Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Some Biofuel Skepticism

Posted: Friday, December 10, 2010 at 11:50 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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children-of-the-corn-revelationA number of intrepid readers took issue with last night’s post on bioethanol.  One question concerns the “energy balance” of ethanol production.  Producing a gallon of ethanol requires a input of energy.  If the output is greater than the input (a positive balance) then ethanol production adds to the total stock of available energy.  If the reverse (a negative balance), then bioethanol production reduces the stock of energy.

Here is one answer, from “Ethanol Production: Energy, Economic, and Environmental Losses”, by David Pimentel, Tad Patzek, and Gerald Cecil (http://bilder.buecher.de/zusatz/20/20946/20946636_lese_1.pdf).

To produce a liter of 99.5% ethanol uses 43% more fossil energy than the energy produced as ethanol and costs $0.42/L($1.59/gal)…  The total energy input to produce 1L ethanol is 7,333 kcal (Table 2). However, 1 L ethanol has an energy value of only 5,130 kcal. Based on a net energy loss of 2,203 kcal ethanol produced, 43% more fossil energy is expended than is produced as ethanol.

If that is correct, bioethanol production is consuming, not supplementing, available energy supplies.  The authors acknowledge that there are contrary findings.

Shapouri (Shapouri et al. 2004) of the USDA is now reporting a net energy positive return of 67%, whereas in this chapter, we report a negative 43% deficit. In their earlier report, Shapouri et al. (2002) reported a net energy positive return of 34%. Why did ethanol production net return for the USDA nearly double in 2 yr, while corn yields in the U.S. declined 6% during that period (USDA 2002, 2003)? The Shapouri results need to be examined and explained.

Shapouri et al. (2004) omit several inputs. For instance, all the energy required to produce and repair farm machinery and the fermentation and distillation equipment is not included…

Shapouri et al. reported a net energy return of 67% after including the co-products, primarily dried distillers grain (DDG) used to feed cattle.  These co-products are not fuel!

Who is right?  Common sense sheds some light here.  One of the problems with government subsidies is that they make it a lot harder to evaluate the true costs and benefits of any subsidized activity.  What would happen if all government subsidies to all forms of energy production were ended immediately?  Coal, oil, natural gas, and hydroelectric power would continue to be produced.  The same is true, I suspect, of nuclear power.

By contrast, large scale wind and solar power generation would come to a grinding halt.  Would bioethanol continue to be produced?  It is pretty clear that the producers don’t think so.  That is what fuels the controversy.  The corn ethanol industry is tenuous enough with the government subsidies.  That would not be so if the energy balance were significantly positive.

Even if the energy balance were positive, that would not mean that ethanol production is a good idea just now, let alone that subsidies are in order.  Producing ethanol from corn means either diverting a substantial portion of the world’s corn crops to energy production, or significantly increasing corn production.  It probably means both.  The first necessarily increases the cost of corn and so raises world food prices.  The second results in an increase in carbon emissions, something we are supposed to be trying to avoid.

Ron Bailey has a nice summary of the issue on the Reason website.  Here is an abstract from a paper in Science to which Ron directs us.

Most prior studies have found that substituting biofuels for gasoline will reduce greenhouse gases because biofuels sequester carbon through the growth of the feedstock. These analyses have failed to count the carbon emissions that occur as farmers worldwide respond to higher prices and convert forest and grassland to new cropland to replace the grain (or cropland) diverted to biofuels. By using a worldwide agricultural model to estimate emissions from land-use change, we found that corn-based ethanol, instead of producing a 20% savings, nearly doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years and increases greenhouse gases for 167 years. Biofuels from switchgrass, if grown on U.S. corn lands, increase emissions by 50%. This result raises concerns about large biofuel mandates and highlights the value of using waste products.

Okay, so what about the ideal of energy independence?  I believe in that ideal like I believe in fairies, but has ethanol production reduced our consumption of foreign oil?  Here is a bit by Robert Bryce at the Manhattan Institute website:

Between 1999 and 2009, U.S. ethanol production increased seven-fold, to more than 700,000 barrels per day (bbl/d). During that period, however, oil imports increased by more than 800,000 bbl/d. (In addition, U.S. oil exports—yes, exports—more than doubled, to about 2 million bbl/d.[3]) Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that oil imports closely track domestic oil consumption. Over the past decade, as oil demand grew, so did imports. When consumption fell, imports did as well. Ethanol production levels had no apparent effect on the volume of oil imports or on consumption.

I do not know whether, in the foreseeable future, biofuels might become a viable source of energy.  Fossil fuels represent millions of summers followed by millions of years of underground processing.  A corn crop represents one summer and all the processing is on our tab.  So I am doubtful, but I do not underestimate the power of human ingenuity.

Right now bioethanol looks like a bad gamble.  It doesn’t add significantly to the supply of energy, and probably subtracts from it.  It doesn’t make us less dependent on foreign oil.  It increases the cost of fuel and that doesn’t help the economy.  It raises the cost of food, and that doesn’t help people who eat food.  It’s bad for the environment.  What it does do is shift wealth toward some at the expense of others.  But hey, living in a corn producing state, I am all for ethanol subsidies.

Ethanol: Immortal & Immoral

Posted: Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 11:45 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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Insane-Clown-Energy-DrinkIt looks like the President and the Lame Duck Democrats have cut a deal with Republicans.  The country can breathe a sigh of relief that taxes won’t go up across the board on January 1st.  Another sigh of relief is coming from the ethanol industry.  From the Washington Post:

The White House and key lawmakers cleared the way Thursday night for swift Senate action to avert a Jan. 1 spike in income taxes for nearly all Americans, agreeing to extend breaks for ethanol and other forms of alternative energy as part of the deal.

I don’t find a lot to cheer in this.  It is widely assumed that a significant tax increase would be another shock to an already weak economy.  That might well be true, but maybe it would have done more good for Congress to show that it was serious about getting our fiscal house in order.

As for extending the ethanol subsides, I’m all for it.  I live in South Dakota and work for the state.  We have a lot more ethanol plants than beach volleyball courts.  I figure what floats the state economy floats me, and I am worried about the sinking of fiscal real estate hereabouts.

Of course, ethanol subsidies make no sense on any other grounds.  Ethanol production doesn’t increase our “energy independence”, whatever that might mean.  It takes more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than the gallon actually contains.  That extra energy isn’t coming from wind towers.  Over the next five years, these subsides will cost us over $25 billion dollars.

Ethanol production doesn’t yield any environmental benefit and certainly none at a reasonable cost.  From Forbes:

Australian academic Robert Niven found that ethanol gasoline lets out more harmful air toxins than regular gasoline. The Congressional Budget Office finds that taxpayers are shelling out $750 for every metric ton (2,205 pounds) of carbon kept out of our atmosphere. To put that in perspective, the carbon-offset company Terrapass values the reduction of 1,000 pounds of emissions at a mere $5.95.

When you add up the environmental costs of corn production, the equation looks much worse.  Virgin prairie has been plowed up to produce corn for fuel.  The machines that work the fields aren’t solar powered.  From Pajamas Media:

A gallon of ethanol emits less carbon dioxide (CO2) than a gallon of gasoline when combusted. However, CO2-emitting fossil fuels are used to make fertilizer, operate farm equipment, power ethanol distilleries, and transport the ethanol to market. In addition, when farmers plow grasslands and clear forests to expand corn acreage, or to grow food crops displaced elsewhere by energy crop production, they release carbon previously locked up in soils and trees. For several decades, such land use changes can generate more CO2 than is avoided by substituting ethanol for gasoline.

Ethanol production raises the price of gasoline and it raises the price of food.  Tariffs keep cheaper ethanol produced south of the border out of the U.S. market, which makes the system all the more expensive but is probably an act of Christian charity.  Diverting corn to ethanol production raises the price of tortillas which results in hungrier children.

But hey, as long as it brings money to the Dakotas and Barry’s own Illinois, why should I complain?  The issue has made odd bedfellows of conservatives and environmentalists, who have united in opposing the subsidies.  That’s amusing, since it was the green lobby that gave us ethanol in the first place.

I can’t help pointing out that subsidies for wind and solar power differ from the above only in so far as they currently do much less damage.  But they are no more economically or environmentally advantageous.

The ethanol regime is what you get when you base your energy on beautiful ideas like “renewable energy” or “green jobs,” and not on any rational estimate of the costs and benefits of energy technologies.

Coast Guard Documents Fourth Keystone Leak

Posted: Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 8:22 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Check that: it’s apparently not the pipeline we have to worry about; it’s those darn leaky pump stations.

Carrie La Seur of Plains Justice gets the scoop on the fourth documented leak along TransCanada’s Keystone I tar sands pipeline. According to incident report #951480 filed by the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Response Center, Keystone Pump Station 24 near Hartington, Nebraska, sprang a leak. The report says, “caller stated a check valve on a pressure transmitter located on the suction side of a line pump stuck open releasing 5-10 gallons of crude oil onto the ground.

The leaks must be working their way south. Check out TransCanada’s Keystone system map:

Map of Keystone I Pump Station leaks, May-Aug 2010
Map of Documented Keystone I Pipeline Pump Station Leaks
May–August 2010 (click image to enlarge)

The previous three Keystone leaks happened at the Carpenter Pump Station in Beadle County in May, then the Roswell Pump Station in Miner County in June, then the Freeman Pump Station on August 10. Was the pipeline passing a stone or something?

Once again, let us review TransCanada’s June 2006 pipeline risk assessment:

…the estimated occurrence intervals for a spill of 50 barrels or less occurring anywhere along the entire pipeline system is once every 65 years, a spill between 50 and 1,000 barrels might occur once in 12 years; a spill of 1,000 and 10,000 barrels might occur once in 39 years; and a spill containing more than 10,000 barrels might occur once in 50 years. Applying these statistics to a 1-mile section, the chances of a larger spill (greater than 10,000 barrels) would be less than once every 67,000 years [ENSR Corporation for TransCanada, "Pipeline Risk Assessment and Environmental Consequence Analysis," Document No. 10623-004, June 2006].

Given four incidents in three months, we are now in the clear on small leaks for 260 years. Thanks for getting those out of the way, TransCanada!

Yes to Tony Dean Grassland, No to Ranch Socialism

Posted: Friday, December 3, 2010 at 7:48 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Mr. Kurtz brings to my attention commentary on another good bill Thune and the Republicans are holding hostage for the sake of more tax cuts for the wealthiest 1%. Well-traveled George Wuerthner at New West observes that S. 3310, the Tony Dean Cheyenne River Valley Conservation Act, would preserve our swiftly dwindling native prairie. Wuether also finds it ironic that a bill bearing Tony Dean’s name would (contrary to Kristi Noem’s willfull ignorance) protect existing grazing rights:

America has very little of its native prairie in any protected status. Most of the plains have been carved up by till farming, and the rest is grazed by livestock. Tony Dean Cheyenne River Valley Conservation Act would correct this by designating 48,000 acres as wilderness in the Indian Creek, Red Shirt and Chalk Hills areas of the Buffalo Gap National Grassland on the borders of Badlands NP. Walking these vast open breathing spaces reminds me of being on the vastness of tundra in Alaska. It’s a sense of freedom that is more difficult to experience in more forested terrain. As with any designated wilderness, livestock grazing will continue. This is particularly ironic since Tony Dean, who was an outdoor writer in South Dakota, railed against welfare ranchers and their impact on the state for decades. However language could be inserted into the legislation to permit buyouts of grazing privileges so that eventually bison, not cattle, will be grazing these lands [George Wuerthner, "Omnibus Wilderness Bill Likely," New West, 2010.11.29].

Welfare ranchers? Did Tony Dean say that?

Well, he let Sam Hurst say it on his website, and in reference to this very land:

Welfare Ranchers on Public Lands,” Tony Dean Outdoors, 2006]

Dean himself called the no-bid grazing leases on public lands “welfare ranching” in this article. Neither Hurst nor Dean was advocating eco-socialism. They argue for ending subsidies and letting the free market rule.

The Tony Dean Cheyenne River Valley Conservation Act would create a unique national grasslands wilderness. It’s a good idea. So is ending the market-skewing, deficit-widening subsidy to a handful of ranchers who plea for socialism. Why don’t John Thune and Kristi Noem

Tar Sands Bad for South Dakota

Posted: Monday, November 22, 2010 at 8:21 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Hat tip to Great Plains Tar Sands Pipelines!

The Sierra Club documents how the push for toxic Canadian tar sands oil threatens the health and welfare of South Dakotans. The environmental organization profiles three South Dakotans who have fought Big Oil: Kent Moeckley of Britton and Carolyn Harkness and Ed Cable of Union County.

Moeckly was a notable opponent of TransCanada’s Keystone I pipeline, which is now buried under his farmland in Marshall County. When TransCanada announced the pipeline route, Moeckly and his neighbors asked TransCanada to consider alternative routes. He says an oil leak in his neighborhood’s sandy, permeable soil could threaten the aquifer that feeds the local rural water system, an objection much like that curently raised by Nebraskans worried that Keystone XL could damage the Sand Hills and the massive Ogallala aquifer. TransCanada paid no attention:

Moeckly says pipeline consultants didn’t even survey his land before they reported it as “low consequence” status, which allowed TransCanada to build the Keystone I through the aquifer in 2009, using thinner pipe and higher pressure than any other pipeline before it. When farmers in the area requested thicker pipe to reduce the risk of water contamination, their concerns went unheeded.

“TransCanada absolutely ignored us. They plowed on through,” Moeckly says ["Toxic Tar Sands: South Dakota," Sierra Club, Nov. 2010].

TransCanada finished the pipeline last year. They left debris and dirt piles on Moeckly’s land that have trapped water and left 15 acres unusable. (Where are the conservative property rights hawks speaking up for Moeckly’s rights under the takings clause?)

Harkness and Cable are trying to save Union County from even worse disruption at the hands of the still-pending Hyperion refinery. This tar sands refinery would tear up thousands of acres of prime farm land and threaten the aquifer, air quality, and even the simple view of the stars at night.

Carolyn Harkness would find her farm home 300 feet from the refinery. She doesn’t want to give up land that is everything to her family, her home, business, and retirement. She also sees a higher obligation to keep the refinery from tearing up Union County:

“This land belongs to God and it is our responsibility to save it for future generations. It has treated us well,” she says. “We need to return the favor” [Sierra Club, Nov 2010]

Ed Cable lives three miles from the proposed refinery site and share’s his neighbors’ concerns about pollution that owuld ruin one of the cleanest places in the country. Cable has led the legal fight to block construction of the refinery. His group, Save Union County, has played a key role in pushing South Dakota’s regulators to do something like due diligence in, if not stopping the refinery, at least making sure the Texas dreamers behind it get their enviromental ducks in a row.

Oops—did I say ducks in a tar sands story?

Moeckly, Harkness, and Cable understand that increasing our dependence on dirty foreign oil is not good for our way of life. As we see from the Keystone I pipeline, the tar sands are already damaging our fair state. We should say no to any more development of this unsustainable resource.

Cap and Trade Not Ballot Box Poison

Posted: Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 7:49 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Heartland Consumer Power District’s Mike McDowell wags his finger at Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and any other Congressmen thinking of taking advantage of the lame-duck session to “enact policies rejected by the voters on November 3rd [sic].” McDowell’s warning carries the hint that he includes cap and trade in that batch of “rejected” policies.

Mr. McDowell’s queasiness about cap and trade, that really effective policy that was part of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, was not rejected by the electorate last week. The bill never made it to a vote in our laggardly Senate, but in the House, 80% of the Democrats who voted for ACESA won re-election. 27 out of 43 Democrats—63%—who voted no on ACESA lost last week. Only one of eight House Republicans who voted with Nancy Pelosi for cap and trade was beaten at the ballot box, and that was Delaware’s Mike Castle, who lost the Senate primary to Christine O’Donnell… which worked out nicely for Democrats and other reasonable people.

Stephanie Herseth Sandlin was one of those Democratic nays. So was Dennis Kucinich. But Herseth Sandlin the Blue Dog lost, while Kucinich the fire-breathing liberal won. Go figure… and keep that in mind, candidates-in-waiting, as you think about whether you want to run in 2012 as an “Independent (democrat)” or a just plain “Democrat.”

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By the way, conservatives, instead of gambling on your extreme best-case scenario that the scientific consensus is wrong, climate change isn’t happening, and oil will last forever, why not be real conservatives and join the Dems in this lame-duck session to pass serious climate change and energy security legislation?

The United States of Dysfunction

Posted: Monday, October 11, 2010 at 12:28 pm
By: David Newquist
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The people living on the Gulf of Mexico feel abandoned.  When BP managed to put the cap on that gushing oil well, it also seemed to put the lid on all the implications of that disaster.  It was one of the most serious environmental disasters in world history, but, like much that holds the American attention for a time, it has blown through the American mind like a hurricane and lingers only as a dim memory, not a threatening and destructive presence that still deeply affects life.

Only the despised tree-huggers talk about the despoiling of the Gulf at this point.  And I admit to being an unabashed tree-hugger.  Until recently, I was the primary care-giver to tens of thousands of pine trees in Wisconsin, from infancy to towering 40-foot adults.  It was a project that reclaimed some farmed-out land (another environmental disaster) and brought it back to viability.  Part of that viability was in supporting wildlife and letting natural forces correct the results of human stupidity.  But that project did not involve millions of barrels of life-destroying oil.  And the human stupidity did not extend to using the disaster for partisan politics.

The changes  in the Gulf, however, have been taking place long before Deepwater Horizon blew its top and went on its killing spree–eleven men and untold populations of wildlife.  Those changes in the Gulf have been evident in South Dakota for some time.  I do not know when the last time was that you could buy  red fish at the seafood counter in the local market.  Occasionally, a truck parks in the lot at Kmart and you can get Gulf shrimp, and you can get wild-caught salmon from Norway or Alaska at the seafood counter for a $10 a pound premium, but the staples now are pond-raised shrimp from India, pond-raised tilapia from Malaysia, and some tuna steaks from Japan. The Gulf long ago ended as a presence in South Dakota.

Conserving the life-sustaining resources and the natural systems that have evolved on earth are essential to a tolerable life for humans.  Plundering and destroying the environment is a form of mass suicide.  A healthy environment is not only essential for maintaining physical life, it shapes the mental and spiritual culture of those who occupy it. Keeping humanity healthy, physically and mentally,  is the point of conservation.  There is a difference between conservationists and environmentalists, but they agree on much more than they differ.  I include myself among the former.  My tree-hugging was labor intensive.  The forest I owned and worked  involved the constant maintaining of fire lanes, cutting and managing slash (the dead branches that accumulate as the trees devote their energies to new growth), the thinning of the forest to produce big, healthy trees instead of a lot of scraggly ones, fertilizing,  controlling insects and disease, and planting species in the forest for a viable succession, as the forest followed its natural urge to support hardwood growth. This intense forestry is called silviculture.  It conserves forests with human objectives included in its practice.

The biggest threat to healthy forests are ignorant and predatory humans.  That ranges from the idiot who throws a lighted cigarette butt out of a car  window, to a corporate enterprise that is polluting the air and water,  to a farmer who applies herbicides that can drift into the trees and insecticides that are producing mutations of insects that cannot be controlled. A silviculturist is alert to the health of all the flora and fauna that are part of the forest.  When plants and animals show signs of distress, that indicates that some problem is in the environment that could jeopardize the health of the entire forest.  Humans do not like to be told they are responsible for bad things that happen on earth.  They deny their responsibility and culpability.  Many reject the idea that their own survival is dependent upon a healthy planet, and that what they do affects the health of the planet.  That denial is the basis for a major political strain in our population.

One of the reasons that the people in the Gulf feel abandoned is because they are.  The deniers would prefer to think that the Gulf oil spew was just another environmental incident, like Katrina, that blew over and can be forgotten.  Oil drilling in the Gulf is a major part of the economy.  The deniers do not want to contemplate that it is dangerous.  They get angry over the curtailment and regulation of  drilling because it affects so many jobs.  But the oil field workers are not the ones who have been abandoned.  The fishermen are.  While they make a huge contribution to the economy, they aren’t as big and powerful as the oil interests.  They do not have the corporate money and, therefore, the political clout that the oil interests do. In the deniers’ scheme of things, the fishing industry is best ignored and forgotten.  It gets in the way of human enterprise.

Another disaster that signals problems with how some humans treat the plant is the red sludge flood in Hungary.  It killed people and forced the evacuation of communities because it leaves them too toxic for humans to occupy.  The sludge is created by the process that extracts aluminum from its ore.  The deniers see it as a threat to the aluminum industry, although the North American aluminum industry does not use that kind of process and is regulated (yes, regulated) to prevent such a disaster.  Nevertheless, for the good of our country, it is better to deny and ignore the suggestion that the production of an essential metal might pose threats to natural and human life.

Denial is a big force in American politics.  You have something in your life you do not like to think about, you simply deny it.  As in denying that President Obama is born in America.  If denial is not enough, you call him the names of things that other deniers hate, as in Muslims, socialists, etc.  Denying environmental threats is treated the same way.  If a conservationist or environmentalist brings up a problem in our environment, dismiss it by calling those who bring it up tree-huggers, or some other pejorative that titillates the hate glands of the deniers.

The Denial Party is a big force in American politics right now.  The politicians want to garner the denial vote.  So they fawn, and grovel, and pander. The media wants the denial audience.  So it fawns and grovels and panders.  As a result, the country is in a state of paralytic dysfunction.  It can’t do anything.  All it can do is stand around and bicker, call names, and accuse.

Thomas Friedman in The New York Times defines the problem:

politicians who only know how to read polls, never change them; media outlets serving political parties; special interests buying senators; mindless partisanship; an epidemic of low expectations for our government. And us — we elected them all, and we tolerate them.

You think the Gulf oil spew or the red sludge might portend some problems for humanity?  Forget it. Get over it.  Deny it.

The State of Dysfunction is a happy state.  Learn to live with it.  And die with it.

Happy Denial Day

Opposition Rising to Keystone XL Threats to Land, Water, and Rights

Posted: Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 7:36 pm
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Our friends at Plains Justice put up some useful information on the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline:

  1. First, Plains Justice lists the chemical cocktail TransCanada wants to run under our farmland and across our aquifers. And TransCanada has the gall to say the risk is theirs, not the landowners’.
  2. Plains Justice also links to a new online documentary from the Center for Energy Matters. The video shows Oklahomans and Texans who are disgusted by tar sands, eminent domain, shady business, and TransCanada’s threat to clean water.
  3. If you’re on the Keystone XL route and TransCanada’s land agents are trying to push you around, Plains Justice points to a website that may help. TransCanadaAbuse.com has set up a hotline to take reports on TransCanada’s heavy-handed land-grab tactics and other abuses of landowner rights. Don’t let TransCanada give you the shaft: call TransCanadaAbuse.com at 1-866-363-4648 and stand up to foreign oil!

SHS Beats Noem on Indirect Land Use Penalty

Posted: Tuesday, September 7, 2010 at 6:42 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Part 5 of the Madville Times’ South Dakota State Fair Congressional Debate analysis

Question 4 at Sunday’s debate: what will you do about the international indirect land use penalties to protect biofuels? The indirect land use penalty is the idea of discounting the greenhouse gas emissions savings achieved by biofuels based on the carbon released when farmers convert forest and other previously unplowed land to cropland.

I know that now, thanks to Google and Wikipedia. I didn’t know it Sunday, and from the sounds of the answer, Kristi Noem didn’t know much about it, either. Noem said we need someone to promote a competitive market and avoid detriments to farmers’ income. She said we need to pick the candidate who’s been proactive on issues, gone forward and carried tough issues and fought for people.

Maybe Noem just assumed that the ag-heavy crowd already knew what the indirect land use penalty was. She certainly didn’t explain it. Not one thing she said indicated she had a specific plan for dealing with it. Her answer was pure campaign-speak.

Stephanie Herseth Sandlin sensed he advantage and pounced. Her first words were a direct response to the question and to Noem’s tactics: “By continuing to fight with the facts.” Herseth Sandlin said Congress has already worked bipartisanly to change the definition to protect the use of woody biomass in the Black Hills. She addressed Noem’s general call for “leadership” by pointing out that we’re making progress now, because the EPA hasn’t used the bad indirect land use definition. The USDA is doing its own calculation pushed by bipartisan work on the House Ag Committee.

Herseth Sandlin said the Ag Committee is fighting the attorneys who want to deep-six the ethanol industry. She said they are fighting this administration as much as the last to protect ethanol. She said the USDA is our ally and that her willingness to fight has prevented the bad indirect land use definition from being implemented. Fight, fight, fight… Herseth Sandlin was forceful, passionate… oh, but I suppose those are bad qualities, right, Pat?

Wrong. It could be that Herseth Sandlin sounds more passionate in these debates because she’s more confident than the woman sitting next to her. Noem knows she’s in deep water and her Fox News talking points will only float so far. She’s terrified of real hard questions. On this hard question, Herseth Sandlin recognized Noem had just buffaloed the audience and missed the facts. Herseth Sandlin thus swung hard, owned the question, and owned the stage.

Assessment: Advantage Herseth Sandlin. Without a doubt.
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p.s.: Big scary Speaker Nancy Pelosi was backing Herseth Sandlin on this issue. In ACESA, the climate change bill, she supported an agreement with Reps. Waxman and Peterson to tighten the requirements for imposing any indirect land use penalty for biofuels. Under the ACESA provisions, USDA would have had to agree to any definitions along with EPA and DoE. The American Coalition for Ethanol loved this agreement and wanted the Senate to follow suit. Advantage Pelosi!

Bikes, Solar, Good Sense Challenged

Posted: Thursday, August 26, 2010 at 7:59 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Buried in browser tabs! Time to clear the queue!

Colorado is seeing a weird outbreak of velophobia. Some folks have a Sibby-Ellis-tinged idea that promoting Denver as a bicycle city is part of the United Nations’ sinister agenda to enslave us all. The tiny casino town of Black Hawk, Colorado has banned bicycles: a new Colorado law requires motorists to give bicycles at least three feet when passing, and Black Hawk reasons that complying with that law would be just too hard for the big tour buses bringing gamblers to town. Riding your bike through town now gets you a $68 fine (to make up for cyclists not spending as much on booze, I guess).

Green power is ugly. Or so goes the thinking, apparently, in Hanover Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania. Township supervisors there have imposed restrictions on solar panels: tucking panels away beside or behind the house is fine, but if you happen to have a south-facing abode and want to place your panel out front where it will do the most good, you need to get a conditional permit, which will take $800, two months, and all sorts of paperwork. Says a state township association official, “A lot of people have a problem with placing solar panels on the front of their homes for the simple reason…solar panels are distracting and take away from the value of [their] house…. Elected officials are hearing that and they’re taking that into consideration.” Once again, obsession with appearance trumps environmental sense and property rights.

Solar power is making progress in California. Regulators there have approved the first solar thermal plant in the U.S. in two decades. Ah, good old American innovation… maybe we’ll catch up with Portugal after all.

But not if boneheads like Don Kopp stay in office. One of South Dakota’s most embarassing legislators provides a teabaggers’ splinter group in Rapid City with a slideshow assortment of decontextualized quotes—prooftexting at its finest (and a popular pastime among the non-thinkers in the Tea “Party”). The slides flog the U.N.-evil meme and insisting environmentalists are out to lynch America (yes, slide #10 includes a noose). I’m sure Kopp et al. consider this Kansas City artist’s work on sustainable buildings an effort to destroy America, too.
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But think positive: Lester R. Brown sees renewable energy booming worldwide and thinks we can “replace all coal- and oil-fired electricity generation with renewable sources.”