Sunday, April 08, 2007

Ethanol Et thetera

1) I've seen more and more media attention paid to ethanol these days. There are some PSAs floating through the 500 channel universe drawing attention to Harper's promise to have 5% ethanol fuel content by some date. Anyway, for those who don't know but suspected it all along, it takes more energy to produce ethanol than is given off by burning it. I suppose to a Saskatchewan born and bred tumbleweed like me who grew up listening to farmers complain about input costs for years, it doesn't really surprise me that it isn't efficient to drag tractors across the earth planting, fertilizing, pestasizing,harvesting and processing corn to the point that someone can burn it in their car.
As energy becomes less an economic issue, and more of a political issue, I suspect that the media will eventually wade through the many studies and the many competing interests. When this happens, its always useful to be armed with the facts. See the definitive study by Cornell Professor of ecology and agriculture here.

It might make you wonder why anyone bothers producing ethanol. Apart from those getting juicy government subsidies.

2) I'd like to see a movie that takes place over a weekend shooting of one of those bad local furniture store ads. Wes Anderson get on this please, I'll be home all week if you need to brainstorm

3) The United Nations released a huge study this week. It contains doom and gloom predictions of the earth's climate in the future. It was duly read and reported by every major news outlet. I'm not sure why considering that everyone knows that we can't predict the weather 4 days from now never mind 40 years! Compared to global climate, the hockey game between the New York Islanders and the New Jersey Devils is a much simpler problem to predict yet no one has figured out how to do that yet. I predicted that NY would win today which incidentally they did though my successful prediction should not be confused with understanding that would allow me to predict other games.
I really don't know what value this report is except to frighten people since its predictions are no better than arbitrary. And if that's the case, it should have been written by science fiction writers rather than scientists.

1 comment:

rainswept said...

Yes, a few of it's strong statements like "there is 90% certainty that the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities are driving climate change" would seem to be directly contradicted by the Antarctic Ice Core data. The graph shows the real longterm climate cycle quite vividly.

Here's another... "The problem is that the understanding of how warming affects Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets remains limited, and they are predicted to be the most important contributors to change."

Hmmm. Note that even at its maxima, the data is from ice cores, suggesting that this reservoir will not be melting and flooding the earth as the warming trend reaches its predictable 100000 year peak.

Now, in terms of potentially fueling some sort of eco-fascist foreign policy, which I suspect is the real point of this exercise, here are a few words and phrases from the report. To me they suggest that we should mind our own business.

...may also accelerate
...could range from published research that quantified this effect
...activity of tropical cyclones is likely to increase least a 9 out of 10 chance of being correct
...could drop by a high risk of
...could begin an irreversible melt
...they could suffer increased floods
...are at risk of hunger (if carbon fertilisation is weak)
...risk of abrupt changes
...may disappear, affecting

Well, it really sounds like they know what they are talking about.

And if you aren't sure, just listen to this: "The latest IPCC report was written by hundreds of experts and reviewed by hundreds more, from 113 countries."


Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. - Michael Crichton