IPCC Admits The Scientific Consensus Was Wrong in a Stunning Reversal on Biofuels

It just goes to show you that sometimes, consensus in science amounts to a “whole lot of nothing” as this story from Robert Mendick in The Sunday Telegraph tells us.

Growing crops to make “green” biofuel harms the environment and drives up food prices, IPCC admits in dramatic U-turn

The United Nations will officially warn that growing crops to make “green” biofuel harms the environment and drives up food prices, The Telegraph can disclose.

A leaked draft of a UN report condemns the widespread use of biofuels made from crops as a replacement for petrol and diesel. It says that biofuels, rather than combating the effects of global warming, could make them worse.

The draft report represents a dramatic about-turn for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Its previous assessment on climate change, in 2007, was widely condemned by environmentalists for giving the green light to large-scale biofuel production. The latest report instead puts pressure on world leaders to scrap policies promoting the use of biofuel for transport.

The summary for policymakers states: “Increasing bioenergy crop cultivation poses risks to ecosystems and biodiversity.”

Full story (subscription required)

Al Gore and Palm Oil is a prime example of one such mess that once looked like a good idea: Al Gore’s palm oil train wreck gets worse

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Lance Wallace

Finally. So can the DRAX plant go back to using coal and stop the Southeastern forests from being further denuded?
To give Gore his due (IIRC), he did admit that his tiebreaking vote to allow Archer Daniels Midland to ramp up tortilla prices throughout Mexico by turning corn into gasoline was a mistake.

JM VanWinkle

“To give Gore his due (IIRC), he did admit that his tiebreaking vote to allow Archer Daniels Midland to ramp up tortilla prices throughout Mexico by turning corn into gasoline was a mistake.”
Such admissions are always snuck in, a holiday weekend, back of page 9 middle of the page, not reported on by MSM, wait for a big tragedy for cover of darkness, so many tricks to use… all cowardly.

This may be in time. I read the other day some UN Secretary is pushing for some 119. Countries to sign on to the Man-Made Global Warming Hoax in 2015. A couple more years of Global Cooling could turn them on their heels.
TX Anthony. Major break through. Their biggest Argument is 26,000 Scientists in agreement on Man Made Global Warming. How Dangerous.
Paul

If these people would just listen to sceptics once in a while, they could avoid these mistakes and actually help preserve, rather than, destroy, the environment and people’s lives & livelihoods..
I guess to them, making claims unsupported by evidence and trying to deny a platform to those who point out their many errors is more fun than doing useful work though..

If you control the media you control the information investors base their decisions upon. You are one step ahead of cycles of boom and bust. You buy-in before the palm-oil-boom and sell-out before the palm-oil-bust. In glee you clap your hands and smack your lips over all the loot you heap, until one day you look up from your bank statements, and out the window you see a devastated landscape.
Greed can make people who know better do the most stupid things.

A. Scott

“to allow Archer Daniels Midland to ramp up tortilla prices throughout Mexico by turning corn into gasoline was a mistake.”
Please explain exactly how ADM managed to increase tortilla prices in Mexico by growing feed corn in the US.

charles nelson

Well duh!

Eliza

Boy!! the Brazilians (and Greenies) will be ######## angry. They practically cut down 20% of the Amazon rainforest to plant biofuels according to IPCC directives in the 90’s LOL

DirkH

Lance Wallace says:
March 24, 2014 at 12:10 am
“Finally. So can the DRAX plant go back to using coal and stop the Southeastern forests from being further denuded? ”
Please don’t! I’d like to see how the Brits stack all those shredded trees and prevent the entire heap from exploding.

William Benson

Subscription to The Telegraph isn’t required, just block their cookies in your browser.

peter

You don’t actually think this will influence the hard core green crusaders? Expect to hear soon about how the oil industry is buying off the council, while big Agra-business continues to lobby for more government money to subsidize ethanol and more mandates insisting it is used.

DirkH

I don’t know if this is part of the same reversal of the IPCC, but Spiegel reports that IPCC backpedals from their warning of a Global Warming induced mass extinction.
German:
http://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/natur/artensterben-ipcc-report-zum-klimawandel-zieht-vorhersagen-in-zweifel-a-960136.html
Spin, spin like the Wind, IPCC!

The price of U.S. gasoline increases because of …
wait for it …
http://onlineathens.com/national-news/2014-03-23/us-average-gas-price-rises-5-cents-gallon
We have a price increase, not for the feedstock material to produce gasoline, but due to an increase in the price of ethanol.

Mike McMillan

The ADM check must have bounced.

Mike McMillan

A. Scott says: March 24, 2014 at 12:49 am
Please explain exactly how ADM managed to increase tortilla prices in Mexico by growing feed corn in the US.

40% of US corn is going for not for feed, but for ethanol production, which is mandated to be added to gasoline. Demand for corn goes up, prices go up. Mexico gets much of its corn from the US, so tortillas cost more.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/31/opinion/corn-for-food-not-fuel.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corn_ethanol

Berényi Péter

@Caleb

In glee you clap your hands and smack your lips over all the loot you heap, until one day you look up from your bank statements, and out the window you see a devastated landscape.

No, most certainly you can see a lovely landscape looking out of your window. But beyond that there is double barbed wire fence with guard towers and devastation starts only on the other side. However, you can never know when your own armed guards decide to come for you and confiscate all your riches at gunpoint. And there will be no wide &. proud middle class out there whatsoever to stand up for your property rights, your right to pursuit of happiness, liberty or life itself. Happened multiple times in history.

pat

on tour, in Australia, Ben Caldicott & his Stranded Down Under Tour – are fossil fuels bankrupting Australia financially and ecologically?
350.org: Stranded Down Under – are fossil fuels bankrupting Australia financially and ecologically?
CANBERRA
ANU evening forum: 18:00-19:30, Tuesday 25th of March, full details here and flyer here.
Crawford School lunchtime panel: 12:30-14:00, Tuesday 25th March, Acton Theatre, full details here.
SYDNEY 19:00-20:30, Thursday 27th of March, full details here and flyer here.
MELBOURNE 18:00-19:30, Tuesday 1st of April, full details here and flyer here.
BRISBANE 18:00-19:30, Thursday 3rd of April, full details here.
http://act.350.org/signup/strandeddownunder_aus/?ak_proof=1&akid=.1243095.XQe29O&rd=1&t=2
350 Queensland Facebook:
You’re invited to Stranded Down Under – Are fossil fuels bankrupting us financially and ecologically? with Oxford University and Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Ben Caldecott on April 3rd at Southbank Tafe.
Hosted by the UQ International Energy Centre.
(Bookings can be made through the links below)
https://www.facebook.com/350Queensland/posts/1469367683278942

pat

ABC & Fairfax Media in Australia are promoting Caldecott’s ANU Canberra appearance, but not asking who is funding the tour, nor are they reporting his Bloomberg connection:
16 July 2013: Bloomberg: Caldecott joins Bloomberg New Energy Finance
Ben Caldecott, one of the UK’s thought-leaders on energy and climate change issues, is joining research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Caldecott, who spent the last four years as head of policy for investment bank Climate Change Capital, will take on a new role at Bloomberg New Energy Finance as head of government advisory. His focus will be on helping to build the company’s engagement with governments and international institutions, working closely with chief executive Michael Liebreich, as well as Chief Editor Angus McCrone and global head of policy Ethan Zindler.
Caldecott’s experience includes periods on secondment to the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, and to the Conservative Party’s Implementation Unit before the 2010 General Election. He is also programme director and research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, a role he will continue to hold.
ABOUT BLOOMBERG NEW ENERGY FINANCE
Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) is the definitive source of insight, data and news on the transformation of the energy sector. BNEF has staff of more than 200, based in London, New York, Beijing, Cape Town, Hong Kong, Munich, New Delhi, San Francisco, São Paulo, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo, Washington D.C., and Zurich.
BNEF Insight Services provide financial, economic and policy analysis in the following industries and markets: wind, solar, bioenergy, geothermal, hydro & marine, gas, nuclear, carbon capture and storage, energy efficiency, digital energy, energy storage, advanced transportation, carbon markets, REC markets, power markets and water.
http://about.bnef.com/press-releases/caldecott-joins-bloomberg-new-energy-finance/
Wikipedia: Climate Change Capital
Climate Change Capital (CCC) is a private asset management and advisory group authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK. CCC was founded in 2003 with a mission to channel capital into the solutions to climate change and resource depletion…
The asset management business, which was established in 2005, includes: a carbon finance fund that invests in emission reduction projects, predominantly in developing countries; a Private Equity fund that invests in late stage technology and services companies headquartered in Europe and a property fund that buys commercial green buildings or retrofits existing commercial properties in the United Kingdom.
The company’s think tank was established in 2009 to promote discussion of how capital can be deployed to mitigate and adapt to climate change…
In April 2012, Bunge Ltd acquired 100% of Climate Change Capital Group Limited. The parent company of Climate Change Capital, Bunge Ltd is a global agribusiness and food company founded in 1818 with over 35,000 employees in more than 40 countries.
Climate Change Capital’s Chairman is James Cameron, a member of General Electric ‘s ecomagination board, Vice-Chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Measuring Sustainability and its Advisory Board of the Global Competitiveness Index, a trustee member of the UK Green Building Council and the Carbon Disclosure Project . He was also a member of the UK Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group (2010-2012) and the Green Investment Bank Commission (2010).
Climate Change Capital’s Chief Executive Officer is Alfred Evans. He is also responsible for the Bunge Environmental Markets team. Prior to joining Bunge, Alfred was employed by GE Energy Services, Cargill’s Financial Markets Group and Clifford Chance and the US Environmental Protection Agency .
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_Change_Capital

pat

ABC summarised the following thus:
AUDIO: 24 March: ABC Breakfast: Australian coal investments at risk of becoming ‘stranded assets’
But is proposed investment in new Australian coal projects at risk of becoming a series of ‘stranded assets’?
Chief Executive of the Minerals Council of Australia Brendan Pearson offered this response:
‘Coal is a critical export resource for Australia generating hundreds of thousands of jobs, billions of dollars in export revenue and billions of dollars in taxation for State and Federal Governments. It will remain a critical component of the Australian economy for the foreseeable future and help lift the developing world out of poverty.’
http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/australian-coal-investments-at-risk-of-becoming-stranded-assets/5340188
however, the entire item is an interview with Ben Caldecott by ABC’s Fran Kelly, leading Ben to repeat & repeat the mantra “coal is a stranded asset”. Minerals Council/Brendan Pearson’s response is not broadcast at all.
to Fairfax, Ben is just an “oxford academic”:
24 March: SMH: Angela Macdonald-Smith: Coalminers starting to count the cost of activist pressure on funding
Campaigns to get banks and big funds to drop their support for fossil fuel enterprises are gathering momentum and are likely to increasingly lead to reputational damage for coal miners, says an Oxford academic.
The campaigns are also likely to lead to increased financing costs for fossil fuel projects, according to Ben Caldecott, director of the Stranded Assets Program at Oxford University…
http://www.smh.com.au/business/mining-and-resources/coalminers-starting-to-count-the-cost-of-activist-pressure-on-funding-20140324-35dbe.html

Matthew R Marler

This is a good development.

hunter

Once again skeptics are right: Bio-fuels are a waste of resources, solves nothing in the climate, hurts the environment, and enriches a few insiders.

John M Reynolds

They still have that ‘could’ in the text. I won’t hold my breath for this leaked document to become official. — John M Reynolds

Gamecock

“The latest report instead puts pressure on world leaders to scrap policies promoting the use of biofuel for transport.”
Pressure? How?
peter says:
March 24, 2014 at 1:57 am
I agree. This changes nothing. For now, at least.

William Astley

In reply to:
“Referring in part to deforestation, it says any benefit of biofuel production on carbon emissions “may be offset partly or entirely for decades or centuries by emissions from the resulting indirect land-use changes”. On biofuel production from corn, it adds: “Resulting increases in demand for corn contribute to higher corn prices and may indirectly increase incidence of malnutrition in vulnerable populations.”
An IPCC spokesman said she could not comment until the final report is published on March 31.”
William: It is criminal neglect that it has taken the IPCC and EU this long to do the necessary back of the envelope calculations which indicates biofuel is a scam that does not significantly reduce CO2 emissions and will result in higher and higher food prices, massive loss of rainforest habitat, and worldwide environmental damage.
Vast amounts of agricultural land are being diverted from food crops for human consumption to biofuel The immediate consequence of this is a dramatic increase in the cost of basic food such as a 140% increase in the price of corn. Due to limited amounts of agricultural land vast regions of virgin forest are being cut down for biofuel production. The problems associate with this practice will become acute as all major Western governments have mandated a percentage of biofuel.
Analysis of the total energy input to produce ethanol from corn show that 29% more fossil fuel input energy is require to produce one energy unit of ethanol, if the fuel input to harvest the corn, to produce the fertilizer, and to boil the water off to distill ethanol/water from 8% ethanol to 99.5% ethanol (three distillation processes, energy required can be reduced by using vacuum distillation however the cost of the equipment is too high and it is hence not used, calculations used to justify the scam ignore or under estimate energy inputs) to produce 99.5% ethanol for use in an automobile, produces more green house gas than is produced than the production consumption of conventional gasoline. The cost of corn based ethanol is more than five times the production cost of gasoline, excluding taxes and subsides. Rather than subsiding the production of corn based ethanol the same money can be used to preserve and increase rainforest or to install nuclear power plants that due reduce CO2 emission. The loss of rainforest is the largest cause of the increase in CO2.
http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/313699/news/world/singapore-demands-action-from-indonesia-on-haze
The illegal burning of forest on Indonesia’s Sumatra island, to the west of Singapore, to clear land for palm oil plantations is a chronic problem, particularly during the June to September dry season.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-22998592
http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/forests/palm-oil

Tucci78

At 2:32 AM on 24 March, Mike McMillan had written:

40% of US corn is going for not for feed, but for ethanol production, which is mandated to be added to gasoline. Demand for corn goes up, prices go up. Mexico gets much of its corn from the US, so tortillas cost more.

Beyond their direct purchases of American corn (“maize” in Britspeak), there’s also the fact that the world markets in most forms of feed grain (“corn” in Perfidious Albion) are all affected by U.S. prices for corn.
When the prices of U.S. corn are bid up by the fuel ethanol producers, that raises the prices of corn sought in the international as well as the domestic (American) commodities markets, as well as the prices of foodstuffs and other commodities throughout the world economy.
Er, has anybody reading here been looking at beef prices in the supermarkets lately? How about the prices of milk and eggs and cheese and even semolina-flour pasta?
This last because if the prices of corn are bid up, then more arable land, more labor, more petrochemical fuels are devoted to growing corn, displacing the growth of wheat and rye and sorghum (another variety of cattle feed) and soybeans and…..
Aw, hell. Gotta be a buncha other “flyover country” guys like me visiting this site, right? Not everybody in these United States spends his whole goddam life in the cities and suburbs, and wouldn’t know whether a field was planted in clover or canola.
Kill the fuel ethanol boondoggle, and prices for friggin’ everything produced by the agricultural sector of the U.S. economy will to down. Not just here in God’s Country but all over the planet.
The big agribusinesses – not just Archer Daniels Midland but also Monsanto and megatons of other very generous campaign contributors who’ve been renting professional politicians in Mordor-on-the-Potomac – are going to receive this report like a load of buckshot discharged in their figurative collective crotch.
Big changes in the commodities futures markets.
Austrian school economic theory isn’t popular with either the politicians or the megacorp clowns, but then neither are all the other aspects of reality.

Shopkeeper: What’s goin’ on, sheriff?
Sheriff Cobb: Hide and watch.

— screenplay, Silverado (1985)

A good example of the mindlessness of a “consensus”. But I doubt the lesson will be heeded by those promoting the mass hysteria.

H.R.

“Oops. Our bad. Sorry we can’t refund your money. We spent it. Send us more money so we can fix our mistake.”
>:-(((O)))
(Thanks to D.J. Hawkins for the primal scream emoticon.)

Bruce Cobb

“It says that biofuels, rather than combating the effects of global warming, could make them worse.” Still wrong on that one. They were never going to make an iota of difference either way to begin with, any more than burning fossil fuels does.
There is nothing green about “green energy”.

DirkH says:
March 24, 2014 at 1:57 am
Der Spiegel …
“The secret draft report of the IPCC, the second part will be published in late March, the IPCC expects indeed continue with the risk that many animal and plant species of global warming could fall victim.
On the other hand, the scientists distance themselves from their forecasts, “There is very little confidence that the models currently predict accurately the risk of extinction,”

Chris Wright

So, once again the sceptics are right. Of course, we don’t need the IPCC to know the truth (far from it, as long as they continue to cherry pick the data and ignore all the inconvenient science).
But, hopefully, politicians will take note if it comes from the IPCC and start to do something about it.
America has turned nearly half of its corn production over to ethanol. This is not just wrong as it is based on junk science driven by fantasy computer models, it is obscene. It is almost literally taking food from empty stomachs in order to feed empty gas tanks.
I’m a bit concerned that this is a leaked version. What are the chances that these inconvenient findings will have been disappeared in the final version? That’s what happened in the last major IPCC report just a few months ago.
Still, these are steps in the right direction. There have been dramatic changes in the EU on renewables. Now, with Russia flexing its muscles, the EU will hopefully abandon its insane opposition to fracking. I’m actually quite optimistic that finally science will regain its integrity and this madness will pass. Trouble is, I probably won’t live to see it.
Chris

R. de Haan

A temporary strike of common sense??????
Why don’t they take the consequence of their scare mongering, bad advice and reports and simply pull the plug on this organization.

sherlock1

But we out here in Realityland knew this from Day One – so how stupid do you have to be to put these policies in place..?

Psalmon

They are giving up the obvious common sense stuff now like bank robbers pushing the wounded out of the getaway car to lighten the load and distract the chase.

juan slayton

Lisa M Curran says: why don’t you actually read the paper?
Can you say “paywall“? By the way, my tax money helped pay for your project….

Tom in Florida

I have accessed the article without a prescription and emailed it to both of my U S Senators. I didn’t bother to sent it to my Congressman because he is a complete idiot .

Yes, Tom in Florida, I can get to the article too.
Last sentence:
An IPCC spokesman said she could not comment until the final report is published on March 31.
If this leaked report matches the final report, will the Main Stream Media, and, more importantly for you and I, the US Congress, react accordingly? Does Congress only agree with the UN/IPCC when it says what they want to hear, or do they react to the UN/IPCC as an authoritative body?
A bit of a quandary there, since the IPCC is held in such low regard by many of us, isn’t it?

ea

We may now expect our politicians to halt tax payer funding for bio-fuels, right?

mike g

So, is it time to short corn?

Jim Bo

sherlock1 says: March 24, 2014 at 5:52 am

…so how stupid malevolent do you have to be to put these policies in place..?

Fixed.

DirkH

Eugene S. Conlin says:
March 24, 2014 at 5:24 am
“Der Spiegel …
“The secret draft report of the IPCC, the second part will be published in late March, the IPCC expects indeed continue with the risk that many animal and plant species of global warming could fall victim.
On the other hand, the scientists distance themselves from their forecasts, “There is very little confidence that the models currently predict accurately the risk of extinction,””
More in English here
http://notrickszone.com/2014/03/24/spiegel-ipcc-backpedal-on-species-extinction-astonishingly-great-doubt-over-earlier-predictions-acute-lack-of-data/

Admad

DirkH says:
March 24, 2014 at 1:57 am
“Spin, spin like the Wind, IPCC!”
I think I’d prefer “Spin, spin in the wind, IPCC”.

The killer calculation is to show how the money spent for all these BS “solutions” from solar to wind to biofuels to whatever, could have been used to construct nuclear plants. Just one of those trillion dollar giveaways could produce at least 200 1300MW nuclear plants, which could have generated at least 50% of our current demand, resulting in 70% nuclear power in total. And those new plants would have a guaranteed lifespan of 60 years, and a likely lifespan of close to 80 years. If our brainless President had spent his time convincing the public about the safety of nuclear power instead of mouthing junk science and hiring a junk science advisor, he might have actually accomplished something of benefit to our country. But , Oh Noooo……. Name a more clueless, dumber, or more corrupt Chief Executive. I dare you.

Pamela Gray

Dismantling wind turbines will be equally expensive and CO2 spewing. Not that I care. It will give recyclers jobs and I don’t think the addition of that CO2 will make a dot of difference in our climate or weather.

Colorado Wellington

DirkH says:
March 24, 2014 at 1:57 am

“… acute lack of data” and worthless species loss models.
Par for the course.

Henry Galt

The subsidies! Think of the subsidies! They wont just disappear on their own you know.
Lots of inertia in play. I don’t expect much change anytime soon. If this was a mistake these people and the things they do would make me feel ill. As it is no mistake they just make me angry.

Tom in Denver

The problem is that it take a huge amount of water and energy to turn this corn into ethanol, (think of a huge still). If only we could harvest bio fuels that occured naturally. Bio-mass that matures using the earth’s own internal heat. Naturally occuring bio-fuels, (otherwise known as oil and natural gas).

This last because if the prices of corn are bid up, then more arable land, more labor, more petrochemical fuels are devoted to growing corn, displacing the growth of wheat and rye and sorghum (another variety of cattle feed) and soybeans and…..
For the love of Beer, man, don’t forget the humble barleycorn. Basis of human civilization, foundation of the English system of weights and measures, and all that…
Ethanol in gasoline actually has numerous negative effects. It drops the “octane” rating of the gasoline. It dissolves certain kinds of plastic parts used in non-automotive fuel systems (notably in my boat engine, but also elsewhere in the world of gasoline engines). It costs more than gasoline, and actually costs a lot of carbon-dioxide-generating energy to manufacture and distill (gasoline or diesel to plow and plant and reap, electricity to make both fertilizer and insecticide used while it grows, sometimes additional electricity to pump water to it if it is being grown in anything but perfect weather, then the grain has to be sprouted, malted, mashed, fermented (releasing a substantial amount of carbon dioxide as the yeast eat some of the sugars and produce the enzymes that turn the rest into alcohol) and distilled. Distillation is basically boiling off the alcohol differentially, and requires adding enough energy to raise the temperature of the fermented byproduct by order of 60-70 C and then chill and condense the alcohol-rich fumes that rise off of the fermented mash before the water starts to boil. Since water is being evaporated as well during this process, one usually has to distill in several stages and then use lime to absorb the last bits of water to achieve the 200 proof anhydrous ethanol required for gasahol. Lime, of course, is made by reducing limestone with coal, producing prodigious quantities of CO_2 — rough 40% of the weight of the original limestone plus all of coal-based CO_2 required for the calcining. I suspect that it is possible to prove that one can never win the CO_2 production game with anhydrous alcohol unless one uses e.g. solar energy exclusively in its production, and even then the cost-inefficiency of using solar energy to make alcohol instead of just using the energy directly for other things makes it a silly game.
Biodiesel actually makes a lot more sense to me — that is much closer to break even out of the box, and one can easily imagine bioengineering things like algae or yeast to eat things like raw sewage or generic cellulose and turn it into recoverable fats at low overall cost (and probably making other useful things, such as sterile compost, in the process). I don’t think we are particularly close to success here yet, but this is at least a moderately promising area of research. It’s also possible that existing oil-seed plant bases might make biodiesel competitive with actual diesel in at least some venues without subsidy or legislated stimulus.
What the politicians need to get through their comparatively thick heads is that the day something becomes cost effective, nobody needs to subsidize it or mandate it. Adam Smith’s good old invisible hand takes over, and people will make biofuels not because they want to save the world, but because they want to make money and can undersell diesel fuel refined from mined fuel oil and make a good profit. In the meantime it is FINE to invest taxpayer dollars in research that might lead to such a profitable pathway as research is chickenfeed compared to the long run payoff and even if it never pays off no doubt we’ll learn useful things and probably break even on the cost.
The same is true of rare earth mining and Thorium, and ever so many other things. Western North Carolina (and many other states in the US) have an abundance of Monazite Sand, which is basically rare earth ore mixed in with thorium ore. We need rare earth metals to make super-powerful magnets for the efficient production and utilization of electrical power, but the “waste” from the mining is basically enriched radioactive thorium. Since we have almost no use for thorium commercially outside of making lantern mantles, nobody wants to mine the monazite (except China, who has bought up all of the rare earth mines in the world and is stockpiling the thorium produced as a side effect of mining it).
If the US would invest in researching and proving thorium based nuclear power production at anything like the rate that they invest in other alternative energy technologies, they could conceivably break a Gordian knot — enable e.g. melt-down-proof LFTR nuclear power production, provide an instant market for the Thorium we have in sufficient quantity to provide our electrical power for tens of thousands of years, enable new domestically owned rare earth/thorium mines to reduce our dependence on Chinese rare earths, enable efficient electrical cars and generators and motors and solid state electronics via the cheaper rare earths and sure, reduce our “carbon footprint” and allow our valuable coal and oil reserves to be stretched out for decades to centuries.
Of course this is just one of many technologies that really could — and in the long run probably will — substantially reduce the production of CO_2 while burning mined prehistoric carbon sources to make energy. Solar power is precisely marginal at the moment — better than break even in much of the US, but only when amortized over far too long a time to make it attractive (without an inappropriate subsidy). Time and economy of scale and technological advances will probably reduce the cost of solar at a fairly steady rate over the next decade or two, though, so that in ten to twenty years it is a no-brainer — Adam Smith’s invisible hand will cause solar to be widely implemented precisely to the extent that it is demonstrably profitable to do so. Thorium-based nuclear energy could easily form the intermediate step in this process, as well, providing power at night and other times that solar is not productive while still eking out fuel (nuclear or otherwise) consumption and keeping costs optimally low. And one day, perhaps the fusion ship will come in and the energy crisis and the carbon “crisis” will be solved overnight as human civilization converts as rapidly as humanly possible to a truly inexhaustible fuel resource. Humans will evolve before we measurably deplete the fusion fuel available cheaply in the oceans, let alone what we can mine in the solar system (the gas giants and their moons are basically enormous reservoirs of deuterium, from one point of view).
It would be so very lovely if the IPCC would reverse a number of its positions. I’ve long said that I’d be much more inclined to believe CAGW enthusiasts if they aggressively promoted nuclear power, as that is really the only viable alternative to carbon produced power that won’t cause civilization to collapse long before it produces enough power to sustain it. It would also be encouraging to see the US and other governments in the developed world stop funding “climate research” that is failing at everything but the production of alarming predictions that are not borne out by the data and put a lot of that money into funding energy production research that might lead us to produce or utilize energy more cheaply and more efficiently and hence more profitably for all concerned. Positive ROI needs no public policy, no massive sales campaign, no “save the planet” advertising. It just requires humans acting in their own self-interest, trying to make money or save money and live better as a consequence.
In the meantime, I’ll batten down the hatches here, as we are expecting our tenth or twelfth snow of the winter tomorrow — oops, I mean the first of the spring. In the 41 years I’ve lived in NC, I’ve never seen snow, sleet, frozen precipitation more than maybe five days in a single winter, and there have been plenty of winters with only a single brief snow or none at all. My mother-in-law in Michigan tells me that they’re up to some truly phenomenal total for winter snowfall there — 70 or 80 inches or the like — with more on the way, if the great lakes melt enough from their near-record ice coverage to enable lake effect snow to start happening again — so far they’ve been getting along without it as only 10% or so of the great lakes are free water. The global surface temperature anomaly last month was roughly 0.1 C colder than it was in the comparable month of 1983. And the sun is just beginning its long, slow trip down from one of the weakest solar cycles in a century towards the next cycle, widely expected to be the weakest in several centuries. Perhaps ENSO will (finally) turn positive and release heat into the atmosphere again — recently it has been predicted that it will — but previous predictions have often proven to be false, because we simply don’t understand ENSO well enough to do a good job of predicting it yet and don’t know how or if it is tied to things like solar cycle. If the anticipated El Nino turns into yet another stretch of doldrums or worse, a strong La Nina returns, we could actually see a stretch of global cooling for a few years.
I wonder what the IPCC will do about that? At the moment, their only hope is a super-ENSO that pops global temperatures another few tenths of a degree C all at once like it did back in 1998. And the straight-up odds of that are probably comparable to the odds of a La Nina and/or volcanic event that might have the exact opposite effect. The heterodyning of La Nina and a volcano might knock several tenths off the average temperature all at once, and sustain it lower for years as the planet settles in around a new attractor. It is useless to pretend that we know that will not or can not happen, as the GCMs are pretty useless and the Earth has done more than this on its own in the past. Or, of course, it could ENSO-up. Data talks, bullshit walks. Eventually.
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Non Nomen

The IPCC seems to be wrong – once again. Mankind in first-world countries throws away an estimated 30% of foodstoff that is grown, transported, processed, transported again several times and is, alas, finally ending up in the dustbin. It is much more economical to harvest and process the biomass right from the field. Thus, all unnecessary energy-consuming transport, processing and the final destruction of food for no good use would be eliminated.
No, gentlemen, it’s the squanderbug that causes problems.
If we eliminate that vermin we may talk about reducing biofuels. Everything else is hypocrisy at ist best.

Ted

The main problem with biofuels is that they don’t make a dime’s worth of difference in energy supply. I did an analysis of biofuel potential way back in 2005 and got it published in Oil and Gas Journal. Last year the EIA says the US produced 13.3 billion gallons of ethanol. Reduced to barrels and adjusted for net yield and energy content, this is equivalent to 77,332,850 barrels of petroleum, about four days at current rates of consumption. Here is the letter:
Oil and Gas Journal August 1, 2005 Letters Biofuel Potential
As the price of crude oil continues to rise, political leaders and public officials have called for increased reliance on biomass-based fuels, such as ethanol made from corn and biodiesel made from soybeans, as substitutes for petroleum-based fuels. What is the potential contribution of biomass-based fuels to relieving America’s dependence on petroleum (of which 60 percent is now imported from foreign sources)?
To answer this question I calculated the amount of ethanol and biodiesel that could be produced from the 2004 US corn and soybean crops and compared it to our nation’s annual consumption of petroleum. Crop totals are from the USDA, the biofuel potentials of corn and soybeans are from industry sources.
The 2004 US corn crop totaled about 11.7 billion bushels, the largest ever. One bushel of corn yields 2.66 gallons of ethanol, so hypothetically the 2004 crop could be converted into 31.122 billion gallons of ethanol. However, a portion of the energy in the ethanol represents energy invested in growing, harvesting, transporting, fermenting and distilling the corn. According to the corn ethanol industry, the energy yield is 1.67 btus for each btu consumed in production, or a net yield of about 40.1 percent of total ethanol produced. Multiplying the hypothetical 2004 production of corn ethanol by this factor leaves a net yield of 12.48 billion gallons. But ethanol has less energy content than petroleum. One gallon of crude oil contains about 138,100 btus, while a gallon of ethanol contains about 84,100 btus, or about 60.9 percent of petroleum. So on an energy-equivalent basis, 12.48 billion gallons of ethanol would equal about 7.6 billion gallons of petroleum.
Using the same methodology one can calculate the potential contribution of soy-based biodiesel (soybeans constitute about 90% of the total US oilseed crop). The 2004 US soybean crop was 3.15 billion bushels, also an all-time record. One bushel of soybeans yields about 1.4 gallons of biodiesel. The energy yield of biodiesel is about 3.2 btus for each btu consumed in production, or a net of 68.75 percent, a much better rate than ethanol from corn. The energy content of a gallon of biodiesel is much higher, 128,000 btus, about 92.7 percent of petroleum. The 2004 US soybean crop converted to biodiesel would equal about 2.81 billion gallons of petroleum (3.15 billion bushels times 1.4 gallons of biodiesel per bushel is 4.41 billion gallons; adjusted for net yield, 4.41 billion gallons times 68.75 percent is 3.032 billion gallons; in terms of energy equivalency, 3.032 billion gallons of biodiesel would equal 2.81 billion gallons of petroleum).
The entire 2004 US corn and soybean crop, converted to biomass fuels, could replace about 10.41 billion gallons of petroleum (7.6 billion as ethanol and 2.81 billion as biodiesel). Petroleum is measured in 42-gallon barrels; the 10.41 billion gallon biofuel total would be equivalent to 248 million barrels of petroleum. The US consumed about 7.49 billion barrels of petroleum last year, or about 20.5 million barrels a day. This means that the total biofuel potential of the record 2004 US corn and soybean harvests would offset about 12 days of US petroleum consumption, or about 3.3 percent of our total yearly petroleum consumption. Given that most of the US corn and soybean crop is already committed to other uses, this analysis indicates that biomass-based fuels will have a negligible role in reducing US petroleum consumption, which in turn underscores that replacing petroleum in the US economy will be a monumental challenge.
Ted Lofstrom
Ellis & Associates, Inc.
Minneapolis, Minn