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The climate debate has gotten underway and biofuels have been promoted as a strong candidate for solving the problem of oil dependence. In this article, I explore how framing has caused public discourse to overlook the major disaster that lurks behind biofuels.

The problems with biofuels stand out starkly when the framing is right, reinforcing the understanding that truth only becomes fact in the right context.  

This article is cross-posted on Rockridge Nation

Have you ever tried to solve a problem only to discover that you made things worse in the process? This is happening right now with biofuels. We are on the road to disaster because the problem we are trying to solve has been framed inadequately. Harmful impacts from large-scale biofuel production are largely overlooked. And we aren't even addressing the right problem! The truth can be seen when we frame issues in the context of livability.

Solving the Wrong Problem

Policy makers have been grappling with the fact that an excessive amount of carbon dioxide is polluting our atmosphere, disrupting global weather patterns and shifting the world's climate beyond safe boundaries. The solution required by this problem is that we stop increasing greenhouse pollution levels. This can be accomplished by shifting our energy sector in a direction that ultimately reduces the amount of heat-trapping gases that have accumulated since the dawn of the industrial revolution.

On the surface, biofuels present the ideal solution to this problem. We can grow them in large amounts and the carbon that is released by burning them is equal to the amount they breathe in as they grow. This simple mental accounting is very appealing, but woefully inaccurate for describing what is really going on.

The real problem is that the way we use energy is out of balance with natural processes, driving us away from the equilibrium necessary for our communities to survive. This is evident in the planet's atmosphere where global warming is running rampant, our cities are submerged in toxic gases, and the protective ozone shield is tattered. It is also evident in the biosphere, where we are in the midst of the Earth's sixth mass extinction (the first in the planet's four and a half billion year history caused by a single species – humans). Soils in our agricultural plains are lost to wind and water, reducing the land's capacity to produce food. And our water supplies are being diverted, drained, and contaminated by toxic run-off. We need to find livable solutions to this problem.

A glance at biofuels in the context of livability shows how woefully inadequate they are for solving it. In truth, they will make things worse. The biofuels hoax, as ecologist Eric Holt-Giménez calls it, is based on several misunderstandings that arise in the language of the energy debate.

The Biofuel Myth of Renewal

Biofuels are not the clear solution they seem to be. For starters, the word biofuel is problematic. The augmentation of the word fuel with the prefix bio- creates a meaning that uses our experience with biological organisms (namely that they are able to reproduce themselves). This meaning implies that biofuels are renewable because the crops used to create them can also be reproduced. But biofuels are not renewable without dramatically changing the ways we grow crops and manufacture/distribute products.

Large-scale agricultural practices deplete soils, contaminate water supplies, and are vulnerable to pests and disease when single crops (monocultures) are grown in large fields. The widespread use of pesticides – manufactured using fossil fuels – is also contributing to the cancer epidemic wreaking havoc on our communities. Current agricultural practices also require non-renewable resources and utilize vast distribution networks that are very high in resource demand - including the need for lots of energy.

In some areas, such as Indonesia and Malaysia, entire forests are decimated to grow biofuel crops. The plant life destroyed in this process releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide as the dead trees and undergrowth decompose, exacerbating the problem they are meant to address.

Biofuels are not renewable! Soils are depleted. Water supplies are depleted. Highways and factories deplete mineral resources. Entire forests are depleted.

This truth is hidden by the blending of the concepts for living organism and fuel in the word biofuel.

Frankenfuel Monster

The word biofuel tells us that the fuel is natural. Things that are natural are considered to be safer than things that are manufactured. This understanding of natural tells us that biofuels are better than manufactured fuels.

The natural frame leads to two false impressions:

  1. Biofuels are presumed to be good for the environment
  2. Biofuels are presumed to be better for us than manufactured fuels

The first impression is false because of the agricultural production systems we currently use. The second impression is false because biofuels are manufactured in two ways. First, the fuel is produced through an industrial refinement process where ethanol is extracted from plant materials. And second, there is considerable emphasis on genetically engineering plants to be grown as fuel sources. These plants – including corn, palm trees, switch grass, and algae – are not natural if they are the product of intentional design by genetic engineering.

One area of genetic research that isn't talked about nearly enough is devoted to increasing plant resistance to pests. With something like switch grass that grows quickly, the prospect of making it resistant to pests is a recipe for a super weed. The last thing we want is an aggressive weed that is immune to natural predators.

We shouldn't call genetically engineered plants biofuels. They are frankenfuels. By tampering with plant DNA, we run the risk of getting further out of balance, possibly introducing new and unexpected harms like invasive species that take over croplands and natural ecosystems.

The precautionary principle, which tells us that possible threats with dire consequences should be avoided, automatically applies when the discussion is about finding livable solutions.

Myth of Transition

The energy debate has explored biofuels as a "transition" to renewable energy. The livability lens already shows us that they are not renewable, but supporters often reply to such critiques by stating that biofuels are a step in the right direction. They claim that biofuels are better than oil (in the context of the carbon emissions problem) and are a significant step toward a society based entirely on renewable energy.

This is simply not true. We are dependent on oil because the massive infrastructure of our societies is based on the use of fossil fuels. Changing over to a biofuel society involves building a similarly massive infrastructure. An honest account of this option includes this truth.

In order to meet current energy demands, we must grow crops over huge areas, build factories and storage facilities, redesign automobiles to run on biodiesel, and more. We would be entrenched in a biofuel society as much as we are now in a fossil fuel society. Either way, we are still dependent on some kind of fuel.

Feeding Cars or People?

Another kind of transition will happen if we invest significantly in biofuels. We will shift crop yields away from food production. Basic economics tells us that the cost of goods go up when supply decreases. The growing demand for grains to produce fuel has increased the cost of food.

The economic incentive to grow crops for fuels instead of food will drive down food production in the long run, permanently inflating the cost of food. At the same time, less food will be produced. This combination creates a situation where landowners are motivated by profits to grow fuel crops, which will lead to an increase in the number of hungry people in poor countries.

We are starving poor people to feed our cars!

This economic truth does not emerge in the context of carbon dioxide levels. Only by framing the problem in the context of livability does the impact on poor people become apparent.

Bypassing Disaster with Livability

The biofuels debate has been centered on the wrong question. The problem is not simply the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. If we address the "carbon problem" without recognizing the "livability problem" our solutions will fail. This is the challenge. We have to look at these problems holistically to see the impacts of our choices.

Addressing the climate crisis requires us to do a lot more than change from fossil fuels to plant-based fuels. Global warming is a problem because the way we live is out of sync with nature. The solution is to rethink how we relate to our natural environment. This is where livability is paramount. We need to be thinking about family farms, not factory farms. In the family farm frame, people are interacting with the earth to produce food. The factory farm frame has people interacting with the earth to produce money.

All of the problems with biofuels have been largely overlooked because of the way the situation has been framed. Experts have known about these problems for a long time, but public discourse has been too narrow to recognize them.

When thinking about the essential features of a livable community, we can see that biofuels will not work in their current incarnation. A livable community:

   * Provides essential resources like potable water and breathable air
   * Preserves these essential resources for future generations
   * Provides food security (now and into the future)
   * Promotes the flourishing of life (including the millions of species
     we co-exist with – and cannot exist without!)

A livable community promotes life. This means it is not destructive. Current emphasis on pesticides and herbicides, for example, are chemical killers that destroy life. By growing diverse crops locally, we don't need nitrogen fertilizer that runs off into rivers and kills life in lakes and oceans. Instead, a livable community's central activities involve growing food in a way that supports many different kinds of plants and animals. This diversity provides a buffer for the community to protect it against changes in climate (where some plants may no longer grow, but others will). In a livable community, energy is generated to serve the needs of people. A variety of ways to generate energy provides another kind of buffer against change. Some sources – such as coal and oil – will be phased out when they threaten the security of people in the community.

It is not even clear whether biofuels can be part of the solution at all. The family farm that supports life is inherently local and small. Introduction of an economic incentive to grow fuel crops will drive local farmers to grow ever larger biofuel crops, resulting in the pattern that is occurring now.

We can solve the "livability problem" by looking for ways to promote life. The carbon dioxide problem will get fixed along the way.

Written by Joe Brewer, a Rockridge Institute Fellow. Founded by George Lakoff, the Rockridge Institute is a progressive political think tank reclaiming the political debate through the application of cognitive science, neuroscience, and linguistics to a broad range of concerns. The Rockridge Institute depends upon support from the progressive community.

Originally posted to joe at rockridgeinstitute on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 03:16 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  That would be a yes. (4+ / 0-)

      Next up: the notion that there is all this cellulose lying around just going to waste if it isn't converted to fuel.

    •  Yes. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      joe at rockridgeinstitute

      Very important to get this discussion going widely in the progressive world -- and beyond.

      It's time to get serious about renewables and efficiency. It's time to win the oil endgame.

      by by foot on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 03:23:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Help spread the word! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Gabriele Droz, techno

        That's what we are doing here.  I want to get millions of people talking about issues holistically.

        •  RE that ... (0+ / 0-)

          Still, in many ways, a rough draft ... but you should be interested in Holistic Thinking About Energy ... and the Future ...

          This tackles a different portion of the holistic challenge, that people think 'fuel source/type/production' when they hear 'energy', when there is a trilogy of fuel / efficiency of use / and usage patterns.

          RE "millions of people talking" ... problem is that Americans (and most people around the globe) are functionally illiterate when it comes to energy issues.

          American society is particularist, atomistic -- our 'way of working' stovepipes/breaks down problems in a way that suggests 'technological solutions'.  Systems-of-systems (holistic) thinking and approaches is anathema, in many ways, to how humanity works and, certainly, to the general functioning of US society.

          Blogging regularly at Ecotality Blog for a Sustainable Future.

          by A Siegel on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 03:43:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  the food price contradiction: gasohol vs illegals (9+ / 0-)

      Remember how the righties used to argue that we need illegal immigrants and "guest workers" (slaveys) for agricultural labor because "Americans didn't want to pay more for food"...?

      Well guess what?  Have you been watching the price of milk...?   About six months ago a gallon of Clover Stornetta Dairies' milk was about $2.50.  As of about a month ago it was $4.35.  (This is excellent milk from a dairy that runs a humane operation and has refused to use BGH on its cows since day one.)  Yes, "the sheep in the meadow, the cows in the corn."  The corn that's used to make gasohol isn't available for the cows, and so the price of milk goes up.  

      And no doubt as goes dairy, so go a lot of other foodstuffs that are in some way dependent on corn, or on field crops that get displaced to grow more corn for gasohol.  

      So the big contradiction is... It's OK to jack up the price of food in order to give it away to the oil companies (to blend into gasohol), but it's not OK to jack up the price of food to enable the price of farm labor to bid upward as it should in a true market-pricing situation that was not distorted by open-floodgate border policies.  


      I'm in favor of biodiesel because at present it is produced almost entirely from waste vegetable oil.  

      But if we really want climate-clean energy, what we need to do is switch to electric vehicles, and install enough solar, wind, and yes, nuclear power, to keep them on the road.  

      BTW, for the cost of Iraq we could have built:

      150 new nuclear reactors


      100,000 utility-scale wind farms


      five million solar roofs.

    •  You bring up some good points (0+ / 0-)

      that we would do well to consider. I don't agree with everything you've written, but I agree that biofuels are not a panacea.

    •  Biodiesel will save lives. (7+ / 0-)

      We have this 'issue' around the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Simply put: diesel exhaust is killing us.

      Between the ships, the trucks and the trains, we're talking about billions of dollars of fixed investment consuming over 2.4 billion gallons statewide and the majority within the Los Angeles basin. (CA is 2nd only to the US in diesel consumption, worldwide.)

      This is the single greatest immediate environmental issue affecting LA's communities.

      In this instance, are biofuels not an appropriate measure to protect the health an safety of the people? Nevermind the sustainability, or implications for global climate change:

      If the DOE, EPA and CA CEC are at all honest:

      1. The use of biodiesel in a conventional diesel engine results in substantial reductions of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter compared to emissions from diesel fuel.
      1. [B]iodiesel exhaust has a less harmful impact on human health than petroleum diesel fuel. Biodiesel emissions have roughly 45-90 percent lower toxic emissions compared to diesel.

      This quote is typical of widely reported biodiesel emissions reductions

      US EPA tests, comparing biodiesel to petrodiesel in unmodified engines, showed biodiesel to produce 50% less carbon monoxide, total particulate matter down by 30%, virtually zero sulphur emissions, aldehydes down 30%, nitrous oxides up 13%, hydrocarbons down 95% and aromatic compounds down 50-85%.

      Question #1: By rejecting short-term biodiesel solutions in favor of sustainable development, do we not open ourselves up to charges of valuing ideological purity over human life?


      Question #2: If the poor and nonwhite suffer the health effects of our refusal to consider intermediate measures, do we not open ourselves up to charges of the "white liberal" version of environmental racism?

      •  Some interesting / excellent points ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        McMeier, woolie

        this is a strong posting.

        1.  Biodiesel is, to a certain degree, different from "BioFuel".  Right now the major US biofuel focus is corn-based ethanol, with major negative impacts and very questionable EROEI (energy return on energy invested). (For example, typically not counted in EROEI calculations is the distribution network (TRUCKS & some rail) for moving the ethanol around the country.)
        1.  Focusing on BioDiesel (even Franken Diesel) drives one down a different path than the focus currently in terms of "biofuel" development.
        1.  Clearly, we need -- as part of the approach (as per the discussion) -- to be driving down the fuel usage (of all types) through efficiency (and changed usage patterns).  
        1.  But, that efficiency does not address (fast enough) the serious issue(s) you raise. We need to, in my mind, be focusing on (LIMITED) plant-based diesel (biodiesel) for a number of reasons -- not just the health issues you raise but also because the flexibility and EROEI of bio-diesel is much higher than is the case with ethanol (especially US ethanol).
        1.  We should be considering, for the 'bio-diesel', waste streams. In fact, animal waste (including human) is a quite good path for producing fuel (for example). As long as we have factory farms, this is a path toward dealing with the serious issue of the massive waste that they produce (for example) -- capturing the methane & producing a bio-based diesel from it.

        Some thoughts.

        Blogging regularly at Ecotality Blog for a Sustainable Future.

        by A Siegel on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 03:54:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Adam, I saw your comment on NNADIRs diary (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NRG Guy, bryfry

          about the lightness of energy: if you look downthread you would see you are surrounded by these following "people" , all supporting this diaryists special concern,in the same humorless tone who offer zero comments on other diaries...I know you are not part of this rather obvious commercial attempt at swaying impressionable kossacks, but these people have very interesting comment histories:



          Mathew B




          All these 6 commenters write only on NNADIRS diaries, only avidly backing up NNADIR with his interminable nuclear bullying, using rather the same humorless language. Are they all hired by the nuclear industry?

          •  From my perspective ... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            There are clear advocates / supporters of certain positions on many issues that communicate with each other.

            NNadir wrote, openly, that the industry contacted him, specifically asking for advice about communication and stating that they liked what he wrote.

            Hmmm ...

            That clearly (a) states that they are reading his work and (b) suggests that they are commenting within his diaries.

            Personally, I appreciate NNadir -- find his writing style tremendous and he makes me think, even as I find him to be overly antagonistic.  But, I read knowing his strong support of nuclear power -- and I read three of these in the same way (three others were not on my radar scope).

            Blogging regularly at Ecotality Blog for a Sustainable Future.

            by A Siegel on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 04:33:16 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  you don't find the shouting and bullying suspect? (0+ / 0-)

              In my experience, Republicans pick solutions that hurt people. They seem to take a grim pleasure in selecting from all the options for solutions, the one that is harmfull, while putting their fingers in the ears and going "LAH LAH LAHLAH"to drown out all the other new solutions that are emerging now that more people are comitting to finding them.

              If NNADIR and these 6 were interested in solutions, you would think that they would occaisionally find some interesting energy news like the rest of us do. But I think their comments reveal that they read the Republican-slanted sites like Drudge report to find out what those Democrat lawmakers are up to, to get their news, and do not search for energy news per se.

              •  I'll bet I've written more here on alternative (0+ / 0-)

                energy than you have.

                I would hardly be surprised to learn that you did not vote Democratic in 2000 either.

                You have just called me a Republican, which is pretty typical of your uncivil discourse and your need to insult people.

                Interesting energy news?   That is a rather absurd contention on your part.  90% of what you post here is personal invective.   You rarely discuss energy.

                I've written more diaries here than I care to count and 90% of them are about energy.   I learn more about energy in one week than you have learned in your entire life.

            •  Just for a point of clarification. (0+ / 0-)

              The nuclear industry did not contact me.

              On the contrary I contacted them after I noticed industry people posting here under their own names and after I noticed links to my work being posted on the NEI blogs.

              This may be a small distinction but it is an important point to make.

              I wanted to find out directly what is going on in the nuclear industry.   Everything that came before that point was stuff I found out during private research that I did almost entirely on my own.   I came to the conclusion that nuclear energy is the last best hope we have all by myself.  Nobody controlled my thinking.

              My writing style and my personal style are deliberate attempts to stir things up.   It is important that things be stirred up.   I do stir things up.

              The matter of climate change and energy is extremely serious, maybe the most serious matter faced by post-literate humanity.   I'm a little guy, but I think I need to do my share.

          •  Woolie is a graduate student in biology. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            A Siegel

            Perdajz definitely has spent years working in the nuclear industry, as has bryfry, jimhopf and MatthewB.   Ustenzel, who lives in Germany from what I gather, is probably in the nuclear industry as well, and apparently he and bryfry do not like one another.

            I think it is a good thing that nuclear professionals become involved in this issue.   We have on this website people who work in all energy industries, with the possible exception of oil (to my knowledge.)

            Often my comments are echoed in other websites, most often nuclear websites.   I am very proud of this.   I have very much enjoyed the presense of the people you list in my diaries.   I have learned a great deal from them.    I am widely respected in the nuclear community, and I am happy with this, since I have long believed that nuclear energy is the key to ameliorating climate change.

            I note that many prominent members of this website are members of the wind industry, in particular.

            I give in every poll, an opportunity for people to call me a liar.   My issue, whether you think I am lying or not, is climate change.  

            Some people want to claim that being a Democrat consists of holding a series of inflexible opinions read from a prayer book.   I've been voting Democratic for more than 30 years, straight party line, and you have no right to declare my opinions as being any less worthy than yours.

            I wouldn't say that I am humorless, by the way.  I would say that my opponents - who often attack me, my motivations, and my ethics viciously (although I am said to be rude) are more often humorless than I am.

            •  I didn't say you were humourless, NNADIR (0+ / 0-)

              I said the 6 were. The tone of those 6 is quite unlike the tone of other kossacks here.

              It is odd that they only post on your nuke diaries, and they post only to bully anyone with a more hopefull approach to renewable energy than you 7.

              There is a definite whiff of paid shillery coming from them. I know you admit you are now paid by the nuclear industry.

              Unlike the rest of us here you take a bullying tone that while no doubt it pleases your nuke bosses paying you, because Republicans like that sort of bullying: thats why they pay Rush Limbaugh etc to espouse their various causes, ie the $16 million dollars that Exxon spent to discredit global warming. But, call me naive, I don't think top-down paid programming like this is appropriate here at dailykos.

              I think you have your fans here for your writing style. I think you are a longwinded bully, but you are a gifted writer and articulate. That makes you more dangerous here than someone like Rush Limbaugh.

              •  Oh, and I seriously doubt, from their language (0+ / 0-)

                ie the "Democrat" this and the greeeenpeace that that these 6 shills are Democrats.

                So what are they doing on a site to elect Democrats?

              •  nuclear shills! (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                NNadir, A Siegel, bryfry


                "The answer to fear cannot always lie in the dissipation of the causes of fear; sometimes it lies in courage."

                by woolie on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 11:47:17 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  Frankly I find your tone rather agressive. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Matthew B

                You are insulting and you are self aggrandizing to the max.   Who made you arbiter of what people can write here and what other Kossacks can read those writings and comment on them?   I'll tell you who declared this much:   You did.

                I have never taken a dime from the nuclear industry, but I have taken a golf shirt and some trinkets and a lunch.   I had a wonderful time.   I have also begun to speak regularly with my new friend Rod Adams.   What I say is available on line.

                If I had my life to live over again, I would definitely choose a nuclear energy career, because it is an honorable career that serves humanity, offers wonderful and profound scientific challenges, and provides a means of breaking the cycle of poverty and pollution that characterizes much of the world.   I would be proud if my boys, aged 8 and 11, chose that career.   I believe they both are developing such an interest.

                If the nuclear industry asked to hire me tomorrow, I would gladly accept the job and proudly pronounce it to the world.   It would not change the truth or falsity of a single remark I have made on this website.

                You want to claim that in contrast to you, experts in the nuclear industry only say what they are paid to say.   You suggest a sullen, vicious world in which people choose their careers just for money and not for love.   That is because you refuse to listen to what the nuclear people are saying.   You despise them totally on the basis of your preconceived notions.   The nuclear people who come here clearly love their work and are clearly proud of their accomplishments.   They come here, I think, because I have given voice to their honor in the face of a world that too often treats them with unjust contempt in spite of their efforts to do good.

                As for me:  I am, in fact, rather agressive in defending the truth.   The truths about what I state are obvious.

                Rather than confront the truth, counting exajoules for instance, you and all of your bullying cohorts who are trying to stifle debate - and make the debate about me.   You came to this thread to question Adam for deigning to speak to me.

                Your energy ideas, in the meantime, suck and they are insufficient to the crisis at hand whether you are paid to produce them or not.

                I could claim that you work for the coal industry, but I really don't give a rat's ass what you do.

                I could claim you work for the gas industry (like Gerhard Schroeder) but I don't really give a rat's ass what you do.

                I could claim you work for the lumber/agriculture/biofuels industry, but I don't give a rat's ass what you do.

                I could claim you work for the solar industry, but I don't give a rat's ass what you do.

                Your ideas are wrong no matter who pays your salary, and I am uninterested in how you make your living.

                What I do care about is your attempt to impugn the motives of anyone who disagrees with you.

                Frankly this is quasi-fascist.

                Al Gore's father worked to expand the nuclear facilities at Oak Ridge.   Glenn Seaborg was a world class scientist and a senior official in two Democratic administrations.   He was a Nobel Laureate - a world class diplomat and negotiator and a Democrat.   He wrote for the need for nuclear energy right up until the time of his death at the age of 89.   John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson worked to expand nuclear energy and Al Gore Jr. negotiated a treaty with the Russians to use their weapons grade highly enriched uranium in US commercial nuclear reactors.

                To be honest, since you are calling me names, "bully," I have merely adapted the bullying tone of anti-nuclear "I'm right because I SAY I'm right" people I've been hearing for years.   You just don't like the echo.

                My diaries are consistent in that they are referenced, carefully researched, contain information, and evoke human issues.   You and your associates who wander around trying to stifle debate by not talking about the issues themselves, but trying to engage in the logical fallacy of ad hominem aspersions about me, do not provide data, especially not from peer reviewed materials.

                There are millions of people working in the nuclear industry around the world, by the way, who are working to make the world a better world.   They are by far, by a count of exajoules of clean energy produced, the most successful fighters agains climate change there are.

                You insist that all of these people are unworthy because they work in the nuclear industry.  Bullshit.

                Mohammed El Baradei won the Nobel Peace Prize, and he has been a tireless worker for nuclear energy and for peace.

                Noted pacifist and Democrat Hans Bethe - who refused to speak to Edwin Teller for decades - and who also won the Nobel Prize (for physics) was a tireless worker for nuclear energy.

                If we take the White House, and we say we want to fight climate change - and it is by far the most important issue humanity now faces - and we buy into this namby pamby "We hate nuclear" rhetoric, we will doom generations to come.

                I am here to discredit the notion that a small cadre of self-absorbed, autocratic, quasi-fascistic, bullies - yes frainkly, bullies, will prevent our party from succeeding on the most important issue there is, just because they have thought through the issue in a particularly lazy way.

                When you rachet the tone, don't expect me to lie down.   I'm tough.  Someone has to do what I'm doing, and it may as well be me.

                I am not impressed with your environmental commitment, by the way, since you attack the largest greenhouse gas free source of energy there is.    I have a feeling that every glacier in the Himilayas could melt, and every river fed by those glaciers could die and still you would sing the same tired song, about how wonderful 3 exajoules out of 470 is.

                The battle against climate change is being lost, and you are too self absorbed to notice it.

                •  Well, sometimes (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  A Siegel, dotcommodity

                  My diaries are consistent in that they are referenced, carefully researched, contain information, and evoke human issues.

                  Well, sometimes. I recall a recent diary of yours had this

                  The Brown's Ferry Nuclear reactor was the site of a famous "nuclear" accident that occurred when an electrician carried a lit candle into a room containing a bundle of wiring.   The wiring caught fire and the resulting fire caused the reactor to be shut for 22 years, because well, there was a fire in the plant.

                  Getting the facts clearly right on a subject as critical to the nuclear industry as accidents and the reasons for plant closures, would seem fairly important to someone writing on this topic. But it only took me 30 seconds on Google to write this:

                  Wasn't the famous fire in 1975, and didn't unit one reopen a year after the that fire, operate for nine more years, then close in 1985 for other reasons?

                  To which you replied

                  I stand corrected.   Maybe I'll fix it in the morning.

                  and of course the diary was never edited. Which doesn't stop me reading and enjoying your diaries. I'm just aware of the need to independently verify facts in them, having seen a tendency to let important errors remain uncorrected.

                  •  I did not say that I am perfect. (0+ / 0-)

                    I said I make an effort.

                    I cheerfully admit mistakes when I make them, as I clearly did in that case.  

                    However, it happens that I do write some of what I write from general knowledge or from memory.   Like any person, it happens, that occasionally my memory is faulty.

                    In general I go back and fix bad grammar in my diaries, verb agreements, misplaced modifiers, things like that.  

                    I am a poor speller, and a worse typist and I have some tendency toward dyslexia, so mistakes resulting from these things sometimes need correction.

                    There have been instances - often in comments which cannot be edited - where I have actually ommitted words that involve negation and thus reversed the complete meaning of what I say.

                    Most often I appreciate it when people correct me - because it means that they are thinking about what I am saying, and in so doing thinking critically.   However I do have personal limits.   It is not easy to write my diaries.   On the contrary, it is difficult.   I cannot claim I have the time to be perfect.

                    I will not claim, either, that I achieve everything I wish or even promise as a writer.  No decent writer would do so.   All serious writers feel like failures and I am certainly no exception.

                    Somewhat egotistically perhaps though, I would submit though that on a percentage basis, the accuracy of what I write is somewhat higher than the norm, maybe much higher.

                    I once wrote here about reading Woodward and Hoffman's famous chemistry work, The Conservation of Orbital Symmetry.   Both authors won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.   The book came with a little sheet of errata.   I have no idea whether the text was ever corrected by the publisher.   I'm sure that many a graduate student found himself or herself completely confused by the mistakes - especially if that errata sheet dropped out in the bookstore - thinking that the book, and not the reader, must be correct.

                    The particulars about the Brown's Ferry Unit 1 reactor are relatively unimportant.   Was is important is that the reactor operates today, and that it was once the site of a relatively major nuclear accident.

                    •  See ? That is a more pleasant tone. (0+ / 0-)

                      Lets be civil, ok?
                      I am not one to get into fight with others here.

                      I apologise for my mistake in thinking you were paid by the nuclear industry.

                      •  If I were paid by the nuclear industry, I would (0+ / 0-)

                        not be ashamed of it, as I have clearly stated.

                        Neither would it make any difference whether the statements I make are true or not.

                        As an example let me use the example of Gerhard Schroeder.   Gerhard Schroeder was wrong about whether renewable energy could power Germany when he proposed the preposterous and extremely dangerous "nuclear phase out" before he went to work for Gazprom.

                        The fact that Gazprom now pays him hundreds of thousands of Euros per year has not made him more wrong.   He is just as wrong as he was when he was ostensibly being paid by the German people.

                        Frankly I am not angry about that particular "accusation," since I have made it clear that working in nuclear science - which is, by the way the cumination of many years of hard work and honest effort - is a highly honorable undertaking.

                        I don't like it however, when people follow me around reporting in conspiratorial tones about who I talk to, and challenging people who talk to me.

                        Among other things, I consider myself an amateur historian.   Frankly some of the most troubling things I read in history involves people who try to control the conversation in precisely that way, by asking who you are talking to, and why you are talking to them.

                        Adam and I don't always see eye to eye for sure.   We have discussed things both privately and publicly here and we have agreed on some issues and disagreed on others.   He feels for instance that I am too hard on renewable energy.    Maybe he is right.

                        One thing I will say for Adam is that he is a critical thinker and when he disagrees with me, he does so in a completely honorable way.   He has not once addressed me with a crude conspiracy theory.   He feels absolutely free to challenge me, and I welcome his challenges.   It is a pleasure to know Adam.  He is a very fine human being who shares a general concern for the outcome of the tragedy of our environment.

                        •  But if you were paid by the nuclear industry to (0+ / 0-)

                          write here it would be dishonorable to not say so, of course.
                          You do understand that that is the point I am making, not that you should be ashamed of your position.

                          Or maybe you don't understand that.

                          What I dislike is your tendency to jump to a bogus issue in browbeating us all. That is an example. If anyone says anything to disagree that nuclear is the only answer to global warming, you then leap about verbally smashing in the air that therefore the're for coal. Bogus issue.

                          Here the example is, I apologise for my mistake in thinking you are doing something dishonorable which would be being here on false pretenses, when you are paid to be here, and you turn it into that you are proud to have the opinions you have.

                          There are people here who think nuclear is part of the answer and it does not concern me.  

                          Just as for instance jerome, who personally benefits from the fantastic growth in wind power because it is such a clear winner in terms of speed of getting it up and scalability, in that you can add as few or as many turbines as you like, that it amounts to a one time cost per household of $1000 to $5000 with no pollution and free raw materials and that the more spread out the turbines are the more the overall intermittency issue is solved, because wind always is blowing follow your example... as I was saying, jerome does not jump on people who disagree with him, AND says clearly what his job in that industry is, so people can assess his trustworthiness.

                          Whats more, the same 6 people don't misteriously appear to back him up when he is browbeating the disagreeer.

                          And frankly, yes. I was trying to keep this from you, for my own safety.
                          Your bullying tone, and the mysterious appearance of the 6 to back you up has been intimidating, and given the nuclear industry's behaviour, could well be matched by the kind of treatment that Karen Silkwood got. So, yes, you are frightening.

                          That makes you less persuasive, rather than more.

                          •  And I know that that fear is not rational (0+ / 0-)

                            but it is there, nevertheless.

                          •  Where does Jerome get his free raw material? (0+ / 0-)

                            Wind turbines require a lot of raw material that is not free. They are large structures, have plenty of metal in the turbines and gearing, and require transmission lines to send their power to the customer. If they are spread all over the country on the theory that the wind is always blowing somewhere, those transmission lines can be quite long and expensive to build.

                            Wind turbines also assume that the wind is a public good, but what if that wind was already being used by someone? I have read a lot about the controversy about Cape Wind and how many people portray the opposition as just a bunch of rich people concerned about their view.

                            However, I have spent some wonderful afternoons sailing in that area and wonder how many of the people who oppose the project are worried about how the turbines are going to take energy out of the moving air that they have been using - sometimes for generations - to move about on the water without burning fossil fuels.

                            I have some buttons in my office with the slogan "Stop Ridgetop Litter" produced by some people who hate the idea of their mountains being spoiled by huge wind turbines that stretch several hundred feet into the air and produce low frequency beats whenever the wind is blowing.

                            The resources that the wind industry uses are "free" only in the sense that they are our common property and their use of that property is rightly due for some serious critical questioning. The phrases and descriptions that you provided about your friend Jerome's industry sound more like pitches than information.

                          •  Careful Rod ... (0+ / 0-)

                            or you'll make the list, and then I'd have to fight'ya to keep my number 1 spot.

                          •  Given the legacy of Karen Silkwood, this (0+ / 0-)

                            sudden influx of NEI people suddenly coming here to The Daily Kos as your people put it, following NNADIRS meeting with the nuclear industry to assist the NEI in infiltrating this website to sway opinions among Democrats, is a litle intimidating, and that certainly does not translate into support in my case.

                            As a matter of fact, Rod has started just as you did, and I add him to the list of NEI people suddenly here now, even if as woolie and NNADIR claim, you are not paid to be here.

                            This goon-like attack by you 6 recently on a much liked and well respected kossack - turkana - is typical of your behaviour here since you all have arrived here on this Democratic site.

                            Thats how you break heads at free republic, and may have worked for you NEI folks there, indeed what support your industry has has been Republican.

                            Democrats tend to be less amenable to rule by force.

                          •  Charming. Really. Charming. (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:

                            I could write a whole diary on this subject.

                            In fact, I think I will.   You have just called my friend "A goon."

                            It is interesting to note that you and Turkana regard yourselves as the arbiters of what is and is not allowed on this website.   It is also interesting that you do not discuss the issues at hand but you fling some inflammatory words, except of course, when you are calling for "civility."  

                            You aren't sockpuppets for one another are you?

                            If you are, I think it may be against the rules.   But I have no particular authority here, nor do I claim any.

                            It is interesting as well to note that you seem to take and over-arching view of who is and is not a Democrat.

                            May I ask if you checked either with Kos or with Howard Dean to give you this authority?

                            Dr. Dean, of course, does not make pronouncements about who is allowed to be a Democrat.

                            Famously Dr. Dean is notable for his (somewhat controversial) 50 state strategy, which is inclusive and not particularly dogmatic.  

                            Dr. Dean happily certainly is no Joseph Stalin, Stalin being a person who decided every day who was allowed to be a Communist.

                            It is interesting to speculate what Dr. Dean would have been like as President.   I'll bet there would be a lot of ideological purists here ripping him a new asshole because he had not endorsed position x or position y.   I can easily imagine you doing so, Turkana too.

                            I've seen this, by the way, with the Democratic Congress.   There are many people who thought that if Ms. Pelosi took the gavel on Monday, all of our problems would be solved by Thursday.   That's not how things work.

                            For the record, Vermont, Dr. Dean's state, gets the majority of its power from nuclear energy.   It is, in fact, the state that produces the lowest per capita output of dangerous fossil fuel waste from the production of electricity.   Vermont is, in fact, the model for what I have in mind for the electrical energy future.

                            Dr. Dean's campaign was over, by the way, by the time the primaries got to my state.   I felt bad about that.   Those days of the meet-ups were so thrilling, so hopeful.

                            As for Rod and the rest, you have no idea about the relationships of which you speak.   I do.  I am at the center of them.   I intend to speak on this subject.

                          •  Me thinks you watch too many movies (3+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            NNadir, Matthew B, t7

                            Silkwood? Please, get real.

                            Let me clarify something. I am not an NEI person. In fact, I would not accept a job working for the NEI even if they asked me and offered a huge salary. In saying this, I have nothing against the NEI. In fact, the people from this organization with whom I have dealt -- mostly through the internet -- have always been fine people, and I greatly respect their professional integrity. However, if I were to accept a position as an official spokesman for the nuclear industry, I would need to be careful about what I say, because I would be a professional officially representing the industry. On the other hand, as a private citizen, with my own informed, personal opinions, I can say what I want, including calling an idiot an idiot. Normally, I do not resort to those measures, nor do I usually have to, but I do enjoy the freedom when it is necessary.

                            If you had actually done your homework reading NNadir's diaries, instead of shooting off your ignorant, pathetic mouth, then you would have realized that real NEI people have posted comments on his diaries, and they have always been open about their affiliation. That speaks volumes about their integrity, certainly more than what you have to offer. I have no idea in hell who you are, or Turkana, other than you two feel that you have the right to speak for this entire site, because you think that you have won some sort of popularity contest on this internet site full of mostly anonymous authors. Congratulations. I'm not impressed.

                            If you had actually read, with an objective mind, the exchange in which you accuse us "goons" (how quaint) of ganging up on the poor, innocent Turkana, then you would have realized that Turkana showed up itching for a fight. And so, this person got what he or she came for.

                            In this exchange, this person did not give a rat's ass what was actually being discussed in the diary entry -- at least, not based on what was actually posted in the comments section. Instead, Turkana started with a personal attack on the diarist, and the arguments put forth by this person never got above that level, even after I had asked over and over for something, anything, substantial to the diary topic or the related issues being discussed .

                            So, if that is the kind of friend that you have and that is an example of how to be a "respected kossack," then so be it. It speaks poorly for this site, and I am sad to see that such a narrow view, aimed solely at disrupting meaningful conversation, is being put forward as the ideal model.

                            If, as you claim, "Democrats tend to be less amenable to rule by force," then you must not consider yourself to be a good Democrat, because by all the evidence put forth here -- i.e., the tactics of you and your "well respected" friends -- you are the only ones that I can see here who are intentionally engaged in trying to stifle debate by force.

                            All that I ask is that you listen and think. I reach out to everyone, whether you post here, or simply lurk here reading the commentaries. My opinions are available to all, not just a select few.

                          •  No need to guess about my affiliations (0+ / 0-)


                            If you are interested in my background, political leanings, or other aspects of my motivation for posting here, feel free to Google my name. You might need a little time to put together a picture; I have been writing original work and commenting on the work of others on the Internet since about 1991.

                            (You might need to also use my old screen name - atomicrod. I gave up any claim to anonymity a long time ago and have been using my real name for a number of years. I decided that I needed to be willing to take full responsibility for any comments that I make, even though many of them are a bit controversial and sometimes cause some amount of discomfort.)

                          •  raw materials to run a business are (0+ / 0-)

                            normally understood to mean the supplies from which you make the product, as anyone who has run a business, or done any acounting will tell you. Thus, dividing just the turbine driven forms of electricity:

                            of the ones that run on steam-powered turbines, only the first two use up a raw material, the others are without limits

                            nuclear powered steam: uranium
                            coal powered steam: coal fire
                            solar thermal power: stored heat from sun
                            geothermal power: heat from the earth

                            more direct turbines simply use the force of

                            wavepower: waves
                            tidal power: tides
                            hydroelectric power: gravity

                          •  Raw materials also include other inputs (0+ / 0-)


                            Interestingly enough, I have run a business and taken care of the books. I understand your comment from a pure definition point of view, but also want to explain a bit more about how businesses operate.

                            There are many production inputs that are vital to success and often represent major expenses that do not count as "raw material". One example may be access to transportation. Any business that requires regular deliveries or large numbers of customers has to make provisions for getting permission to use the common roadways. There are permits and zoning laws to consider to ensure that the business's use of the roads do not adversely impact the neighbors. Sometimes the business might have to make major investments into the road network itself, especially if it is something like a mall, sports complex, or supermarket distribution center.

                            The costs of those activities are part of the businesses capital costs and may even be something that the business has to pay for on a continuing basis. Any business that ignores those costs and assumes that they will be free is setting itself up for failure.

                            In my opinion, major renewable energy projects need to be considered in the same light. If they want to capture the energy value from natural phenomenon, they may need to pay the rest of us for that privilege; the developers cannot assume that they have a right to free use of those limited resources. (You claim that they are not limited, but there is only so much space and so much wind. Sure, the sun will shine tomorrow and the wind will blow again, but that is a time variable, not something that implies no limits.)

                •  Frankly, I find YOUR tone rather agressive (0+ / 0-)


                  ...and that is really my point.

                  If you would just tone it down on your nuclear is the only way crusade or I'LL HIT YOU WITH EXXXXXXAAAAJOOOOULES , you might win some converts. In fact I now see that you don't jump up and down on people that way when you are not discussing nuclear energy.

                  I now actually see some perfectly reasonable discussion from you on DMF fuel, where you do offer normal kossack give and take, and clearly have read at least a little on solutions other than nuclear so I take it back. I see I was mistaken.

                  Possibly this was because your usual agressive tone has meant I hardly ever open a diary of yours, thus I was unaware of your ability to have a reasonable discussion.

              •  Just a lunch and golf shirt (a nice one) (0+ / 0-)


                NNadir was very clear about the gifts given to him by the nuclear industry representatives that he met. They bought him lunch and gave him a nice golf shirt.

                How can you say that they are now his "bosses". Do you really think that people of NNadir's obvious education and talent sell their souls that cheap?

              •  hope is not a solution (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                Look I think we differ in our background. The background of the NNadir's assistants - as you call them/us, are hard sciences. We understand that energy issues are the ones of physics. This is not a matter of personal relationships, art or psychology, where feeling matters. Being cozy to your 120V plug won't make it producing more juice.

                Energy issue if the one of physics. Joules can be counted, as NNadir shows often and in detail. You can understand that or be in denial feeling cozy to the so called renewable energy (btw renewable energy is an oxymoron due to 2nd law of thermodynamics).

                Understanding the physics of energy production and distributions together with some quantitative insights is an approach which will elucidate you. Thinking about how you feel about an energy resources is worse than useless - it is misleading. If this feeling-thinking leads to political decisions, it is destructive to people, environment, resources  and society in general.

          •  You found most of them, missed one or two (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            A Siegel, dotcommodity

            including one NNadir-only commenter you didn't name who once replied this to me:

            As the wind utilization is between 10-30%, 90-70% of the wind capacity then actually comes from natural gas, which is about twice as bad as coal when it comes to climate change - the methane leaks, remember.

            Therefore, this 'renewable' (do the wind farms grow like trees?) solution is even worse than 100% coal burning concerning climate change.

            Wind energy worse than 100% coal? It would be nice if all the pro-nuclear NNadir-only commenters kept their comments as factual, entertaining and reality-based as NNadir - but as in the blockquote above, there's at least a few who (from the comments I've read) write nothing but total crap.

            •  so why does everyone not trollrate them? (0+ / 0-)

              Joy Busey wrote about nuclear shills here and dropped out of the discussion. Are we all afraid?
              I think it's as if we let Exxon proxies write at dailykos.

              •  I've not seen anything to troll rate (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                A Siegel

                I tend to dish out TRs very rarely, following the FAQ guideline, "To Troll Rate something has exactly one meaning. When you Troll Rate something, as a trusted user, you are stating that the comment should be made invisible to all site users. You're saying that the comment is so bad -- so disruptive or damaging to the community -- that it isn't worth even a debate" and I generally don't see any comments (pro or anti nuclear) in those diaries deserving a TR.

                I'm not sure if any of the only-NNadir-diary commenters could have been the unnamed subjects of Joy Busey's March diary on shills - most of them have only joined Daily Kos in the past few months.

                •  I too never trollrate (0+ / 0-)

                  but I do think that these particular 6 show such consistency as to be Republican trolls, working on behalf of the nuclear industry: how many kossacks comment ONLY on one diaryist's diaries? Doesn't that give you pause?

                  I see that too, they

                  only joined Daily Kos in the past few months

                  and I believe they may have come on board after NNADIR was contacted by the nuclear industry.

                  Or they may be renamed versions of the shills that Joy refered to.

                  •  Republicans don't bike or take public transit (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    A Siegel, dotcommodity

                    ... at least here in Houston.

                    I've read DailyKos for a long time, but didn't participate until the discussions until I found NNadir's diary... and found the open discussion about nuclear power -- something so often buried in liberal circles -- refreshing, because it's something I've always felt needs to be a major part of any energy solution.

                    Anyway, I wasn't aware I had to pass some ideological purity exam to participate on this site. Where do I sign up?

                    "The answer to fear cannot always lie in the dissipation of the causes of fear; sometimes it lies in courage."

                    by woolie on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 02:23:18 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  It's got to be hard in Houston (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      ... at least here in Houston.

                      I used to work with quite a few people who were transplanted by their employer (my employer's supplier) to Dallas.  Many had relocated from Long Island.  They regularly commented the misery of being a Liberal in Texas.  Most of all the insane growth at all cost green space be dammed attitude was the hardest for me to listen to.  I couldn't stand it myself.  Kudos to you being able to battle in the heart of conservatism.

                      •  it's not that bad in the city (0+ / 0-)

                        I'm in Sheila Jackson-Lee's district. It's the outer suburbs that are scary, which is unfortunately where most people around here live.

                        "The answer to fear cannot always lie in the dissipation of the causes of fear; sometimes it lies in courage."

                        by woolie on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 09:19:56 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                    •  There is no exam, but its just (0+ / 0-)

                      the way you all tend to a.suddenly show up in a group and b.gang up together on anyone who opposes nuclear in a diary.

                      That behaviour looks menacing and it is unusual here, in that it looks co-ordinated, which suggests professional work.

                      I see from your very non menacing image that I was mistaken about your employment, but thats the kind of behaviour that would lead someone to that conclusion.

                      If you look around here you'll see that is very unusual. This is the first non NNADIR diary you or the other one here have ever commented on.

                      I apologise.

                      •  maybe there was a 'conspiracy' by the nuke lobby (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:

                        I was previously here, but counted myself among the estimated 9 of 10 that read without ever commenting.  Well, at least that's the typical ratio I have seen cited by other board administrators of participants vs. lurkers on forums so I’m going with that number.

                        I read blissfully unaware of NNadir's activities.  I have no idea when he got his start so who knows how long I went unaware.  My start reading here was immediately prior to the '04 election.  NNadir isn't exactly front page material so I had no idea he was here.  In all that time, I never came across something that made me want to comment.  Usually my opinion was well represented and all I would have to add is a "me too".

                        I also followed the NEI blog (  Sometime around the beginning of the year I read a post linking to NNadir’s diary.  I thought it was wonderful to see a fellow traveler supporting nuclear.  I finally had something that compelled me to comment and I registered around March.  In the end, it is the nuclear lobby that led me to be part of NNadir's pack - so I have been a 'tool'.

                        As far as my background:  I worked at a now closed nuclear power plant 15 years ago.  I was laid off when the plant closed and I went on to several other energy related industries until my present employment.  I chose geography over staying in the nuclear field.  I have received compensation from the nuclear industry, but I have also worked on solar and wind power.  I received easily 4X the compensation working on solar and 6X working on wind.  I haven't, and probably won't talk about my present employment unless I become a little more anonymous.  Matthew is my real name and B is my last name initial, and the big one for me is that I have posted quite a few times from work under this nick.  All I will say is that I'm NOT in the nuclear power field presently.

                        •  thank you for your civil introduction (0+ / 0-)

                          and lets hope from now on you can be more civil to well respected kossacks here like turkana.

                          My only experience in any energy industry is of briefly selling windpower from a little Truckee startup farm to ( very enthusiastic !) businesses in California in 2000 and seeing the wind company shut down by Enron. At the time I didn't really understand exactly what happened: it sure looked shady, but I was not politicised then having not seen the real damage that corruption in politics has done to this country in the last 7 years, and I  returned to the product design business that I have spent 30 years in, without following up to find out what happened.

                          What do you suppose is the reason wind paid you so much more? My contention is that if it were just up to the marketplace, wind power would already be more prevalent since the initial capital investment in building and mounting the turbine amounts a few thousand dollars per household.

                          For instance where Spain has taken down the disincentives for wind power by ensuring the utilities will buy wind power if it is produced, wind and solar combined produces 70% of the Navarre regions electricityand with together with hydro power, 100% of electricity in the Hierre islands.

                          •  experience, higher degree and more time (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:

                            What do you suppose is the reason wind paid you so much more?

                            I worked on wind after my short nuke experience.  More time working for wind, more experience and a higher degree level all combined to result in more total pay working on wind power.

                        •  I was not writing here in 2004. (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:

                          Most of that time I was writing at Democratic Underground.

                          I still write there occasionally, but mostly I write here.

                          I began blogging shortly after the 2000 elections.   The first website I wrote at was SmirkingChimp, and my screen name was slightly different.

                          My motivation for beginning to blog was basically that I was pissed off by Ralph Nader.

                          My nuclear opinions were well formed by that time by the way.

                          I started talking nuclear in response to some off hand remarks that people who presumed that antinuclear = democrat was a valid equation.

                          It's not.

              •  Generally ... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                I am highly cautious about troll rating ... on the other hand, you have seen me challenge statements ...

                Now, what's a "shill"?   What is your basis for stating that NNadir is paid by the nuclear power industry?  Do you think his words are bought here?

                And, well, every single person here at Daily Kos has their background/their agendas and, even, their communities.

                We obviously disagree -- I value (even highly) NNadir's presence and engagement here.  He takes his lumps and comes back.  And, well, comes back strong.

                Do I agree with him?  Clearly not (at least on a lot of issues, not fully).  Do I love his tone and aggressiveness?  No.  


                NNADIR is wrong in his responsiveness to you. As an advocate of nuclear power & electricification, he should be enthusiastic about your advocacy of electrical vehicles -- for example.

                Blogging regularly at Ecotality Blog for a Sustainable Future.

                by A Siegel on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 12:52:48 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  yes, I just read some of NNADIRS other diaries (0+ / 0-)

                  and realised I am mistaken, he discusses non nuclear matters normally (I had not read his  non agressive DMF fuel diary for instance). I apologised for infering from his overbearing nuclear diaries that he is a troll, with 6 troll buddies.

                  •  I also support electric cars (0+ / 0-)

                    they may - among others - solve the grid stabilization problem,  which most of the solar power advocates seems to ignore.

                    I also bike commute often, as the body fat is the only biofuel  which can make a difference, IMHO. (I do have a car, a sedan, which I try to use on need to drive basis only.)

                    BTW I have nothing to do with nuclear industry, I just happen to have a graduate degree in physics. Many my friends were anti-nuclear and I got rather passionate about the energy issues several years ago, studied the issue deeply. My conclusions are identical to NNadirs.

                    I am certain that you would too, once you follow the reason and do the simple math, as NNadir urges you consistently.

                •  I'm an electric car supporter (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  A Siegel, dotcommodity

                  Big time.  I worked on electric cars for a while, and I'm convinced that they're coming.

                  NNADIR is wrong in his responsiveness to you. As an advocate of nuclear power & electricification, he should be enthusiastic about your advocacy of electrical vehicles -- for example.

                  I'm going to presume to talk for him and state that he doesn't like electric cars because he hates cars in general.

                  •  we car haters would do well to influence (0+ / 0-)

                    the auto industry.

                    They only see the powermad SUV lovers at their shows (the equivalent of fashionistas at the haute couture shows in my industry) and assume that that is the extent of their customer base.

                    I too have never had the slightest interest in cars, till I got EVangelised by reading Collapse by Jared Diamond, which led me to a more environmental and sustainable vision of product design for the future if we are to survive as a civilisation.

                    I promptly got rid of a large and profitable business I'd run for 14 years based on a water-imperiled cotton supply greatly agravating global warming (google Aral sea cotton farming), and switched my design business to a sustainable model.

                    I now comment regularly at gms blog where I think I have helped make a difference with Jack the R from here, in geting them to realise that the vast left-wing conspiracy of treehuggers portion of the buying public is largely untapped by them.

            •  instead of making silly faced (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              You could challenge the presented facts and present reasons for an opposing view. That would bear a merit.  

              Windmills combined with burning natural gas obviously produce less uranium, thorium, radium, mercury, arsenic and SO2 emissions than burning coal (per unit energy produced). If you read that comment of mine, I specifically added "concerning climate change", and I did add it twice, such that   everyone would understand how I mean it.

              I believe I also gave the reasons why the natural gas is so bad for climate changes, and I will repeat it for you once more: because the natural gas, the methane, leaks! It leaks from the well, from the pipes, the compressor stations, it actually leaks from the power station as well. It simply leaks throughout the entire production chain. Not very much in any single spot usually, but in total these losses are estimated  to about 5% - 10%.

              As the natural gas - CH4 - is about 20 times stronger greenhouse gas than CO2, and as natural gas burners produce about 60-70% of CO2 emissions compared from coal burners, you can easily make the calculation of the total contribution to the greenhouse effect, windmills+gas versus coal.

              I obviously do not advocate coal. The point is that windmills + natural gas are quite likely even worse option than coal, which itself is very very very bad. There is no  other real alternative than (rather rapid) expansion of nuclear power.

              If you have FACTS that contradicts the above, I'd be delighted to hear them. However the ad hominem fallacies presented by anti-NNadir folx in this thread are just plain pathetic. Thinking one can find any solution to any problem by such a low ethics of a discourse conduct is plain ludicrous.

              BTW, I read and comment NNadir's diary, because his stuff is important, inspiring, interesting, and insightful. Same goes to discussions below his articles, as long as it sticks with the issue.

          •  Wow! (0+ / 0-)

            I made the top of the list!!

            What can I say? ... *blush* ... I'm honored!

            (I hope that this does not require a speech or anything like that, because I'm totally unprepared.)

          •  So what? (0+ / 0-)
            The rest of dailykos is uninteresting.
          •  McCarthyism (0+ / 0-)

            Frankly, this is McCarthyite.

            It so happens that I'm just a little bit aware about attacks on scientifically minded people that use the concept of "guilt by association."

            During the early 1950s, my mother was a technical secretary in the Chemistry Dept. at the University of Chicago.  One of the more aggravating aspects of the way things were during the early 1950's is that the scientists and other academic people at the U of C were accused of being "Communists" or "fellow travelers" as McCarthyism swept the country.  Since Sen. Joe McCarthy was from Wisconsin, the accusations were probably pretty strong in Chicago, just downstate from Wisconsin.

            My mother's memories of McCarthyism were strong enough that I remember it coming up in dinner table conversations during the early 1980s.  

            It's clear that the accuser is not willing to debate NNadir on scientific grounds.  Rather, he deigns it fair to label those persons, usually with scientific background, who have stepped out in support of NNadir, as "hired by the nuclear industry."

            The accuser has such little grasp of the reality of energy consumption that he cannot understand that multiple people, aware of both carbon emissions and energy demand in industrial and post-industrial societies, might arrive at similar conclusions regarding the need for nuclear energy.  Different people, whose only thing in common might be having taken Chem 101 and Phy 101 in college, might come to the same conclusion.

            It certainly doesn't require employment or membership in the same entity!

          •  Broaden your horizons. (0+ / 0-)

            Perhaps you should thank NNadir for bringing people to Daily Kos who otherwise wouldn't have come here.

            Expanding the community is no disservice.

  •  Any single solution... (9+ / 0-)

    Any single solution is not the answer.  Denying the usefulness of biofuels is no more functional than denying the potential dangers of relying on them.

    We must diversify, conserve, and innovate in order to solve a crisis that is on our doorstep and will not wait for some undefined future time...

    First, we must conserve.  Conservation credits are simple, effective, and can reduce our pollution and fuel intake significantly.  But conservation is not instant; we won't be replacing all of our cars overnight, nor upgrading every house in the nation tomorrow.  And conservation does not resolve the problem that we still use energy.

    Second, we must innovate.  Cellulosic ethanol, algal biofuel feed material, multi-junction solar cells, increased efficiency for wind turbines, better insulation and more efficient household appliances...  These are just a few things we need to invest in if we want to successfully overcome this crisis.

    Third, we must diversify.  Biofuels are not THE answer; neither is solar, nor wind, nor nuclear, nor "clean" coal.

    Together, we can create a solution that will move us into that state of livability you describe.  But it will take a complicated answer involving all of our resources and innovation, not naysayers preventing each and every solution because each presents problems.

    Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves. - William Pitt

    by Phoenix Rising on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 03:25:05 PM PDT

    •  Diversity is key... (3+ / 0-)

      but the changeover to biofuels is a shift in infrastructure.  It isn't something that can be considered on a small scale.  

      We need to take care that we don't commit ourselves to something that is problematic without considering the full impacts.

      •  Some more than other... (5+ / 0-)

        Biodiesel can be performed on a relatively small scale, all things considered.  Diesel engines are more efficient already, and a push for at least some biodiesel - via the most efficient crops we can grow - would be a Good Thing regardless.

        Ethanol is more problematic, but flex-fuel vehicles can still run regular gas, so at least that's not an issue.  The transportation of Ethanol and the current problems with producing it are of concern, though; it requires a greater investment and infrastructure change that we don't want to underestimate.  However, we're trying to stuff the cat back into the bag on that one; the farmers in the midwest are already gung-ho on the new ethanol refineries springing up in their areas...

        There is little time for exhaustive consideration; our environment will not survive unchanged while we analyze the possible solutions to death for the next five or ten years.  We must do all that we can, as responsibly as we can, if we wish to prevent the acceleration of global warming to the tipping points that most scientists predict ahead.

        Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves. - William Pitt

        by Phoenix Rising on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 03:34:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I completely disagree (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ben masel

        I DO think that it can be considered on a small scale and to throw out ALL biofuels because SOME aren't efficient or some MIGHT not be efficient is a grave mistake. We have 10 YEARS to make an impact. We can't wait for perfection, for the silver bullet. We need multiple solutions. People are working on mitigating the damaging factors that have come up around biofuels. If liberals like you start demonizing biofuels we're just going to sabotage that effort.

        I choked on your post. It nearly killed me. Hitler killed people. Your post is just like Hitler. - Pope Bandar bin Turtle

        by Buffalo Girl on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 04:50:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Great comment (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Buffalo Girl, A Siegel

      Let Joe and his think tank gang sit around and criticize me and others for trying to solve our energy issues through biofuel development.  Are biofuels THE answer, of course not, everyone knows that. But while Joe dreams of his livable utopia, I live in the here and now, and right now ethanol is a better alternative than importing foreign oil and sending Americans to die in the Middle East to protect oil company assets. We will continue to seek new and better alternatives but this constant criticizing of people looking for solutions is not helpful.

      •  I am not a critical person (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        A Siegel

        This is not about utopia.  The small farming communities of yesteryear were not perfect, but they didn't deplete soils, pollute water, or drive millions of people into starvation by disrupting food supplies either.

        This isn't about my affiliation with a non-profit devoted to cognition and politics.  It is about find workable solutions to our very real problems.

        We are all in this together, performing different roles.

        (And I applaud your enthusiasm for working to making a difference!)

        •  Thanks Joe (4+ / 0-)

          and I apologize if I offended but there is alot disinformation and hysteria about biofuels and you touch on some of that in your diary.  No one is going to starve because of ethanol. High food prices are caused by many factors, and the article you site states that biofuels are "contributing", but does not explain to what degree. It does not take more energy to produce ethanol than it yields. No one, including you in the diary, mention that a by product of the ethanol production process is the creation of dried distillers grains (DDGs) which are used as a fuel source, animal feed (prevents mad cow disease) and is being shipped to protein deficient countries to be used as a food stuff. Not to mention where my ethanol plant was built local family owned farms and coops are making 10-20 cents more a bushel for corn because they otherwise would ship it to the Mississippi River and pay for transportation costs.  Also the local economy gets a huge boom from ethanol plant construction and in particular where my plant was built thousands of light manufacturing jobs have been lost in just the last five years.  I won't replace all those jobs but at least it is something. I simply disagree with your conclusion that biofuels are a "coming disaster." That type of rhetoric should be kept to a minimum in this debate.

        •  The "small farming communities (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ben masel, Southside

          of yesteryear" DID deplete soil resources.

          There is only one culture that has been able to create topsoil, and that, IIRC, is somewhere in the Andes.  All other cultures either let fields lie fallow or find a method of providing artificial fertilizer for what land they can cultivate.

          The US is, unfortunately, a special case.  Prairie soil is ideal for growing grain -- and with around fourteen feet of topsoil, there's been little reason to bother with conservation.  And we've been losing topsoil like mad ever since people realized that they could plow through prairie sod.

  •  Fantastic Diary Joe. (2+ / 0-)

    I hope it makes it to the recommended list.  These have been my thoughts and concerns for quite some time.  You put it all together in a great format, and your points are well-taken.

    Large-scale bio-fuel production in our current farming system is a recipe for disaster.  Short-term answers simply cannot solve large-scale problems.

    We have to change our thinking altogether, but how?  We need to change our national philosophy, but how?

    We need genuine authentic spiritual enlightening on a massive scale - fast.

    "It does not require many words to speak the truth." Chief Joseph - Nez Perce

    by Gabriele Droz on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 03:29:10 PM PDT

    •  Paradigm shift (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Gabriele Droz

      You are absolutely right that we need to think differently...and spirituality will play an important role (with most folks attributing power to something beyond the physical, this is a given)

      We progressives can get our act together and organize.  For starters, we can look for ways to get past issue silos and work together strategically.

  •  There's only one real solution: (7+ / 0-)

    Use less energy.  

    Everything else is secondary.

  •  I'm sorry, but (6+ / 0-)

    there is a huge difference between ethanol and biodiesel.  The two should not be grouped into one.

    Generally speaking, it takes 3 units of generic energy to create 1 unit of ethanol energy.  With biodiesel, it takes 1 unit of generic energy to create 3 units of biodiesel energy.

    While the corn lobby is spurring the ethanol market, the biodiesel market has no such corporate lobby behind it.  

    There is not nearly enough growing capacity to fully bank on ethanol or biodiesel production, but we can utilize the biofuels, (although once again ethanol is shit at the moment until it can be produced more efficiently and from non-edible corn biproducts), until we can wean ourselves to new technology.

    Not everybody is going to be able to spend tens of thousands of dollars on new technology nor oare truck drivers going to be able to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they can bridge the gap with the use of biodiesel since it takes little to no engine modification to use it.

    Furthermore, I run a VW golf off of biodiesel that gets 50mpg.  Biodiesel pollutes less on every level than petrol except for sulfur.  Taking that into consideration, I would say that running biodiesel is still light years better for the environment than running on a hybrid that maybe gets better gas mileage, alhtough it still pollutes much worse.

    I'd like an Obama and Edwards with a slice of Richardson, but please hold the Clinton. I call it the Wesley Clark.

    by areucrazy on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 03:41:15 PM PDT

    •  Good point (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      opendna, Light Emitting Pickle

      Another consideration I didn't take into account is where the fuel is being used.  There is room to talk about different energy sources for different venues (like commercial fleets vs individual drivers).

      But the problem remains that infrastructure can entrap us again if we are not forward-looking enough.

    •  asdf (0+ / 0-)

      it's important to keep in mind that the figures you cite for ethanol are highly highly debated since almost all the research done on the subject was conducted by those on either side of the debate.  the independent research i've read is that ethanol has a slightly positive energy balance on the order of 1.3 to 1.  part of the problem with ethanol is that there's never really been an incentive to make the process more efficient since until recently it was only economically viable with subsidies anyway.

      as far as growing capacity goes, that argument is a little disingenous because it's making a claim agains an argument no one is making - that biodiesel or ethanol will 100% replace petro fuels. also, the biodiesel industry in the US is about 3-4 years old.  so the argument that you're making about how much growing capacity we have is akin to arguing back in 1898 that the automobile will never supplant the horse.  and the technology is changing rapidly in biodiese.  in europe, in the span of only several years they were able to double the oil yield in their primary feedstock, rapeseed.  our primary feedstock is soy oil and soy oil has always been a byproduct so there's never been a lick of effort to make more of it.  and now that soy oil isn't the sole recipient of subsidies, more farmers will seek alternative and better feedstocks (soybeans have relatively low oil content.)  and we need not always make the food/fuel decision.  the meal left over from most feedstocks is itself a protein rich food.  and some feedstocks are great offseason crops like mustard seed with contains natural pesticides and can be plowed under after harvesting.

  •  Quantity of fuel (2+ / 0-)

    There's one other big issue with biofuels: we're not going to be able to produce enough of them to replace oil.

    My understanding is that with the exception of biodiesel from algae, even the most pie-in-the-sky claims talk about replacing 10% to 20% of the fuel consumed in the US.  That's a lot, but nowhere near enough to do more than delay the conservation that's going to be needed.

    Algae has its own problems, notably that you can't get the really high yields without feeding the algae carbon dioxide, and a whole batch of scammers making wildly inflated claims.

  •  Biomass replacing coal in elecric (0+ / 0-)

    is more efficient than turning low-density biomass to liquids.

    Gasifiers can be tuned to harvest primarily the energy in the hydrogen component, leaving charcoal to be returned to the soil.

    Democratic Candidate for US Senator, Wisconsin, in 2012

    Gravel for President, 2008

    by ben masel on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 03:48:34 PM PDT

  •  Cheapening the currency (0+ / 0-)

    This diary is a polemic for a conclusion outside the writer's core competency, masquerading as a "framing" discussion inside the writer's core competency.

    More of this, please, if you want to condition people to hit the clicker at the first hint of frame-talk.

    We must defeat them over there, or they'll follow us home ... hide under our beds ... and grab us by the ankles when we get up to pee.

    by RonK Seattle on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 03:48:50 PM PDT

  •  Important topic and a few questions ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joe at rockridgeinstitute

    I've felt really uneasy about the current rush to biofuels because of the heavy use of energy to produce crops like corn. It undercut half the reason to use biofuels at all. My questions:

    1. Do we really need to use as much energy/pesticides to produce a biofuel crop as a food crop?
    1. Food is more important than fuel. Do we need to use corn?  How about using the infamous switchgrass or some other low-input crop instead.
    1. Do we really need to produce monocultures for biofuels? Why?

    Happy the man and happy he alone--he who can call today his own ... John Dryden

    by ohiolibrarian on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 03:49:14 PM PDT

    •  Great questions (0+ / 0-)

      I don't know the detailed answers to these questions.  Perhaps if there are others here with technical expertise, you can join in.

      The answer to the first question depends on which model of agriculture we use.  If we use large-scale monoculture the answer will be an approximate yes.  

      The problem that arises in answer to question 2 is that landowners may switch from food crops to fuel crops if they will make more money, even if they are growing switchgrass to make the fuel.

      As for question 3, the answer is no.  But the discussion of biofuels has not been about the ag system...something we need to change.

      •  but on #2 (0+ / 0-)

        you can grow food AND fuel, using the stalks for the fuel, and corn for food. The problem with cellosic biofuel is that it takes a lot more to break it down into sugars, but they are working on enzymes to make that faster and cheaper. Celluosic materials can come from any number of sources, often from waste from other existing crops. We ain't there yet, but people are getting closer.

        I choked on your post. It nearly killed me. Hitler killed people. Your post is just like Hitler. - Pope Bandar bin Turtle

        by Buffalo Girl on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 05:38:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Stalks vs grains (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      A Siegel

      Whatever the crop, growing it to seed takes a lot more out of the soil than harvesting stalk and retuurning leaf.

      Hemp's nice here, as there's very little nitrate in the stalk. Also, few natural pests, eliminating the pesticide factor.

      Democratic Candidate for US Senator, Wisconsin, in 2012

      Gravel for President, 2008

      by ben masel on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 03:55:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Lots of this is nonsense, but biofuels mythology- (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gilgaiiowa, 2ajpuu, davewill

    -is just as bad or worse.

    I don't know of any accepted science that has ever suggested that we can harvest our way out of oil use. I  think this is about agricultural subsidies right now. But it's certainly worth large-scale experimentation.

    Still, I am skeptical of the bio-fuels approach, although some of the arguments here - like "food security" are clearly not reality-based. I also don't care for the "frankenfuel" argument. Taking the DNA from a microbial predator of - or resistant species to - a pest insect and putting it in a plant's DNA seems like a reasonable thing to do. Bt genes in a plant create a pesticide, but it's a much more targeted application of a much less toxic pesticide than typical spraying.

    At this moment, the best alternative fuel we have, in terms of generating capacity minus destructiveness when used are uranium and plutonium.

    They're dangerous, sure, but the danger is concentrated in a small area and a (significant, expensive) investment in transmission grids could limit the danger.

    I think it's clear we need a combination approach. The New Apollo Project is very cool

    •  You think the food security argument is bogus? (3+ / 0-)

      There is certainly a lot, a whole lot of development literature about countries that can't feed themselves because they are producing cash crops rather than food for their local communities. Historically, the crops have been foods like coffee, sugar, and bananas--but the principle seems the same to me.

      Happy the man and happy he alone--he who can call today his own ... John Dryden

      by ohiolibrarian on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 04:02:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not bogus (4+ / 0-)

        From the WaPo:

        Mexico is in the grip of the worst tortilla crisis in its modern history. Dramatically rising international corn prices, spurred by demand for the grain-based fuel ethanol, have led to expensive tortillas. That, in turn, has led to lower sales for vendors such as Rosales and angry protests by consumers.

        The uproar is exposing this country's outsize dependence on tortillas in its diet -- especially among the poor -- and testing the acumen of the new president, Felipe Calderón. It is also raising questions about the powerful businesses that dominate the Mexican corn market and are suspected by some lawmakers and regulators of unfair speculation and monopoly practices.

        Tortilla prices have tripled or quadrupled in some parts of Mexico since last summer. On Jan. 18, Calderón announced an agreement with business leaders capping tortilla prices at 78 cents per kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, less than half the highest reported prices. The president's move was a throwback to a previous era when Mexico controlled prices -- the government subsidized tortillas until 1999, at which point cheap corn imports were rising under the NAFTA trade agreement. It was also a surprise given his carefully crafted image as an avowed supporter of free trade.

      •  Right, so it's not a question of "security" (0+ / 0-)

        It's a question of money.

        I'd love nothing better than to do away with capitalism, but you can't do away with the division of labor. Farming requires fewer and fewer workers. That's just the fact.

        As those workers are displaced, they must find ways to earn cash and become MORE interdependent and do LESS of their own producing. That's how economies develop.

        •  I'm not sure it's so much to do with workers (0+ / 0-)

          being displaced as it is to do with using corn for fuel rather than food. Your argument sounds like an ad for trickle-down economics.

          Besides, in terms of fuel consumption (and thus emissions), food grown locally is better for the environment than food transported halfway around the world.

        •  Ummm ... farming requires fewer workers (0+ / 0-)

          because of farm machinery and pesticides--all of which use lots of energy. This is not sustainable.

          You seem to think that "how economies develop" is some kind of law of nature, like gravity? Based on ...?

          Happy the man and happy he alone--he who can call today his own ... John Dryden

          by ohiolibrarian on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 04:43:15 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Exactly. (0+ / 0-)

            Our economy is not the optimal one in the long term.

            In the long run, what we have a surplus of is people.  What we're going to lack is energy.

            In terms of the amount of food produced per acre, intensive rice paddy farming is ideal -- families can survive on maybe an acre and a half of land.  But doing that requires twelve plus hour days on the part of the adults.  And, IIRC, it doesn't produce a lot of surplus food.

            That could very well be the sort of economy we'll be looking at in the long run.  Lots of peasants.  But it can feed a lot of people.

          •  true.. but (0+ / 0-)

            And I do agree with you..  but repopulating a labor force to do the intensive work cant happen overnight.  And in todays society, how do we get farm laborers in the numbers we would need in even a few years
            (ok, I know..   Z-visas..  but this isnt about that, or is it?)

    •  agreed but dont forget... (0+ / 0-)

      Cheers and YES to a combination approach.  But a big part of that combination is to use wiser and use less as well as a variety of alternative (to now) energy sources.  But that is a tough thing to accomplish--how do you get individuals to voluntarily reduce consumption?

  •  important debate: save the farmer (4+ / 0-)

    this is good diary bringing up important issues. one huge thing to caution against right now. there is a lot of bitching right now about how ethanol (and high corn prices) is fueling increase food prices. $4 corn is not the problem. in fact, $4 corn is GOOD for farmers--they are finally seeing a fair price after a decade of record low prices. $2 corn is what allows CAFOs and factory farms and food processors like ADM to profit at the expense of family farmers by accessing below-cost feed. so i am really sick sick sick of seeing people blame farmers and ethanol for "high" food prices.

    right now, you are seeing Tyson and Smithfield and the factory farmers complaining about high corn prices and their solution is thus to put more corn into production. Get rid of the ethanol tariff and tax credits, get rid of conservation programs so we can get more corn into production! that is their solution. progressives must be wary of the right-wing agribusiness framing of the issue. Food prices are higher mainly because of increased fuel costs and also because there are huge oligopolies in the food industries (i.e. concentration among hog/pork/chicken producers, concentration in processed foods, concentration among supermarkets). do NOT blame the farmer or $4 corn!!

    now long term, ethanol is unsustainable. but $4 corn and price stability at this level should be a goal for all those who care about family farmers, stopping factory farms, and making crappy processed junk food more expensive with all their highfructose corn syrup shit. nor is ethanol a good thing, as noted in this astute Alternet article, which advocates for a return to supply management and price floors for commodities.

    and our First World consumption and voracious appetite for energy IS killing the third world because they are wiping out rainforests, etc to provide us that fuel (palm oil in Indonesia, soybeans in Brazil). however, a lot of third world farmers are also benefitting from higher commodity prices.

    So please, progressives, when blaming ethanol for higher food prices, world poverty, be careful you are not taking the side of the American Meat Institute and the Pork Producers, as you can see from their new astroturf slick website...

    •  I'm really DONE with farmers (0+ / 0-)

      Seriously, farmers are a lobby that has gotten VERY much too powerful and self-interested.

      •  Corporations are not "typical farmers" (0+ / 0-)

        There is a big difference between agribusiness corporations and local farmers.  The agribusiness lobby is indeed quite powerful, but it has taken power (and money, land, etc.) away from family farms.

        Family farms almost don't exist anymore because of the corporate take-over.

        •  "Family Farming" is a bad business (0+ / 0-)

          Terrible hours, dangerous, huge capital risks that are spread out inadequately, constant need for subsidies.

          The problem is that the "family farm" myth is used by corporations to get fat subsidies. Just like the mythology of biofuels you are talking about here.

          •  Perhaps the farmer myth can become real again... (0+ / 0-)

            I know that where I grew up (Missouri) there used to be a lot of family farms.  Now it is Tyson or Monsanto.

            Those subsidies do definitely need to be changed.  We should pressure Congress about this with the Farm Bill that is being considered this year.

            •  What a nightmare! (0+ / 0-)

              Actually "fantasy" would be a better description.

              If a dairy farm in Southern Ontario with NO DEBT for generations can't make it - who can?

              The economics simply don't work. It's about acreage per worker.

              •  Economic don't work out for a reason (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                It is not the "nature of the market" that causes small farms to fail. It is specific policy decisions to shift subsidies and trade structures in a direction that benefits large corporations while drowning family farms.

                The economics would work differently if we structure the market differently.

                •  Yeah, even subsidies can't save uneconomic farms (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  Look at the tremendous problem in Europe as French "family farmers" refuse to give up subsidies so Polish farmers who make a fourth of what they make can survive.

                •  it's the price, stupid! (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  the entire economic "free trade" system is geared toward cheap commodity production. this is what fuels ADM/Cargill and factory farms. low prices for commodities is what the multinationals want. it's not about subsidies or "lack of market access" free trade propaganda. institute a supply management system (like we had during the New Deal and until the 1970s, completely dismantled in 1996 by the Freedom to Farm Act), and a price floor that can guarantee a fair price for farmers, and you will start having a system that finally favors farmers, and not agribusiness.

      •  ignorance (3+ / 0-)

        that such ignorance exists on socalled "liberal" websites depresses me. factory farmers, corporate agribiz, and their commodity group apologists, yes, get mad at them for our screwed up system.

        family farmers trying to provide you nutritious food, who work sunup to sundown, take care of their land, and are fighting agribusiniess and the ignorance of consumers like you, those are different. and they're not powerful. they have no voice in Washington, they are barely making a living and more and more of them go out of business everyday, as the mega-factory farms take over. have you ever bothered to talk to a farmer??? this whole "farmers as welfare queens" stereotype just really enrages me as i work with farmers fighting for their survival everyday.

        •  My family farmed for 5 generations (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          And now they're out, because it's just not a good business. It is simply too subsidy-dependent on a small scale.

          With large-enough co-ops, maybe.

          •  who will grow our food? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            i guess we'll just be eating cheap poisoned exports from China and industrial factory-farmed meat. that is the system we are looking at now as family farms die off...

            •  Let me look in my refrigerator.... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              ....let's see.

              Mexican strawberries, Chilean grapes (those are good, and I hear the cherries are getting better), tomatoes from British Columbia (okay, those suck), but the Mexican ones are getting cheaper here. I've got some Australian grass-fed beef and some New Zealand lamb. I've got Basmati rice.

              •  and what is the carbon print on that diet??? (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                and how much are those Mexican strawberry workers getting paid (not to mention the pesticides?) but then for you, "free trade" globalization is all about price, not any more ethical or moral concerns for our planet or workers. eating a diet like that is just as bad as all the biofuel mania...unsustainable ultimately...

        •  No, 6 generations. + Iowa isn't powerful???? (0+ / 0-)

          Since when?

          Iowa is powerful all out of proportion to population and importance to the nation.

          •  IA's power (0+ / 0-)

            if IA is so powerful, why do they keep losing population? why do all their best and brightest keep leaving? corporate agribiz has taken over IA, as they lead the country in factory farms now (along with North Carolina) and all their family farms die off. family farmers in IA sure haven't benefitted, despite the ethanol boom which is finally giving them some hope (which is sure to be short lived, in my opinion).  ultimately, ADM/Cargill still determine what IA politicians advocate.

        •  Right on! (0+ / 0-)

          I am with you Farm Bill Girl!

          •  No you're not (0+ / 0-)

            She wants more agricultural subsidies.

            What encourages massive, uneconomic biofuel planting now?

            •  no, i do not (0+ / 0-)

              what i advocate is the exact opposite of subsidies (as you can see from all my previous comments on this). Farmers have been fighting for decades now the notion of "parity" and a fair price from the marketplace. set a price floor (akin to a min wage for workers) and make Cargill, ADM, Smithfield, Tyson PAY a fair price for what farmers produce. that takes care of the taxpayer subsidies, since farmers don't want that. but then Wall Street would be sad. profits at agribusiness would suffer. and we can't have that now can we? along with the price floor, you need commodity reserves and conservation programs to set aside land and not fuel overproduction.

              what has encouraged the whole ethanol boom in the first place was the fact that corn farmers were receiving prices that they were getting in the 1970s. you try living off your salary from the 1970s! to fuel demand and finally achieve higher prices for corn, politicians touted ethanol as the savior for farmers, instead of attacking the REAL problem: low prices that never meet farmers cost of production. it was the politically easy way out.

              •  How do you "make" them pay (0+ / 0-)

                a "parity' price when they can buy globally?

                Democratic Candidate for US Senator, Wisconsin, in 2012

                Gravel for President, 2008

                by ben masel on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 05:24:39 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  US price = world price (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  A Siegel

                  in many cases, such as corn, wheat, the US price basically sets the world price because we produce 70% of the exports. so setting a price floor here would force ADM/Smithfield to buy at that price. the Chicago Board of Trade basically determines what a farmer in the US gets as well as in places like Mexico or Ghana. that's why ALL farmers suffer when there are low commodity prices.

                  in the case of sugar, which is often cited as the model supply management program, we in the US only produce what we consume, so there is no dumping and processors must pay a fair price (thus why the candy industry is forever bitching about the sugar program). this is done through tariff quotas. the EU's sugar program, from what i understand, does not work the same way, and thus they DO dump into third world markets. also, because we allow a certain percentage of market access from exporting countries, those developing countries get paid a price that is higher than the pathetic current world price for sugar. Developing countries appreciate our sugar program, even while groups like Oxfam say they are hurt by our sugar program denying them "market access." market access w/o a fair price does not do anyone any good.

    •  Difference between U.S. and other countries (0+ / 0-)

      You are right that increases in crop prices are helping U.S. farmers (though not as much as a change in subsidy structures would accomplish).

      The impacts I am concerned about for food security are in impoverished nations.  Large-scale biofuel production will raise the price of crops permanently.  For people living on less than $2 a day, this will eventually hurt them.

      •  A lot of those people SELL commodities.. (0+ / 0-)

        -for a living and tell us they are being killed by 1st world subsidies.

        "Food security" is really about people moving away from subsistence agriculture. In the near term, export cash-crops are favored over feeding the population - which is very nasty indeed.

        But it doesn't mean you want people to go back to subsistence farming.

        •  "subsidies" (3+ / 0-)

          this is a very misguided myth put forth by the likes of Oxfam/CATO institute. farmers overproduce regardless of subsidies. the solution to commodity prices being so low are international supply agreements--which are totally against the WTO "free trade liberalization" model. if you read Darryl Ray's report on "Rethinking Agriculture" you will see he demolished the myth that just getting rid of US subsidies will somehow benefit poor countries.

          farmers both here and around the world are suffering from the same horrible system of "Free trade" globalization. they are now campaigning under the banner of "food sovereignty", meaning we must prioritize local economies, local production, not this industrial export-trade model that devastates the earth and feeds unsustainable first world consumption. a key component of food sovereignty is thus NO DUMPING. from any country.

          •  Subsidies are HUGE (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Huge amounts of money.

            Just enormous - and they set off competitive subsidy wars.

            •  subsidies are not the problem (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              A Siegel

              subsidies ARE huge. why? because of low, depressed commodity prices, that's why. so when we had corn at $1.33 or cotton at .30, this is wayyyyy below the cost of production for farmers. so the EU and US bail out their farmers through subsidies. developing countries do not have those same resources. what ALL farmers want are fair prices that cover the cost of production. they want to get their income from the marketplace, not from taxpayers. Subsidies are the sympton of a rotton system that loves low commodity prices. those low commodity prices then spread all over the world, and then we dump our surplus. so the only solution to this madness are supply management agreements, and to stop the WTO "free trade" liberalization propaganda that pits farmers around the world to compete for lower and lower prices...

              but the Oxfams insist that getting rid of subsidies will somehow magically raise prices for third world farmers. look at coffee. this is not grown in the First World, nor is it subsidized. yet there is a worldwide glut of coffee beans and record low commodity prices that are devastating Latin America, Asia, etc. this puts to rest the Oxfam/CATO arguments that subsidies are "trade distorting" and cause overproduction. in the 1960s, we put into place the Intl Coffee Agreement to try and stabilize prices since the US was so scared of "CAstroism" taking over the world. Reagan got rid of the program, so what we have now is a radically deregulated market.

              anytime you hear people talk about how the poor developing countries just need more "market access" or more free trade vs our rich welfare farmers, be very very suspicious.

      •  farmers are 50% in the third world (0+ / 0-)

        so higher commodity prices ARE helping them and injecting some money into their rural sectors, which dominate many of their economies.

        the concern about biofuels is that these countries will start producing for first world energy needs, and neglect their own food production and food security needs. but high commodity prices are a savior for a lot of these countries.

  •  BTW, I disagree, but recommend. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Josh or Con or Both

    It's an important thing to think about.

  •  Keep the discussion alive! (0+ / 0-)

    Thanks everyone for making this an exciting chat.  

    I must wonder off to other duties for a while and will drop back in from time to time over the next few hours to see if there is any activity.

    •  after my initial ire at this diary (0+ / 0-)

      I do think there are useful discussions in here, but I still think your approach is wrong here and we can make a grave mistake for our future by demonizing biofuels.

      I choked on your post. It nearly killed me. Hitler killed people. Your post is just like Hitler. - Pope Bandar bin Turtle

      by Buffalo Girl on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 05:40:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hemp For Biomass (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    opendna, A Siegel

    Please see:

    for more information.

    <div style="color: green">"The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add an useful plant to its culture" -- Thomas Jefferson</div>

    by tommurphy on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 04:58:58 PM PDT

    •  Cows for biomass too! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tommurphy, A Siegel

      Oil from rendering plants sells for cents on the dollar and is in abundant supply.

      •  We're going to need (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        opendna, gilgaiiowa

        to put all of the options on the table in the switch from a hydrocarbon economy to a carbohydrate economy. Hemp is part of the solution, but not THE solution.

        <div style="color: green">"The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add an useful plant to its culture" -- Thomas Jefferson</div>

        by tommurphy on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 05:10:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Hemp in the Farm Bill? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          tommurphy, A Siegel

          I'll be able to chat with Congressman Ron Kind this weekend at the State Party Convention.

          Kind is leading on a controversial effort to restructure Ag policy in the 5 year Farm Bill due in September. My mission's to convince him to add a hemp clause. I'm pretty sure a couple of the Assembly Reps who sat through the recent hearing on our State Hemp bill will help.

          Democratic Candidate for US Senator, Wisconsin, in 2012

          Gravel for President, 2008

          by ben masel on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 05:21:15 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Factoid to look for: (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mariachi mama

          GM wanted to use more hemp in the production of car bodies (eg for the Saturn) but couldn't get adequate supplies. They lobbied against the ban on hemp imports from Canada.

    •  look at it, but not necessarily the total story (0+ / 0-)

      I say lets look at lots of options.  I think some of the oils in hemp could be problematic, and also there might be other species that would serve as well or better. That said, for ligno-cellulosic EtOH production it would be great to have crops that came in to spread the season. Then you would sortof solve the storage volume issues at the plant.

      The thing is why werent we figuring some of these things out 25 years ago?  OH yeah..  a President and others who said we didnt need to worry about today, we deserved to drive in gas guzzlers and the future generations would figure it out.   Welcome to the future....

  •  asdf (0+ / 0-)

    you should really do some more research and rethink just about all of what you've written.  it shows a very poor grasp of the subject of biofuels and an even worse grasp of dynamics of fuel and the economy.  for instance your assertion that biofuels require a new infrastructure is like saying that you'd need to build new roads for hybrid cars.  one of the most beautiful and fortunate aspects of biofuel is that they require $0.00 investment in new infrastructure.  just like hybrid cars can use the very same roads already in existence.

    your diary is seriously flawed.

    •  basically correct, but (0+ / 0-)

      However, there will be some increased demands on infrastructure from improved roads and transportation to haul in the raw commodities and to dry and remove the DDGs or other by-product after processing.  When you look at the volumes of material required to produce volumes of ethanol or butanol for that matter, there are issues.  Solvable I think, but they are issues.

      I do agree with the need for the poster to do some more research and that you are in large part correct..

    •  This is not correct ... (0+ / 0-)

      Ethanol cannot be transported through the existing infrastructure to move gasoline, as I understand it. It is trucked/train moved from the processing to areas of use, unlike the pipeline movement of gasoline.

      Due to different corrosive characteristics, the "gasoline" pump does not, as I understand it, convert without cost to "ethanol" / E85.

      Now, you want to argue that these are minimal costs to create that infrastructure, I will read your attempt to make that case. Do not, however, assert that there is zero cost.

      Blogging regularly at Ecotality Blog for a Sustainable Future.

      by A Siegel on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 12:40:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A lot of interesting stuff (0+ / 0-)

    I'm no expert, but from the little I've read about this I see numerous ways the growth of biofuels could have a negative impact on the environment, both here and in the third world.

    Two or three crops of corn annually from fields when producing one crop a year is almost too much for the soil is a recipe for disaster. Not to mention the fact that our aquifer is in trouble already, and growing crops to feed both people and cars is going to deplete it much faster.

    Instead of figuring out ways to make it economically viable, we need to focus on making it ecologically smart. I'm sure the technically adept will explain to me why this just isn't cost-efficient, but the primary source for feedstock needs to be from waste, so we can maybe give Mother Earth a fighting chance to stay ahead of the unbelievable amount of crap we discard in our march towards utopia. :)

    And lastly, any amount of effort that's not directed towards hydrogen-based technology is just one more boondoggle for our great-great grandchildren to laugh at.

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