I was sitting in Petsi’s Pies and Café in my neighborhood in Cambridge this morning,
drinking a fabulous Cubano made by Jarad,
musician and barista extraordinaire, and I nearly choked on the brew. The International Herald Tribune reported
that “almost all biofuels used today cause more greenhouse gas emissions than
conventional fuels when the pollution caused by producing these ‘green’ fuels
is taken into account.” This startling discovery comes from recently
published studies in the reliable journal Science.
At first I thought it was a joke – some take-off on one of my
favorite Woody Allen movies, Sleeper,
in which Miles, our hero, wakes
up after a 200-year sleep and overhears
the following conservation between two doctors:
Dr. Melik: (listing
items Miles had requested for breakfast): "... wheat germ, organic honey,
and... Tiger's Milk."
"Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were
thought to contain life-preserving properties."
Dr. Melik: "You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies
or... hot fudge?"
"Those were thought to be unhealthy... precisely the opposite of what we
now know to be true."
Dr. Melik: "Incredible!"
Of course, our federal
government jumped the gun and provided substantial financial incentives for
converting cropland to biofuels production,
giving farmers a substantial incentive to feed our cars rather than our
people. How and why is it that the government jumped into this without an
adequate amount of scientific documentation?
Well, I suppose the answer, should this be investigated, will turn out to be
that the government acted for the reasons it usually acts – on the basis of
lobbying pressure from industry, rather than on the basis of peer-reviewed
scientific evidence. Isn’t this the way we’ve been doing a lot of things lately
– elevating such factors as industry pressure, religious belief, ideology and
such, over science and facts?