Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

The Great Bio-Fuel Hoax [lazy quote/link diary]

by DeAnander Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 09:26:58 AM EST

The Great Bio-Fuel Hoax by Eric Holt-Gimenez

Myths of abundance divert attention from powerful economic interests that benefit from this biofuels transition, avoiding discussion of the growing price that citizens of the global South are beginning to pay to maintain the consumptive oil-based lifestyle of the North. Biofuel mania obscures the profound consequences of the industrial transformation of our food and fuel systems [...]

Industrialized countries have unleashed an "agro-fuels boom" by mandating ambitious renewable fuel targets. Renewable fuels are to provide 5.75 percent of Europe's transport fuel by 2010, and 10 percent by 2020. The U.S. goal is 35 billion gallons a year. These targets far exceed the agricultural capacities of the industrial North. Europe would need to use 70 percent of its farmland for fuel.

(quote continues below)

from the diaries ~ whataboutbob

The United States' entire corn and soy harvest would need to be processed as ethanol and biodiesel. Northern countries expect the global South to meet their fuel needs, and southern governments appear eager to oblige. Indonesia and Malaysia are rapidly cutting down forests to expand oil-palm plantations targeted to supply up to 20 percent of the European Union biodiesel market. In Brazil -- where fuel crops already occupy an area the size of the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg and Great Britain combined -- the government is planning a fivefold increase in sugar cane acreage with a goal of replacing 10 percent of the world's gasoline by 2025.

Because photosynthesis from fuel crops removes greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and can reduce fossil fuel consumption, we are told fuel crops are green. But when the full "life cycle" of agro-fuels is considered -- from land clearing to automotive consumption -- the moderate emission savings are undone by far greater emissions from deforestation, burning, peat drainage, cultivation and soil carbon losses. Every ton of palm oil produced results in 33 tons of carbon dioxide emissions -- 10 times more than petroleum. Clearing tropical forests for sugarcane ethanol emits 50 percent more greenhouse gases than the production and use of the same amount of gasoline.

how many times do we have to say it?  TANSTAAFL.

what it comes down to:  the North plans to steal food from the South to feed the North's cars, lawn mowers, ATVs, jetskis, snowmobiles, speedboats, gokarts etc.  the various euphemisms of "comparative advantage" and the definition of food, soil and water as fungible commodities dispersed in the corrosive solution of transnational money camouflage this bottomline reality:    a car eats more than a human being.

Cars, not people, will claim most of the increase in world grain consumption this year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that world grain use will grow by 20 million tons in 2006.
Simply put, the stage is being set for a head-on collision between the world's 800 million affluent automobile owners and food consumers.
Of this, 14 million tons will be used to produce fuel for cars in the United States, leaving only 6 million tons to satisfy the world's growing food needs.

In agricultural terms, the world appetite for automotive fuel is insatiable. The grain required to fill a 25-gallon SUV gas tank with ethanol will feed one person for a year. The grain needed to fill that same tank every two weeks over a year will feed 26 people.

there in bald numbers is the price of our energy slaves:  26 people could be fed a subsistence diet for the energy cost of running an FUV.  now, perhaps it becomes clearer why some people's heads (mine for example) start to explode when I hear FUV-owning Americans preaching about how Those People in the third world have too many kids...  and perhaps it becomes clearer why I (and some others) call 'em FUVs... it ain't just because of the way they drive.

Renewable fuels are to provide 5.75 percent of Europe's transport fuel by 2010, and 10 percent by 2020. The U.S. goal is 35 billion gallons a year. These targets far exceed the agricultural capacities of the industrial North. Europe would need to use 70 percent of its farmland for fuel.
We told the European Commission a year ago, but I don't think they listened to us. Of course, in their mind, if Europe doesn't have enough land to wupply the biofuels, trade will save the day.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 06:52:36 PM EST
yeah, "trade, wonderful trade..."

thing is, trade grinds to a halt in the absence of a surplus -- or becomes naked expropriation.  what I mean is, sure you can offer money to the S Hemi in exchange for their biotic wealth;  but when that biotic wealth is their food supply, their topsoil, their water, their tree cover -- and they cannot purchase for those dollars any food supply of equivalent nutrition and quality (or a new homeland to replace the disaster area left behind by the extractive industries), it becomes expropriation.  which is what "global trade" has always been, underneath the pretty rhetoric -- from the Conquistadores and John Company to the Boxer Rebellion, Admiral Perry, etc.

in theory, each region would trade its surplus produce, leaning on its comparative advantages to supply exotic/high-value goods to those who cannot grow   (or mine or fabricate) such things themselves.  but in practise, it is gunboat trade with resources being looted from those with smaller guns by those with bigger guns:  instead of the surplus, the dominant trade partner wants the whole enchilada:  to control and manipulate the weaker "trading partner" so as to assure a steady haemorrhage of wealth into the dominant trader's pocket;  to remove high-value resources and goods to their own trading milieu so as to capture all margins on these items, and at the same time to create a market (aka 'dumping ground') for their own lower-quality goods, to supplant the base/subsistence production that once was domestic/local and render the locals utterly dependent on the dominant trader for subsistence.  (cf John Company, India, textiles and opium...)

Cornwallis had certainly earned this prize from Britain's merchant class. He had defeated Tipu Sultan of Mysore, extracting an eight-figure indemnity [that's a polite word for "ransom", btw --DeA], and had just pushed through the 'permanent settlement' in Bengal, securing healthy tax revenues for the Company's shareholders. Seeking to increase the efficiency [my emphasis --DeA] of tax collection in the Company's lands  [i.e. Bengal, taken by conquest], Cornwallis cut through the complex patterns of mutual obligation that existed in the countryside and introduced an essentially English system of land tenure. At the stroke of a pen, the zamindars, a class of tax-farmers under the Mughals, were transformed into landlords. Bengal's 20 million smallholders were deprived of all hereditary rights. Two hundred years on, and after decades of land reform, the effects still live on in Bengal.  [this was basically the English imposing the Enclosures on Bengal, very like the neolibs imposing Chicago-school "reform" on Argentina and the FSU, or Bremer's imperial edict imposing US patent law on Iraq:  vae victis --DeA]

This 'permanent settlement' was simply a more systematic form of what had gone before. Just five years after the Company secured control over Bengal in 1765, revenues from the land tax had already tripled, beggaring the people. These conditions helped to turn one of Bengal's periodic droughts in 1769 into a full-blown famine. Today, the scale of the disaster inflicted on the people of Bengal is difficult to comprehend. An estimated 10 million people - or one-third of the population - died, transforming India's granary into a 'jungle inhabited only by wild beasts'. But rather than organise relief efforts to meet the needs of the starving, the Company actually increased tax collection during the famine [similar policies were applied again more than a hundred years later by the government of British India - see Present Hunger, Past Ghosts] . Many of its officials and traders privately exploited the situation; grain was seized by force from peasants and sold at inflated prices in the cities.

Even in good times the Company's exactions proved ruinous. The Company became feared for its brutal enforcement of its monopoly interests, particularly in the textile trade. Savage reprisals would be exacted against any weavers found selling cloth to other traders, and the Company was infamous for cutting off their thumbs to prevent them ever working again. In rural areas, almost two-thirds of a peasant's income would be devoured by land tax under the Company - compared with some 40% under the Mughals. In addition, punitive rates of tax were levied on essentials such as salt, cutting consumption in Bengal by half. The health impacts were cruel, increasing vulnerability to heat exhaustion and lowered resistance to cholera and other diseases, particularly amongst the poorest sections.  [the Company essentially "patented" salt, though there was no hifalutin excuse about intelprop and a patenting process to paper over the banditry;  today its ideological inheritors copyright the genomes of traditional cultivars in the hope that they can once again Enclose the basic materials of subsistence and extort tribute from the peasantry and proletariat --DeA].

The Company's monopoly control over the production of opium had equally devastating consequences. Grown under Company eyes in Bengal, the opium was auctioned and then privately smuggled into China in increasing volumes. By 1828, opium sales in China were enough to pay for the entire purchase of tea, but at the cost of mass addiction, ruining millions of lives. When the Chinese tried to enforce its import ban, the British sent in the gunboats.

Nick  Robins

As more than one reader has noted, this article estimates that about 10-11 trillion pounds were transferred to England by the loot of East India company -- about $10K per Indian by some reckonings.  Thus was the industrial revolution kickstarted.  This is where the "capital" in "capitalism" came from.  It did not just spontaneously generate -- like maggots in cheese according to fantastical early theories -- from a wholesome Puritan stockpile of ingenuity and hard work... or rather, it did originate in ingenuity and hard work in India, whose proceeds were ripped off at gunpoint and shipped abroad.

The East India Company's first factory, in Bengal, was established on 14th May 1653 at Hariharpur. On 2nd February 1634 the English obtained from Shah Jahan an order to bring their ships to Bengal. In 1651 the English East India Company was permitted to trade freely in Bengal in return for a fixed annual tax of Rs.30.000, on the basis of a sealed permit, granted by the Governor of Bengal. However, the English were not satisfied with freedom to trade in Bengal only They wanted free movement of trade over the entire country. For this, they asked the Mogul emperors for a single document which would remove the impediments in the way of trade of the Company, and give them legal and moral justification to assert their rights, whenever they came into conflict with local and provincial authorities. [extraterritoriality, such as Blackwater and other contractors today enjoy in Iraq thanks to Bremer -- the Clive of his day --DeA]  The 1717 order was their route to extra-territorial power for free trade.

However, freedom for the East India Company implied the end of freedom for local producers and traders.

As Radhakamal Mukherjee writes in his Economic History of India the Indian merchants were placed under a serious handicap as they not only had to pay both customs as well as transit duties and other charges (from which the Europeans obtained exemptions), but also lacked the protection of the Mogul fleet against attacks by European frigates. The free-trade order of 1717 led to the rise in the monopoly of the East India Company in trade in manufactured goods as well as in agricultural commodities.

Textiles were the most important export item from India. In the times of the Mogul government, the weavers manufactured their goods freely. Master weavers often employed their own capital to manufacture and sell freely. With the introduction of monopoly, the entire weaving population as well as the merchants and intermediaries connected with the cloth trade were subjected to oppression. The coercion of the weaving community was intrinsic to the creation of freedom for the East India Company.

The Company appointed a large number of agents who advanced money to the weavers, obtaining from them signed contracts and exercising a monopolistic control over them, so that the 'weavers were not permitted to work for others. The weavers could not obtain a just price for their clothes. The English East India Company fixed prices in all places at least 15%, and in some even 40%, less than the clothes would sell in the public bazaar or market on a free sale.  ["free trade" means the freedom of capitalists to run a command economy for the benefit of themselves and their friends... sound familiar?]

"Free trade" was at the root of the loss of freedom for India and her people, because free trade is essentially freedom for foreign trading interests. "Free trade" is supposed to create a level playing-field. However, free trade does not create a level playing-field for all economic actors because it puts small local producers and traders at a disadvantage. As freedoms grow for corporations, small producers lose their freedom to engage in economic activity on their own terms and can either become bonded, contract labour to the corporations, or become economically dispensable.

How Free is Free India? by V Shiva

The Company undermined the revenue base and the local economy of the rulers of Bengal, India's richest province in the 1750s, by depriving vast numbers of natives of their livelihood. Regulatory pressures and competition from other European trading houses threatened the commercial position of the Company.

In retaliation for being expelled from Bengal, the Company's warrior baron, Robert Clive, mounted an amphibious offensive sprinkled with intrigue and conspiracy that won the day at the Battle of Plassey in 1757. Victory gave the Company command of public revenues and the internal market of Bengal.

After another triumph at the Battle of Buxar in 1764, Bihar and Orissa were at the mercy of "John Company" and progressively pauperized by unrequited trade. From economic independence, Indian weavers were forced into slavery, unable to sell to others and obliged to accept whatever the Company paid. Military force expanded to squeeze raw materials from producers. Methods of Company repression included fines, imprisonments, floggings and forced bonds.

Profiteering and insider trading by company executives reached their acme as bans on corruption were ostentatiously ignored. Illegal syndicates to monopolize the betel-nut, salt and tobacco trade and persistent overestimation of the financial value of acquisitions were routine shenanigans in the Company. Clive led a remorseless grab campaign on the riches of an entire people and rerouted the flow of wealth to the West.

The Company increased eastern India's vulnerability to natural disaster and triggered a famine in 1770 that cost more than 1.2 million lives. Instead of introducing time-tested revenue relief during distress, it raised taxes and purchased grain by force for hoarding. The sheer barbarity and violence of the Company's conduct during the famine were "one of the worst examples of corporate mismanagement in history" (p 94). Callousness toward Indian lives was a natural result of its political tyranny.

Millions more Indians lost their lives when the Company's stock crashed in London in the mid-1770s. After the bubble burst, the English government introduced a new post of governor-general of India to curtail the Company's freedom. The principle of extraterritorial liability for corporate malpractice was founded when Clive's successor in Bengal, Harry Verelst, was found guilty of human-rights abuses in 1777 [...]

Review of Nick Robins' recent book, The Corporation That Changed the World

The dirty history of John Company should be more studied by people in our own century.  'Nothing new under the sun' indeed.  Though there is a smiley face seal on the envelope, the natural gas contract between Canada and the US is in the same tradition iirc:  if there is a shortfall of nat gas to meet Canada's heating requirements, there is no provision for prioritising domestic needs.  "Free Trade" trumps the wellbeing of the resource-holding country's own citizens.

One of the things that distinguishes NAFTA from the World Trade Organization agreements is that it includes a chapter that deals explicitly with energy. And the basic rules of trade as they apply to energy in the NAFTA context is that the US is entitled to unlimited access to Canadian natural gas and oil resources at the same price that those resources are made available in Canada and the form in which that's given expression by NAFTA is to impose a ban on government measures. Measures under trade agreements include policy, laws, programs, regulations, any government measure that imposes to restrain export growth to the Unites States, or that seeks to impose an export tax on oil and gas resources that head to the United States. It's also significant to appreciate that under WTO rules the tool of using tariffs to control the flow of resources or goods across boarders is permitted. Under NAFTA it isn't and that's the distinction between the two regimes. So under NAFTA we're obliged to give the US virtually unfettered access to Canadian natural resources, oil and gas resources included and we can't charge them more than we do Canadians. So a two price energy policy such as the one that's in place in Quebec is clearly non-compliant under NAFTA, the two price policy in Quebec of course having to do with electricity. And there are reasons why the NAFTA rules haven't been visited yet on Quebec, but the measure would be non-compliant and I don't think there would be an awful lot of debate or dispute on that. The qualification on this right of unlimited access is this, that, if at some point it becomes apparent in Canada that we simply don't have enough oil and gas to meet Canadian needs and we have to ration domestically, we're entitled to cut back export flows as well but only in proportion to the relative volume of resources being exported to the overall production in Canadian markets, in other words, right now for example in maritime Canada which is a factual situation that I'm familiar with at the moment. Seventy-five percent of all natural gas that's being extracted from the Nova Scotian offshore reserves flows to the United States. If it turns out that there simply isn't as much out there as we thought and if in fact that's not enough to meet both domestic and export needs, we can cut back on production, but the United States will be entitled to 75% of those diminished supplies in perpetuity until they're finally exhausted. So no matter how severe the supply constraints may be in Canada, no matter how dire the economic impacts associated with supply reduction in Canada the United States will still be entitled in that case to three-quarters of everything that's produced in Canada in perpetuity.
Transcript of Interview with Shrybman

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 08:03:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the Company essentially "patented" salt, though there was no hifalutin excuse about intelprop and a patenting process to paper over the banditry;  today its ideological inheritors copyright the genomes of traditional cultivars in the hope that they can once again Enclose the basic materials of subsistence and extort tribute from the peasantry and proletariat --DeA

A poster from the Swedish Pirate Party:

Translation (not that you can not all figure it out anyway): Gandhi copied salt. What do you copy?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 09:08:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Pork-barrel politics to benefit intensive agriculture and the plundering of developping nations in lieu of climate change policy on either side of the atlantic. Plus ca change et plus c'est la meme chose. Do you think they drunk to it at G8 while they "thought about considering" the reduction of carbon emissions?
by Fete des fous on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 02:17:04 AM EST
The nation that destroys the soil, destroys itself...
While some crops are superior to others and forest eating cellulostic ethanol technology scams are still in development, corn ethanol primacy is devouring the nation's alternative energy focus. Billions of taxpayer dollars are being thrown into this unsustainable technology and we subsidize each gallon of auto alcohol to the tune of 51 cents per gallon. The ethanol fumes are leaving us drunk on delusion, ignoring the consequences and refusing to face the future when the oil dries up.

To grow enough corn for ethanol to replace our oil addiction would require approximately 482 million acres of cropland, exceeding the current total of 434 million acres of cropland used for all food and fiber. This does not even account for projected growth of oil consumption in the U.S. There is already the push to put the marginal Conservation Reserve Program lands, vital for wildlife and water quality and quantity, into intense energy crop production.

Old school ethical farmers in the corn belt are already lamenting the destruction of soil saving windbreaks, some planted during the CCC years, the plowing under of hayfields to corn, highly erodable hilly lands being put into corn, and water drainages being reduced, hearkening back to the depression era insanity that squandered so much vital topsoil. Cellulostic ethanol scams will fare even worse for the soils as "residues" are scooped up, leaving virtually nothing to feed back to the soil.

this is what I mean by interrupting the nutrient and hydro cycles.

In the rush to burn our nation's dwindling soil resources, corn is king. Corn devours soil nutrients at 12-20 times the rate of soil renewal, meaning it is already a highly unsustainable crop. Corn is also highly dependent on fossil fuel based fertilizer and pesticide inputs. With the inevitable hybridization and Genetically Modified Organism corn crops, the soil nutrient depletion will accelerate. The Corn Cartel, led by the likes of Archer Daniels Midland and Monsanto, have been working for decades on their plans for corn dominion over the U.S. and are now reaping record profits and subsidies.

Meanwhile, back on the farm, in addition to the land ethics meltdown, prime farmland prices have soared, rents have become prohibitive to all but the largest agribusiness operations, and again, the small farmers, the backbone, are being winnowed out like so much chaff. Seed, fuel and fertilizer costs are rising to meet the increased profit per bushel and farmers find themselves back on that familiar treadmill, the promise falling short as it always has.

In a land already plagued with poisoned groundwater, the incidence of atrazine and other poisons will only become more pervasive. Aquifers, already drained faster than recharge will only dry up faster in direct proportion to our ethanol consumption. It takes around 8,000 gallons of water to produce a gallon of ethanol from corn and each gallon of it leaves eight gallons of toxic waste sludge. Even in the land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota is experiencing water shortages from the ethanol production explosion. With 99% of corn production under intensive fossil fuel nitrogen fertilization regimes, there is a directly proportionate resulting contamination of surface and groundwater and growth of the dead zones where our rivers drain.

Anglo/Euros laugh, or sneer, at the "sacred cow" in Hindu tradition.  "with people going hungry, why don't they eat the cows?" is often the reflexive thought of the western observer -- followed by "jeez those people must be dumb."

watch us feed our soil to our Sacred Cars... while people go hungry.

who's laughing now?

and the cars aren't even, in an emergency, edible.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 04:16:20 PM EST
And what's an ET diary doing bare-butt naked of graphs?  (Let's fix that right the heck now.)

US Corn (zea mays) Use For Fuel Ethanol as Percent of National Production

Source: EarthWatch

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 11:58:25 PM EST
Do I read that right as saying 20% of US corn is used to produce ethanol?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 02:36:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can only offer anecdotal evidence, but in the three supermarkets I've visited in the past week the availability of fresh corn has been extremely limited.

Usually at this time of year their are huge piles of the stuff, but I've only seen small displays with perhaps 100 ears in them.

I think the price has gone up as well. In the height of summer one can get five ears for a dollar, now it is more like two or three.

Since most of the US food supply depends upon corn one way or the other the implications will be interesting. Pigs, cows and chickens are all fed corn. Most sweetened products contain high fructose corn syrup. Even farmed fish like catfish is fed a corn-based feed.

Milk and diary products have just gone up in price and the excuse is the higher cost of feed for the cows...

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 10:03:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sweet corn is however a separate crop from cattle-feed corn. The way sweet corn supply might falter, though, is that farmers might see a better profit growing regular cattle-feed corn for ethanol, than in growing sweet corn.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 10:16:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And that is it ... I have not seen hard numbers, but I have read that Ohio's soybean production is likely to be off, because of shifting fields into corn production.

When I was a kid growing up in the countryside east of Columbus, Ohio, sweet corn was commonly rotated in after some years of soybeans ... because we were one country over from a city of half a million. But its not there anymore ... outer suburban sprawl ate the countryside.

But sweet corn is more labor intensive, and if regular corn is bringing in high prices, farmers'll switch.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 03:00:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I posted this in response to a query in Jérôme's story Top IEA official: without Iraqi oil, we hit the wall in 2015, but it certainly has its place here.

This is quoted from an interview in Le Monde with Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency :

Beaucoup de gouvernements encouragent la consommation de carburants agricoles, notamment en Europe, au Japon et aux Etats-Unis. Certaines de ces politiques ne sont pas fondées sur une rationalité économique solide : les biocarburants resteront très chers à produire. Mais même si ces politiques aboutissent, nous pensons que la part des biocarburants en 2030 sera de seulement 7 % de l'ensemble de la production mondiale de carburants.

Pour atteindre ces 7 %, il faudra une surface agricole équivalente à la superficie de l'Australie, plus celles de la Corée, du Japon et de la Nouvelle-Zélande...

A lot of governments, especially in Europe, the United States, and Japan, are encouraging use of agricultural fuels. Some of these policies are not founded in solid economic rationality : biofuels will continue to be very expensive to produce. But even if these policies were carried through with, we think the share of biofuels in world fuel production in 2030 will only be 7%.

To reach those 7%, it will be necessary to use a farmland surface equivalent to the combined total areas of Australia, Japan, Korea, and New Zealand combined...

Cette concurrence avec la surface consacrée à l'agriculture traditionnelle risque d'avoir des conséquences sur le prix des récoltes.

Oui, c'est déjà le cas, et ce n'est pas bon. Et puis il y a aussi des difficultés liées à l'environnement : de plus en plus d'études prouvent que les biocarburants ne réduisent pas automatiquement les émissions de gaz à effet de serre, comparés au pétrole. C'est aussi un gros souci. Donc pour ces raisons à la fois économiques et environnementales, 7 % de la production totale de carburants est un chiffre très, très optimiste. Les carburants agricoles ne remplaceront jamais le pétrole de l'OPEP, comme certains l'espèrent.

This competition with traditional agricultural land use runs the risk of consequences on crop prices.

Yes, this is already happening, and it's not a good thing. And then there are environmental issues : an increasing number of studies prove that biofuels do not automatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, compared to petroleum products. This too is a major worry. So, for both economic and environmental reasons, 7% of total fuel production is a very, very optimistic number. Agri-fuels will never replace OPEC oil, as some people hope.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 02:41:51 AM EST
What the numbers above mean, in essence, is that as a culture we are prioritising cars over drinking water;  plastics over food;  money over collective survival.  The common thread is a delusional conviction that human-made artifacts and arbitrary wealth-symbols are somehow more real, more essential and powerful (in a kind of fetishistic religious way) than the biotic wealth that actually sustains our life.  We would not -- as has been pointed out here many times -- be the first civilisation to founder on this delusion.

Artwork inspired by the cautionary tale of Rapa Nui:

For most people, their car is more real than a tree or a stream or a cow.  When told about the collapse of species -- even recent massive losses of honeybees -- or the diversion of food stocks into fuel production -- most urbanised and suburbanised people just shrug:  what does it matter, what happens to lower life forms?  They are not real, not in the way that our TVs and iPods and cars are real.  The voice on the TV can tell us that fish stocks stand at 10 percent of what they were 50 years ago, and that tree cover is disappearing worldwide, and we shrug or frown momentarily instead of feeling imminent fear (which would be appropriate for people trapped in a burning house or a sinking ship, but notice how I have to move to metaphors of the destruction of human-made artifacts in order to convey the feeling?)... but if anyone suggests that we may have to give up our cars or our 24x7 air conditioning or our jet travel, then we respond with outrage and fear and hostility.  Those losses are real.

Our culture has drifted so far from the biotically real world that all its major symbols and icons are divorced from those realities:  it is worth remembering that the elite of Rapa Nui really did cut down the last tree in a dedicated and serious competition to build more stone statues (symbols of wealth, authority, power, and spiritual righteousness) than the other guys.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 01:53:20 PM EST
I'm with you there. I've seen the numbers before and it just always boggles the mind. I have no other useful comment except to say "gah!" Hell, a regular car isn't an order of magnitude better than an SUV, so regular use of a car might as well be labelled FUV too.
by R343L (reverse qw/ten.cinos@l343r/) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 04:40:06 PM EST
i think biofuels have their place, but without radically redesigning our lives around less driving, there is no way corn, rape, sunflowers, etc are going to keep everything running like we're used to it now.

eventually i think internal combustion will give way to electric motors, but i think biofuels can play an important part in the transition.

for example try and find electric tractors on the web.

i did find one guy in california who had made a prototype, with a massive battery bank (adding traction, but obviously compacting the soil more) and solar panels as a roof.

having one outside the house provides a nice backup supply of 12v, handily...

he would make one up for $20,000 or so.

i'd love one, but will have to do with my old diesel one for now, and if i can get it runnibg on biodiesel, i will consider it an enormous step forward, as the cloud of smoke one is surrounded by on a tractor, (unless there is a high wind!) is nasty and demotivating.

i've been around forklifts running on biodiesel, and the air was free of that horribly toxic diesel pong anyone stuck behind a lorry/truck knows only too well.

this is a hinge point, i believe, at the end of the day....peeps depend more on tractors and buses working than they do on trucks and cars.

maybe we'll go back to horse/oxen-drawn ploughing, i don't know, and don't necessarily think it's a bad thing, especially after reading here the real costs in water and waste of a gallon of ethanol.

from what i understand biodoesel and ethanol are different, in that it's still tragic when indonesia rips up climax forest to plant oil palm, and that's the level of stupidity we're facing, pathetically efforting to carry on business as usual, while the planet cooks up to a species-decimating boil...

however if some of the sunflowers are used to fuel the tractors that help grow the wheat for bread, that's appropriate, in my little book.

i think we don't need a tractor for every farm, either...more co-operation will be the norm, once farming returns to being a common way of life, depending on mutual support, instead of a market race based on acing your neighbour...

shooting up food prices and destroying forests so toys'r'us can keep its shelves groaning, and endless lorries schlep around goods that are mostly indulgent, not vital....is about to become a memory...

kids are quite happy playing with a a few pebbles and twigs, a puddle and a ragdoll, unless and until advertising has warped their pretty little brains....

funny, i'd bet that once we have driven this late, inebriated guest of planned obsolescence-consumerism from the table, there would be enough biofuels to power transport of medecines, and other really important stuff, at least during a transition period until everything could be switched to alt-electric.

it's this insane juggernaut of growth-at-any-cost that can never be sustained, not with any known fuel...

and i think it's ok and right that this madness stops, as it corrupts more absolutely than any historical heresy ever has, it strips us of human dignity, bringing out the very worst in our souls-

but if we can't resist it...well just maybe....gaia has a plan b....

reshuffle the deck, mama, you got little to lose but a buncha losers, mostly, and let the microchips fall where they lay....

and if you want to reboot humanity, i'd love to give it another go, there was such potential there.....

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 01:21:35 PM EST

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