mm282: If it sounds too good to be true…

MUDGE’S Musings

Automotive breakthroughs – Truth, or Myth?

  • Carburetors that get you 100 miles to the gallon.
  • Gasoline engines that can be converted to run on water.

Myth, of course. Anyone trying to sell you stock in the latter, which seems to surface every few years, should be reported to the SEC.

Okay, those were easy ones. These next two are more difficult.

  • Hybrid vehicles are good for the environment.
  • Biofuels can cleanly end our dependence on petroleum.

Sorry, myths, both.

Wait a minute, MUDGE. Hybrids are the new panacea. What do you mean by casting aspersions on my two-ton+ Tahoe Hybrid ? And, biofuels, like ethanol, God’s gift to America (and the American farmer)? Of course they’re good for us!

Hybrids first. Like the name implies, they’re compromises. Part conventional gasoline engine (perhaps smaller than the size of vehicle being so powered might otherwise warrant, thus less thirsty). Part electric motor and battery. The motor and battery adds weight, and the battery has a finite life. Not certain how pleased my self-satisfied Prius driving neighbors are going to be when faced with a $3,000 battery replacement fee in a few short years.

And, it’s what happens to the spent batteries that’s really the issue. Lots of dense lead for the landfill.

But, while it lasted, it helped you burn a few less gallons of gas.

So, let me get this straight. The payoff, even at $4/gallon gas, for the upcharge for the hybrid mechanism, is measured in decades, and the sizable batteries added to the landfills will become a significant environmental issue?

Okay, there’s always my trusty E85 burning pickup truck. That’s good, right? Using good old American corn instead of that overpriced Saudi sludge?

Turns out, not so much.

We’ve tackled this issue previously in this space.

Fuel from Food: Just a bad idea all around

mm260: The other oil shock
mm233: Corn in the news – and not just in Iowa!
mm194: Friedman: Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda
mm193: Fuel without oil, or corn
mm084: Food versus fools –
mm053: The case for turning crops into fuel – Saletan
mm015: Welcomed back to the guild

Now, some new findings.


Biofuels Deemed a Greenhouse Threat

By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL | Published: February 8, 2008

Almost all biofuels used today cause more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fuels if the full emissions costs of producing these “green” fuels are taken into account, two studies being published Thursday have concluded.

The benefits of biofuels have come under increasing attack in recent months, as scientists took a closer look at the global environmental cost of their production. These latest studies, published in the prestigious journal Science, are likely to add to the controversy.

So, the bad news just doesn’t stop. Turn grassland into corn pasturage: increase greenhouse gas emissions by 93 times!

Iowans cease alternating soybeans with that corn crop (to realize the sudden high prices for corn as feedstock for ethanol), and they cut down the Amazon even faster so Brazil can pick up the soybean slack. One doesn’t have to be sentimental about tarantulas and capuchin monkeys to figure out that this is a bad idea.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Biofuels Deemed a Greenhouse Threat – New York Times

Benjamin Disraeli, popularized by Mark Twain, had it right, of course: the three kinds of untruths: lies, damned lies, and statistics. (My blogging idol, Sandy Szwarc, discusses the distortions caused by statistical selectivity frequently; obviously it’s not confined to medical research.)

Funny if you leave land use out of the equation how wonderful biofuels look.

“This land use problem is not just a secondary effect — it was often just a footnote in prior papers,”. “It is major. The comparison with fossil fuels is going to be adverse for virtually all biofuels on cropland.”

Okay, Greenies, park your Priuses and your E85s and face reality.

There are ways that might lead to cutting petroleum use. There are ways that might eventually lead to emitting fewer greenhouse gases. Recently, we’ve discussed a couple here.

But not hybrids. And definitely not biofuel.

It’s it for now. Thanks,


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3 Responses to mm282: If it sounds too good to be true…

  1. […]   mm282: If it sounds too good to be true… […]

  2. […] Some time ago, we first quoted Benjamin Disraeli, courtesy of Mark Twain, elucidating the three types of untruths: “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” […]

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