In the past couple of weeks, NewsBusters has been noting that as food prices around the world have soared causing an international crisis, typically green press members have been surprisingly reporting a rather pessimistic view of ethanol.
Without question, the most comprehensive and daring commentary I've seen on this subject to date comes from a program north of the border called The National.
Though not a household name here in the States, the CBC's Rex Murphy is willing to address the heart of this issue in a fashion so honest and unconcerned with the currently in vogue climate alarmism that it is a metaphysical certitude viewers will want to see and read more of his opinions.
Frankly, I'd doubt any American broadcaster would have the nerve to say the following with cameras rolling and microphones switched on (absolutely must-see video available here, transcript follows, enthusiastic h/t to NBer Par for the Course):
The rage over global warming and the great Al Gore crusade is producing a few inconvenient truths itself. For a subject that was supposed to be debate-free, global warming is towing a whole tsunami of controversy in its wake, and nowhere more pathetically than in the global warming craze for befouls. We should have known from the word itself, "biofuel." The more fervent environmentalists are very good on choosing the right words. Put "shade-grown" in front of some ridiculously priced coffee, and suddenly a hit of caffeine is earth friendly.
The go-green business is everywhere. Jay Leno probably owns more cars than G.M., but did you know Jay Leno has a green garage? Rock and movie stars headline green concerts and then haul themselves around the world in fleets of customized buses and private jets. International conferences on global warming routinely fly 10,000 or 15,000 people from all over the world, like in Bali recently, where they meet and mutter about the nasty effects on global warming of jet flights.
The ethanol craze grew out of alarmism and the deep desire of governments, especially here in North America and Europe, to be seen as green. Now, it's clear that growing corn to make ethanol not only takes more energy to produce than it saves on the other end, but the subsidies, particularly in the States and Europe, for such production is one of the factors driving an international food crisis that, as always, is hardest on the poorest people of the world.
Did you know that the clearance of grassland for biofuel releases 93 times the amount of greenhouse gas that would be saved by the fuel made annually on that land? That's from "Science" magazine. The European Environmental Agency has warned that the commitment to biofuels will lead to, I'm quoting here, "the accelerated devastation of rain forests." The commitment to those noble Kyoto targets is leading to some strange results. World food crisis, great destruction of rain forests... who would have ever guessed that saving the planet could contribute to such unenvironmental ends?
I won't go as far as that U.N. special rapporteur who recently called the production of biofuels, quote, "a crime against humanity." Certain U.N. agencies have a tendency to haul up that phrase a little too easily for anything but genuine crimes against humanity. But, in the U.S., in Britain, and here in Canada too, governments nudged or hectored by global warming hype and the constant cries that it's going to be too late signed on to yet another feel-good solution, and it turns out, (a), not to work - the biofuels over their life add more CO2 than they save - and, (b), is driving up the cost and diminishing the stock of food for the world's poorest people.
Don't listen when people tell you there's no debate, even if it's holy St. Al himself saying so. There are a million debates about global warming, and the biggest one of all is whether some of its solutions have the potential to make much greater problems - messing with the world economy in all its interdependence being one - than they are meant to solve. There is much folly and not a little fanaticism in the global warming movement, and unless the discussion of it returns to rationality and real science, we're going to see a few more spectacles - like the biofuel movement - that will cause real pain to the very poorest of the planet because the very richest want to feel that they're doing something about global warming.
I doubt that the most zealous global warming activists will acknowledge the mischiefs and potential miseries that their alarmism contributes to, but then some truths are more inconvenient than others.
For "The National," I'm Rex Murphy.
Bravo, Rex. Bravo.