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.





Sue the sun for global warming: Part Two

11 03 2008

NewsRecently I posted Sue the sun for global warming, in which I observed the growing trend of people suing for damages caused by things completely out of their control (like the Sun). In just a few weeks, however, things have worsened much more quickly than I expected. Three conservation groups are now suing the U.S. Government (specifically the Department of the Interior) for not deciding whether polar bears should be listed as endangered or not quickly enough.

polar

They aren’t suing because the Government promised to help an endangered species and have failed to do so; The Department of the Interior is literally being sued for not deciding whether an animal is, in fact, endangered, thus (I suppose) endangering it. “Doing nothing means extinction for the polar bear,” the groups have said, backing their actions. Likewise, if a doctor initially said he would know whether a patient has cancer or not in a week, and if when that date arrives, he says he needs one more day, he’d better just give up now, because the patient will die of cancer.

Speaking of patients, what about patience? Putting polar bears on an endangered species list won’t automatically cause them to survive longer. Research must be done anyway, and research takes time. Deadline dates for decisions to either put or not put an animal on an endangered species list seem trivial.

Most important of all, suing? They are suing the government for money? “You told me that you would know whether one of the millions of animal species was endangered by today! But you still don’t know. Give me a million bucks to cope with the trauma you have caused.” Yes, I admit conservation is expensive, but this just seems like a scheme to steal from the government when they slip up a little. Give the government a break and let them decide if any of your efforts to save an animal from extinction are even necessary (and in effect, if your suing is necessary). That is, after all, what you asked them to do.





Sue the sun for global warming

27 02 2008

NewsThe native Alaskan village of Kivalina has slowly been eroding into the Chukchi Sea is recent decades. Formerly, the village was protected from storms by sea ice, but global warming and the melting of Arctic Ice has threatened their village’s existence. Though it could be considered a questionable choice to have located their village in between a lagoon, the Kivalina River, and the Chukchi Sea, they have have thrived mostly due to the hunting of salmon and other sea animals.

Kivalina
A retaining wall under construction can be seen clearly. Credit: Jim Kulas

The Kivalina Relocation Planning Committee (KRPC) was formed to address the problem and find solutions. However, estimates say that relocation could cost as much as $400,000,000. As a result, with the help of two non-profit legal firms and six law firms, they decided to sue just about as many power and oil companies as possible. The grounds on which they are basing the lawsuit, of course, is that the contribution to global warming by those companies are the greatest, and they, therefore, are most responsible for the demise of the village.

While it is fairly certain that they won’t win the lawsuit – unfortunately, there is still not enough evidence to suggest power and oil companies have directly caused arctic ice to melt – the plight of the Alaskans is sure to bring a considerable amount of attention to the future effects rising ocean waters could have. It’s extremely expensive for everyone involved.

I don’t want to suggest that the KRPC doesn’t deserve to get aid – on the contrary, I think they should receive a lot of help – but I daresay the success of this lawsuit in any way would spell disaster for the economy as we know it. Suing has already gotten out of control in this country, and the last thing we need is the ability to sue for climate change. If Florida loses a hundred yards off its beaches, the government should be the one obligated to help, not businesses that disputably have nothing to do with their plight.

People need to realize that they can’t sue the world for their every misfortune. When everyone’s just trying to survive, sometimes people get stepped on unintentionally. That’s no reason to make others’ lives more difficult just for the sake of your own.