Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Peak Soil: Why cellulosic ethanol, biofuels are unsustainable and a threat to America

That's the headline from Culture Change. I don't always agree with their editorial slant, exemplified by this note on the homepage:

Editor's note: There is a whole, sinister cultural context for growth and economics. Western industrial culture must reward -- and defend with deadly force -- exploitation for private gain. This has been institutionalized and codified, with economists as high-level priests and lackeys.

I know a few economists (academic, tenured) who think of themselves on the Archbishop level, minimum, but none who are lackeys. That said, I think this piece has an interesting take on something that is a very big problem:
Strip-mining our top-soil.

Part 1. The Dirt on Dirt.

Ethanol is an agribusiness get-rich-quick scheme that will bankrupt our topsoil.

Nineteenth century western farmers converted their corn into whiskey to make a profit (Rorabaugh 1979). Archer Daniels Midland, a large grain processor, came up with the same scheme in the 20th century. But ethanol was a product in search of a market, so ADM spent three decades relentlessly lobbying for ethanol to be used in gasoline. Today ADM makes record profits from ethanol sales and government subsidies (Barrionuevo 2006). More

From the King of the Rent-seekers, a press release:
Archer Daniels Midland Reports Record Annual Results

Forbes is underwhelmed when they parse the numbers.

No Kernel Of Good News For Archer Daniels Midland