Priorities Shot to Hell, We Plunge into the Energy Abyss

Wind Can Supply 20% of U.S. Electricity, Report Says

By Steven Mufson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 13, 2008; D07
The Energy Department said yesterday that the United States has the ability to meet 20 percent of its electricity-generation needs with wind by 2030, enough to displace 50 percent of natural gas consumption and 18 percent of coal consumption.
But in a report drawn up by its national laboratories, the department said that meeting the target would require more improvements in turbine technology, cost reductions, new transmission lines, an expansion of the wind industry and a fivefold increase in the pace of wind-turbine installation.
. . . The report said that, under “optimistic assumptions,” expanding wind generation to meet 20 percent of U.S. electricity needs by 2030 would cost nearly $197 billion, but it said that most of that would be offset by nearly $155 billion in lower fuel expenditures. There would be, it said, other offsetting positive effects.
So, let’s have a little optimism. The main thing to keep in mind is that no single renewable source is going to carry the load of oil. We’re dinking around with politically backed magic-wand technologies instead of seriously funding research. Corn-based ethanol is one of them.

ITEM: (Wikipedia) Some of the controversial subsidies in the past have included more than $10 billion to Archer-Daniels-Midland since 1980.

That’s a million dollars a day for twenty-eight years. For what? So they can suddenly pull the rug out from under all the gazillion things that are made from corn, double the world price, profit from the doubling and push the world’s poor to the edge of starvation. What a good use for your government’s subsidy of private industry.
Lest you think I am being unduly critical of Archer Daniels, (Wikipedia again)

ITEM: In 1993, ADM was the subject of a lysine price fixing investigation by the U.S. Justice Department. Senior ADM executives were indicted on criminal charges for engaging in price-fixing within the international lysine market. Three of ADM’s top officials, including vice chairman Michael Andreas, were eventually sentenced to federal prison in 1999. Moreover, the company was fined $100 million, the largest antitrust fine in U.S. history at the time(1997). In addition, according to ADM’s 2005 annual report a settlement was reached under which ADM paid $400 million in 2005 to settle a class action antitrust suit.

A year later, they went on the public dole at $1 mil a day. Not surprisingly, these subsidies have come under criticism–although criticism alone has been unable to turn off the money-pump for 10,220 consecutive days.

ITEM: (Cato Institute) “ADM has cost the American economy billions of dollars since 1980 and has indirectly cost Americans tens of billions of dollars in higher prices and higher taxes over that same period. At least 43 percent of ADM’s annual profits are from products heavily subsidized or protected by the American government. Moreover, every $1 of profits earned by ADM’s corn sweetener operation costs consumers $10, and every $1 of profits earned by its ethanol operation costs taxpayers $30.”

Two years ago Patricia Woertz became CEO and announced she expected to focus on developing ethanol and biofuels. ADM nearly doubled capital spending in its 2007 budget to an estimated $1.12 billion. All of the increase is planned for bioenergy projects, with a particular focus on ethanol and biodiesel. She’ll need that thirty bucks.

ITEM: (Smart Money) . . . it takes nearly three-quarters of a gallon of crude to produce a gallon of ethanol from corn . . .

But the whole idea is to fight global warming, as well as unhitch ourselves from the evil clutches of Saudi Arabia and (shudder) Iran, not to mention (cringe) Venezuela.

ITEM: (Wikipedia) “The widespread use of ethanol from corn could result in nearly twice the greenhouse gas emissions as the gasoline it would replace because of expected land-use changes, researchers concluded Thursday. The study challenges the rush to biofuels as a response to global warming.”

So, we are perfectly ready, willing and able (perhaps even eager) to get ourselves hitched to the evil clutches of outfits like Cargill and Archer Daniels, who absolutely dominate the corn, wheat, soybean and and oilseed markets, including their processing to such things as corn and soybean-oils.

ITEM (Wikipedia, who else?) 1 acre of land can yield about 7,110 pounds of corn, which can be processed into 328 gallons of ethanol. That is about 26.1 pounds of corn per gallon.

“Fill ‘er up with 650 pounds of corn and keep the change.”

ITEM: (Michael Grunwald) reports that one person could be fed 365 days “on the corn needed to fill an ethanol-fueled SUV.”

That sounds encouraging.

He further reports that though “hyped as an eco-friendly fuel, ethanol increases global warming, destroys forests and inflates food prices.” . . damage the environment, while at the same time causing worldwide food prices to soar. . . will “lead to substantial environmental damage and a system of biofuels production that will not benefit family farmers…will not promote sustainable agriculture and will not mitigate global climate change.”

That’s a bunch of will-nots, but we have already seen headlines concerning food riots throughout third world nations and food and cooking-oil driven inflationary percentages as high as 16,000. Try that on for size if you’re earning a dollar a day.

ITEM: (Financial Post) Forget oil, the new global crisis is food; BMO strategist Donald Coxe warns credit crunch and soaring oil prices will pale in comparison to looming catastrophe.

So, possibly ethanol is not the silver bullet and we ought to put ourselves on a war-footing that brings the kind of industrial research and productivity displayed during WWII.

There was a dark period during that war, when American convoys delivering supplies to England were being sunk in the North Atlantic at the rate of 500 ships a month.The response was to launch 750 a month. Not enough steel? We built them of concrete.

Wind is part of the answer to an energy need that cannot be put at the feet of a single technology. Thermal, from deep drilling to the earth’s magna is possible, as well as solar, as well as tide-power–remembering that our largest population centers are at the edge of two oceans.

What we really need to concentrate on is not replacing Saudi oil dependence with ADM and Cargill corn dependence. That card is already dealt and lying there on the table.

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