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To Introduce Environmentalists To Political Reality



Grist is part of that unthinking – the fat and thick end – of environmentalism. Which is why they ask questions like this:

Why won’t Joe Biden let ethanol die already?

Because that’s what happens when you legislate a stupidity. There is no a political interest behind the continuation of that stupidity.

Ethanol started out because varied environmentalists couldn’t do sums. Yes, it’s true that there are CO2 emissions from the use of fossil fuels. So, if we use something other than fossil fuels to power our cars then we’ll have fewer emissions from the car tailpipes. This is true and obvious.

But in a fossil fuel powered society the production of that something else will also have emissions. This is true of electricity in batteries – if we’re using a coal fired power plant then we’ll be increasing emissions – coal has higher emissions, even before transmission losses, that petrol per unit of motion created. This is also true of growing plants to cook them to make ethanol to put in cars.

When those actual sums were done we find out that ethanol in petrol increases total emissions. It’s a bad idea.

However, having created the subsidy to get it going ever farmer in Iowa will now vote against anyone who suggests cutting that subsidy. Iowa is the start of every American presidential election cycle.

Any government program creates a political constituency for that program. That’s why bad government is so difficult to kill.



  1. All too true Tim. My favourite is Obama’s cancelling of the agreement with Japan and South Korea to build an industrial scale pyroprocessing plant for dealing with spent nuclear fuel. Paying off the Japs and Koreans for breach of contract cost the US taxpayers more than building the plant would have.

    But the plant would have solved the ‘problem’ of plutonium in spent nuclear fuel by allowing it to be burnt in a reactor. It would also have meant that radioactive wastes would be about as active as uranium ore in 300 or so years. There’d be no justification for the bureaucracy needed to fuss over the millennia that their activity’d be above background level.

    Not surprisingly, a stake was driven through the heart of this evil idea.


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expunct (ɪkˈspʌŋkt)
VERB (transitive)
1. to delete or erase; blot out; obliterate
2. to wipe out or destroy

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