Time to rag on bio-fuels again. Take a look at past blog posts here, here, here, and here for more in-depth “ragging”. What is the problem this time? The U.S. ethanol mandate is destroying natural grasslands in the Great Plains. Because of the mandate creating artificial price and demand support for corn, farmers are plowing up every little nook and cranny of former grassland in order to grow corn. I can’t blame the farmers for wanting to earn a living or make money, but I do blame politicians in Washington D.C. for creating such perverse incentives to destroy the natural landscape. I have seen this a little in Wisconsin as well. During the 1980′s and 90′s, as small family farms shrank in number, forests and natural grassland reclaimed a good portion of the landscape. In the last 2 or 3 years, I have seen some of this being plowed under again in order to make way for corn – to be burned as ethanol in our cars.
One of the main problems with destroying natural grasslands in the prairies is that it reduces habitat for ground dwelling birds and potentially even breeding grounds for ducks. But even if the birds were not being assaulted by the ethanol mandate, they would still be under increasing threat by another alternative energy subsidy – for wind turbines. The greatest implementation of wind turbines in the U.S. is in the Great Plains. So after the birds are chased out of their grassland home on the ground, they can fly up into the air and have their lungs exploded or be clobbered to death by wind turbines. What a life.
At least there is some energy logic for wind turbines. They do produce a higher EROI and are the cheapest form of alternative energy. However, they (and other forms of alternative energy) are still not as economical as fossil fuels as Germany and Spain have found out. Both of these countries which were first to build out greater alternative energy infrastructure with a significant percentage of their national tax money, are the first to potentially pull the plug on further development. The lesson to be learned here, once again, as we have learned over and over again throughout human history, is that “money does not grow on trees”, or “you can’t get something for nothing”. I am a big fan of alternative energy and have looked into getting solar panels for my house, but I realize it is an expensive form of energy. I understand that I will have to make a financial sacrifice in order lessen my reliance on fossil fuels and (hopefully) get off the grid. Printing and or borrowing money in order to fund alternative energy development is bound to lead to outcomes with negative side effects – whether it is entire national economies going broke or killing birds.
Have a swell Tuesday! Meteorologist Justin Loew