?

Posted by: JMD | 2008-04-04 7:33:14 AM

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