oil addiction

Post image for Rep. Jeff Flake’s Commonsense Fix for Cellulosic Biofuel Folly

In his 2006 State of the Union message, President G.W. Bush famously (and falsely) declared that America is “addicted to oil.” As a solution, Bush proposed to “fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn but from wood chips and stalks or switch grass.” He set a “goal” to “make this new kind of ethanol [a.k.a. cellulosic] practical and competitive within six years.”

Congress heeded the call, and in late 2007 passed the Energy Independence and Security Act. EISA mandated the sale of 36 gallons of biofuel by 2022, with 21 billion gallons to come from “advanced” (lower-carbon) biofuels, of which 16 billion gallons must be cellulosic.

Well, it’s now six years later, and cellulosic ethanol is still a taxpayer-subsidized science project. EISA (p. 32) required refiners to sell 100 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol in 2010, 250 million gallons in 2011, and 500 million gallons in 2012. Reality repeatedly forced the EPA to dumb down the mandated quantities (to 6.5 million gallons in 2010, 6.0 million in 2011, and 8.65 million in 2012). Even those symbolic targets proved to be too ambitious, because, as a commercial commodity, cellulosic biofuel still does not exist.

Nonetheless, the EPA fines refiners millions of dollars for failure to sell this non-existent fuel. Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake has a commonsense solution, H.R. 6047, the Phantom Fuel Reform Act. [click to continue…]

The Myth of Oil Addiction

by Marlo Lewis on September 1, 2011

Post image for The Myth of Oil Addiction

It’s a trick employed by rhetoricians from time immemorial. When their case against an opponent is unpersuasive on the merits, they invoke the image of something their target audience fears or hates. Thus, for example, political pleaders have asserted that money, Dick Cheney, or Zionism “is a cancer on the body politic.”

Perhaps the most influential use of this tactic in modern times is the attack on carbon dioxide (CO2) as “global warming pollution” and on CO2 emitters as “polluters.” Many who know better, including highly credentialed scientists, routinely couple the words “carbon” and “pollution” in their public discourse.

In reality, CO2 — like water vapor, the atmosphere’s main greenhouse gas — is a natural constituent of clean air. Colorless, odorless, and non-toxic to humans at 30 times ambient concentrations, CO2 is an essential building block of the planetary food chain. The increase in the air’s CO2 content since the dawn of the industrial revolution — from 280 to 390 parts per million – boosts the water-use efficiency of trees, crops, and other plants; helps protect green things from the damaging effects of smog and UV-B radiation; and helps make food more plentiful and nutritious. The many health and welfare benefits of atmospheric CO2 enrichment make CO2 unlike any other substance ever previously regulated as a “pollutant.”

A closely related abuse of the English languge is the oft-repeated claim that America is “addicted to oil.” Although popularized by a Texas oil man, former President G.W. Bush, the phrase is a rhetorical staple of the same folks who inveigh against “carbon pollution.” NASA scientist James Hansen, arguably the world’s most famous carbonophobe besides Al Gore, recently denounced the Keystone XL Pipeline as a “dirty needle” that, if approved, would feed our supposed oil addiction. [click to continue…]