More Kyoto Spin in Reuters Fluff Piece on Biofuels
Update at post's bottom.
In what could be a quirky human interest story or a thinly-disguised “message,” Yahoo ran an article that said the US “pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, which binds most industrialized nations to cut harmful emissions.” That’s what an erroneous sentence in a deceptively fluffy Reuters article about two Americans traveling from Alaska to the southernmost tip of South America in a “squat, red firetruck,” that runs solely on biofuels, such as restaurant grease and fish oil.
Reuters reporter, Hilary Burke wrote an article that followed the usual enviro template and tossed in some biofuels cheerleading but, most importantly, managed to slip in some all too common disinformation about Kyoto:
The idea is to find alternatives to burning fossil fuels, which release gases like carbon dioxide that are linked to global warming.
The United States, the world's biggest emitter of such gases, pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, which binds most industrialized nations to cut harmful emissions.
"We're trying to set an example of maybe how Americans should behave and how our country should act, and how we as a nation should provide a role model for the rest of the world to use alternative fuels," Bradt said.
The US has not “pulled out” of the Kyoto Protocol. It can’t pull out of something that it never joined. In 1997, Bill Clinton symbolically signed the “fatally flawed” large-scale scheme for wealth distribution, but he purposely did not submit it to Congress for ratification. The Clinton Administration never agreed to follow Kyoto; Bush’s policy is merely a continuation of Clinton’s. So far, Bush has not “unsigned” Kyoto, as he did the International Criminal Court treaty.
If by saying Kyoto “binds most industrialized nations to cut harmful emissions,” Reuters means it doesn’t include major greenhouse gas (GHG) offenders, like China (#2) and India (# 5) among the “most” and pretends that those which signed Kyoto have complied, then, sure, the Protocol “binds.”
A Kyoto report card shows that some of the US’ biggest Kyoto critics, like the EU, have not fulfilled their own Kyoto promises; in addition, Canada scrapped the commitments alltogether. India and China may have signed the window-dressing treaty, but they are not bound by the regs and do not follow them. Sometime between 2009 to 2020, China is predicted to surpass the US as the greatest GHG producer. In 1998, even eco-warrior Al Gore believed that participating in Kyoto would cause “serious harm” to the American economy and signed the Byrd-Hagel Resolution instructing the Clinton Administration to reject the treaty.
This is very restrained version of the environmentalist religion but instead of intentional wordplay, it could just be a case of a reporter believing the green meme without actually doing her job and questioning the “facts.”
Update: Not everyone thinks that developing biofuels like palm and corn oils set a good example for the rest of the world to follow. In the March 27 Guardian, George Monbiot warns, "we know that biofuel is worse for the planet than petroleum...Biodesiel from palm oil causes 10 times as much climate change as ordinary diesel."
For those that aren't very concerned with anthropogenic climate change, Monbiot logically points out that if there is a drought or extremely poor harvest, consumers may face the exact same fossil fuel-style problems with scarcity and high prices that biofuels are supposed to prevent. He also provides figures that seem to back up his claim that biofuels strip the food supplies of poor and vulnerable nations or price food out of their reach.
Burke simply promoted biofuels as something to share with the rest of the world without including any potential consequences or downside. While this was just a puff piece, she still just championed the green cause and then promoted the US modeling this "alternative to fossil fuels" without exploring any of the potential downside. Many in the media promote favorable green stories while ignoring negative stories or contradictory evidence.