UN climate panel: By the way, we should probably cool it with the biofuels

posted at 5:21 pm on April 3, 2014 by Erika Johnsen

That corn ethanol isn’t even remotely “green” is one of the biofuel industry’s worst-kept secrets. Back in 2010, super-duper courageous climate crusader Al Gore himself admitted that “first-generation ethanol, I think, was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small… One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president.” There has since been plenty of even mainstream-media ink spilled on the many ways in which ethanol subsidies incentivize farms to bring marginal lands into production, destroying potential conservation areas and increasing fertilizer and water use as a result.

Not that any of those inconvenient truths have deterred lawmakers from districts with agricultural interests from falling all over themselves to protect the several types of generous subsidization coveted by Big Ethanol, nor swayed the sixty-two other countries around the world that have their own forms of biofuels mandates; but even the big-government bureaucrats and climate scientists at the United Nations aren’t bothering to act too excited about biofuels anymore, as they noted in their latest paroxysm of an IPCC report. The Scientific American summarizes:

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has for the first time acknowledged the risks of uncontrolled biofuels development, a skepticism that has slowly emerged into the mainstream scientific community, say academics.

IPCC’s Working Group II report, released this morning in Yokohama, Japan, indicates that the U.N. scientific body on climate change has loosened its 2007 position that defines biofuels as a mitigation strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The report affirms that the science that has raised questions around the sustainability of biofuels in the last six years, said Jeremy Martin, a senior scientist in the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Clean Vehicles program.

“I think that’s switched from being something novel and controversial to something that is common sense,” he said.

The IPCC notes that they still see some potential role for biofuels as part of the global energy mix, but they are at least starting to get a little more forthright about their environmental risks and tradeoffs.

And speaking of farm-state politicians falling all over themselves to protect Big Ethanol’s interests… via the Des Moines Register:

A bill aiding Iowa’s biofuels industry was approved 48-0 Tuesday by the Iowa Senate.

Senate File 2344, which was sent to the House, will increase the tax credit for E15 blended gasoline during the summer months, extend the biodiesel production tax credit for five years to retain and attract biodiesel production to Iowa, and add biobutanol – an advanced biofuel – to the state’s renewable fuels industry, said Sen. Robert Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, the bill’s floor manager.

In addition, an amendment to the bill extends tax credits to retailers that sell biodiesel, E15 and E85 motor fuels for an additional two years, from 2017 to 2019. …

“This vote sends a clear message that Iowans are serious about increasing renewable fuels production and use, expanding consumer fuel choice and growing Iowa’s economy,” said Grant Menke, policy director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.

Huh. “Expanding consumer fuel choice and growing Iowa’s economy” is certainly an interesting euphemism for “artificially directing taxpayer money and private-sector resources toward a politically favored industry at the expense of more productive uses.” I find this kind of Central-Planning-Lite woefully inadvisable on any level, but that’s federalism, I suppose — the only problem is that these state subsidies are merely feeding off of the larger federal subsidies that artificially manipulate national demand in the biofuel industry’s favor.


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That corn ethanol isn’t even remotely “green” is one of the biofuel industry’s worst-kept secrets.

Actually, it is very green. It doesn’t cut down on CO2 but that is harmless, even beneficial to growing things. Let’s not adopt the ecochondriac notions of “green” any longer. CO2 is clean and green.

MJBrutus on April 3, 2014 at 5:26 PM

UN climate panel: By the way, we should probably cool it with the biofuels

…add ice…and drink it!

KOOLAID2 on April 3, 2014 at 5:27 PM

The report affirms that the science that has raised questions around the sustainability of biofuels in the last six years,

No shite: but since when has science mattered with these guys.

jmtham156 on April 3, 2014 at 5:30 PM

The UN climate panel needs to be done away with altogether. That would clear the air some by itself!

otlset on April 3, 2014 at 5:34 PM

Actually, it is very green. It doesn’t cut down on CO2 but that is harmless, even beneficial to growing things. Let’s not adopt the ecochondriac notions of “green” any longer. CO2 is clean and green.

MJBrutus on April 3, 2014 at 5:26 PM

I’ve got no problem with CO2.
But on the non-green side of the argument, I’ve seen consistent analysis and reporting that it takes about 1.5 gallons of crude oil origin petroleum products to produce 1 gallon of ethanol; and ethanol mixes have a lower energy content than pure petroleum products – so the energy efficiency is lower – so more is burned for any particular use.
Those factors make ethanol less green than pure petroleum products.

dentarthurdent on April 3, 2014 at 5:36 PM

Keeping petroleum in the ground and turning our food into less efficient car fuel is mindboggling stupid.

rbj on April 3, 2014 at 5:37 PM

Keeping petroleum in the ground and turning our food into less efficient car fuel is mindboggling stupid.

rbj on April 3, 2014 at 5:37 PM

I believe this is proof we are being ruled by Golgafrinchan refugees…..

dentarthurdent on April 3, 2014 at 5:39 PM

Curb the EPA for a start and then get RID of the regional fuel mixures and blending mandates. Allow the refiner folks the freedom to make the most fuel with the various feed stocks at their disposal.
The price of gasoline would drop a double digit percentage if this alone were enacted.
But dream on … the EnviroNazis would scream bloody murder and the Manure Stream Media Presstitutes would amplify their cries. Stupid America.

Missilengr on April 3, 2014 at 5:40 PM

There is no such thing as “clean” or “green” energy. Reject the premise that co2 is a pollutant.

Murphy9 on April 3, 2014 at 5:43 PM

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has for the first time acknowledged the risks of uncontrolled biofuels development . . .

Huh? Uncontrolled? The industry is regulated from start to finish, inside and out. Maybe they don’t know what the word means?

Lolo on April 3, 2014 at 5:45 PM

…said Sen. Robert Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, the bill’s floor manager.

That made me laugh.

Fathom on April 3, 2014 at 5:52 PM

Curb the EPA for a start and then get RID of the regional fuel mixures and blending mandates.
Missilengr on April 3, 2014 at 5:40 PM

I’d like to completely eliminate the EPA, but that’s probably asking too much, so I’m ok with a good curbing to start with.

dentarthurdent on April 3, 2014 at 5:53 PM

…said Sen. Robert Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, the bill’s floor manager.
That made me laugh.

Fathom on April 3, 2014 at 5:52 PM

Related to Boss – who was constantly battling those Duke boys?

dentarthurdent on April 3, 2014 at 5:55 PM

Supplier to US Navy hardest hit.

Hill60 on April 3, 2014 at 5:55 PM

…said Sen. Robert Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, the bill’s floor manager.

That made me laugh.

Fathom on April 3, 2014 at 5:52 PM

Wonder how partial he’d be to the name, Robert Stag.

Barnestormer on April 3, 2014 at 6:12 PM

Actually, it is very green.

MJBrutus on April 3, 2014 at 5:26 PM

For clarity’s sake give us the definition of green energy.

Oldnuke on April 3, 2014 at 6:15 PM

All they managed to do was drive up food prices across the board at the worst possible time in this crappy economy. And they’re still going up every week.

The only thing green about these biofuels is the tax dollars being wasted.

Oxymoron on April 3, 2014 at 6:16 PM

What ever the right thing to do is, our government will not choose it. Particularly the Obama admin.

sadatoni on April 3, 2014 at 6:38 PM

I have read growing an acre of corn depletes bushels of topsoil. Burning corn biofuel is burning topsoil that will take generations to replace

Burning oil or coal is burning the topsoil created millions of years ago, that was long ago replenished by millions of years of plant cycles

entagor on April 3, 2014 at 6:55 PM

I have read growing an acre of corn depletes bushels of topsoil. Burning corn biofuel is burning topsoil that will take generations to replace

Burning oil or coal is burning the topsoil created millions of years ago, that was long ago replenished by millions of years of plant cycles

entagor on April 3, 2014 at 6:55 PM

That’s why you don’t grow corn again in the same field. You grow something that puts nutrients back into the soil.

crankyoldlady on April 3, 2014 at 7:20 PM

Those whores in DC will not change the insane ethanol law, even after Al Gore admitted 4 years ago that ethanol is a mistake.

RedBaker on April 3, 2014 at 9:04 PM

Why not blend fuels with METHANOL. It is derived from natural gas…. You know, methane?

Lot cheaper than corn…..oh wait, that is the problem.

elowe on April 4, 2014 at 12:31 AM

So, the biofuel folks must not have sent a big enough check to the UN climate folks.

Kissmygrits on April 4, 2014 at 9:46 AM

All subsidies, tax credits, etcf for ethanol should be ended. Let ethanol compete with oil, electric, natural gas, hydrogen, etc in the marketplace and we’ll see if it survives real competition without being propped up by taxpayer money. To be “fair”, all gov’t support for other energy industries should be stopped too.

Ethanol-as-fuel is so economically stupid that it would die quickly should gov’t support ever stop. Of course, economic sense has never been a factor in Washington.

However, 100% ethanol is working in Brazil, but they produce from sugar cane and not from corn, eliminating several energy-intensive steps in production. And they build cars to run specifically on E100, about 19-20% of cars on the road there last I heard. (I don’t know what the Brazilian subsidies are though, probably a lot)

CO2FeedsUsAll on April 4, 2014 at 10:43 AM

All subsidies, tax credits, etc for ethanol should be ended.

Shorter version.

kylearane on April 4, 2014 at 11:49 AM

You absolutely gotta love the fact that there was a quote from State Sen. Robert Hogg (D).

Fafhrd on April 4, 2014 at 12:13 PM

You-all do realize that in this year’s Senatorial election, the Republican candidate opposing Sen. Robert Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, has that TV ad out?

The one that starts out, as a farm girl she grew up castrating hogs?

ReggieA on April 4, 2014 at 3:38 PM