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We Drink Ethanol, So Why Not Burn It? - The Annals of Young Geoffrey: Hope brings a turtle [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Young Geoffrey

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We Drink Ethanol, So Why Not Burn It? [Apr. 18th, 2008|06:28 pm]
Young Geoffrey
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Gentle Readers,

Due to the paucity of my own entries here lately, and to my concern for the mental well-being of you, my Gentle Readers, I have decided to hand this space over to my good friend William Needle, whose occasional thought-provoking essays will, I hope, provide you with alternate views that are both entertaining and provocative. Take it away, Bill!

Let Them Buy Wheat!

There's been a lot of talk lately about how food prices going up all around the world. Folks are rioting from Mexico to Haiti to Somalia, just to name a few hot-spots of socialist discontent. They say they they can't afford to feed their families, as if any of us have a God-given right to eat. This world is one where only the fit survive and always has been, folks. I figure, if you don't earn enough to buy food and you're not competent enough to steal it, well, that's just part of God's plan. Unlike the Hindoos, the way I see it, you don't get punished for what you did in a past life, you get punished for what you didn't do in this one.

Of course, the usual trouble-makers are complaining, not just poor people. The tree-huggers and do-gooders are all out in force, trying to socialize this and socialize that while they make a fat living in their back of their air-conditioned SUVs, doling out so-called aid to lazy graspers from Haiti to Somalia

And of course, they point their fingers are everyone but the starving folks themselves.

The price of corn is going up because: the Americans are too fat; the Chinese are getting too fat (and who can blame 'em for wanting a steak, after so many decades of living off rice and locusts?); or because we here in North America (and Europe - gotta give the great unwashed credit when it's due) are finally starting to do something about global warming, turning our corn into gasoline.

You can't win with those people for losing, folks. First they complain that global warming is causing droughts and floods (after all this time, you'd think they'd get their stories straight). Then, when we get suckered into doing something about it by turning corn into fuel, they blame us for making food too expensive for the poor in the world.

Now even the International Monetary Fund is jumping on the bleading heart socialist bandwagon. Monday's Globe and Mail quoted its managing director, a certain Dominique Struass-Kahn - whose name alone maybe explains a few things, though I'm damned if it tells me whether its a mister or a missus - as saying, "Hundreds of thousands of people will be starving. Children will suffer from malnutrition..." I know I'm not the most subtle guy in town, and maybe he was misquoted, but it sure sounds to me like he's saying it as if it's a bad thing.

It's not that I'm in favour of human suffering, don't get me wrong. And I don't know it it's us or God to blame for this global warming, but it seems pretty clear there's something to it - and that it's too late to do much about it. The oceans are going to rise by 1.5 metres (that's about five feet, if I remember my conversion tables) over the next 90 years whether we all start eating grass or not. Sure, a black child feels pain just as much as a white one, but if you've got to choose, well, you stand by your own, don't you? It's only natural.

What I'm trying to say is, it's too late folks. There's more than six billion of us kicking around this little space-ball and like a herd of deer after one too many easy winters and the wolves are about to close in during the first deep freeze (or big melt). A hundred years from now, we'll count ourselves lucky if there are a billion of us left, and I say we cup our balls and start staking out the high ground now.

And one way to do that is bio-fuels. The only problem with them is we haven't gone far enough! Here in Ontario, every gallon (or socialized litre) now contains 5% ethanol - I say, why not 50%? Ethanol which comes from corn, grown right here in Ontario! Sure the price of corn is going up, but we all have to do our part, and there's no denying our farmers have been hurting lately, so it's good for them, too.

Okay, it's true that it takes almost as much fuel to grow the corn as the corn provides in ethanol, but "almost" isn't the same as "as much" - and every drop counts. And sure, growing all that corn to run your Hummer is corn that doesn't go to fatten a heifer or a hog, or make into a taco down south.

But that's the Free Market, isn't it? It's not my problem if the Mexicans can't afford to buy our corn, and it's not your problem; it's the Mexicans' problem. And if the Bangladeshis can't buy their own rice now, how are they going to do afford to import our corn when their whole country is under water?

Ethanol is just a way to limit the suffering. Most of the world is going to starve to death in the next few decades, so why not speed things up and put them out of their misery before they breed more babies who are just going to starve to death anyway? Meanwhile, those of us with the means might as well keep on enjoying our life like civilized folks.

Well, all this typing has created in me a powerful thirst. I'm going to fire up old Bessie and leave that Hummer running while parked in the handicapped zone at the beer store. Just doing my part for the greater good.

Well, Duh!
(Bryan Gable, Globe and Mail, 2008-14-15

[User Picture]From: sooguy
2008-04-20 12:45 pm (UTC)
I used to love Bill Needle when he did film reviews.

Good rant though. Every day I look at my son, and wonder why I brought children into a world that is only going to be less fit to live in than when I came into the world.

I thought the whole 10% Ethanol thing was a joke anyhow, since corn is a very intesive plant to grow and harvest chemically. Its very hard on the soils and requires huge amounts of fertilizer and pesticides.

Humans have a very good capacity for shuffling blame and the problems from one place to another.

Never mind rising sea levels in 90 years. Give it less than 50 years and the USA will be eyeing our resources (especially Water) like never before.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2008-04-20 04:08 pm (UTC)

"Who the Hell Do You Think You Are and What the Hell Is That On Your Head?"

So pleased you caught the Bill Needle reference.

Apparently, ethanol made from sugar cane or switchgrass actually comes closer to being eco-friendly, but of course neither alternative addresses the problem - namely, that a North American lifestyle uses an unconscionable percentage of the Earth's productive capacity. It seems to me that, with six billion human mouths to feed, using any farmland to maintain our car-culture is fundamentally immoral (and that doesn't factor in the possibility that other creatures on this planet also have some moral value).

After writing this, and doing it from as extreme a position as I could manage, it occurred to me that the most "out there" suggestion in it - that we need to "manage" the de-population of the world - is one that is probably being discussed quite seriously behind all manner of closed doors, or soon will be.
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[User Picture]From: movementpattern
2008-04-21 02:07 pm (UTC)
Well... sugar cane demands a lot of water. I remember going to a talk by Vandana Shiva a couple of years ago, who mentioned the impact of the crop on the water supply for farmers in India.

I'm SO FRICKIN' sick of eco-this and bio-that being tagged on inanely average activities and products. As a society we're only at a point of harm reduction, as opposed to kicking the seriously detrimental addictions, and are at a level of thinking that we should have at least arrived at fifty years ago if real change was going to come of these "eco" solutions. (I mean... lightbulbs, ethanol, soy shirts?!)

Better than recycling is reusing or reducing... or not using. People talk about buying carbon offsets, as if it will make things better... but it's like budgeting for being sued by accident victims so you can work out how many people you can afford to intentionally run over. It's better not to drive into anyone, duh!

It's like buying organic food that was shipped hundreds of miles and going on about how green you are.

I tried getting involved with this local group of people into doing something, but... everyone was into going on about how easy it was washing their hands with cold water, and turning their lights off, and "making a difference". Every week it was like, "So, I drove half as much!" and it felt like confessional or something because we'd go around the circle saying what we'd done. I never felt like I had anything to add, because though I hadn't changed as much I was driving tons less (i.e. never) and not feeling self-righteous. I've become much, much more cynical. I was more optimistic even a few months ago. I mean, it's probably good to feel like you're doing something and focus energy on a project, but for me it felt like it was being squandered. I'm unsure of what to do.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2008-04-22 02:45 am (UTC)

Much In Agreement

I think it is too late to stop a pretty massive increase in the average global temperature, but that doesn't mean we should give up. Even the kind of essentially pointless feel-good stuff you describe might be the start of a greater awareness on the part of a necessary mass of people that our current way of life simply isn't sustainable.

Say what you will about the problem of a society dominated by "the market", the sky-rocketing price of oil (and food) just might drive real changes in behaviour.

And if consciousness rises quickly enough, maybe the rich world will somehow find within itself the moral fibre needed to not sacrifice the poor world while the oceans rise inexorably.

Or maybe I should be listening to the words of wisdom of Cassandra-like character in John Wyndam's wonderful little satire, The Kraken Wakes.

"Find yourself a nice isolated hill. And fortify it."
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