A Government-mandated Solution and the Problems It Caused

The Law of Unintended Consequences seems to especially love .gov mandates. Biofuels and the Environment: The Second Triennial Report to Congress.

It is a government document, written in the turgid style that only academics can beat.

So the Congress passed (and George W. Bush signed) a law with a wonderful-sounding name, The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007. It was supposed to spur an increased production of “clean renewable fuels.” It is the reason that we put corn into our gas tanks. It was supposed to help the environment. Turns out, not so much.

You see the EPA was SURE – so completely positive – that if they required ethanol be used in fuel, that all kinds of alternative sources including “advanced biofuels” would leap to market. Instead, corn and soybeans constitute most of the source for ethanol we burn in out vehicles. They found this out in 2011, and reaffirmed in 2018:

the environmental and resource conservation impacts of biofuel production and use as delineated in Section 204 of EISA were, on balance, negative [That’s from the Executive Summary of the document.]

An increase in the number of acres planted at the expense of habitat, seems to be the one most to the EPA’s dislike (though they hand wave some of it away.)

In the “Future Impacts” section, they are still hopeful that “past performance is no guarantee of the future” as they see some hope that those “advanced biofuels” will finally arrive to save the day, but mostly…

Available data suggest that current trends using corn starch and soybeans as primary biofuel feedstocks, with associated environmental and resource conservation impacts, will continue in the near term.

And as someone said, in the long term, we’re all dead anyway.

The hubris to think you can control the future, control the markets. I don’t know who is more to blame, the EPA or Congress.

The problems identified.

  • Land Use – as habitat is converted to farmland
  • Air Quality – the emissions caused by growing stock, manufacturing and delivering ethanol
  • Water Quality – specifically algae blooms
  • Water Quantity – in irrigation
  • Etc.

The document also touches on the importation of biodiesel and the impacts that can have overseas, but given what is happening in Indonesia, they certainly gloss over it.

So will this law, which was supposed to save the environment, but turns out that it is hurting the environment, be repealed? Of course not. That would be painted as being anti-environment. Besides, those “advanced biofuels” will be here in the blink of an eye, and we’ll all be driving electric vehicles anyway. (And the corn-growers love the fact that the price is higher.) Hat Tip to Legal Insurrection and also to Tuesday Links from Clair Wolfe.

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Animas River Spill: Imagine the Outcry If This Happened Today

But it happened three years ago today, during a Democratic administration, so, “oops!” EPA crew accidentally turns Animas River orange – CNN

(I like this image because it catches the leading edge of the toxic plume. You can see at the top of the photo, what the color of the water should be, and at the bottom of the photo what the EPA did to the river.)

As far as I can tell, the EPA hasn’t paid any claims about this. They haven’t answered the leading question of, “How the hell did you allow this to happen?” But then they’re a .gov bureaucracy, they exist to make lives of citizens miserable, not the other way around. And no one was charged with a crime. Just an innocent mistake. (Can’t see that being the case today, somehow.)

If you click through the link above, there is a 15-second or so video from a drone flying over the contaminated river. The music is annoying and its on a loop, but it does give a good view of what happened as a result of the disaster.

Electric Cars – Not the Climate Answer You Were Looking For

Batteries are weak spot in electric cars, in more ways than one. Swedish survey: Production of electric car batteries emits tons of CO2

VL The Swedish Environment Institute has investigated the influence of lithion-ion batteries on the environment from the Traffic Administration and the Energy Agency from a life-cycle perspective. Batteries intended for electric cars are included in the survey. The authors Lisbeth Dahllöf and Mia Romare have done a metastudy – that is, they have reviewed and compared available studies.

The report shows that the production of batteries leads to high emissions. For each kilowatt hour of storage capacity in the battery, emissions of 150-200 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents already produced at the factory.

Considering both the Nissan Leaf, and the Tesla Model S…

Already when you buy the car, there has been a discharge corresponding to approximately 5.3 tonnes and 17.5 tonnes for batteries of this size, respectively. The numbers may be difficult to relate to. By comparison, a trip round Stockholm-New York by air causes emissions of about 600 kilograms of carbon dioxide.

(A tonne is 1000 kilograms for you metrically-challenged Americans, or about 2205 pounds)

Running costs (in terms of carbon-footprint) will depend on how your electricity is generated locally. The article notes that Sweden gets the bulk of its power from two sources, nuclear and hydroelectric, so they look quite good on the going-forward costs. (Leftists’ heads exploding over nuclear power in three, two, …)

Okay, it always fun to explode people’s preconceived notions (that attitude got me into a lot of trouble in my youth), but if you read the fine print, the data quality may be a bit suspect. (What is the energy consumption of Cobalt mining in the Congo? Who really knows. Its human-cost in terms of child labor, etc is usually what people worry about. That, and the fact that it has quadrupled in price in 2 years.) But it is clear, that these vehicles aren’t the answer to everything.

The Promise of Thorium Reactors

Thorium reactors have always held much promise for clean energy, but I always said they would never be built because of the “Nuclear is Bad!” crowd. ThorCon Molten Salt Fission Power Plant.

Turns out someone might be building them.

ThorCon is a molten salt fission reactor. Unlike all current operating reactors, the fuel is in liquid form. The molten salt can be circulated with a pump and passively drained in the event of an accident. The ThorCon reactor operates at garden hose pressures using normal pipe thicknesses and easily automated, ship-style steel plate construction methods.

Target is developing world energy generation. I’m sure there are people getting the protest signs ready.

Are Biofuels Destroying the World?

Well, maybe not, but they aren’t helping that much either. (Oh, those unintended consequences.) Biofuels: Good or bad for the environment?

So we know the story. In order to combat global warming, governments all over the world mandated biofuels. Guess how that turned out.

Shortly after these laws were passed 10 years ago, problems began to emerge.

Farmers across the world, particularly in South America and Southeast Asia, were incentivized to start growing crops for fuel instead of food. Government targets meant an artificially inflated market, which began to drive up food prices and change land use. The changes have resulted in food shortages, according to nongovernmental groups.

That change in farming land use, experts say, is actually causing more carbon emissions than biofuels are able to abate in the transport field, because farmers are razing forests in order to grow biofuel crops.

“Do something!” is the mantra of most governments today. Too bad it so often turns out to be the wrong thing.

Those increases in the price of food are hitting the most vulnerable people in the world.

But what did they expect? You have the government say “You WILL use biofuels – under penalty of law.” Then the price of the “bio” part of the fuel goes up. When price goes up, people work to increase supply.

And it isn’t just corn in your gasoline.

Of all biodiesel, palm oil has the highest greenhouse gas emissions — three times the emissions of fossil diesel, because palm expansion drives deforestation and peatland drainage in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa.

So now the environmentalists – realizing that the science wasn’t quite settled – are trying to undo what they did, and relax the biofuel mandates. Unfortunately for them, they now have entrenched opposition in the form of the biofuel industry. So the mandates are still in place.

While updating the EU’s overall renewable energy law for the period between 2020 and 2030, the lawmakers decided to keep a renewable transport fuel target, increasing it to 14 percent by 2030 (part of an overall increased renewable energy target of 32 percent).

And they didn’t ban the use of palm oil or soybean oil. So the problems will continue.

The article then goes on to revisit the “we’ll use other plants” solution, that has been touted for at least 10 years, but so far isn’t viable.

In the meantime, the rain-forests will be cut down, poor people will struggle to get enough food, and we will continue to burn food crops in our cars. Even though it isn’t good for the environment.

The Best Statement on Electric Car Subsidies

I really wanted to title this post “Make Canada Great Again,” but I resisted. Doug Ford makes a good start in Ontario

Another politician is keeping campaign promises. What is the world coming too?</sarcasm>

Oh, and those subsidies… under the heading “Pay for your own fancy car.”

Soon the subsidies for green cars will fall by the wayside. This should go for the same reason the reno program went. If you can afford to buy a Honda Clarity starting at $39,900 instead of the Civic at $16,790 or the Accord at $26,590 then you don’t need my help.

These more than pissed me off when the US .gov was handing them out to people buying Tesla Roadsters that cost more than most people make in a year. People buying those cars did NOT need a handout from someone making $60 grand a year. But that is exactly what they were getting. Still are getting.

Also going by the wayside in Ontario: reimbursements for rehabbing your house, and catered meals for the members of the parliamentary caucus. (He paid for a pizza lunch himself, told the members they would have to brown bag it, “Like normal folks,” in the future.)

Feel-good Story for Monday Morning

Thank God it’s Monday! Or maybe not. But this is a nice story. A wounded Florida Keys manatee was rescued and patched up | Miami Herald

These creatures are cute, in an ugly sort of way. This one got tangled up in some fishing line, so severely that the line was digging into the skin of his fins. But they rescued him.

“Dr. Rodriguez successfully removed all of the fishing line from the manatee,” Stella said. “The animal’s injuries were thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, and antibiotics were administered.”

Click through for photos and short video (that makes very little sense).