Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The morning after--SOTU Address hangover

Well, he finally uttered the words "global climate change", although as Grist has pointed out, somewhat grudgingly and as an after-thought following the more important issue--"energy security". On the bright side, at least he's not denying its existence any more. And while a significant portion of the speech was devoted to energy issues, unfortunately the underlying myth remains the same--namely, that "technology" will save us. There are going to be big-time subsidies for ethanol production, which is not by any means an answer to our waning oil supply. Ethanol and other bio-fuels have major drawbacks. First, the corn that ethanol is made from is obviously still dependent on a fossil fuel platform--think fertilizers, pesticides, tractors, trucks for transport, etc., so that doesn't really get us very far away from oil dependency. And, because of all the fossil fuels involved, the process is far from carbon-neutral. Science magazine has reported that ethanol fuel emissions are only 13% less than traditional gasoline, once all the fossil fuel inputs are taken into account. And as for cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass and other biomass, not only has it never been made on a huge scale, but we also don't have anywhere near enough land to support our agricultural system and an the amount of biomass inputs we would need to fuel our cars. Also, there are apparently major caveats written into the administration's proposals, which you can read about here.

Even middle-of-the-road NYT is skeptical about how much any of this amounts to:

And here is the Washington Post's take.

All in all, we're still in the same position as we were yesterday. Technology is not going to curb global warming or figure out how we're going to get by with waning oil supplies. We must continue or efforts to stop consuming so much freaking oil and other natural resources by changing our lifestyle, not just by substituting one kind of fuel for another. Boring, but true.

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