Thursday, June 12, 2008

What's botherin' me today?

Greeting Extraterrestrials...

You might think I'm nervous about tonight's game. Surprisingly I'm not. I hate to stick my neck out but I'm pretty confident about tonight's outcome. Look for big games from LO and Pau as well as more contributions from our role players.

But there are other venues for this kind of chatter.

Here's what's really bothering me...

Same stuff that's probably bothering anyone else possessing an ounce of moral indignity. Energy.

There are many types of energy out there, some good, some bad. The good kind I can live with. Spiritual energy, positive energy, the kind of energy that keeps an 8 year-old going at full speed 16 hours a day. Those are fine.

The other know what I'm talking about.

Check this out from

If you don't feel like reading all of this then here's my summary. The huge agri-foods corporations along with their buddies in Washington are now touting Agro-fuels as the answer to our current energy crisis. Seems to me that in spite of significant fallacies, we are being fed (no pun intended) a load of crap. ADM, Cargill, and Bunge are chomping at the bit to cash in on an industry they see as being the next big boon in energy - if they play their cards right. The part that incenses me the most is that they are marching under the banner of creating a cleaner environment and sustainable energy while relieving our dependence on foreign oil.

Don't worry, in the end they'll all burn in hell.

Myth #1: Agro-fuels are clean and green
Because photosynthesis from fuel crops removes greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and can reduce fossil fuel consumption, we are told fuel crops are green. But when the full "life cycle" of agro-fuels is considered -- from land clearing to automotive consumption -- the moderate emission savings are undone by far greater emissions from deforestation, burning, peat drainage, cultivation and soil carbon losses. Every ton of palm oil produced results in 33 tons of carbon dioxide emissions -- 10 times more than petroleum. Clearing tropical forests for sugarcane ethanol emits 50 percent more greenhouse gases than the production and use of the same amount of gasoline.

There are other environmental problems as well. Industrial agro-fuels require large applications of petroleum-based fertilizers, whose global use has more than doubled the biologically available nitrogen in the world, contributing heavily to the emission of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

To produce a liter of ethanol takes three to five liters of irrigation water and produces up to 13 liters of waste water. It takes the energy equivalent of 113 liters of natural gas to treat this waste, increasing the likelihood that it will simply be released into the environment. Intensive cultivation of fuel crops also leads to high rates of erosion.

Myth #2: Agro-fuels will not result in deforestation
Proponents of agro-fuels argue that fuel crops planted on ecologically degraded lands will improve, rather than destroy, the environment. Perhaps the government of Brazil had this in mind when it re-classified some 200 million hectares of dry tropical forests, grassland and marshes as "degraded" and apt for cultivation. In reality, these are the bio-diverse ecosystems of the Mata Atlantica, the Cerrado and the Pantanal, occupied by indigenous people, subsistence farmers and extensive cattle ranches.

The introduction of agro-fuel plantations will simply push these communities to the "agricultural frontier" of the Amazon where deforestation will intensify. Soybeans supply 40 percent of Brazil's biodiesel. NASA has positively correlated their market price with the destruction of the Amazon rainforest -- currently at nearly 325,000 hectares a year.

Myth #3: Agro-fuels will bring rural development
In the tropics, 100 hectares dedicated to family farming generates 35 jobs. Oil palm and sugarcane provide 10 jobs, eucalyptus two and soybeans just one half-job per 100 hectares, all poorly paid. Until this boom, agro-fuels primarily supplied local markets, and even in the United States, most ethanol plants were small and farmer-owned. Big Oil, Big Grain and Big Genetic Engineering are rapidly consolidating control over the entire agro-fuel value chain.

The market power of these corporations is staggering: Cargill and ADM control 65 percent of the global grain trade, Monsanto and Syngenta a quarter of the $60 billion gene-tech industry. This market power allows these companies to extract profits from the most lucrative and low-risk segments of the value chain -- hundreds of thousands of small farmers have already been displaced by soybean plantations in South America.

Myth #4: Agro-fuels will not cause hunger
Hunger, said Amartya Sen, results not from scarcity, but poverty. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, there is enough food in the world to supply everyone with a daily 3,500-calorie diet of grains, fresh fruit, nuts, vegetables, dairy and meat.

Nonetheless, because they are poor, 824 million people continue to go hungry. If current trends continue, some 1.2 billion people could be chronically hungry by 2025 -- 600 million more than previously predicted. World food aid will not likely come to the rescue because surpluses will go into our gas tanks. What is urgently needed is massive transfers of food-producing resources to the rural poor, not converting land to fuel production.

Myth #5: Better "second-generation" agrofuels are just around the corner
Proponents of agro-fuels argue that current agro-fuels made from food crops will soon be replaced with environmentally friendly crops like fast-growing trees and switchgrass. This myth, wryly referred to as the "bait and switchgrass" shell game, makes food-based fuels socially acceptable.

The agro-fuel transition transforms land use on a massive scale, pitting food production against fuel production for land, water and resources. The issue of which crops are converted to fuel is irrelevant. Wild plants cultivated as fuel crops won't have a smaller "environmental footprint." They will rapidly migrate from hedgerows and woodlots onto arable lands to be intensively cultivated like any other industrial crop, with all the associated environmental externalities.

Agro-fuel: a new industrial revolution?

The International Energy Agency estimates that over the next 23 years, the world could produce as much as 147 million tons of agro-fuel. This will be accompanied by a lot of carbon, nitrous oxide, erosion and more than two billion tons of waste water. Remarkably, this fuel will barely offset the yearly increase in global oil demand, now standing at 136 million tons a year -- not offsetting any of the existing demand.

The agro-fuel transition is based on a 200-year relation between agriculture and industry that began with the Industrial Revolution. The invention of the steam engine promised an end to drudgery. As governments privatized common lands, dispossessed peasants supplied cheap farm and factory labor. Cheap oil and petroleum- based fertilizers opened up agriculture itself to industrial capital.

Mechanization intensified production, keeping food prices low and industry booming. The last 100 years have seen a threefold global shift to urban living with as many people now living in cities as in the countryside. The massive transfer of wealth from agriculture to industry, the industrialization of agriculture, and the rural-urban shift are all part of the "agrarian transition," transforming most of the world's fuel and food systems and establishing non-renewable petroleum as the foundation of today's multi-trilliondollar agri-foods industry.

The pillars of this agri-foods industry are the great grain corporations, including ADM, Cargill and Bunge. They are surrounded by an equally formidable consolidation of agro-chemical, seed and machinery companies on the one hand and food processors, distributors and supermarket chains on the other.

Like the original agrarian transition, the present agro-fuels transition will "enclose the commons" by industrializing the remaining forests and prairies of the world. It will drive the planet's remaining smallholders, family farmers and indigenous peoples to the cities. This government-industry collusion has the potential to funnel rural resources to urban centers in the form of fuel, concentrating industrial wealth. But this time, there is no cheap fuel to drive industrial expansion and there will be no jobs for the masses of people displaced from the countryside. Millions of people may be pushed farther into poverty.[end]

Hee Haw

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