Monday, December 18, 2006

Burning ethanol does not reduce GHGs!

I had been meaning for quite a while to bitch about these ads on the bus stops, and also about Christmas lights.

This person wrote a comment on Slashdot, which I felt I had to reply to. I liked the way my reply was worded, so I thought I'd copy it here and kill a few stoned birds...
"I estimate rather conservatively that my compact florescent (CF) bulbs will pay for themselves in less than 18 months"

Sorry to burst your bulb, but this is a really dangerous style of reasoning.

For example, there are a lot of ads at the bus shelters here in Ottawa talking about how ethanol and biodiesel "reduces" greenhouse gases.

I'm sorry, but when you burn any hydrocarbon there are more--not less--GHGs in the atmosphere as a result. Carpooling with one other person will reduce your emissions by 50%; teleworking or cycling one day per week will reduce by 20%.

Similarly, CF bulbs (yes, I do use them) don't "pay for themselves": you don't get paid to use them, they only cost less, when compared to an older, less efficient technology. Do you still hear people talk about the money that they save from not having to pay for lamp oil by using incandescents?

That's why I don't bother with those LED Christmas lights: sure they use less energy than the old kind, but I use no energy at all when I don't have any Christmas lights! (well, plus I have it in for Christmas; see username)

The advantage of performing a task with less energy (or at less cost, or with fewer pollutants) often distracts people from asking themselves if that task needs to be done at all, or as much.

- RG>


Anonymous said...

i'm sorry, but yes biodiesel produces a lot of carbon dioxide, but in actualy fact overall less carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere because biodiesel fuel is carbon neutral so the carbon dioxide produced when it burns is cancelled out by that which is used when the plants photosynthesize.

RealGrouchy said...

Thanks for the comment (albeit an anonymous one).

Your point is mostly correct, but only when you consider it as a closed system.

Assuming you believe in the religious rhetoric that CO2 emissions are the human-caused armageddon, it would be much better to let plants absorb CO2, and not burn it at all.

That's not just carbon neutral, that's carbon negative. If you really believe the CO2 doctrine, then you'll agree that being carbon-negative is much better than being carbon-neutral. Otherwise, you're no better than the television preacher who insists that you will only gain eternal salvation if you call and give him $29.95. That is what this poster is saying.

As I've stated elsewhere, biodiesel--or even zero-emissions motor vehicles--will still contribute to traffic congestion, and will still be enablers of the urban nightmare that is sprawl. Lots of money and energy (heh!) goes into developing alternative fuel technology, and giving $1500 to people who buy a new low-emissions car, when barely any goes into encouraging local lifestyles and healthier commutes.

There's also the matter of where the CO2 is. It is being absorbed into plants in sparsely-populated areas, then released in dense urban areas.

I won't even get into the environmental and social catastrophes caused by corporate agriculture and the "green revolution".

- RG>

RealGrouchy said...

Incidentally, mr/mrs "anonymous", I know which government department you work for.

In hindsight, I should have guessed it.

- RG>

RealGrouchy said...

One more nail in the biofuel coffin:

- RG>