Green fuel hypocrisy

12 03 2008

NewsFor years biofuel has been praised as an alternative fuel source to fossil fuels that is more readily renewable. It has also been key in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas production and potentially reverse production. However, all is not as it seems.

The use of biofuels is becoming increasingly controversial as the many side effects begin to show themselves. A majority of biofuels produced in the U.S. use crops like corn and rapeseed, which are of course grown on farms. Multiple reports show that the energy and resources used to prepare the land, grow the crops, gather them, then refine them in to fuels actually creates more pollution than is reduced by the biofuels created from the crops. In fact, some findings hint that, though biofuels may not not produce as many carbon emissions as fossil fuels, they often create more nitrous oxides, which are equally responsible for greenhouse gases.

They are also not nearly as cost effective, although that should be pretty obvious. We have to produce these ourselves, whereas fossil fuels are just waiting there underground for us to take. Our economy is already suffering (according to those who decide if the economy is suffering or not), so it’s debatable whether we should be venturing into unknown territory without first researching the multitude of consequences.

biofuel

More recently, it has been discovered that refinery plants often release oil byproducts into nearby waterways. Though the oil (in the form of glycerin) is labeled as “non-toxic,” the way it interacts with rivers and streams depletes the oxygen available to water life and wrecks the entire environment as a result. At least one endangered species (pocketbook mussels) has become extinct due to glycerin dumping by biodiesel plants.

Last but certainly not least, farms provide food for us to eat. Increasing numbers of them are disappearing as America becomes more urbanized, and more food products are being imported from other countries. As a result, food prices are rising constantly, and American deficits are ever-increasing. Is it really worth it to start a project like this that probably can’t be sustained for decades to come.

It is often called green fuel, labeled with the hype of the go-green revolution and the environmental awareness that’s all the rage right now. Perhaps the enthusiasm to encourage change and making a difference is blinding those who should be looking deeper beneath the surface to truly understand the consequences of their actions.

I am not suggesting that other better biofuels could or should not be researched. There is currently interest in algaculture, the farming of algae for use as biofuel. Unlike present fuel sources, algae grows quickly, cheaply and with little human interference. The goal right now is to be able to grow it efficiently and to be able to tap into its energy reserves, which is much more difficult than with current fuel sources. Eleven U.S. companies currently use algae in the creation of biofuels.





Dinosaurs in the palm of your hand

11 02 2008

NewsThe fossil of an adult pterodactyl has sent waves of excitement across the scientific community. The pterodactyl was about the size of a sparrow, but had the fully developed bones of an adult. As the smallest pterodactyl on record, it helps to further build the bridge between dinosaurs and birds as we know them today.

Pterodactyl

Seriously, though, that’s just about the cutest dinosaur I’ve ever seen. And since our visualization of dinosaurs is purely based on artists’ creative license, pictures like this will forever be imprinted in my brain as real.  I’d like to personally thank this artist for his creativity.  The artist even stuck a ladybug in the animal’s mouth to illustrate how small it is. He also stuck a droplet of water about to fall off the tip of the leaf to symbolize how ephemeral life is. The creature evolves. The creature goes extinct. Or maybe the artist was just showing off his mad painting skills with a glistening droplet of water. I prefer to think that the artist took a cool picture with a water droplet he found on the internet and simply painted over it now including the dinosaur. That way our self-esteem isn’t lowered by the photo-realism of the picture, which must have been created in a very short time to come out in the news so quickly. Sorry, I’m bored today.





Discovery that over-harvested plants are slowly disappearing concerns some

19 01 2008

NewsBBC News has just released a dispiriting article on the gradual disappearance of many important medicinal plants. After collecting information from over six hundred members of Botanic Gardens Conservation International, it was revealed that 400 plants are at risk of becoming extinct. Local cultures as well as worldwide medicine-producing companies are worried about the disappearance of the plants. And we have no idea why they are disappearing…

Oh, wait, yes we do! They are being harvested by the same companies that are worried about their gradual depletion. And this was just discovered now? Someone finally realized that the Earth doesn’t have an infinite supply of everything? This reminds me of a certain oil crisis that is rocking the world at the present. Something extremely valuable to nearly every citizen of the planet is being destroyed voluntarily. It’s unfortunate that they both are so nonrenewable.

Oh, wait, plants are! In fact, I am fairly certain that a majority of them take a relatively short time to grow. I am also fairly certain that they are inexpensive to grow and for the most part easy to replace. Why is this news being reported as if the entire future of medicine is at risk when there is an obvious cure sitting before us? Who are the company owners insisting that plants necessary for company survival be harvested to extinction before realizing that they probably should have grown some replacements?

It’s like if an old-fashioned farmer grew his crops and sold them, only to discover he forgot to keep any seeds to plant for the next season. Only this time around, the lives on the line and the money involved are thousands of times greater. Considering this is an international effort, I’m surprised the entire future is being overlooked just for the sake of some quick money.

Oh, wait, no I’m not.