Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Doing more harm than good

An article in the Wall Street Journal reports on a new Obama administration focus supporting and furthering the use of corn produced ethanol as a bio-fuel.

The Obama administration on Tuesday will step up efforts to increase the availability of ethanol at filling stations and to speed up subsidies to struggling biofuel producers.

While I am a proponent of alternative/renewable fuels, including cellulosic ethanol, we now know that corn derived ethanol causes more environmental problems than it solves. Apart from the fact that with current farming practices it takes more energy to produce than it creates! Growing corn also causes other environmental issues. One that is close to my heart, is the increased fertilizer run-off pollution when farmers raise corn over other crops. To maintain corn yields, farmers are having to use more and more fertilizer, which corn just doesn’t absorb very well. The environmental damage this causes shows up in the rivers and oceans resulting in increases in red-tides and dead zones. To me this is just an environmental disaster. I’m not even going to get into the whole “food vs. fuel” discussion.

Red-Tide Exhibit on ACS Island

For an administration that claims “It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda — and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology,” [Quoted from when Obama lifted Bush’s ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research – we can argue whether this was about science later. Bush’s ban was clearly politically motivated – but he made no bones about it.] this corn based ethanol policy strikes me as a purely political move – and not one based on science.

The WSJ article got me going because I’m still upset about Obama’s administration basically killing the nuclear industry – another political move – a move which caused NEI President Marvin Fertel to state:

With all due respect to the president and Secretary Chu, I doubt they've looked at the science at all; they've made it a political decision," he said. "I can respect a political decision; it's not a scientific decision.

I agree with Fertel. If you’re going to make such decisions, be man enough to own up to the real reasons and not obfuscate the issues by invoking the magic word – science.

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