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More Climate Propaganda

Yesterday’s post was an amazing video showing how climate change deniers cast doubt on the science when there really is not any significant scientific doubt. But there are many other ways that propaganda is used by the climate deniers.

For example, in 2012 the New York Times (the poster child for the supposed left-wing media) published an article titled “A Fine for Not Using a Biofuel That Doesn’t Exist“. The biofuel in question is cellulosic ethanol, which is a form of fuel alcohol made from agricultural waste products like corn stalks and cobs, leaves, wood chips, and other plant residue.

On the surface their article sounds reasonable – why should fuel suppliers have to pay a fine for not blending in a fuel that doesn’t exist?

Conservative media outlets jumped on the story. The Wall Street Journal published an editorial saying “Congress subsidized a product that didn’t exist”, while Fox News called the fuel “merely hypothetical”. The National Review Online went one step further, saying that the “EPA might as well mandate that Exxon hire leprechauns.” But my favorite quote is from The Daily Caller, which blames the whole thing on Obama:

First, President Obama decided that the government can punish consumers if they don’t buy a particular product (e.g., health insurance). Now, his administration has decided that the government can punish consumers if they don’t buy a product that can’t be purchased because it doesn’t exist.

Well, first of all, the law mandating the use of cellulosic ethanol was passed by Congress in 2007. So it is difficult to imagine how the Obama administration, which didn’t exist until 2009, is responsible for that law. Not only did Dubya sign it, it was passed with broad bipartisan support.

But the big lie is that the fuel didn’t exist. Of course it existed. The whole point of the law was to create incentives to dramatically increase production of the fuel, which generates an amazing 96% less greenhouse gasses than gasoline because it uses raw materials that often get burned as waste.

And the law worked. There is now a cellulosic ethanol facility in Iowa which can convert 570 million pounds of crop waste into 25 million gallons of ethanol each year. And that facility is the first of three such plants scheduled to start production this year.

This is great news in the fight against climate change and it also significantly reduces our dependence on foreign oil. But of course, none of the right-wing media outlets mentioned it. Personally, I’m waiting for the National Review to write an article admitting that it was wrong, that leprechauns do exist.



  1. Jon wrote:

    Here’s an experiment for you:

    Fill your tank with gasoline of a particular octane, that you know to be ethanol-free. Run it close to empty, refill the tank, and divide the number of miles travelled by gallons needed to refill.
    Now, do the same thing using gasoline containing 10% ethanol and, under similar driving conditions and at the same altitude (altitude above sea level is important), again divide the number of miles travelled by gallons needed to refill.

    Compare the results AND conduct this experiment as many times as you like, in order to confirm the results… keeping in mind that crop waste also makes excellent compost.

    Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at 4:34 pm | Permalink
  2. Iron Knee wrote:

    I always got better milage using gasoline with 10% ethanol, and I tested it dozens of times back when ethanol was an optional additive. Now I think it is required in most states (to reduce pollution), at least for part of the year, so I’m not sure how someone could test this any more. Quite a few states do not require labeling when ethanol is used as an additive, so you might not be able to tell.

    I have read that because ethanol has a much higher octane rating than gasoline, it should use much higher compression ratios. Most current automobile engines have a relatively low compression ratio so they are less efficient in burning ethanol. According to Wikipedia, if you increase the compression ratio to 19.5, then ethanol produces the same amount of energy, gallon-for-gallon, as gasoline.

    Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at 6:04 pm | Permalink