Free Markets, Free People

Irony: Biofuels may be 167% more polluting than fossil fuels

Even more irony – the groups lining up against the EU’s energy targets mandating the use of biofuels are not who you would expect:

Energy targets for 23 of the EU’s 27 members suggest 9.5 percent of the bloc’s transportation energy will come from biofuels by 2020, said the groups, which include Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and ActionAid. The crops may need an area twice the size of Belgium, and clearing the necessary land could make the fuels 167 percent more polluting for the climate than sticking with gasoline and diesel, they said.

The proponents naturally say that’s all nonsense:

The EU aims to get 10 percent of its energy for transportation from biofuels, hydrogen and renewable power by 2020. The target is meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020.

EU energy spokeswoman Marlene Holzner said the targets require less land than the study suggests and that EU guidelines prevent the use of deforested land.

“The Renewable Directive says very clearly that it is not allowed to chop down forests to produce biofuels,” Holzner said in an e-mail. “The same goes for drained peatland, wetland or highly biodiverse areas.”

Well of course it says that’s not allowed. Whether or not that’s actually followed is another matter entirely. But here’s the point – the directive’s implementation means that existing land that can be used to reach the targets must be converted from growing whatever it is growing now (food?) to being dedicated to biofuel production. Either way a large area (twice the size of Belgium?) is going to have to be dedicated to such production to make the 10 percent target viable. So where does "food production" go? Looking for new land, that’s where. Or, the EU learns to live with the reduction in agricultural products and the resultant increase in prices required to turn the existing land into biofuel production.

The bureaucrats wave away the concern:

The 10 percent target would require 2 million to 5 million hectares of land, and there is enough unused terrain in the EU that was previously used for crop production to cover its needs, Holzner said.

This is classic government intrusion into markets and the beginning of the inevitable market distortions that brings along with the law of unintended consequences.  Biofuels have to be grown somewhere.  Government is going to subsidize that at a rate higher than growing food.  That means, at some point, food growth is going to be displaced.   Holzner, with an airy wave of the hand says “hey, the land is available – problem solved”. 

Of such are man-made disasters cluelessly formulated and executed.

~McQ

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35 Responses to Irony: Biofuels may be 167% more polluting than fossil fuels

  • The history of every one of these “green technologies” is a litany of stupid.
    I can recall Carter flushing billions down the toilet decades ago, and we are doing it still.
    A simple rule: if government has to subsidize or mandate ANYTHING, it is a stupid waste.
    BIG GOVERNMENT RUINS.
    Markets innovate and raise the standard of living.

  • “Either way a large area (twice the size of Belgium?) is going to have to be dedicated to such production to make the 10 percent target viable. So where does “food production” go? Looking for new land, that’s where. Or, the EU learns to live with the reduction in agricultural products and the resultant increase in prices required to turn the existing land into biofuel production. ”
     
    And water….and fertilizer…
     
    Not to worry, they probably plan to put it in the Ukraine, plenty of Lebensraum in the east.

    • I thought the EU had decided last year that bio-fuels were more costly and in direct competition with food production.

  • The EU countries don’t plan on growing biofuels locally.  And they probably don’t care if it is more polluting.  They are preserving access to what will be necessary in the face of apparently declining fuel production. 

    They will buy US corn, Brazilian sugar, or whatever to make it.  They may even have it distilled abroad and shipped as the fuel itself potentially.  Just because the US may sit out another fuel alternative like it pretty much has diesel for cars and nuclear for the grid, doesn’t mean the rest of the world will.  And they’ll make use of US agricultural lands to do it. 

    And, farmland is not maxed out in the US at the moment.  Not even close. 

    • “And they’ll make use of US agricultural lands to do it.  And, farmland is not maxed out in the US at the moment.  Not even close. ”
      Land is one thing – irrigating it is totally another.  Considering the ever increasing problems on the west coast with competition for limited water resources, or Texas where they’re sucking the aquifers dry or Venezuela, as another area that’s having water resource trouble….  it’s a for real issue when you’re talking about growing plants for your fuel.   We already know the Euro’s are perfectly willing to let themselves be held hostage by fuel needs – so if they’re not interested in the pollution factor, and they don’t care about being more self reliant what ARE they after, what’s the point?
       
       

      • It is true that there are water problems.  But they are not insurmountable.
        And here in Texas, we are depleting our aquifers which is causing us to sink.  Switching from ground water to surface water has its problems, but it is happening.
         
        The price of water, like the cost of all other natural resources, will go up.  For starters, surface water is disgusting, and the cost to clean it is mind boggling.  My wife’s business deals with water management, so I’ve heard the horror stories.  Some stories worse than others – where the water comes out of the tap black… literally, the color black.
        This is one of the reasons why I don’t get all worked up over reasonable environmental regulations.  I don’t think paying a few extra bucks for certain utilities is unreasonable for clean water and clean air.
         
        Cheers.

        • What a crock of teeming shit!!!
          Please, just stick to oral drunken ramblings in person.  Step away from the keyboard.

        • Heh – enough demand Pogue and you get California style regulation on who’s using the water for what.  Like the Rio Grande, used to actually be a river…not so much any more.
          The water has to fall out of the sky at some point (especially hereabouts as you know), and if it’s not falling out of the sky, I have to say, getting it is insurmountable?…no….damned expensive?  yeah.
           
          And considering the outcry in third world countries after we started making corn into alcohol instead of selling it as food, and how that changed the cost of what they were eating…I think there’s a problem, even if we are producing ‘too much’.  But I don’t follow it in detail I admit.
           
          I still think it’s damned foolish to pretend we’re going to get a worthwhile amount of it from plants without screwing up a whole lot of other things in the process at a time when we’d be smarter to leave well enough alone.

    • Somewhere, food is displaced or trees are cut down and land cleared – I believe that’s the point of those opposing it.

      • Are they going to cultivate that land with mules pulling plows?

      • The “in lieu of food production” is a non-starter.  Best to stick with the economics of it.
        Farmers both in Europe, and here in the U.S., actually produce too much food.  Basically, we have more farmland than we need – especially for corn.
         
        Cheers.

        • Exactly. The EU will pay their own farmers for sure. Maybe some sugar cane from their overseas possessions, too, but they already export food subsidized by the EU.
          If there are carbon issues, they just buy carbon offsets…wink wink, nudge nudge.

      • True, but the European governments are notorious for using cause of the moment to justify various initiatives.  If the is an initiative to switch to more biofuels, they only do it if they perceive some self-serving benefit.  And that benefit could be personal or for the country as a whole.  They may pay lip service to being altruistic, but that’s the last thing Europeans are.   Basically there’s an alternative motive.
         
        Not unlike the claim that Margaret Thatcher spawned global warming fears to break the coal miner’s union.

  • And, farmland is not maxed out in the US at the moment.  Not even close.

    That would depend on how you define “maxed out”.  In Kulhifornia’s wonderfully productive Central valley and elsewhere, regulations have shut down (or all but) production.
    There is no question that bio-fuels as we now know them are competitive uses for food grains.  By the time you factor in all the production and transportation in-puts, North Atlantic oil is WAY more efficient as motor fuel for Europe.
    But it IS petroleum, so it is EVIL…

    • In Kulhifornia’s wonderfully productive Central valley and elsewhere, regulations have shut down (or all but) production.
      Of all the steaming piles you’ve left here over the past few months, this one may very well be your largest deposit.
      In what dreamworld have you been exiled in to believe that regulations (water? I assume) have “all but shut down production”?  Seriously.  What do you even know about it?
      For twenty years, I have been working bees in the central valley, or have delivered bees to the central valley.  And for the past few years, production there has been equal to, or greater than, I’ve ever witnessed.
      Sure, farmers there bitch about water.  They always bitch about water.  And there are probably water management regulations that could be improved.  But to outright suggest that production there has all but stopped is utterly absurd.
       
      Tell us.  Do you even stop for a moment once you’ve pulled something right out of your ass, and check to see if it is not a big handful of sh!t?  Or, do you just fling it whatever it might be?

      • I thought you lived in Texas?

      • No, Poque only LIES in Texas.
        http://www.cfact.org/a/1581/Tiny-fish-threatens-to-turn-Californias–Central-Valley-into-Dust-Bowl
        That is as much info as I’ll try to pour into you pea brain tonight.
        By-the-by…you tell us which area of the state has the highest unemployment, asphole.

        • This is your evidence that production in the central valley has “all but shut down”!?!
           
          75,000 acres out of California’s 27+ million.  This is your “all but shut down.”  LOL!!!
           
          Like I stated, there are probably water management policies that could be improved and what not, but “all but shut down.”  That’s hysterical.

          • Um…  Not surprizingly, you did not read the link.
            Color me appalled.

            In California’s storied Central Valley, for decades one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions, an estimated 250,000 acres of prime farm land are lying fallow or dying. The parched area bears all the signs of a prolonged drought, but the acute water shortage confronting farmers and growers is largely manmade, the result of the Interior Department’s rigorous enforcement of the ESA.
            With the federal government withholding water from farmers, it didn’t take long for economic devastation to grip the Central Valley. Unemployment in the areas ranges from 20 percent to a staggering 40 percent in some agricultural communities.  The Central Valley’s agricultural output is expected to decline by between $1 billion and $3 billion this year compared with 2008.

            What an idiot.

      • When I drove through the central valley last summer, political signs were everywhere, all yelling about water. Now, granted, they may always be bitching, but like the boy who cried wolf, is this time maybe different?
        My understanding is the delta smelt thing is going to cut off a whole lot of irrigation. Is it just a matter of more management or changing crops?
        And I guarantee you that the delta smelt is probably just the start. Those biologists have to get their grant money for doing something, you know. :)
         

  • The Chicago Carbon Exchange (CCX) has closed … permanently.

    • http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/if-al-gores-chicago-climate-exchange-suffers-total-failure-does-the-msm-make-a-sound/
      If Al Gore’s Chicago Climate Exchange Suffers Total Failure, Does the MSM Make a Sound?
      Posted By Steve Milloy On November 6, 2010 
      Global warming-inspired cap and trade has been one of the most stridently debated public policy controversies of the past 15 years. But it is dying a quiet death. In a little reported move, the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) announced on Oct. 21 that it will be ending carbon trading — the only purpose for which it was founded — this year.
      Although the trading in carbon emissions credits was voluntary, the CCX was intended to be the hub of the mandatory carbon trading established by a cap-and-trade law, like the Waxman-Markey scheme passed by the House in June 2009.
      At its founding in November 2000, it was estimated that the size of CCX’s carbon trading market could reach $500 billion. That estimate ballooned over the years to $10 trillion.
      /end excerpt

  • (Popular Mechanics, April, 2016)

    Latest research shows automobile engine lifespan decreasing

    For the first time since statistics were kept, engines in cars driven in the United States have a lower average lifespan in this year’s survey reseach results. The prime suspect for increased engine wear and decreased lifetime is the presence of ethanol in significant quantifies in virtually all gasoline sold in the country.

    Mechanics report that engine failures and repairs have gradually increased since mandates and ethanol subsidies made ethanol-enriched gasoline common….

    (Yes, OK, I made it up. But given the law of unintended consequences, it’s not implausible, now, is it?)

    • actually it’s already being discussed at least regarding motorcycles anyway.

    • 2-stroke or 2 cycle (however you want to say it) engines are harmed greatly by ethanol. Weed eaters, trimmers or boat motors are breaking in record numbers since ethanol was introduced in gas. It breaks down the bond in the oil you add to the gas to lubricate the engine.

  • McQHolzner, with an airy wave of the hand says “hey, the land is available – problem solved”. 

    Perfect example of government in action.  It was the same with ObamaCare: “We’ll simply mandate that everybody have health insurance.  And we’ll mandate that the insurance companies not charge too much for it.  Boy, this is easy!  Why didn’t we think of it before???”

  • We already use less land to produce more food. I am not sure it wouldn’t be a good idea to open new land to farming for fuels, provided they receive no subsidy. But doesn’t the cheapest ethanol come from sugar cane? Not sure people in Iowa can grow that…

  •  
    It’s ridiculous, even the army is getting into the environmental BS, they’re paying $424 a gallon for algae-based biodiesel.
    http://politicallyincorrectlibertarian.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/forget-oil-the-army-pays-algae-based-biodiesel-at-424-per-gallon/
    Even the uber-liberal advertising industry is finally admitting that green marketing isn’t that good.
    http://politicallyincorrectlibertarian.wordpress.com/2010/11/08/green-isn%E2%80%99t-good-why-green-marketing-fails/