The unintended consequences are beginning

At the Weekly Standard, Irwin Stelzer explains that, while we don’t know how deleterious global warming might be, we do know already how damaging, for the poor, efforts to stop global warming already are.  This is especially true for ethanol, which turns food crops into fuel.  Turns out the remedial steps might not just damage the poor either:

If ethanol ever gains widespread use as a clean alternative fuel to gasoline, people with respiratory illnesses may be in trouble.

A new study out of Stanford says pollution from ethanol could end up creating a worse health hazard than gasoline, especially for people with asthma and other respiratory diseases.

“Ethanol is being promoted as a clean and renewable fuel that will reduce global warming and air pollution,” Mark Z. Jacobson, the study’s author and an atmospheric scientist at Stanford, said in a statement. “But our results show that a high blend of ethanol poses an equal or greater risk to public health than gasoline, which already causes significant health damage.”

The study appears in today’s online edition of Environmental Science & Technology, a publication of the American Chemical Society. It comes at a time when the Bush administration is pushing plans to boost ethanol production and the nation’s automakers are required by 2012 to have half their vehicles run on flex fuel, allowing the use of either gasoline or ethanol.


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  • Thomas

    Whoops, indeed, Bookworm. How come almost every time we try to “preserve” nature or be environmentally friendly, we end up damaging it more than if we just left it alone?

    I grew up in Houston out in the boonies, and I remember being taken to these preserved wetlands. I thought at the time even though I was a liberal, leftist at the time, “Hey, I thought nature was supposed to be ever-changing. Why are we locking it in place?”

    Now that I live in SoCal, the same question persist. That huge wildfire a couple years back was because environmentalists wanted to lock things in place and have things happen naturally. The result of this was a bunch of dessicated logs lying around that became as good as explosive tinderboxes when fire touched it.

    You can’t force nature to be static. You’ll just bring on disaster.

    It almost seems as though environmentalists are killing the environment!

  • Zhombre

    I question the wisdom of converting food crops to a source of energy. I have doubts that the energy required to produce a gallon of ethanol is less than the energy produced by that gallon of ethanol; even if that technical problem is overcome, I suspect ethanol production may result in severe food shortages, and the ones who suffer will not be people in developed countries, it will be those in undeveloped and impoverished countries. But I suppose for many of the ardent environmentalists, that won’t matter. They will have “clean energy.” They will prove themselves “earth-friendly”. Their consciences will be clear and as the British novelist remarked in one of his novels, there is nothing liberals avoid so much as a bad conscience, so matter how many people have to suffer for them to avoid one.

    Regarding Thomas’ observation, and the often ill effects of good intentions, I leave you with this exchange between characters in a David Mamet screenplay:

    Curtis: I f****ed up. I tried to help.
    Scott: That’s usually when people f*** up.

  • ymarsakar

    Fighting against entropy isn’t a task that should be taken on by clowns and incompetents hacks.

    Let them eat cake, if they cannot have corn is the Left’s view.

  • SGT Dave

    During my day job I look at foreign press (in original language) and the reactions to ethanol/biodiesel for the U.S. by other nations is very, very telling in tone and content. China and Venezuela have called the move an attempt to starve the third world. Please understand that the crops currently used for aid would be more profitably sold for ethanol production; the changeover in Brazil to biodiesel drove the cost of tortillas (nationally regulated in most Central and South American nations) up by 10-15%. The other costs/effects/unintended consequences are relevant, but not nearly as devastating. Raising the crop price by 5% and increasing demand to include now fallow areas would benefit U.S. farmers and be devastating to the economy of China, Russia, and a good chunk of the third world as they would have to divert resources (often already strained by corruption and overspending on military materials) to food purchases.

    That said – I’m for biodiesel/ethanol. Backed by nuclear electricity and hybrid ethanol/electric motors we could be fuel independent in twenty years. I for one am ready to let them learn to compete by lowering corruption (yes, I know we have it here, too) and spending less on their military (makes my job much easier). If they can’t cut it, they will wither and their people will effect (note I do not say demand) change. As with the cold war, let economics win.

    SGT Dave
    “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God almighty that such men lived.” – George S. Patton

  • Al

    There are also storage and transport problems with ethanol. It’s a biological product. It can rot. Things are becoming circular. The hysterical environmentalists are pushing ill conceived solutions which will cause more pollution which will make them more hysterical……It would be a farce, if it wasn’t happening in the real world.

  • ymarsakar

    Lots of things on the Left, are a farce Al. It’s sort of their modus operandi.

  • ymarsakar

    It’s pretty consistent in a way. Usually you can’t predict with a reasonable rate of accuracy that something coming from say the military, is a farce. Mistakes can be made, but so can the right decisions done as well. Only the Left seems to have combined both unintentional mistakes and the “right decisions” into the same category of “bad, farcical takes”. Takes as opposed to mistakes, because it wasn’t a “miss” in the first place.

    Things like Valerie Plame, Dan Rather, Eason Jordan… I could go on but I want to stop. Because it doesn’t matter how long the list is, they are alll the same fracking thing. Farces, theater, illusion, whatever you want to call it, it is all the same to each other (other farces) if not to us.

    Global Warming activists=fake
    Human rights Watch=fake
    Democrats advocating against the draft=fake
    Democrats advocating for the draft and creating bills for it=fake

    Seriously, it’s all fake. Not some, not 50%, not 90%, it’s all fake. And you can spot the real things by how the fakes treat Lieberman.

    Of course it’s a farce. It’s a farce when the Islamic Jihad said they would destroy the United States Marine Corps in Fallujah. Self-delusion is alive and active in the 21st century.

    It is not even that the Left is unserious, but that they are serious, that is sort of the problem. If it was a joke, it wouldn’t be as bad. If it was something they just “made up” for domestic propaganda purposes, then at least we know the propaganda masters at least know what they are doing.

    Truth and propaganda are not the same thing, and if those responsible for making propaganda, believes in their own propaganda, then the Left has a problem. Soros believes he is against big corporation and corruption, when he bought Halliburton’s stocks. Gore believes he is Captain Planet while he pollutes and makes money off of human beings. These are true believers… and true believers are the worst enemy you could ever have. There is no surrendering for most true believers. Hopefully because the Left also believes that there is nothing worth dying or killing for, their beliefs can be made to shatter more easily than say, the Islamic Jihad’s. Hopefully that is.

    So in the end, I don’t know. I don’t know whether these consequences are unintended or not. And that’s a problem. Not knowing someone’s intentions prevents correcting someone’s problems.