Thursday, March 29, 2007

monsanto brand ethanol

Why Monsanto loves ethanol - Salon - wait for ad
For some time, How the World Works has been convinced that the rush to biofuels will significantly boost the ongoing rollout of genetically modified organisms. There's just too much money at stake in the energy business for it to be otherwise. The popularity of the latest biotech crops is a perfect illustration of this. These seeds aren't cheap -- they are top-of-the-line products. But for well-financed farmers and industrial-scale agribusinesses aiming to cash in on ethanol demand, seed costs are not a significant barrier. It seems reasonable to expect, in the not-too-distant future, quadruple- and quintuple- and sextuple-stacked hybrids that do all kinds of fancy things such as incorporate herbicide resistance, targeted pesticides, and modifications that make the corn cheaper and easier to industrially transform into ethanol.

Another reason to kill subsidies for ethanol. Amber waves of intellectual property set to line the pockets of Monsanto.

I guess, in sum, it is a fine thing that humans won't be eating this stuff. Especially since it can only be a matter of time before a sprinkling of human DNA ends up in the corn along with the rest of the genetic melange.

Ear of corn, ear of man, who is counting.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

the tip of his brain is visible above water

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

out, filthy baboon!

Baboon Behavior Behind Wind Projects
On a visit to the Kruger National Park in South Africa in 1980, a band of these monkeys (sic, ed) proceeded to attack our vehicle as it drove down a public road. The experience was most threatening since the rabid behavior of these primates attempted to intimidate any human they came across.
Much like what is in store for towns that invite in industrial wind developers, the monkey's paw brings with it a terrible outcome. Allowing baboons to enter our communities has already developed a depressed existence for everyone who cares about a balance in the natural order. Taming the monkeys means shipping them out of our neighborhoods. The freak show that the wind developers peddle has Enron written all over it. The promise of local benefits at the price of living with industrial machines is too high for any sensible person to covet. Accepting the allure of the siren's call brings the noise of turbine tyranny. It is analogous to making a bargain with the devil. - - "Sartre"

Though I may wish it, there is nothing I may do to parody this nutball collection of mismatched paragraphs and ideas:

vicious and bloodthirsty
wind power
wind developers
monkey's paw
the devil (also, enron)

Aghast, having thought I already soaked the humor from this particular bunch, (read here) I can only add that if you are a humble citizen of Cohocton, and you run across this "Sartre" character while gadding about,

- please assume he is armed, dangerous, and mad as a hatter. Packing sweaty, hairy palms.

I do understand the hesitation of some to allow wind turbines to be plopped down in pastoral farm settings which have existed for centuries. There is a contrast to the West side of the continent, as opposed to New York, in which endless miles of empty space which stand to be substantially prettified with wind turbines. In some cases, they might well be built around the bones of derelict stripper wells and natural gas piping.

Oh, how the aesthetes must have moaned, when the first paved roads were put in. And maybe they were right. Change is nonetheless rushing in like maglev train, and this is in large part due to the culture of energy dependance which we in the western world have constructed. The blight we have for so long deferred and channeled along the interstate has now landed, finally, in our own back yards.

If these wind turbines truely are a blight, they are just deserts. We could - and have - done worse.

"They think I'm crazy, but I know better. It is not I who am crazy, it is I who am MAD! Can't you hear them? Can't you see the crowds? Oh, my beloved ice cream bar. How I love to lick your creamy center! And your oh-so-nutty chocolate covering! You're not like the others, you like the same things I do! Wax paper, boiled football leather- DOG BREATH! We're not hitch-hiking anymore! We're riding!... Oh no! I know what you want! You've coveted my ice cream bar! No you don't! You can't take it from me now! I've had it ever since I was a child. Everywhere I go, people always try to take it from me! Why won't they leave.. me.. ALOOONNNNNE!!!"

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

he came as a rat

What drives biofuel Bush?
Brazilian President Lula da Silva, the former metalworker, posing as a world leader in front of the powerful Sao Paulo industrial/agribusiness bourgeoisie - delighted that they may soon become the new sheikhs of a Green Saudi Arabia - as he struck a biofuel agreement with US President George "Social Justice" Bush.

It will be a long and winding road. Brazil produces 17.5 billion liters of ethanol a year. It plans to step up to 30 billion liters by 2012. But the US will need 132 billion liters a year to reach the goal of 20% reduction in its consumption of gasoline. For the moment, 90% of Brazil's ethanol is for the internal market. And the hefty, protectionist 54-US-cent tariff on every gallon (3.785 liters) of Brazilian ethanol imported to the US won't be renegotiated before 2009.

This must be why the Bush Administration is out to cut research for an actual renewable resource, geothermal energy. Can only stretch the dollar so far, and a decision has been made. Sugar and Corn Syrup, with a bullet.

So Americans, instead of being oil crazy, are to become flexaholics. Glug Glug. I think Bruce Sterling recently put it like this:

“We’re gonna glam, spend and consume our way into planetary survival.”

Now, I am with Mr Sterling in many respects. I wholeheartedly believe we should not constrain our future based on any anti-technology, anti design ideology. That said, biofuels of any stripe are already failed ideology, so be careful what you consume, all ye glamour pigs.

Yes, with biofuels, the threads are already unraveling from the greenwashed sweater, whether one looks to Iowa or Brazil. Sugarcane based ethanol, wherein the leavings are burned for energy during the manufacturing process, may in time prove to be as efficient as the unproven yet modestly promising cellulosic ethanol.

Modest net energy gains in the near term do not describe the damage to the globe in the long term. The basic problem is once a technology is developed, it is exploited to meet supposed crisis’s. In this case moving monkeys from point A to point B.

Brazil's Ethanol Slaves
Palmares Paulista is both a burgeoning agricultural town and a social catastrophe. "They arrive here with nothing," said Valeria Gardiano, who heads the social service department in Palmares, a town of 9,000 whose population swells each year with the influx of between 4,000 and 5,000 migrant workers.
"They have the clothes on their bodies and nothing else. They bring their children with malnutrition, their ill mothers-in-law. We try to reduce the problem. But there is no way we can fix it 100%. It is total exploitation," she said.

"They come here because they are forced from their homes by the lack of work," said Francisco Alves, a professor from nearby Sao Carlos University who has spent more than 20 years studying Sao Paulo's migrant workforce. "They will do anything to get by."

Marvelous. No need to read between the lines. Net energy gains are born on the backs of the displaced. That wouldn't be french fries we smell coming out of the back of your Bio-Car anymore.

In Iowa, slaves are not favored, rather tractors and government subsidies to prop up the illusion of a competitive fuel. However, because the subsidy is actually a energy subsidy, the final price of corn ethanol will always be indexed to the current price of oil, awl, texas tea, whatnot. TANSTAAFL.

In Brazil, in addition to the human misery which feeds the callow and pointless appetites of the bourgeoisie-consumptive wannebes, the sugarcane plantations can be seen from space and “Some of the cane plantations are the size of European states…

All this so Brazil may produce in a year:

The equivalent of 2.5 percent of the gasoline by volume that the United States consumes in a year. Adjust for ethanol energy content, and it is less than that.

I’m dumb, not stupid, but I’d have to say that we’re going to run out of Brazil before we feed the fuelish appetites of the United States of America with sugarcane bio-fuel. The Middle East was once a forest. Humans are presently changing the rest of the world along similar lines.

So what did Bush achieve in Brazil?

He added a bullet point to burnish republican geo-green street cred in a changing world.

Not a real thing. Which is like anything that comes out of Washington these days.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

a million bees cry out in horror

The theme of the day is “million”. Not as a blind stab at numerology, rather an organizing expression of the surreal ways in which our dying world acts out as Earth Services fall apart.

Below are recent news stories on Bees, Rivers, Fishies, and Camels. Ordered by importance. Frogs would be on the list but they are gone. How often does one hear a croaking frog in Suburbia, citizen? Green weaklings get their DNA unzipped. Two legs good four legs bad.

Would not it be weird if come this fall a selection of the tastiest and most nutritious crops available in the grocery stores had shrunk by a factor of one-third or two-thirds? That is to say, those formerly pollinated by North American bees.

Weird indeed, like flipping on a light switch when the power is off. We’ve come to expect more of our Dominion over the wee critters of nature.

Breathing through the air supply in the box. Need to snap out of global hypnosis.

Drumbeat. Ramming speed.

Bees - Biological Geiger Counters (Coal, Petrochemicals, GMO -ed.)
The New York Times and other major media sources have recently published scary articles about a catastrophe in the making, about a disaster that will soon have a direct impact on our collective stomachs. In 24 states throughout the country, beekeepers are getting the shock of their lives seeing hundreds of millions of their bees literally disappearing. Beekeepers go out to open their hives and find them empty. Bees are flying off in search of pollen and nectar and simply not returning to their homes, they vanish without a trace. Researchers say the bees are dying in the fields, perhaps becoming exhausted or simply disoriented and eventually falling victim to the cold. Researchers have labeled this affliction “colony collapse disorder.”

Scientists have already studied mercury levels in the head, abdomen and thorax of bees (Apis mellifera) from 20 bee populations coming from industrially contaminated areas with a dominant load of mercury (10 populations) as well as from uncontaminated areas. The following mercury levels were found in bees from the contaminated area: heads 0.029-0.385 mg/kg, thorax 0.028-0.595 mg/kg and abdomen 0.083-2.255 mg/kg. Mercury levels in samples from uncontaminated areas ranged from 0.004 to 0.024 mg/kg in the heads, from 0.004 to 0.008 mg/kg in the thorax and from 0.008 to 0.020 mg/kg in the abdomen. In honey samples from the contaminated and uncontaminated areas mercury levels ranged from 0.050 to 0.212 mg/kg and from 0.001 to 0.003 mg/kg, respectively.[iii] Researchers have also demonstrated heavy metal accumulation in honey suggested that honey may be useful for assessing the presence of environmental contaminants.[iv]

Many Major Rivers are in Danger of Dying: WWF (Coal, Oil, Natural Gas -ed.)
NEW DELHI - Climate change, pollution, over extraction of water and development are killing some of the world's most famous rivers including China's Yangtze, India's Ganges and Africa's Nile, conservation group WWF said on Tuesday.
At the global launch of its report "World's Top 10 Rivers at Risk", the Geneva-based group said many rivers could dry out, affecting hundreds of millions of people and killing unique aquatic life.
"If these rivers die, millions will lose their livelihoods, biodiversity will be destroyed on a massive scale, there will be less fresh water and agriculture, resulting in less food security," said Ravi Singh, secretary-general of WWF-India.

Up to one million fish found dead in Thai river (Global Warming, Petrochemicals -ed.)
Officials said they were still trying to determine what had caused the deaths of up to one million caged tubtim fish, a type of tilapia, at different locations along the river about 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Bangkok. Jaranthada Karnsasuta, director general of the fisheries department, said a sudden lack of oxygen in the water killed the fish.

Enduring Problem
Barnum, a federal scientist, called state Fish and Game workers and warned them: 'Be prepared for a fish kill; it's going to happen.'
In fact, it was already happening. By the next day the sea's north shore was clogged with the corpses of more than 1 million tilapia, according to Fish and Game estimates. The fish had died of a lack of oxygen after high winds churned up the lake, causing a chemical reaction that sucked the oxygen out of the water and tinged it green.

Million Fish Die In Colorado At Once - 'A Lack Of Oxygen'?
I was having a cup of tea in the kitchen when I heard a 'brief' blurb on the news telling of a million fish that had died in the Colorado River (covering an area of 7 miles). The reason given was 'lack of oxygen'. I waited to hear more on evening broadcasts (pictures) and there was NOTHING ¬ just that 30 second announcement. When I went searching I found that this was not an aberration pertaining just to the Colorado, but was happening in all parts of the country (rivers & lakes)and to put the people, who blame farmer's fertilizer at ease, many of these areas had no farms anywhere near them. Tens of thousands of fish have been found in California, Oregon, Washington State, Pennsylvania, and the Potomac etc.

Thirsty Wild Camels Rampage in Aboriginal Community (Global Warming, human stupidity -ed.)
Camels "mad with thirst" recently rampaged through the Western Desert Aboriginal community of Warakurna, damaging toilets, taps and air conditioners to find water.

"An estimated one million feral camels, whose numbers double every eight years, compete with native animals and livestock, threaten native plants, wreck fences, bores and tanks, and invade Aboriginal sites," said Glenn Edwards, from the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

we've been robbed

What's It All About, Nancy?
“Officials said Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of the leadership had decided to strip from a major military spending bill a requirement for Bush to gain approval from Congress before moving against Iran.” - Associated Press
Once again members of Congress, this time led by the Dems, have betrayed the safety of the United States to protect their political hides.

Yeah. I want my vote back. I want to vote for Nader. Let's stop the war in Iraq and start a new one in Indisrealraqranistan.

Ill tidings. March is a month for bad news.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

angry grumbles and HL

Predicting the Past: The Hubbert Linearization Robert Rapier
It is invalid to use three decades of hindsight for refining the Texas forecast, because we clearly don't have the same option with Saudi Arabia. Yet some argue that the Saudi peak can be forecast with confidence using the knowledge obtained from the case of Texas – a region in which the uncertainty of the method spanned almost 3 decades.
So, the HL has shown that it is good at forecasting the past, but can be very unreliable for predicting the future. In Part II, we will examine the evolution of the Saudi HL over time.

This is a line of reasoning that Mobjectivist has been tracing for years, although unfortunately Robert Rapier, posting on The Oil Drum, did not see fit to reference his work.

Already in a bit of a twist, I then read a few insufferable responses from Stuart Staniford. Below is my response, cross-posted to the Oil Drum article referenced.

Per claim in the Stuart quote, Rapier is NOT the discoverer of the inadequacy of Stuart's favored model.

Reading this thread, I also note that Robert Rapier fails to acknowledge the modeling contributions and similar objections of Mobjectivist (Web Hubble Telescope), a materials scientist who has been visible, active and rational in the small but growing peak oil community since May of 2004.

I'm more than scornful and less than impressed.

I've watched these threads before, as Stuart slavishly and continuously posts on a flawed technique, (One which big oil apologist Michael Lynch accurately describes as "curve fitting").

The atmosphere is so chilly towards Mobjectivist when he flatly debunks the linearization model, as he has done for well over a year, that some posters on these threads have grown confused and attacked him as if he were in opposition to the central thesis of peak oil - that is, individual reservoirs predictably deplete.

Sorry, no.

Rapier says, "Testing the model is called “validation”, or sometimes “back-casting.”"

Mobjectivist does this all the time, with multiple models. He has posted source code and equations over at his blog.

Robert Rapier, your references are incomplete if you do not acknowledge the ongoing work that Mobjectivist has done in this space.

Peak oil is something everyone has an opinion about, but at the core exists solid, empirical science. Science does not exclude ideas that are transparent and reproducible. Hubbert might agree, but it is time to stop appealing to his authority, for he is long dead.

I expect more rigor and honesty out of the subset of people in the peak oil community who have degrees which include the words "science" on them.

What are we, a cargo cult science? Hope not.

(Stuart Staniford) "I just want to add my support to Robert's great post. I agree that the key to understanding any prediction methodology is it's out-of-sample performance (...)
At any rate, I propose that we christen this phenomenon "Rapier Tail Creep" in honor of its discoverer :-)"

Friday, March 09, 2007

the gas must flow

To attempt an understanding of Bushua'Dib without understanding his mortal enemies, the Al-Qaeda, is to attempt seeing Truth without knowing Falsehood. It is the attempt to see the Light without knowing Darkness. It cannot be.
-from "Manual of Bushua'Dib" by the Princess Jenna

Thursday, March 08, 2007

1995 + 10, stated calmly in 1976

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

money floats on oil, part two

The Big Green Fuel Lie
Ethanol is nothing new in Brazil. It has been used as fuel since 1925. But the real boom came after the oil crisis of 1973 spurred the military dictatorship to lessen the country's reliance on foreign imports of fossil fuels.
But there is a darker side to this green revolution, which argues for a cautious assessment of how big a role ethanol can play in filling the developed world's fuel tank. The prospect of a sudden surge in demand for ethanol is causing serious concerns even in Brazil. The ethanol industry has been linked with air and water pollution on an epic scale, along with deforestation in both the Amazon and Atlantic rainforests, as well as the wholesale destruction of Brazil's unique savannah land.
Fabio Feldman, a leading Brazilian environmentalist (...) believes that Brazil's trailblazing switch has had serious side effects. "Some of the cane plantations are the size of European states, these vast monocultures have replaced important eco-systems," he said. "If you see the size of the plantations in the state of Sao Paolo they are oceans of sugar cane. In order to harvest you must burn the plantations which creates a serious air pollution problem in the city."

Another post card from our dark green future. One million "flex" cars a sold in Brazil in 2005, against 300k in 2005, and the results can be seen from space.

Sugar cane is the best natural bio-fuel crop, bar none. Best EROEI. And the best disaster.

Where, exactly, are these psuedo-green cars driving?

It seems important. Got to cross 15 miles, or 15 city blocks. It is hip to drive. Brazil is a big country, USA big. Gotta go - somewhere. Time to go.

Fops and technocrats point to Brazil as some kind of great green energy success.

I think not.

No one will understand what all those cars were doing, when they look back at our civilization from one hundred years hence. New fields of mathematics will be devised to uncover the truth. Mad fools will suspect an endless quest for cheese poofs and sex, and will propose unsolvable conjectures.

Negative trends in the world culture are not being reversed now that "Global Warming" is recieved wisdom. Earth services are being consumed with finality. Like the Middle East before, only faster. Desertification is the new black. The national bird of Brazil is a chainsaw.

Maybe this is the final solution. Maybe it is working.

Monday, March 05, 2007

money floats on oil

Biofuels growth hit by soaring price of grain
High grain prices are threatening the nascent biofuels industry, raising input costs and making the fuel less economic compared with oil. Agricultural commodity prices have reached long-term highs in recent days, based on forecasts of hot and dry weather conditions this year in the US which could result in lower grain yields. This comes after oil prices have fallen by a quarter from their record peaks last year.
Corn prices reached another 10-year high for the second successive day when it touched $4.31 a bushel, up five cents on the day. But the doubling of corn, a main feedstock for US ethanol producers, over the past year at a time when oil prices are at the same level they were 12 months ago has raised questions over the viability of the biofuels industry without heavy government support.

Take warning, right?

"“If you’re on the right side of the issue, just keep driving until you hear breaking glass. Don’t quit.”" - T. Boone Pickens.

Bio-Fuels are viable when recycling previously processed fuel stock, like fryer grease or methane decomposing from garbage heaps.

Other than that, and in particular, when using corn as a feedstock, Bio-Fuels are completely bonkers and doomed to fail, like every other half-witted perpetual motion machine that has come down the pike.

And now, the evidence is coming in to support the arithmetic, on account of all the fools who ignored the arithmetic. The dead metaphor being, this stuff ain't rocket science. Go ahead. Pour what is left of the midwestern topsoil into a six cylinder energy sink. Jerk.

Also re-iterated here is the fact that money is irrelevant when energy runs to depletion. Energy defines money, not the other way around. The capacity existing to achieve industrial goals, like laundering useful energy into corn, and then back out again, is dependant not on government "subsidies" but rather government "energy".

For now, you can still buy gasoline for 3 dollars a gallon or less in the U.S., but watch the markets this week. The shift underway might well be seismic. China just threw down on our t-bills.

And finally, one house-keeping note - Sorry for my extended absence. I had the flu, and it really sucked. But guess what - - it turns out not to have been bird flu, and thus I'm back on the horse. Not dead yet! Thus, I am not a bee.