The St Louis Renewable Energy Conference - Day 1

This was the first day of the "Advancing Renewable Energy - An American Rural Renaissance" Conference in St Louis. At least that was the title at the top of the page, but over the course of the day it became hard to believe that it was not the National Ethanol Show. As one of the speakers (Robert Engel, President of CoBank) said this afternoon, "now is the perfect weather for Ethanol," by which he meant that the oil price was up, the MTBE issue required a substitute, there are record corn crops , the regulations have become favorable, and the world is in a period of economic growth). And when Vinod Khosla got up to speak this morning, he followed a relatively gentle presentation by the President (Red Caveney) of the American Petroleum Institute. Not that those relatively benign comments stopped Vinod from piling on, as he gave his relatively passionate speech, but more of that later.

So, how is it going? Well the best set of talks, in my view, was the last panel discussion of the afternoon on liquid fuels and bio-products. The presentations were very informative and the discussion lively and interactive, and the panelists were very realistic. But to begin let me start with where I walked in, just after the meeting started. And I immediately found that I could not find a seat in a room seating over 800. (There is talk that counting everyone there will be around 1500 folk here).

Patricia Woertz was talking about the ADM role in biofuels (she is the President and CEO of Archer Daniels Midland). Pdf here Interestingly, given the part that ADM plays in the biofuels industry, she discussed a theme that came up later in the day. While corn ethanol is the "fuel of the month", it would be wise to remember that with technological progress, it could be supplanted by technologies now in the laboratory. Their current work involves such projects as thermo chemically treating corn hulls to add 15% to the processable mass for fuel; looking at combining cellulosic products and dry brewers grain as a feedstock, and she felt that we were truly at the dawn of a fundamentally new generation of energy sources.

Robert Lane, CEO of Deere & Companies, (John Deere to us older folk) then talked about sustainable businesses and did try and break away from the ethanol theme a little. He talked of the need to develop harvesting and transport and treatment technologies if we are to make best use of the biomass available (which may be as high as 1 billion tons a year). He raised the question as to whether the prices we see now are just the result of an "oil bubble" again bringing up the memories of the 1980's and the bath the industry took. Deere is now into Wind, with the Blue Grass Ridge Project, and they see an opportunity there in developing a business. And he felt that the use of cellulosic ethanol would get us out of the conflict over "food or fuel", carrying inherent in that message the theme that perhaps corn ethanol would not be a long term solution. (Which is also an interpretation of what Pat Woertz had said). However, there are issues in biomass use, that relate to transportation and processing costs that have so far been hidden in the larger debate over the reality of whether cellulosic ethanol can be brought into commercial scale production.

Secretary Johanns (USDA) then gave a welcome and his feeling that the potential for renewable energy had never been greater than now. We are not living in the past, where the foreign powers could shut down innovation, by turning a tap, and then he made a remark that perhaps only our readers might appreciate. "New technologies, such as ethanol, are now giving us more bang for our buck!" He then went on to add generating methane from animal waste, and the use of biomass in creating plastics. That is apparently a UDSDA mandate (and before the afternoon was out I had been presented with a bio-sourced vial of "Sun Clean" a rust penetrant, and had been shown plates made from a renewable source, and also had another pen.) He also mentioned a common theme for the day, namely that, in the end, the market must decide what survives and which path to follow.

Secretary Bodeman discussed the need to commercialize technologies more rapidly, and that the equivalent of 500,000 homes were now being powered by Wind energy. Solar is growing 35% a year and there is no apparent let-up in sight for either technological market growth. And he pointed out that it is the contributions from the National Laboratories that provide leadership to the industry.

Following the break Red Cavaney, President of API talked about Energy Policy, which again seemed to break down to "let the market decide." He did however take the odd dig at ethanol, but merely by noting that it should meet certain standards, that it is difficult to have "boutique" ratios in different states, and that it does not pipe well. He did, however, seem to welcome ethanol and felt that it had a place in the growing need to ensure supply that would meet national demand.

That was not enough for Vinod Khosla, who followed him, and hastened through an overlong presentation (which allowed him to skip slides that might have been more controversial). I was, however, given (and perhaps as a result of) his posting here, and the comments thereon, somewhat startled to hear him say (as he rapidly flipped past the slide) "but then of course considerations of EROEI are really irrelevant, what we must be concerned with is how much can we provide to meet market demand." (Which reminds me of the joke "sure we lose $.05 a part, but we make it up in volume.". . Drum roll). This was obviously a speech where passion, and playing to the passion of the audience (did I mention that this seemed like an Ethanol Tent Revival Meeting?) was meant to get past any awkward questions about accuracy. It was one of those talks (Pimental was guilty of the same thing in DC earlier this year) where the presenter tries to overpower any credulity issues of the audience by mannerisms and speed of presentation. You might gather I was not impressed.

We then had a much more credible, thoughtful and practical presentation by Charles Holliday, who is the CEO of DuPont (note that I have consulted for this company). He talked much more about the overall way in which the company is changing to accommodate the reality of the changing situation. The company started as an explosives company, then it regenerated itself to deal more with Energy as a whole, and now he feels that it is time for another rebirth. This includes using bio-crops to produce new materials.

The breaks were in the exhibit hall, with a significant number of the booths taken by DOE and USDA, though as I wandered around, there were a number of other interesting pieces of equipment. I thought that the DOE benchtop with a lamp shining on solar cells, that provided current that electrolyzed water into hydrogen and oxygen, which were stored in columns and then fed to a fuel cell that provided power to drive a small electric car, should be in every school. (Though they probably could not afford it).

Lunch had Senator Talent, apparently in a tight re-election race (which might be why we have the speaker we have tomorrow noon), gave remarks at Lunch. They were short and included the comment that we have begun the path to Energy Independence, that he would like to create a National Center for Plant Science, and that "the genie is out of the bottle" in regard to alternate fuels, and that the oil companies (countries ?) would not be able to put it back.

There were a couple of breakout sessions in the afternoon, one on liquid fuels and one on electricity and heat. I went to the liquid fuels ones, though the poor quality of sound at the back of the hall meant that I dozed through a couple of the early presentations. The first session was partially a love-fest over ethanol, with an interesting twist. The first speakers discussed the potential growth of ethanol, the number of plants now in planning or construction, and the likelihood of 10% ethanol being achievable in the near future. They also discussed the productivity of corn ethanol, with numbers ranging from 300 to 600 gallons/acre. (Robert Fraley, the Executive VP of Monsanto sees these values as only steps along a stair, with there being no limit to ultimate crop yields per acre as time and technology progress). He does admit to a short-term problem in feeding all the plants that are now being planned for ethanol use, and was concerned that as we grow our biodiesel production we may reduce soybean product exports.

And this brought up the twist in the panel presentations. The panel included Craig Rockey, the Senior Vice President of the Association of American Railroads. He was determined that we understand that the railroads are making major investments to meet demand, and that they are, as a result, reasonably entitled to a fair return on their investment. But he did mention that if you wanted a reasonable price you should plan on shipping products long distances in unit trains. (I had two different folk at the conference comment to me about the problems that are increasingly arising in getting the railroads to provide short-haul (say across the state of Wyoming) service, regardless of price).

Amory Lovins talked about making cars with advanced materials, so that they would be lighter, safer, and that you could then still drive your SUV, but that you would get 65 mpg. Largely it seemed taken from his latest book. He did not seem really aware of the NG supply problem, since he talked about its use as part of the solution. He advocated smaller production facilities for biofuels, and wondered who would get all the profits from this new technology. (And he promptly left).

And this, after the break, brought us to the rather worthwhile panel that included Robert Engel President of CoBank, Michael Walsh of Chicago Climate Exchange, Carl Holmes Immediate past chairman of the National Council of State Legislators and a Representative in the Kansas House of Representatives (and a farmer), Donald Paul, Vice President and CTO of Chevron, and Vijay Vaitheeswaran, of The Economist, a writer on energy whose opinions have been discussed in these pages before.

The panel began with individual presentations including that of Bob Dinneen, President of the Renewable Fuels Association (which, from his remarks, I gather means Ethanol). These were folk who have been out there, seen and worked the system, and were willing to talk about it. Fascinating!

Bob Engel funds ethanol plants, and is probably the largest lender to the renewable fuels industry in the US. He is increasingly concerned that as the ethanol industry transitions from just being an additive to gasoline, into being a Transportation Fuel, that it does not understand the ramifications of the change. Once there is, even slightly, more than enough ethanol to meet the mandates, then it becomes a competitive market, and if it is over-supplied can the producers weather the resulting downturn? Are they prepared for the time when a competing process (say cellulosic ethanol) turns up to eat their lunch, and what will their response be? Do they understand the role that transportation costs play in fuel economy. (Coal transport costs can be greater than the initial coal value). Do they understand that plants need to be a certain distance apart? That states can only produce so much corn, and that if you need more you may have to bring it a longer way. Until now many ethanol plants have been largely funded out of the farming community, a group with relatively long and patient attitudes to returns on investment. As the opportunity for investment shifts to others, however, that patience, and willingness to wait will likely go away. This might not be a good thing! But in the short term there are lots of investors, there is enough corn, and demand, and farmers might be able to get a good price for their crops.

In a very similar practical discussion Representative Holmes talked about the reality of Hubbert's Peak (the first mention of it I heard this day). He had seen oil fields started in Kansas that were now plugged and gone. He would not object if the money now spent on oil imports was, in part, sent to Kansas for alternate fuels. But he pointed out that his State does not like mandates, and that they don't work well. He rather favors tax credits, and other similar incentives, though he feels corn ethanol no longer needs them, cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel still do. He also mentioned a current ethanol plant in Russell, KS that captures the carbon dioxide and uses it to inject into an underlying oil reservoir for EOR, and that there will be a similar plant installed soon in Oklahoma that will do the same.

I will confess that while I have some understanding of the trading of carbon credits, it is one of those topics that allow me to rest my brain for a few minutes, and so I did not properly follow Michael Walsh's presentation on the Chicago Climate Exchange, for which I apologize. Everyone on the panel however did, and several commented that the issue is now here, and is not going to go away again, but will become accepted as a cost of doing business (at an estimated $.03 to $0.20 per gallon).

Don Paul then talked about Chevron's position. He pointed out that producing a million gallons of ethanol for the local folks was nice, but there are issues of Scale that have to be considered if ethanol (or any other bio-fuel) is to find a sustainable and significant position in world fuel supply. Bear in mind that a billion gallons of fuel will be consumed today - biofuels are not yet up there, but they will help ameliorate the situation as supplies begin to get tight. But when ethanol suppliers enter that scale of business they will have to understand the realities of the transportation fuels situation. If the price falls below your cost, do you still run the plant? He did mention that he thinks that the remaining oil reserve in the world is about 1 trillion barrels, though he felt that coal, oil shale, and biomass (US having significant quantities) would impact the situation in the intermediate term. And in that environment will the ethanol plants be sustainable, and able to cope with fluctuating demand and price, the way refineries now do. Bearing in mind that cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel are in development, what happens to corn ethanol plants as they face this competition? Will the capital invested be outflanked by this new technology? (If the ethanol driven car has the reliability of a cell phone then they are in trouble).

Vijay Vaitheesawaran was introduced as a likable fellow, and certainly seemed to fill that bill. He is currently on sabbatical finishing (this month) his second book, which will cover ethanol in much more detail than his first (which hardly mentioned it). He did mention being nervous about contradicting Vinod Khosla, though he also mentioned that Khosla seemed a bit shy about mentioning his hydrogen and fuel cell investments. He (Vijay) was very much convinced that the market should ultimately rule (and in discussion the panel fairly consistently agreed, with the caveat about short-term initiatives to start an industry). (I have to confess to being so engrossed in the debate here that I stopped taking notes). The US, it was pointed out, was doing more about climate change than it was given credit for, while in Europe the situation was reversed.

Finally it was noted that we are entering the demonstration plant phase for cellulosic ethanol, but that it will be 5 years before realistic commercial decisions on the technology can be made, based on plant operational results.

Sadly this hotel has no room internet service (funny when many of those in Poland do) and, given that the security arrangements require that we be there early tomorrow, I am just going to have to go down and see if I can find a way of quickly uploading this before heading out for an early night.

More should follow tomorrow.

P.S. I said "Hi!" to Matt Simmons at the reception, and am looking forward to hearing him in the morning. And I apologize that I still don't have the photographic talent to take presentation pictures.

(And if this appears twice my apologies - am having considerable problems this evening)

[editor's note, by Prof. Goose] Don't forget about the ASPO-USA Conference in a couple of weeks!

Good write up.  Too bad the focus remains on the biofuel technofix.  Goes to show the "market's" skill in determining the future of transportation energy.  

(needless to say, I am not holding my breath on a breakthrough).   Electrification seems the better course of action in my opinion.  Work on improved battery capacity, dual mode guideways (where vehicles retrieve electricity from a rail for longer distance travel and use batteries for the first and last 5-15KM of the journey) and mainline rail electrification.  Save the remaining fuel (petro- or bio-) for heavy equipment and airplane usage. Use a mix of sail and fuel for transoceanic shipping.

Of course trying to make a profit on these concepts may be harder.  

I cant wait to see a wind powered super tanker coast into port...
Well, a German company is seeing a rosy future in wind power assisted shipping, essentially using a computer controlled kite as the sail. If you don't believe a shipping company won't cut its fuel bills by using such a system, then such a reaction just might explain why the Germans do so well selling real things in the world market.

Since you seem pretty main stream, here is a mainstream link -

You just may want to read their English information at

Take particular note of their first paragraph -
'A simple fact: wind is cheaper than oil and the most cost-effective offshore energy source. Yet, despite its attractive saving potential, it is not presently being used by cargo ships - for a simple reason: so far no sailing system has met the requirements of commercial shipping.'

Of course, do notice some of the key features - computer controlled, navigation optimization, high technology fabrics, essentially bolt on to existing ships, basically no extra crew requirements, fairly low cost, with fuel savings estimated to be up to 33%.

I seem to remember reading about this a couple of years ago (in German), back when it is was more a concrete concept than a product. Just another German trait - good ideas are merely the start of the process of making money, not the end of it. As you can maybe guess, there is a real lack of German financial engineers doing world class financial engineering. In that, the U.S. is vastly ahead.

Considering the U.S. doesn't have much of a merchant fleet anymore anyways, your scorn is perhaps forgiveable as ignorance. As you can see from the links, the tanker won't cruise into port under 'sail' - it will just use the 'sail' for most of its journey - which can be even faster than if it simply used its engines. German engineering tends to be like that - increasing efficiency means that you have your choice of sober cost savings or more excitement - or a mixture of those two extremes. In this case, I am pretty sure that the shipowners will make the decision they find most profitable between fuel cost/turnaround time.

You know, checking out what other economies/societies are doing as they face a future of more expensive energy might give a broader view of the fact that technology is not an either/or tool. Ignorance is not a very profitable way of looking at things, if money is your interest. Money is certainly a German one.  

You misunderstood :P

Thats so cool btw :P

This is even cooler!!
Another innovated idea: the all electric bus!!
I don't understand the value of legitimizing this dog and pony show. ADM? There is no way that corn ethanol or soy biodiesel is going to prolonge this suburban fantasy. There is not the energy return or arable land to grow our way out of this transport mess we have built

We need more electricity, more grid, more trolleys, more light rail. forget auto giveaways and American Corn Association and National Corn Association nonsence. ADM?

Everything to know about biofuels has been published by Pimentel.

Could you give a ref on Pimentel, please?
I don't have a good link for any of Pimental's work. I do think he is referenced in some of Robert Rapier's other work on ethanol at TOD.

You can get a pretty good pictuure by putting Pimental and ethanol into Google.

He seems to be a respected scientist, although with a focus on insects, at Cornell who was among the first to investigate ethanol EROEI. he often writes jointly with Patzek of Berkeley.

His studies are consistently the most negative, hence his currency on the anti-biofuels side of the park. I have seen some solid criticisms regarding very dated or negative assumptions, however my overall impression is that his work is professional and does provide some very good insights into the problems with corn ethanol. Despite some claims I have heard here, his ethanol work seems to focus only on corn ethanol. I have seen a range of studies in which he also writes on energy content in food.

In the ethanol issue, I think everyone is biased, either promoters or enemies of biofuels. Pimental, in my opinion, is in the second camp. I see Robert Rapier as an exception.

Thank you.

My own take on corn ethanol is it has to be nonsense: industrial monoculture agriculture just can't be that efficient when you sum up all the inputs.  And in the end, you will deplete the soils (fertilizer or no fertilizer, the Great Plains are simply several thousand years of glacial effluvium-- when they are gone and their minerals depleted, they are simply, gone).


if you throw in an ability to use agricultural waste and/ or cellulosic ethanol, then I can see how it could work.


that same raw material could be directly used as boiler fuel, where I suspect it would be a more efficient use of energy (Drax power station, the largest CO2 emitter in Europe, was partly powered with biofuel for a while).

further caveat

I don't believe it's a win (the latter case) from a global warming point of view.  You take sequestered carbon, burn it, and release it into an atmosphere that cannot absorb the existing CO2.

I agree regarding corn (and all grain) based ethanol. It just doesn't seem like the meager gain can overcome the massive externalities.

As discussed on Robert's earlier thread, I do think sugar cane-based ethanol can be EROEI positive and can provide benefits to certain countries over a finite period of time in the future. It is also a huge win in terms of global warming. Sugar cane derived ethanol seems to produce over 80% less emissions per mile than gasoline.

Personally, I think we are at or near a plateau in oil production. While I'm not convinced production levels will drop off sharply, I don't think they will go up much from here ever.

So, I think we need to develop solutions. I am not driven by an unrepenting obsession with the evils of vehicular transportation so I don't see any option for prolonging it as a scream inducing evil.

I fully expect that in 10 or 20 years, we will have a lot less oil available, but will have largely transitioned to an electricity-based transportation system.

It is the interim that worries me. I do think that conservation could be our savior, but don't see any effective means of making it happen other than price. So, I would like to see this done in part throught axes, but am fairly pessimistic that governments will intervene effectively.

Despite all the calls for a Manhattan project, governmnets are craven and inefficient. The thing we have now that is closet to a Manhattan project is the US corn ethanol program , which is a travesty. There is no reason to think the next attempt will be better unless you earn you living at a government funded research lab.

This is all a long winded way of saying that the number of good solutions on the table that can work today is very small. I think we need to take what we can get. Ten years or so of producing ethanol at levels up to or even in excess of double current sugar cultivation is hardly an enormous threat to the environment. In fact, given climate gains, it could be a net plus.

Biodiesel, CTL, tar sands, beef consumption, junk food, the amount of sugar in our diets, etc. all seem far worse for the environment.

I am amazed by how agitated people get over ethanol from sugar cane. I think is is primarily because it does work and to them threatens to prolong the car culture.

But for a country like Thailand, where I live, it makes sense and will happen. The only arguments that I can see against Thailand producing 10% or more of spark engine fuel from sugar are oil prices will come down, pollution and global warming don't matter and spending 10% of your GDP on imported petroleum is just fine.

None of these are true, so Thailand will produce a fuel that is cheaper than gasoline, is produced domestically with almost all domestic content, is a net plus for the environment/climate and offset a masssive transfer of Thai wealth to foreigners.

When electric transport becomes viable, ethanol production will stop. But Thais will be glad they did it.

I think the Thais are one of the worst offenders for subsidising diesel fuel and kerosene to way below market prices?

rant mode on
I suspect but haven't researched it that sugar cane is a pesticide nightmare?  My own take on all agriculture is that if it needs massive amounts of pesticide (and herbicide, and fertilizer) its not a long term solution.

Sugar is this ridiculously controlled market.  Agriculture is overprotected and oversubsidised world wide (yet we let people starve), and sugar is amongst the most controlled commodites (or the most controlled).

A sample, sugar costs 4 times as much for a food processor in the US than in Canada.  Thank you ADM company and High Fructose Corn Syrup!

Of course then there is Cuba.  If the US wanted cheap ethanol, it should go to Cuba.  GWB's election in 2000 and a Cuban kid named ?Rafeal Elian? got in the way.

rant mode off

I'm not sure about CO2 ethanol v. gasoline.  I'm not sure how one hydrocarbon can have 80% less CO2 emitted than another.  Seems to me the CO2 emission ought to be pretty proportional to the amount of energy released?  Again my chemistry is too rusty for this.

Ethanol is a Brasilian solution to a Brasilian problem.  I'm not sure it generalises.

Corn ethanol is a US political solution to a US problem.  We should seek to minimise damage: there is a level of ethanol which all gasoline could take (5%?) without big switching costs, and the US could simply mandate that across the whole country (thus consuming all the readily available corn ethanol).  

I'm not sure about CO2 ethanol v. gasoline.  I'm not sure how one hydrocarbon can have 80% less CO2 emitted than another.  Seems to me the CO2 emission ought to be pretty proportional to the amount of energy released?

It is true that both would release the same amount of CO2, but the net is lower for sugarcane ethanol because the process heat is provided by bagasse, which took up CO2 while it was growing. In the case of gasoline, the process heat is provided by fossil fuels.

I think it is fair to say that a significant proportion of  CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions from burning ethanol were originally captured when the sugar cane was grown.

However, it is important to realize that diesel to run equipment to grow, transport, and process the sugar cane and additives like chemical fertilizers, pesticides, etc. require fossil fuels and contribute to green house gas emissions. These factors make corn based ethanol far less preferable than sugar cane based ethanol.

Further, the possibility using renewable sources of energy for stationary production facilities, capturing the CO2 and other green house gases, and re-injecting them deep underground could potentially provide a reduction of green house gases to the atmosphere.

Thais have, historically, been one of the worst offenders in subsidizing oil consumption. However, they have rolled back much of that expensive program, which helped make the country one of, if not the, most energy intensive in the world. However, previous Thai foolishness has no bearing on efforts to do better in the future. Thailand has done a great deal with energy efficiency and grid incentive programs to support renewables.

Sugar is one of the most highly subsizdized crops, as you note. But Brazil, Cuba and Australia (if I recall correctly) are market-based and Thailand may lift domestic price caps this year, which they should.

I'm not sure it generalises.

I said it is a niche solution. It does not universalize. I don't think Bulgaria should try to grow sugar cane. But it can reach beyond Brazil to most tropical countries.

Sugarcane EROEI is positive Jack - is positive.
That's especially useful in New England ;-)
No. But it is in LA, FL, TX, GA, HI, CA.
Actually there already is a sizable sugar industry here in Florida. Unfortunately the bulk of the farms are on the edge of the everglades and the petrochemical run off is causing dramatic changes in the ecosystem. The state and feds have been working to limit the runoff, but there's a lot of money involved and progress is slow. So, if we are to go this route (sugar ethanol) I sure hope that we can figure out a way to do it organically.
Brazil seems to be doing significant organic sugar cane to ethanol.
That's great. Sure hope we follow suit. Though the history of the Florida sugar industry does not really provide much support for that hope.

I was also thinking about Hawai'i, as I used to live there. It used to be a big sugar exporter, but there is no sugar grown there commercialy any longer. They were priced out largely due to labor costs, but now their is also the issue of land costs. I'm wondering what sort of price sugar would have to fetch in order for it to be economic in Hawai'i again.

I guess I just keep coming back to the can versus will issue. Lot's of these alternatives can/could happen. Whether they will or not is another issue.

Fantastic piece in Harpers a few years back about this.

2 brothers own most of this resource.  One was on President Bush's 2000 election committee, one was a heavy contributor to Al Gore ;-).  Cuban American family.  Billionaires.

I am vague on the details as this article was about 7 years ago-- jump in someone and correct me.

The US government had a scheme to buy them out.  I think the sticking point is whether the land then goes back to being Everglades, (and helps preserve the Everglades by not sucking up the water upstream of the Everglades) or (as the State of Florida wants) the land is allocated to developers (which would be even worse for the Everglades than the current position).

So the US is stuck growing sugar cane, at great ecological harm to a significant and unique bioresource (and tourist area), for very low economic value created (this is sugar after all, a pure commodity) because:

  • for domestic political reasons the US cannot import Cuban sugar (see Joan Didion's Miami re exile politics and any number of books and articles about the way the embargo actually strengthens Fidel Castro's regime) which would be the cheapest solution

  • the US can't get its act together in the face of land development pressure in Florida

The thriller writer Carl Hiassen always said Florida is his most creative source of ideas: you couldn't make some of the stories he writes up.
Neither are coconuts or bikinis in December, but they both seem to work pretty well in Thailand.
has there been any work done on the co2 emmissions from corn based ethanol (on the production plus consumption side)?   to begin with the production of ethanol amounts to a lot of spinning of wheels  then you burn the stuff to produce more co2     everyone here in the midwest of a is all ga ga about ethanol    politicians are stumbling over each other to endorse it
I don't have a good link for any of Pimental's work. I do think he is referenced in some of Robert Rapier's other work on ethanol at TOD.

I have referenced Pimentel's work in passing, but have not used him as a reference for any of my results. I think Pimentel did open himself up to some legitimate criticism by using some outdated data, and some ethanol advocacy groups have done a great job of demonizing him. Therefore, they will not listen to anything you have to say if you use his work as the basis of your argument. They will just say "Pimentel has been discredited", and that is that.

In the ethanol issue, I think everyone is biased, either promoters or enemies of biofuels. Pimental, in my opinion, is in the second camp. I see Robert Rapier as an exception.

I appreciate that. I have biases like everyone else, but I try to stay objective. Even when I don't agree with the other side, I want them to have the opportunity to have their voice heard. Jay Hanson told me several months back that he could see that fairness was very important to me, and then he started analyzing my childhood to determine why that might be. :-) But there is a big difference to me in being fair, and allowing the other side to make undisputed points. I will let the other side present their view, but if I disagree with it then I will vigorously challenge it. I think this sort of debate is how people learn and grow, including (or maybe especially) myself.

"I have referenced Pimentel's work in passing, but have not used him as a reference for any of my results. I think Pimentel did open himself up to some legitimate criticism by using some outdated data, and some ethanol advocacy groups have done a great job of demonizing him. Therefore, they will not listen to anything you have to say if you use his work as the basis of your argument. They will just say "Pimentel has been discredited", and that is that."

The problem with Pimental (and Patzek) for the corn-ethanol and soy-diesel interests is not that they use outdated evidence, but that they employ a methodology which produces disagreeable results for said interests.  Both Pimental and Patzek are scientists with extensive publications in peer reviewed journals.

We need to be careful when repeating lines about 'outdated
data".  Who is making that judgement?  On what basis?

For the person not willing to compare rival methodologies, there is always the tried and generally true axiom: He who pays the piper calls the tune.

You can try to appear as unbiased as you wish, but once you take a position against the ethanol boosters, that's it buddy, you're on the 'junk science' list (a list started by consultants to the tobacco industry).  Patriotism may be the last refuge of scoundrels, but demonization is another favourite tool.  And it should be resisted.

"Both Pimental and Patzek are scientists with extensive publications in peer reviewed journals."

Yes, peer reviewed and found wanting insofar as their work on EtOh is concerned.

Yes, these folks do disagree with Pimental and Patzek's methodology.  That doesn't make them right and P & P wrong.

I note that the first author listed is an advocate of hydrogen cars, boats and the like.  Yup.

By the time I've done a careful reading of that paper, this thread is getting kind of stale, but anyway here goes:

Farrell et al criticize Pimentel and Patzek for "incorrectly assuming that ethanol coproducts (... such as dried distiller grains) should not be credited with any of the input energy".  In part they justify the credits for by-products by saying "Coproducts of ethanol have positive economic value and displace competing products that require energy to make."  That requires proof.  There are limited markets for those co-products and I've heard that DDG is not good for livestock in large quantities.  Those markets may be satisfied with the existing co-products of the making of processed foods from corn.  (Not that I think those processed foods are a great gift to humanity.)  I expect many of those co-products would have to be discarded.  Even natural gas is "flared" in remote oil fields because its marketing is too difficult.  Biodiesel enthusiasts seem to be constantly looking for ways to enlarge the market for their pesky co-products.

Farrell et al "corrected" Pimentel and Patzek's model by "dropping extraneous" [parameters] (sic) "e.g., laborer food energy".  Here I agree with Pimentel and Patzek.  You can't run the process without labor, and thus analyses of both the economics and the energy balance must take that into account.  As well as the embedded energy in farm machinery, etc.  If they are including what's convenient for them (co-products), and excluding what's not convenient, how are they better than the researchers that they dismiss?

Their conclusions, nominally somewhat supportive of corn ethanol, show that it is very limited in its benefits.  First, it only embodies a small amount of renewable (solar) energy, "5 to 26%" they say.  It displaces quite a bit of oil, though, they say, because the energy inputs are mainly from natural gas and coal.  (See their Fig. 2.)  From the point of view of "reducing our reliance on imported oil" that may sound good.  But given that North American natural gas extraction is declining and coal too is finite, currently in short supply in the USA, and the worst fuel from the GHG emissions angle, that's not good news.  Even they say that their best estimate is a GHG reduction of 13%, with a lot of uncertainty.  That depends on the fuel source for ethanol processing, and currently coal in on the rise in that realm.

They say that "policies aimed at reducing environmental externalities in the agricultural sector may result in significantly improved environmental performance of this fuel."  I agree with that, in the sense that it is the huge energy inputs of industrial agriculture in the USA that make biofuels a dubious source of energy.  Organic agriculture that is low-input and sustainable may produce some kinds of biofuels with a decent net energy gain, but it is questionable whether that can be scaled up to quantities that would have much impact on the fuel used in our high-energy lifestyle.  Also, it is more likely that the optimum biofuels within that scenario would be biodiesels from vegetable oils.  That still leaves the food-vs-fuel issue unresolved, along with other externalities that they do mention, but exclude from the calculations: soil erosion and the impact on forests.

Farrell et al make the same dubious statement as discussed here before, that gasoline has a negative net energy, or uses more petroleum input than ethanol.  And somehow they don't give petroleum refining any credits for its "co-products"...

They say that cellulosic ethanol may have much better net energy than corn ethanol, but concede that that's just theory thus far, as yet to be realized in practice.

Finally, I think that there is no hope that a massive and complicated process that results in a marginal energy gain could maintain an economy and lifestyle formed on the basis of petroleum that has been, in the past, virtually free, in the sense of an EROEI of 20, or 40, or even more.

So is that the only peer-reviewed scientific paper you could find that "debunks" Pimentel and Patzek?

"So is that the only peer-reviewed scientific paper you could find that "debunks" Pimentel and Patzek?"

No not at all, in fact this very paper outlines 4 more studies that debunk Patzek and Pimentel and to this day, Patzek refuses to address his erroneous EROEI calculations when confronted.

Furthermore, there's nothing dubious about Farrel's petroleum input statement -ethanol production reduces petroleum usage- which of course is the most important answer to the most important question regarding ethanol production overall.

I'm sorry you have no hope.

There will never be agreement on the assumptions that should be used in evaluating corn ethanol.  But I think the whole issue approaches irrelevancy considering the marginal contribution that ethanol has and will have to our fuel needs.

However, I don't think anyone has persuasively argued against the assumption that one should include labor and inputs from machinery.  That's like saying we should ignore those inputs if we were evaluating the monetary costs of the enterprise. Try that with the SEC and see far how you would get.

If corn yields are outdated, update the Pimental study and see what happens.

This argument wouldn't be worth having except for the fact that the whole process is so heavily subsidized and the fact that the damn auto companies get to fudge their mileage figures when they make their gas guzzlers E85 capable. And, of course, they concentrate on the gas guzzlers and they get the biggest scam for the buck from that.

I wonder if someone at TOD could arrange a full fledged debate on this site between Pimental or Patzek and one or more of their "debunkers".  

Now, of course, we alaready had sort of a debate between Robert Rapier and Khosla.  I think Khosla lost by default as he seems to have retreated into the EROIE is irrelevant stance.

I guess if I were making millions off this deal, I would tend to think that EROEI was irrelevant, too.

We need to be careful when repeating lines about 'outdated data".  Who is making that judgement?  On what basis?

Just as an example, he used unrealistically low corn yields. The data for that were pretty old, which opened him up to criticism from the corn lobby and allowed them to dismiss his work. As I said, it is not really possible to debate Pimentel with a pro-ethanol person. They will just say "He's been discredited." They can point to some of that data he used to support their point, and that's the end of the argument as far as they are concerned.

A seemingly reasonable study of this issue was done by Shapouri et al. Link: They compared 6 different studies with 6 different sets of assumptions. There results seem to suggest a very small benefit to corn based ethanol (1.24 btu's out for 1 btu in)

If you are technically inclined this article is a modestly interesting read.

"In the ethanol issue, I think everyone is biased, either promoters or enemies of biofuels. Pimental, in my opinion, is in the second camp. I see Robert Rapier as an exception."  

No, Jack, you are wrong. Pimental is not an 'enemy of biofuels.'  He has calculated the futility of corn, soy, switchgrass, and wood based liquid fuel.

On the other hand, he recognizes the advantage of crop based solid fuel, known as bio-heat:

"BIOHEAT offers the best energy and greenhouse gas balances of the available options and is the most efficient way to produce energy from farmland," says David Pimentel, a keynote speaker at the Guelph Organic Agriculture Conference..."

Bio-heat is where science and economics leads when discussing the use of North American farmland for energy production.  In the short term, while natural gas is still plentiful and sawdust not yet in short supply (despite rapidly growing demand for wood pellets from Europe), crop based bio-heat remains a small player.  

As gas production declines and as demand for pellets/briquettes outstrips sawdust supply, crop based pellets/briquettes demand will surge.  The ethanol buyer will need ever larger government welfare cheques to remain competitive with the solid fuel buyer at the farmgate, because the latter will be able to pay more per unit of energy content, since he/she will have so many more btu's to sell (process output) per input unit.

Demand from those choosing not to freeze to death, or see their pipes freeze in less extreme environments, will be as strong as demand from those choosing to drive. Good-bye ethanol.  Hello public transport.

as demand for pellets/briquettes outstrips sawdust supply

Umpteenth law of thermodynamics: you can't heat houses indefinitely by burning the sawdust created in the process of building them.

Unless you build "zero energy" houses, that is.  But alas the make-a-quick-buck housing-bubble developers didn't do that.  They didn't even use 2x6 studs.  And we're stuck with the houses we got, we won't be economically able to rebuild them.

I fully agree with toilforoil's analysis, solid biofuels will rule, since they displace liquid (and gas) fuels better suited for other uses.  Although their price is ultimately bound by the price of fossil fuels, even if right now they sell for more, per btu, then oil or gas in some areas.  The reluctant pellet buyer quoted here yesterday only had electric heat as the other option.

"Everything to know about biofuels has been published by Pimentel"

BS!  Pimental's work has been consistently taken apart by non-partisan, scientific analysis.  

References (to peer reviewed journals) please.
As published in the Journal of Science:

Meanwhile I have some choice quotes for you from a Salon article posted at E. Bulletin:

"The veracity of Patzek and Pimentel's numbers has been vociferously debated hither and yon. They've been accused of using old data, of cherry-picking numbers, of making unfair or outdated assumptions on what factors to include in their data analysis. For many biofuel fans Patzek's background as a petroleum engineer has been considered grounds for immediate dismissal of all his claims"

"In January, I wrote about a study published in Science by a group of Berkeley researchers that contradicted Patzek and Pimentel's findings. But that hasn't dissuaded Patzek from crisscrossing the country in a one-man jihad against the idea that biofuels offer any hope of replacing oil as an energy source"

"But he also just happened to skip the section of his prepared talk that dealt with his data on energy efficiency, and there was very little time for questions at the end, although, judging from the number of raised hands, there was no shortage of audience members eager to follow up."

"But in response to the one questioner who did ask what could explain the huge discrepancies between the numbers cited by Patzek and those put forth by some biofuel advocates, he hemmed and hawed, making references to "complex systems" and how the choice of models "determines answers."

And he said, at least twice, "Let's not squabble about the details."

"Now, asking a bunch of graduate students not to squabble about the details is a strange thing for any professor to say, and critics of Patzek and Pimentel's numbers would be entirely correct to guffaw scornfully at such a statement. Details make a big difference, especially when the details determine whether something is energy efficient, or isn't"

The Farrell found behind the last slash in the link provided by Syntec is one of the authors of the article which takes issue with Pimentel and Patzek's methodology.

But for his belief in hydrogen as a viable means to power cars, boats and whatever, he might be taken seriously.

It is not enough to attach a 'signature' such as to make your views, or those of your preferred scientists credible.

I haven't run a check on the rest of the authors of the one study to choose in order to diminish Pimentel, but from the few I have looked at I don't see in combination half the depth or breadth of Pimentel's experience in matters relating to the energy balance of agricultural production.

What is clear is that your gang doesn't consider the sustainability of corn production at current levels.  Nor has the question of opportunity cost for the land entered their combined brain.

I understand why people on the corn ethanol and soy diesel team need to diss Pimentel.  Are you on the team?

Farrell is but one of many authors who have scientifically proven that P&Ps work is found wanting - their data inputs are old and they refuse to acknowledge their errors.

Farrell et al's work on ethanol (hydrogen beliefs notwithstanding) obviously garnered some tiny ounce of merit otherwise it wouldn't have been printed in Science.

I've posted the most recent work on the subject of debunking P&P not the library.  I do not have the time nor inclination to hold you hand while you learn.

These people are not 'my gang' and the sustainability of corn->ethanol production is clearly alluded to by Farrell et al.

Lastly, my signature is simply a call to arms for the preservation of one of the cornerstone's of our society.  To think that in 2006, one has to create an organization to do so is F*ing ludicrous and I dare you to say otherwise.

Great write up. Please send us more. It's as if we were there live and in person to hear the party lines. Still LOL over the "we make it up in volume" answer.
The worst part about this is that the Prez is coming to town and speaking so of course the highways system get shut down.  I hate Bush.
Yes but you can't blame him for that-- it's the Secret Service doing his job.

He lives cut off in a glass box.  You could blame him for that (for lacking the curiousity to reach outside of it at least by telephone) but it is also part and parcel of his job and the need for protection.

President Kennedy was assassinated.  So was RFK.  President Ford and Reagan were both badly injured by assassin's bullets.  A guy slammed a plane into the White House to try to kill Clinton.  Bush had a hand grenade thrown at him (which fortunately failed to go off).

I hate Bush more than any US president, even Nixon.  But the last thing I would want would be for him to die violently in office (or die in office at all):

  • if his ideas are to be discredited, let him not be a martyr to them, please God

  • Dick Cheney as President of the USA?  Dick Cheney whose  hand has been in every eff-up of this Adminstration?  Good friend of Ken Enron Lay (Lay flew Republican operatives to Florida in Enron jets in 2000 to stop the recount), the Energy Commission, the whole pre-911 we don't care about terrorism flap, doctoring the evidence on Iraq etc...

  • the making of a man is often what he does after the Presidency.  Look at Jimmy Carter, now and the good he has done.  Or Bush I as personal friend and confidant to Clinton, and using General Scowcroft and James A Baker to try to sort out US foreign policy (Baker's bipartisan commission on Iraq which is due to report this month).  At least Richard Nixon got to tell his side of the story.  I want to see what GWB makes of his life after the White House, and to hear his side of why he made the decisions he did.
I hate Bush more than any US president, even Nixon.

And that is what the problem is with most Democrats/Liberals.

They have gone so far in their emotions that they can't come up with any other solutions except to remove Bush.  "Getting rid of Bush would be better." is what I hear.  

I ask them why it would be better, and I get stares like I'm crazy.  Push them further and ask "Well If Bush wasn't in power and someone else was, what differences would there be?"

Don't get me wrong, I've lost a lot of faith in Bush over the years, but I don't hate him.  I hate his policies on some things, and hence when someone asks me why I would like to see Bush change his policy or have him be replaced by someone, I can say why:

He has been ahead of an administration that his allowed the US government to be fiscally insane.

He has in my opinion been unfocused and not devious enough in the War on Terror and the War on Iraq.

He refuses to recognize the dangers and therefore address properly the problem of illegal immigration.

He continues to move the US down a road of Globalism and Free Trade that ultimately I think is going to cause a lot of hardship for this country.

Likewise I was never a fan of Clinton, but I didn't hate the man.  I disagreed with many of his policies.

I know a lot of people say they "hate person xyz" when they mean they hate the way they do things.  Perhaps that is what you meant to say above, perhaps not.

Either way though, when you open up with a statement like that you've just lost the otherside from even hearing what you have to say.  In the art of debate, especially if you are trying to win people to your ideals, you will not succeed if you demonize the leader they follow.  Instead a more effective approach is not to focus on the person, but rather to focus on the ideas/policies of the person.

If you want to maintain a country that is polarized and divided, then keep on going ahead with the I hate person xyz.  Both sides are guilty of it, and as a result, it hurts the American people who really have a plethora of opinions most of which are somewhere in between the two extremes currently piloting this nation.

Great points.  I still hate Bush, that ship has set sail.
i kind of hope that the gop retains congress   because then they will have nobody to blame wtshtf    
GOP: Gay Old Pedophiles.

No child's behind left alone.

They hate our freedoms (to play spank-a-page).

Either you're with us, or you're straight.

Nuff said.

If TSHTF, do we really care who is to blame?
We're poop-flinging monkeys. It's wired into our genes. We can't help but to cast "blame" for everything that goes wrong. When TSHTF it will be us who are doling out all the "blame" (a.k.a. the S part of WTSHTF). Why do you think it is S that is always hitting the Fan? Why can't it be mud? Or rose petals? It's who we are.
I can not abide by these "wired into our genes" explanations. Its a cop out. You are essentially saying that you have no choice. Is that how you experience the world? that you have no choice?

No, it is S*&% that hits the fan because we are making a value judgement about good and bad. What may be S*&% to you may be high quality fertilizer to me. Do you think your genes give a S*&% about good and bad?

You are essentially saying that you have no choice. Is that how you experience the world? that you have no choice?

To abide, or not to abide?
On that question you do have a choice.

But here is a minor list of tiny things over which you have NO CHOICE:

  1. Who your parents are & what genetic attributes they passed onto you,
  2. Who your parents are & what cultural, nurturing attributes they passed onto you (i.e. language, religion, values, world model),
  3. The fact that you are an animal who is bound by traits of your breed just like a dog is bound by his breed, like a cow is bound by hers, a sheep(le) by his and a canary by its.Flap your arms as much as you want but you alone will never fly like a bird, or see colors in the UV range. In that you have no choice,
  4. The morphology of your brain. The fact that it is the product of random evolutionary steps. It is a hodgepodge of accidental layers grown one on top of the next (and also bilaterally as two hemispheres). All this will very much limit how you "think" and what you will forever be incapable of thinking. In this you have no choice.

One of the things that humans round the world think about is this thing called "blame".

Why do we all conjure up this "blame" thing? What good does it do us? --I mean when we fling it at others rather than at ourselves?

In those civilizations that collapsed and died off; whom did they "blame" as the end of times dawned on them? Do you think that they chose not to "blame"? That they went quietly into that night? Did they give up without one last primal shreek and one last flinging of monkey poo? Of course not. It was wired into their genes.

(Perhaps a few million years back that same random action kept the sabertooth tiger at bay. It was a survival instinct passed forward from generation to generation --without choice-- until it became a dysfunctional trait. So who do you "blame" now for Peak Oil, for Global Warming, for finite lifetimes? Bush? Blair? The Tooth Fairy? And what good does all this blaming do you? It certainly keeps you from thinking about alternate realities. You have become the sabertooth tiger, kept at bay by the stench of the stuff hitting the fan. And soon, because of that, you will become extinct. {Of course I don't mean you you. I mean we.})

Ok, you've completely misconstrued what I was trying to get across, but I'll play along.

1. Who your parents are & what genetic attributes...
   But my parents had a choice (or at least experienced it as such) when they combined genes to produce me. So who's to say they weren't the causal factor and not the genes?

2. Who your parents are & what cultural, nurturing attributes ...
Hard to see how this has anything to do with my genes, unless you're saying all of culture is genetically predetermined. Don't think that's what you want to say.

3. The fact that you are an animal who is bound by traits of your breed
Okay, so I'm an animal. This informs me of... what exactly is your point? That I am bound my the traits of my breed is merely a restatement of your starting assumption that genes control behavior. So what. That I am a human and not a bird, that I see certain wavelengths, again, so what? You are describing limits to my ability to experience things established by my physical existence - that demonstrates genes determine my behavior how?

4. The morphology of your brain....
Go eat some mushrooms, drop some acid, then come talk to me about the morphology of your brain.

On the whole issue of "blame," I was never disagreeing with you that it wouldn't be spread around. What I was trying to suggest to you was that from a personal perspective, you don't gain a whole lot from attributing blame. You can go ahead and do so if you like, if you think it will make you feel better. But afixing blame isn't going to help solve the problems we'll face, and its probably going to take up a whole lot of mental energy that could be better used on solving those problems.

In short, I was not making an observation about how human beings think, I was making a suggestion that afixing blame will be pointless. You can think afixing blame is genetically determined behavior if you like, that's your choice ;-) (though it would seem to me that the obvious fact that not everyone feels the need to afix blame would disprove that link). Still that's not going to make the practice anymore useful.

it's a figure of speech  o. k.    arent you trying to over analyse the metaphor
imo    ts   will   htf   and the reason i care is because it may bring an end to the corporo-facist takeover of the us of a
hate ... that is what the problem is with most Democrats/Liberals.

Good point.
The L-word and D-word people think of themselves as "intellectual" apes. They religiously believe that verbal exchanges with others of their species is an "intellectual" exercise. They couldn't be more wrong. The human ape is an emotional, irrational creature; driven by his/her lizard brain and sheeple brain.

Reality does not mesh with the internal mental model that D's and L's have of the world and how other people "think". So what is their response? Do they "intellectually" rework their internal models? No. They act out in emotional rage. They hate. They hate so hard they can't see beyond the blood in their eyes. ... And Rove knows it.

Bush topples The Thinker off his pedestal.
And The Thinker "hates" Bush for it.

The three philosophies that are said by historians and political scientists to enable Italy/Germany style fascism are:

Everything is either Good or Evil - and you know which side we're on.  We have a duty to defeat Evil and make the world a better place.

We're all part of one living, breathing nation - anyone that disagrees with the majority should be treated as a cancer, a blight on our national health, a major threat not to be tolerated.

'We think with our blood.'  The intellectuals are an outrage, with their holier-than-thou theories, trying to tell us how we should live our lives.  The human experience is what we hold dear, our culture, our heritage, our art, our religion.  These things need to be protected from the bohemian trash that threaten to destroy them.  You know we're right, deep in the pit of your stomach.

Rove being basically Goebbels reborn, and the media being utterly incapable of dealing with his tactics, is but one part of the rise of Fascism in America.  Growing totalitarianism, corporate supremism, nationalism and isolationism, and a more and more blatant imperial model takes care of the rest, but that's another post.

Don't overestimate Rove, he's not at all as brilliant as he's made out to be, the lameness of the Democrats has a lot to do with how good he looks, that and a completely broken political process. Also, don't underestimate the complicity of the Media. Fox is too easy, but Post, NYT, WSJ and the Networks all wanted to go into Iraq, they weren't fooled, they were complicit and there's other parts of the Bush agenda various media actors promote.

Not saying the media isn't lame on many aspects, they are that, but on certain things they're culpable.

The first part of your analysis is more or less correct.  Liberals tend to make an appeal to the intellectual side of their audience.

The conclusion is, ironically, completely wrong.

'Reality' is precisely what a thinking person has been mugged by.  Global CO2 is rising and human activity is the likely cause, the US popularity in the Middle East really has plummeted, Jihad really has gained thousands of new recruits c/o the invasion of Iraq, Iraq really was sliding towards civil war (it's there now), there really was no strong evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction, the US deficit really is caused by large tax cuts....

Oh and when Bush cut off aid to North Korea, agreed under treaty after the 1994 crisis, the North Koreans really did pull the seals off the reactor and gain access to enough fuel for an estimated 6-10 further bombs.

It's worth remembering that the below was written before Katrina, before the revelations about the NIE, before Woodward's latest book deviated from hagiography:

All of this -- the ''gut'' and ''instincts,'' the certainty and religiosity -connects to a single word, ''faith,'' and faith asserts its hold ever more on debates in this country and abroad. That a deep Christian faith illuminated the personal journey of George W. Bush is common knowledge. But faith has also shaped his presidency in profound, nonreligious ways. The president has demanded unquestioning faith from his followers, his staff, his senior aides and his kindred in the Republican Party. Once he makes a decision -- often swiftly, based on a creed or moral position -- he expects complete faith in its rightness.

The disdainful smirks and grimaces that many viewers were surprised to see in the first presidential debate are familiar expressions to those in the administration or in Congress who have simply asked the president to explain his positions. Since 9/11, those requests have grown scarce; Bush's intolerance of doubters has, if anything, increased, and few dare to question him now. A writ of infallibility -- a premise beneath the powerful Bushian certainty that has, in many ways, moved mountains -- is not just for public consumption: it has guided the inner life of the White House.

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

It's quite odd to be disdained for being 'reality based' but there we are.

FWIW our own Tony Blair seems to operate in a similar way, propelled by similar 'Christian' principles.  As a Christian I find it offensive that Christianity should be so used to justify some of his actions and positions, but there you have it.

The first part of your analysis is more or less correct.  Liberals tend to make an appeal to the intellectual side of their audience.

That's funny because conservatives say the exact opposite.

Frankly I think both are wrong in a generalized argument.

There are conservatives who approach their issues from emotional and/or intellectual grounds.

There are liberals who approach their issues from emotional and/or intellectual grounds.

To say one side is more of one or the other is pure fallacy, and rhetoric.

And to be honest, I've found that those who promote their positions using BOTH emotional and intellectual grounds are usually the most convincing and often times "correct".  We are creatures with capability to feel deeply and think deeply, and as such to say that one aspect is superior to the other is down right silliness.

Case in point, many liberals believe we are overpopulated which would jive well with their generally pro-choice agenda.  But if the consequences of overpopulation are as dire as we think they will be, shouldn't the adoption of more pro-active actions be needed.  Shouldn't we be letting the poor starve and die off, the mentally ill to die off, force sterilization on women who unable to care for their existing children except for welfare?

We cringe at those additional suggestions because emotionally, morally we know those are not the right things.  Logically, if the problem of overpopulation needs to be solved quickly those steps would further that aim.  Pure logic can be a VERY VERY evil thing, and something I doubt most humans would want to experience.

Anyhow, back to liberals and conservatives, it is perfectly reasonable to have two people look at the same data and come up with two completely different conclusions.  A lot of that has to do with mindset of the two people.

A classic case would be those who see oppurtunity versus those who see a problem.  Could be talking about the exact same thing, but one is going act differently than the other.

A little off topic but abortion makes a great example.  Conservatives tend to be against abortion.  Why?

Emotional reason:  Because many who are Christian believe it is wrong, because the "Bible says so".  An emotional argument in my opinion.

Same topic and stance, but based on intellectual premises:  Abortion is wrong because it denies the right to life to another human entity which is currently in a stage of existance that all human entities go through.  The right of choice which is extrapolated as a right to the pursuit of happiness or even the right to liberty is trumped by the right to life by the fetus.  

The reason is the rights themselves are a hierarchy of order.  It is impossible to have the right to pursue happiness without the right to liberty.  And it is impossible to have the right to liberty without the right to life.  This hierarchy of order was conveyed in our founding documents when Life was listed first and foremost, followed by Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in their respective orders.  Therefore while the mother's right to pursue happiness and perhaps to liberty is impacted temporarily due to actions she participated in, the discontinuation of the life is unaaceptable due to the hierarchy of rights.

Sorry but to say liberals or conservatives are more "intellectual" or more emotional would be a no dice from my vantage point.  And frankly, I wouldn't want to be governed by an overly intellectual or emotional leader.  Both qualities are needed and have been possessed by our best leaders.

I certainly agree that political identity is as much a statement about values (which have emotional roots) as it is about policies or ideology.

I don't think the point is about who is more 'intellectual'.  I think liberals, and liberal political parties, tend to make appeals which are intellectually based-- they tend to believe by force of sheer reason they can pound people into changing their minds.  Indeed President Bush has derided them for it in his emphasis on faith and knowing the right thing to do.

There are some conservative intellectuals out there but there are certainly more liberal or outright left wing ones.  Take the extremes: you can't find a theoretician of fascism to match Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Engels, Marcuse, Derrida, Sartre et al.  I know, because I've tried.  You can find very few writers of the right to match that list on the left wing side-- in volume, or subtlety of argument (I'm not a Marxist, I just make that observation about intellectual history).

I think genuinely as personality types, liberals tend to have talky/ shades of grey/ relative point of view type approaches, and conservatives tend to see black and white, values, moral absolutes.

BERKELEY - Politically conservative agendas may range from supporting the Vietnam War to upholding traditional moral and religious values to opposing welfare. But are there consistent underlying motivations?

Four researchers who culled through 50 years of research literature about the psychology of conservatism report that at the core of political conservatism is the resistance to change and a tolerance for inequality, and that some of the common psychological factors linked to political conservatism include:

Fear and aggression

Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity

Uncertainty avoidance

Need for cognitive closure

Terror management
"From our perspective, these psychological factors are capable of contributing to the adoption of conservative ideological contents, either independently or in combination," the researchers wrote in an article, "Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition," recently published in the American Psychological Association's Psychological Bulletin.

They also stressed that their findings are not judgmental.

"In many cases, including mass politics, 'liberal' traits may be liabilities, and being intolerant of ambiguity, high on the need for closure, or low in cognitive complexity might be associated with such generally valued characteristics as personal commitment and unwavering loyalty," the researchers wrote.

Now I haven't read the scholarly debate on that article, but certainly in the lab, a terror alert creates a 2-3% electoral shift towards the more right wing political parties.  That is quite a stable result.  And I think Israeli domestic politics in particular shows it: Likud picks up votes when people are scared.  It's certainly been an evident feature of US domestic politics since 911.

Interestingly, your views on overpopulation and what liberals think are diametrically opposed to mine.

My own are that liberals are generally not too worried about overpopulation per se, but rather about environmental impacts.  It's a facile truth the problem is not that the US has 300 million people in such a huge country, it's that the US has 300 million people who emit a lot of pollutants.  

(liberals aren't monolithic. Wall Street liberals (and conservatives) tend to think immigration is a good thing.  Trade unionists worry about the effect on wages and heartland conservatives about the dilution of the national culture and values.  )

If we pick an 'overpopulated' city in the US, ie the one city in the US which has densities that rival the most dense cities in the world, that is New York City, which also happens to be the most liberal place in the US (pace Portland or Berkeley CA).

The bigger problem that I think Americans are trapped into in terms of politcal thinking is that all stances are measured on a one dimensional line.

Its either left or right, and what unfortunately happens is when someone takes a stance on an issue, they get painted somewhere on this one dimensional line of measure.  Nevermind that on several other issues, they might be on the exact opposite end of that spectrum.

For instance the mother who is against abortion as her primary issue would be painted as a conservative.  Nevermind that she might also be pro-government welfare, anti-gun, anti-death penalty.  If those are seconadary issues to her, and her focus is an abortion oriented one, she will be painted as conservative.  Period.

That is the failing and trap we Americans are stuck in.  Its one of the reasons I'm absolutely driven bonkers this election season, and more generally about our government system in general.  I would love to have a third or even forth party in our system with some actual clout and numbers.  Even they couldn't constitute a majority, if they could become large enough that either Dems or Reps had to negotiate with them for swing ability, I think it would do a lot more towards moderating the nasty pendulum(sp?) effect American politics seems to goes through after major elections.

Sorry, but to say Liberals or Conservatives are more "intellectual" or more "emotional" would be a no dice from my vantage point.

Sorry that I was not more explicit in my posts.

I meant to say that, currrently, Democrats are still trying to talk "intellectually" to the voting public while the think-tank supported Republicans understand that the more persuasive way of winning is to communicate "emotionally" and at many levels simultaneously with the sheeple: Love Life; Stay the Course; Cut and Run, Fight 'em there instead of Here, etc., etc.

When if ever will the Demo's/Liberals wake up and admit to what "we" really are? They are equally out of touch with "reality". We are not wholly intellectual creatures. There is good reason to question if we are even 10% "intellectual". Is it any wonder that "their eyes glaze over" when you try to mention Peak Oil to them? Is it any wonder that the poor working class votes for the party that promises "somebody" is going to get really really rich here thanks to a "free and open" market? Each poor sucker thinks that "somebody" is going to be him or her. The one lucky lottery winner is going to be him or her. If ya ain't a in it, ya can't a win it. <--Sound Logic!!! and at the same time, dumbell logic. (But perhaps that last line is trying to ring its bell too deeply even for the Hunchback of Notre Dame to comprehend.)

Tele: BushCo have been successful in accomplishing most of their goals. The MSM myth that BushCo is:1. in favor of fiscal sanity 2.wants a constructive end to the two wars you mentioned 3.fears illegal immigration 4.does not understand the ultimate effect of globalization on the American standard of living is absurd. GWB might not be that bright, but the guys running him certainly are and they have been extremely successful in reaching their goals of money and power accumulation.  
BushCo have been successful in accomplishing most of their goals.

Exactly...  not mine or other like minded voters goals.  Which is precisely why a lot of conservatives(note I'm not saying Republicans here) and previous voters of Bush/Republicans are pretty hacked off at the moment.

A major platform he and the Republicans ran on was fiscal responsibility, a platform him and the Republicans seem to have completely abandoned.

Come part term, add on the issues of a strong response to 9/11 and the War on Terror, along with illegal immigration, and you now have 2 "new" issues that the conservative block seem to be going one way on, and the Republicans are going the other way on.

If the Republicans lose come this election, I doubt it will be because the Democrats managed to convince much of the opposing voting block to come vote for them, as much as it will be the conservative voting block is just not going to show up for the Republicans, or else will be voting for third parties in protest.

Tele: Recent polls show that 82% of Repubs think that BushCo are doing a fine job. The Repubs might lose in Nov, but they will always do better than the polls suggest as they have the home field advantage (Diebold).  
It's partly a reaction to the whole 'impeach Clinton' thing.  The dirt they threw at Clinton was so disproportionate to the man, that it left a permanent bad feeling.

'hate' in my case is despise in an intellectual sense-- I don't see any point hating or not hating politicians in a personal sense.  I think he is a very shrewd (and clever) politician and he has used that to blatantly lie and mislead the US electorate, and the world.

He has behaved rashly and without conscience in a number of areas which have left a legacy we will be dealing with for decades: the US deficit, Guantanamo Bay and the legacy of legalised torture, the disregard of the Geneva Convention, the invasion of Afghanistan followed by a failure to consolidate those gains, the invasion of Iraq on a pretext, again with no coherent plan to consolidate or stabilise the country.

He has made the world a substantially less safe place by alienating those of Middle Eastern origin and Islamic faith from the West.  Strategically, he has played straight into the hands of bin Ladin and his sister organisations, following their playbook of what the US would do after 9-11 to the letter.

By ignoring Global Warming, and indeed by promoting those who cast scepticism about it, he has potentially endangered the future of the whole human race.

Again and again he has ignored bad news which has conflicted with his world view.  He shows no curiousity about the world.  He personally, and his top cabinet, have said unconscionable things about close allies and their sacrifices, and needlessly alienated them.

The thing I can never get over though is the smug smirk he puts on-- you saw it on his face any number of times when the press asks him a real question or he was debating Gore or Kerry.  He looks, and acts in his personal dealings, like the school bully who has been propelled as a front man-- the way he belittles subordinates with dimunitive names, or makes jokes at others expense.  The way he spoke to Blair I thought was indicative of that.  If I was dealing with such a person in a business context, and that smirk appeared, I would not do a deal with him.

As I say, I think he is a clever and ruthless politician and I admire him for that.  In fact, I think he is a clever politician who has risen beyond his level of competence, and that is why so many of his actions have been so damaging.  Whereas Nixon was a paranoid who did untold damage to the US governmental system, Nixon did have courage and imagination in foreign policy.

The thing I can never get over though is the smug smirk he puts on-- you saw it on his face any number of times when the press asks him a real question or he was debating Gore or Kerry.  He looks, and acts in his personal dealings, like the school bully who has been propelled as a front man-- the way he belittles subordinates

"Well, there you go again", as Ronald Raygun would have answered you.

The answer is buried in you own emotional tirate.

We are all highly emotional creatures who rely heavily on body language.

In TV-driven politics, it is the guy who signals himself as the smirking alpha-male, as the confident, non-flip/flopping  ape instead of the wavering one with sweat on his upper lips, who is going to win the body language debate.

Republicans were caught by surprise in the Kennedy versus Nixon debates. But now a days it is the Democrats who are the clueless morons. They are so "intellectual" that they are totally blind to the "mixed messages" being sent out over the TV airwaves.

When you don't understand what is going on, you get frustrated. You start to "hate". Blood fills your eyes and you can't see straight any more.

Try to curb your hate. Stop listening to the malpropisms that slober out of Bush Jr.'s mouth and start paying attention to his body language. He is a natural. The hand signals. The in-your-face stance. The smile of confidence on his face. Don't you see it yet? Or are you still blinded by your "hate"?

Step Back: IMHO, GWB is a mirror. He is a reflection of everything that is wrong about America distilled into one human. As you state, this is one of the reasons for his popularity, as in certain ways he is a "man of the people". He fulfills the need of the populace the way a pusher fulfills the need of the junkie.Just to clarify: I feel personally that the USA is a great country, but like every entity it has a dark side, and GWB embodies it.
He certainly represents a faction.

And I agree with you about 'Jungian shadow'.  I think Walter Russell Meade called it Jacksonian Americans (and I think Team America: World Police called it 'eff you Americans' ;-).

Different presidents have managed to capture that in positive ways.  I would argue Arnold Schwarzenneger seems to be doing it in California, and Reagan certainly did.  The reality is most issues are so complicated that people don't know what to think: they will follow a leader who seems to know what the right answer is, because he is a leader, rather than because they agree with him.

 In fact the normal course with 2 term presidents is to have a disastrous couple of years (think Lewinski-gate, Iran-Contra, Watergate etc.) and then to find their place in history, often by reaching across to the other party-- thinking Clinton on welfare reform, etc.  Bush I think did something similar in Texas.

Bush eschewed a strategy of going from the middle in the 2004 election.  He went for a very divisive stance, an extension of the successful electoral stance of 2002.  This left him vulnerable when things started to go wrong: Katrina, Iraq etc.  The usual reservoir of political goodwill a president builds up was already spent.

I'm convinced if a US president got up there and said: 'actually, we've looked at the science.  Global Warming is a reality and we need to do something serious about it, even at a significant cost.  And the world may be running out of oil.'

that people of all sorts of ideological stripes would follow him (or her).

What the US hasn't yet managed to do is throw up that leader.

"I'm convinced if a US president got up there and said: 'actually, we've looked at the science.  Global Warming is a reality and we need to do something serious about it, even at a significant cost.  And the world may be running out of oil.'"

I'm convinced that if a presidential candidate did this they would see their funding evaporate and support from their party apparatus disappear. A sitting president would find her or himself blocked by a recalcitrant congress and s/he would be a lame duck from that point on. Populist politicians in this country only go so far.  

As I said, I don't hate the guy in an emotional sense, quite admire him as a politician.

What fascinates me is that bullying smirk, and why people don't pick up on it.

In TV-driven politics, it is the guy who signals himself as the smirking alpha-male, as the confident, non-flip/flopping  ape instead of the wavering one with sweat on his upper lips, who is going to win the body language debate.

I think that is quite a good point, although the rest of your comment shows you don't understand where I am coming from and/or I didn't explain myself very well.

 Although when I did watch the debates, I thought Kerry slaughtered Bush (albeit Kerry then blew his on foot off with that Mary Chenney remark)-- Kerry was all poised, thinking on his feet, Bush was almost flabbergasted, flapping.

You'll note, btw, that I haven't mentioned the Bush verbal malaproprisms-- I've said it before, I'll say it again, I don't think he is stupid, I think he is close-minded.  On his general body language, again it looks like a false swagger to me, somebody trying to fill boots that he can't fill.  Reagan was a natural, Clinton was a natural, Bush just radiates a kind of falseness.

(note: although I voted for Blair, I always thought he was a phony.  Blair has a different kind of smirk-- you can see how he is a guy who in person you can't possibly dislike, and then he can walk out of the room and stab you in the back).

PS I don't, obviously, disagree with your analysis of body language per se.

I was trying to justify my intense dislike of the man (as a president, as opposed to as a politician or a human being).

And it basically boils down to the fact that he has followed a number of deeply wrong-headed policies (to my mind) that have made the world for myself and my family a significantly more dangerous place.

In the case of Global Warming, potentially an infinitely more dangerous place.

Would you call that a tirade?  I think these things for good intellectual reasons.

What I also noted, and you have argued isn't an issue (I think) is that his body language and the way he treats people around him signals a quite unpleasant way of dealing with people.  (if it's any consolation, I never had much time for other 'charisma' politicians: Trudeau in particular.  Blair I always tried to ignore the sliminess of the guy, and focus on what he actually did.)

(QUOTE)Dick Cheney as President of the USA?

Already is...
If he were to die of a heart attack, Rummy - as deFacto VP - would step up to the stage and insert his hand in the W puppet.

I can't remember the order in the US constitution but I think it goes

President- Vice President - Secretary of State - Speaker pro tem of the House?

In which case, one of Bush's legacies would be to have created the first woman president, and the first black president.

(one thing I will give full credit to Bush for: I genuinely think he is colour blind, perhaps more so than any US president-- he likes and trusts Condi Rice).

In reality, Rumsfeld takes orders from Cheney, not the other way around.  Rumsfeld gave Cheney his first job in government (in the Nixon White House) and they are old friends, but Cheney is the driver due to his closeness to Bush.

See Mann, James Rise of the Vulcans -- an excellent history of the Bush foreign policy group.

Succession order was last revised under Truman and would follow this order in the current admin;

    * The Vice President Richard Cheney
    * Speaker of the House John Dennis Hastert
    * President pro tempore of the Senate1 Ted Stevens
    * Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
    * Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson
    * Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
    * Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
    * Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne
    * Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns
    * Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez2
    * Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao3
    * Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt
    * Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson
    * Secretary of Transportation Vacant
    * Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman
    * Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings
    * Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson
    * Secretary of Homeland Security4 Michael Chertoff

(copied from Infoplease)

Thank you.

I have heard of Hastert and he's in some soup at the moment?, Stevens is a Senator I'd have to look up where.

There was a mock 'documentary' about GWB being assassinated on our TV this week.  I heard it was actually quite good.

But I really, really hope it doesn't happen.  There's been way too much pain in American political life already.  Bush deserves to serve out his term-- his record in Texas shows that he can do some very clever bipartisan things when he wants.

I cannot think of any other democracy that has lost so many leaders to violence in the last 50 years.

(and before even: Huey Long, Truman (almost), Lincoln, Garfield?)

"speaking so of course the highways system get shut down"

Finally, Bush does something to save energy.  

Electricity to produce light to produce electricity to produce hydrogen to produce electricity to run an electric car. Nice. Is is possible we have too many steps here or was this, somehow, an unintentional metaphor for the conference?

Key question here is.  Which makes more sense?  To provide electricity to produce hydrogen to produce electricity to run a car.  Or. To produce electricity to be stored in batteries to run a car.  This key question needs to be answered when thinking about how to invest one's dollars -- whether privately or by the government.

Of course, if we substitute grid based electric trains or light rail for cars, we can bypass the storage issue.  But that would be thinking and acting out of the box.  

To provide electricity to produce hydrogen to produce electricity to run a car.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but i think the point of making Hydrogen is to store the electricity for use when desired.  aka, the Hydrogen is your battery.

You could argue that taking the original energy and moving it straight to the car is most efficient, but the problem with that is delivering the energy when you need it.  the hydrogen/battery perform that function, holding energy til its ready to be used.

I agree. But is it better to store electricity in a battery or store it as hydrogen, keeping in mind the cost of fuels cells and the cost of producing hydrogen.  
On that you may have a point, but the basic need for storing energy until we are ready to use it is still going to be a critical piece of the equation.

From the reading I've done, I think the hydrogen idea is a bit unrealistic also, but the main constraint I worry about there is materials needed for the catalyst are not materials we are just swimming in.

Semantics is one big problem. When renewable fuels/energy get distilled down to ethanol to the exclusion of everthing else, we have to wonder whose controlling this "ouigi" board.
At present in NA, ethanol is little more than a "feel-good" mostly for FUV/bigass gas truck drivers who the "live green, go yellow" crowd hope wont notice the 25% mileage hit. Does corn ethanol really matter?
Diesel moves this planet. Virtually every commercial operation is(or should/could be)using clean/er
diesel tek. Decentralizing transport fuel production(no empty backhauls)is crucial. And more trucks on rail.
Hybrid tek will continue to make sense as efficiency/pricing improves.
Ditto wind and solar energy. I cant wait to see a partial wind or solar ship either.
The "gorilla" in the room for all renewables is cheap imported crude. If anything needs a tariff/tax, its that.
So did anybody at that conference talk about EROI, besides Khosla's flippant remark?  I mean, even the ethanol believers only promise an EROI of 1.3 or so.  Was there talk of the shift to coal as the process heat input?

Regarding "cellulosic" solving the food/fuel dilemma, no way...  Either it will be grown on areas that food is, or could be, grown on, or it will be grown on land that is currently not used for agriculture for good reasons (erosion control, lack of water...).  And it will compete for the same depleting water sources.  And no high-yield crop can be grown repeatedly on the same soil without fertilizer inputs.  Go that route and the US will be as dependent on fertilizer imports as N. Korea is.

"no high-yield crop can be grown repeatedly on the same soil without fertilizer inputs. "

What if you extract the sugars, or the carbohydrates, and return the manure, or ash, or whatever is left (after using it for feed or methane generation (like E3)) to the soil?

Does that solve the problem?

What if the land is flooded periodically in a way that leaves silt behind ?

Best Hopes,


You mean in the way that many rivers use to flood regularly before we started damming them to prevent flooding and to generate electricity?

Of course, dams have added more acreage than have affected negatively.  And "bottom lands" are risky to plant in.

My father estimates that 3 out of 10 years his bottomlands on the Elkhorn will flood (no dam upstream) so he only uses it for grazing despite being quite fertile.

If a flood control dam was built upstream, he would plant this land.

On the Lower Mississippi, no dams.

Best Hopes,


You're pointing out something that I think is critical to understand about our ag system. It is dependent on human control (at least to and extent) of the water system.

It is highly unlikely that we could support our current population of 6.5 billion without that control.

I suspect your father's decision not to plant that land was based on economics. Would that decision change if he was only trying to feed people and not make money? And what would the difference be in the way he would farm that land?

On the lower Mississippi they may not have damns, but don't they have lots of dykes and levies? I remember reading that the Army CoE was having to shore up dykes in certain areas in order to prevent the river from changing its course - a course far away from N.O.

Thanks for the conference play-by-play HO.
Re: Amory Lovins talked about making cars with advanced materials, so that they would be lighter, safer, and that you could then still drive your SUV, but that you would get 65 mpg... Largely it seemed taken from his latest book. He did not seem really aware of the NG supply problem, since he talked about its use as part of the solution.... (And he promptly left)

Up in the really high Rockies, where Amory lives, they don't use natural gas! It's all natural up there, for sure, but in a different kind of way.

Promptly left? As Benjamin Franklin said, Time is Money.

<rant>Its amazing to me how much we are all stuck on the automobile culture, when a little common sense could go a long way towards solving the problems of energy and growth in the USA
Why in the world would anyone want an SUV that gets 65 miles per gallon? Why not a reasonable sized vehicle that gets 130 miles per gallon? In most cities in America we sit for an hour each way in a vehicle going to and from a job sitting at a computer with a telephone and a fax. Whats wrong with telecommuting? It would save a huge amount of time and wear and tear on folks to just stay home and work.
  The same with electric vehicles. If the vehicle is smaller and the commutes are shorter, who needs a vehicle that gets 400 miles of range from fueling? Electric cars are already practicable for people who travel less than 100 miles a day if they can be plugged in overnight or in a public garage.
In this part of the world the good ol US medicare system bought a free wheelchair running on electricity for all disabled people. They use them for short errands like grocery store runs and plug in to charge. Totally illegal and unsafe, but they're poor and use them anyway.
  Surely short run vehicles like this or the red Chinese electric scooters could meet most needs, with bicycles for the non-lardass folks. Even (ghasp) walking!
  My point is that with a little imagination we could all cut our energy useage, end foreign oil dependence and and save money. Maybe even the Republicans could continue to live in their all white gated community suburbs and self righteously purchase hugely expensive gasoline. Every American has a God-given right to be a fool. Why don't we try thinking outside the steel and fiberglass box stuck in traffic with the CD player onbelching smog and financing the Terrorists.  
You can't dictate to people how they live their lives.

What you can do is balance the public and the private interest.

Gated communities work for many people, not only Republicans.  Think of any retirement community.  Any Upper West Side apartment building is a gated community, in its most urban form. If you are old up there, you can have your groceries delivered, and hardly ever go out.

SUVs have a role too, although I think they have run amok: the cost to other human beings of their use (eg in traffic safety) has not been properly priced in.

We need to create incentives (like carbon taxation) for people to live lives which threaten less direct harm to the future of our life on this planet.

And we need to change the ethos-- we need to tap some of the emotional roots that conservatism draws on, to remember that human beings are animals of belief, faith as well as analytical creatures of pure reason.  The scientist Edward O. Wilson, of sociobiology fame, has written a book about reconciling science, evangelical religion and environmentalism. =0393062171

The Creation

The Creation is E. O. Wilson's most important work since the publications of Sociobiology and Biophilia. Like Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, it is a book about the fate of the earth and the survival of our planet. Yet while Carson was specifically concerned with insecticides and the ecological destruction of our natural resources, Wilson, the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner, attempts his new social revolution by bridging the seemingly irreconcilable worlds of fundamentalism and science. Like Carson, Wilson passionately concerned about the state of the world, draws on his own personal experiences and expertise as an entomologist, and prophesies that half the species of plants and animals on Earthcould either have gone or at least are fated for early extinction by the end of our present century.

Astonishingly, The Creation is not a bitter, predictable rant against fundamentalist Christians or deniers of Darwin. Rather, Wilson, a leading "secular humanist," draws upon his own rich background as a boy in Alabama who "took the waters," and seeks not to condemn this new generations of Christians but to address them on their own terms. Conceiving the book as an extended letter to a southern Baptist minister, Wilson, in stirring language that can evoke Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail," tells this everyman minister how, in fact, the world really came to be. He pleads with these men of the cloth to understand the cataclysmic damage that is destroying our planet and asks for their help in preventing the destruction of our Earth before it is too late. Never a pessimist, Wilson avers that there are solutions that may yet save the planet, and believes that the vision that he presents in The Creation is one that both scientists and pastors can accept, and work on together in spite of their fundamental ideological differences. 25 line drawings.

First, I really appreciate getting this report from the conference.

Secondly, I would encourage all readers who do not now use a bicycle for transportation, to get one, and begin using it at least once a week for necessary errands, such as a shopping trip.  This assumes the trip is less than 3 miles.  You will feel much better, you'll have more money in your pocket from the gas you don't burn up, and the air won't be as polluted.

You may find you like it so much that you will use the bike more than once a week!  For those of you hopelessly out in the suburbs, more than 3 miles from a store, you could still bike, but it would be more of a challenge.

"You may find you like it so much that you will use the bike more than once a week!"

Yeah, if you got a death wish. I'll stick to walking or taking the bus thank you very muchh.

Exactly.  Weather in Kentucky as I drove home just after 1:00AM:  40 degrees, pretty nice wind, and drizzling rain on and off.

I also had about 6 bags of groceries in the car with me.  Three miles or thirty....bicycle?  Don't think so....Bicycles as usable transportation are such a fantasy they make the wind/solar electric car ideas look absolutely mainstream.

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

Hmmm... that doesn't sound like weather much worse than Holland (or Denmark) and they do make it work. 60% of journeys in Groeningen are by bicycle or foot.

The UK data is most journeys (90%) are less than 5 miles.  So perfect for a bicycle, and in urban areas, no slower (congestion).  China has a much tougher climate, and makes bicycles work.

The problem is we've made the roads too dangerous for cycles, and there is this death spiral: fewer cyclists means it is more dangerous for the remaining ones, so fewer people cycle, and so on downwards.

Only now in the Uk are we beginning to count the cost of this: environmentally, and in terms of our health, obesity etc. (90% of UK kids do not walk or cycle to school).

This depends on where you live. I found them quite adequate in Germany and find them more than adequate in Boulder. For certain functions, of course, you need an enclosed vehicle, but not for all. And, of course, if you live close to a grocery store, you can walk home your groceries with a cart (which I used to do in Germany).  

Not to mention the fact that regular use is quite helpful in keeping yourself fit and healthy.  

Bicycles are apparently a rediculous fantasy for you but that apparently has a lot to do with where you live.

It never stops raining where you live, and it is always cold?

You asked,

"It never stops raining where you live, and it is always cold?"

I don't know if that question was aimed at me, but I will answer it anyway because I have tried this walk bike thing, so I learned the hard way.

Yes, there are days it does not rain at all.  In fact, there are days that it does not rain all week.  The problem is (and central KY is no different than much of the country on this) that when you leave the house, you often do not have any  idea which one of the two you are going to confront on your way to and from where you are going.  So you better be heavily outfitted with rain gear and able to get it on fast.  If you have an office job, it poses different problems.
I recently did a long post on this subject that I don't want to have to dig back out right now, but I made the case of a young woman I work with who due to having lost her ability to drive has to walk or bike.  She came to office sopping wet on a couple of occassions after leaving her home in what was said to be "clear skies" with only scattered thunderstorms predicted.  In the world today, the office managers do NOT expect such an unprofessional look. As far as cold/heat, remember that it does little good to bike unless you give up the car completely (the fixed legal costs, registration, taxes and insurance far exceed the amount of fuel a car uses) so that if you now rely on the bike, what do you do for the three or four monthes with NO transportation due to cold (I am laying aside the mid summer when you will come into work with the big sweat patches under your arms, although again, your office manager will be sure to notice it quickly at the first meeting of the day)?  Trust me, friends get tired of you having to ask for rides VERY quickly.

Another female friend I have walked to work, about 4 miles each way.  Leaving aside the weather and the muggers, she made the mistake of stepping in a hole in the pavement just after dark one night, just after the time changed (Daylight Saving Time).  She broke an ankle.  With no car, she could not even get to the doctor and with no health insurance, she had nothing to live on or pay medical bills.  She had only recently moved to the town and had to rely on near strangers to survive. She was put out of work completely until she could walk again (if she could have driven, she at least could have used crutches to get around in only a week or so).  She was frankly terrified.  But, I guess she could take pride that she was saving fuel so that the SUV crowd would have to pay less for it.

What a joke.

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

"In fact, there are days that it does not rain all week."

I love this sentance! I am not being facetious. I don't know how closely you were paying attention to the composition of it, but I think it is a marvelous notion. Thank you - you made me smile!

Your was about 4AM when I wrote it.....but as Larry the Cable guy said, "That's funny, I don't care who ya' are!".  :-)

RC, known to you as ThatsItImout

In general your points are very good.

I do wonder what may happen at the margins of car ownership, expecially in big cities, with such things as Segways, and car-sharing services.  I'm especially fascinated by car-sharing services.  I think they have the potential, with computerized internet scheduling and expanded usage that allows high % utilization combined with good availability, to be really useful.


Great points, and you are really on to something there.  The old idea of the "station car" has always seemed a great way to reduce fuel consumption, i.e. combine the electrified rail for longer communtes, and have autos at the suburb end and at the downtown station get in a station car out in the suburbs which stays overnight at your home, and drive to the train station, then take the train into town, and pickup another small station car to get to the office, to lunch, to stores, etc., throughout the redeposit the station car at the station and get back on the train and ride out into the suburb...and swap to the other car for your ride to your home.

It would be purely a financial logistical problem, and due to the short distance the car would go and the fact that it would be at the station or at the home overnights, it could even be an electric and be recharged and serviced there.  Technically already viable, but due to a minimum of lost convenience, it would only work if fuel prices were very high or fuel was harder to get.

Some friend and I once looked at a plan for the Louisville KY market.  Seeing that most of the suburban development was going to the "East end" of the city, we concieved of a plan using a large river launch or hydrofoil running up and down the river from the suburban prosperous east end down to the downtown office areas on the Ohio River front.  The launch(s) could have carried easily 400 or more passengers, and only 4 or 6 of them would have reduced highway congestion, fuel consumption, and CO2 emissions, plus been a beautiful scenic way to get back and forth to work!

This was discussed in the fuel crisis days of the late 1970's-early '80's, and of course when gasoline prices collapsed, the whole idea fell on it's face, (kind of like the last few months, diji vu' all over again, as Yogi would say :-(, but it would work in a real longer term energy emergency)

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

Well, one purpose for car-sharing is to enable rail.  Another is to take advantage of the fact the average vehicle is only used about an hour per day, so a shared car is cheaper. Finally, they allow intensive use of more efficient vehicles, either HEV, PHEV, or EV.  

Now, the initial market is for people who use cars rarely.  Currently people use them for groceries for an hour or two, and they have to return them to their starting point - it's round-trip.  But if you want to get commuters involved, you have to be able to use them like a taxi, from point to point one-way, in order to not tie them up all day (or night).

When these services ramp up, I expect them to have enough cars to allow one-way trips, and then they'll become really convenient, as well as cheaper.  When they become MORE convenient than owned cars, because you can pick one up almost anywhere and go where you want and drop it off and forget about it, then everything changes.