Sanity May Prevail — After All!

Written by Dr Klaus L E Kaiser

Bloomberg reports “As Corn Devours U.S. Prairies, Greens Reconsider Biofuel Mandate”. I can only say “What took you so long?” To wit:

Environmentalists who once championed biofuels as a way to cut pollution are now turning against a U.S. program that puts renewable fuels in cars, citing higher-than-expected carbon dioxide emissions and reduced wildlife habitat.”  biofuels

According to Bloomberg, several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) including Friends of the Earth, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) are now bemoaning the detrimental effects of the Renewable Fuel Standard.

How times have changed

For example, the U.S.-based NRDC, counting more than 550,000 members, in their lengthy 2004 report on “GROWING ENERGY” had such glowing statements for biofuels like:

The United States does not have to rely on oil to drive our economy and quality of life. We can replace much of our oil with biofuels — fuels made from plant materials grown by American farmers.”

and

Biofuels can clean up the environment.”

None of that was true – nor will it ever be. If it had been or were, studies would have been able to show that. Instead, the few studies by independent investigators all showed the opposite to be true. Between sowing and reaping the harvest, converting, distilling and distributing the product(s), no energy was “saved,” the environment was not “cleaned up” but rather destroyed, and the economy did not improve either. In short: a giant boondoggle all around. I called it the Biofuel Curse in another post, published two years ago. Even the great oracle of time, former U.S. – V.P. Al Gore has admitted to being wrong in pushing the biofuel (bio-ethanol) idea, already years ago. Still, many of the activist groups like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, 350.org, WWF, etc. were all in favour of biofuels (including ethanol from corn kernels) until recently.

Bio-ethanol from Cellulose

This idea is to use waste products from agriculture, such as corn stover (cobs, husks, stems and leaves) to produce ethanol. Another idea touted by NGOs was growing switchgrass, a native grass of the prairies. Either one was to solve all fuel needs and make “lots of hay” for the farmers to boot. There only a handful of cellulose-to-ethanol plants in operation in the U.S. actually use corn husks and stalks to make ethanol.

However, the ethanol production from cellulose is fraught with technical problems. Not surprisingly, the companies involved recently filed a response to Environmental Protection Agency’s “Renewable Fuel Standard Program: Standards for 2017 and Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2018” in which they ask to be permitted to use corn starch as source for the “cellulosic ethanol” too. Starch, of course is primarily in the kernels, not the corn cob or stem. In my mind, that request is a tacit admission that the ethanol production from corn stover does not work very well. It also reminds me of the Ivanpah solar power plant that produces now about one half of its “solar power” electricity from burning natural gas.

Of course, the whole biofuel idea was based on false accounting of energy input vs. output, misunderstanding of cause & consequences, and – most importantly – government prescribed subsidies, “renewable fuel credits” and related costs that every fuel consumer has to pay for, one way or another.

Most recently though, still barely perceptible, some sanity seems to come into the picture; a new dawn, a dawn of truth.

New Dawn of Truth

In September 2016, a conference on the New Dawn of Truth is being planned to take place at London, UK. The 120-page information booklet with extended abstracts is available online. Perhaps it will bring an end to the “Thermageddon” cult that seems to pervade western main stream thinking these days. Perhaps, it’s wishful thinking as most of the media are still full of “climate doom.”

The New Dawn of Truth conference comes hard on the heels of the “CLEXIT” (Climate-Exit) campaign, officially announced on Aug. 1, 2016. The Clexit movement is spreading world-wide and has the support of scientists from numerous countries. Below, a salient quote from the CLEXIT summary statement:

We must stop this futile waste of community savings; cease the destruction and dislocation of human industry; stop killing rare bats and birds with wind turbine blades and solar/thermal sizzlers; stop pelletizing trees and shipping them across the world to feed power stations designed to burn coal; stop converting food to motor vehicle fuel; and stop the clearing of bush and forests for biofuel cultivation and plantations.

Carbon dioxide does not control the climate. It is an essential plant food and more carbon dioxide will produce more plant growth and a greener globe.”

May sanity prevail, once again!

*******

Biography: Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser. Scientist and author, has been conducting research for more than four decades.

After receiving his doctorate in chemistry from the Technical University Munich, he joined Environment Canada’s National Water Research Institute where he served as research scientist and project manager for several research groups. He represented the institute at a variety of national and international committees, gave numerous presentations at scientific conferences, was editorial board member and peer reviewer for several journals, adjunct professor and external reviewer of university theses, and was the Editor-in- Chief of the the Water Quality Research Journal of Canada for nearly ten years.

Dr. Kaiser is an author of nearly 300 publications in scientific journals, government and national and international agency reports, books, trade magazines, and newspapers. He has been president of the Intl. Association for Great Lakes Research, and is a recipient of the Intl. QSAR Award. He is currently Director of Research of TerraBase Inc., and is a Fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada.

Dr. Kaiser is widely recognized for his expertise in environmental chemistry and his “no-nonsense” approach to issues.

Comments (1)

  • Avatar

    Jerry L Krause

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    Hi Klaus,

    Maybe I should not be writing this comment because PSI has been so kind to me as they publish my articles. But I do not go along to get along. I too have been a scientist for more than four decades and before that I grew up on an USA farm and was a farmer for more than 5 years. And I took a sabbatical leave, with no intention of returning to my instructional position, to place a failed biomass pelleting plant back into production to process agricultural waste byproducts into a fuel for a small district heating system. When we began there was a million dollars of this waste piled on the ground; which during the summer was spontaneously combusting at the top of the piles. Unfortunately, this successful effort existed for less than two years. For, by the end of my sabbatical there was no more waste byproducts to pellet because the plant producing it closed down and many of the piles on the ground were hauled southward to be used as livestock feed because of the drought conditions there.

    My farmer farmed organically because he chose to farm as his homesteading father had farmed before the beginning of the 20th Century. For too long after herbicides became available, he did not use them to control weeds. I have pulled, by hand, thistles and mustard. He actually never did use ‘commercial’ fertilizer without the insistence of his sons.

    Klaus, I have read some of the articles, to which you refer, which claim to show that biofuels are not energy efficient. As I read these articles I have seldom read about the distillers grain that remains after the starch of the corn kernel has been fermented to ethanol. These distillers grains are a high protein supplement used for livestock feed. My farmer never raised soybeans, a legume whose roots which support bacteria (or some organism which converts the nitrogen of the atmosphere into nitrogen compounds. Which are essential nutrients for plant growth. Soybeans have two major components—oil and protein. So soybeans have been processed to separate the oil (used in paints instead of linseed oil pressed from flax seed) and the protein (soybean oil meal) to be used as a high protein supplement for animal feed. Only the soybean oil is chemically processed to convert it into an useable bio-fuel.

    Klaus, the USA farming practices have changed so much from those of the time of my grandfather and my father that I believe many of the articles evaluating the energy efficiency of biofuels are totally out-of-date and I doubt that even when these articles were published they had not evaluated everything properly.

    What I learned from my sabbatical leave adventure was that the energy of biofuels, wind power, water power, and solar energy will always be the literal drop in the bucket of energy necessary to keep much of the present population of this earth from starving or freezing.

    I understand this website is about science and science only. In his address to the National Academy of Sciences titled The Value of Science (“What Do You Care What Other People Think?”) he began: “From time to time people suggest to me that scientists ought to give more consideration to social problems—especially that they should be more responsible in considering the impact of science on society. … It seems to me that we do think about these problems from time to time, but we don’t put a full-time effort into them—the reasons being that we know we don’t have any magic formula for solving social problems, the social problems are very much harder than scientific ones, and that we usually don’t get anywhere when we do think about them. I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy—and when he talks about a nonscientific matter, he sounds as naïve as anyone untrained in the matter.”

    Have a good day, Jerry

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