Includes thoughts and comments about energy needs, resources, conservation and their relationship to politics at home and around the world.

Friday, April 25, 2008


According to a column appearing in our local newspaper earlier this week, environmental activists are finally reaching the conclusion that ethanol is not the answer to our energy problems. The article cited facts which those of us around the oil industry during the Arab Oil Embargo in the early 1970s tried to explain to people back then, to wit: the production of ethanol consumes more energy than it saves; when blended into conventional gasoline ethanol leads to overall greater fuel consumption because of its lower energy (btu) content; the energy to produce ethanol is mostly electrical which comes from fossil fuel electricity generation plants, thus adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Ignored pretty much during the embargo period is what has happened to our food economy as a result of diverting corn from the food chain to manufacture ethanol. Farmers increased corn production to feed ethanol production plants and the price of corn on the commodities market has risen steadily along with the cost of corn products. The South American Rainforest is being stripped to allow for more ethanol plant feedstock (sugar in this case) production, further reducing the capacity of the forest to absorb and convert CO2 to oxygen. Ethanol was not the answer in the 1970s and it sure as hell isn't the answer today. You can add ethanol to the pile of nonsense that includes the engine that runs on water; the one that runs on air; the carburetor than gives you 100 miles per gallon; etc. ad nauseum.

I have never understood why people will believe what environmental whackos have to say and ignore totally scientific evidence to the contrary. Another case in point is the current to-do over plastics. Again, it starts with the environmental extremists who are scaring the heck out of some people by cautioning against the use of plastic containers in the storage and preparation of food. The building block for most plastic food containers is polyethylene. Polypropylene is also used in many plastic materials. Both are manufactured from highly refined light ends fractions of petroleum. The basis of current warnings is the presence of bisphenol (BPA) which apparently leaches out from plastic liners in baby formula bottles when heated and plastic containers for other liquids and foods. BPA has been linked to breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes, behavorial and reproductive problems by some researchers, findings that have been disputed by others. Still, the environmental folks seem to have won the day, as Canada has now banned the use of BPA and Platex, Nalgen and Wal-Mart have discontinued its use in baby products.

What bothers me about the BPA case is two-fold: first, the diametrically opposed findings of the different scientific groups involved; second, the environmental extremist agenda aimed at ridding the world of non-biodegradeable plastics. Is their agenda driving their position in the BPA case ?


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