2008 Archive

06/07/2008  California is discovering that "development" often means enrichment of the few while the environment is destroyed, and "progress" is a synonym of environmental degradation.  I might add that California is an environmental leader in the US. Scary! Click here
06/05/2008 Monsanto has just promised to double the yields of corn, soybeans and cotton by 2030. The new crops would require 30 percent less water, land and energy to grow.  Such an announcement can only happen - and be printed by  NYT - in a country, which is collectively lost, panicked, and has no knowledge of science.  In addition to the Air Force jet fuel from algae, gasoline from the genetically modified bacteria,  we now have an agricultural research program that violates the basic laws of physics: photosynthetic efficiency, and the counter-current diffusion of carbon dioxide and water in the leaf stomata.  This program also violates the fundamental finding of 1924  by Spillman and Lang, summarized neatly in their book, "The Law of Diminishing Return."  I am writing this in a faint hope that there people out there, who have not gone mad yet. Click here
05/31/2008  Here is the claim: There has been four times as many weather-related disasters in the last 30 years than in the previous 75 years.  A qualifying natural disaster has been defined as fulfilling at least one of the following criteria:  (1) Killing 10 or more people, (2) 100 people reported affected, (3) State of emergency is declared, and/or (4)  International assistance is called for.  This claim is shaky at best.  Between 1900 and 1975, the human population has increased from 1.6 billion people to 4 billion people, and today it is 6.7 billion people.  Thus, we arrive at the population growth factors of over 2 and 4, respectively.  Today, more people live in large agglomerations and close to the coasts.  In the year 1900, many places that are densely  inhabited today had close to no people, reporting was not as good, and international help was not readily available. It then follows that with the same density and intensity of natural disasters, it is as likely to destroy 4 times more property and kill four times more people  today as it was in the year 1900.  Conclusion: The Al Gore approach to science should be used with caution.  Click here
05/31/2008  Death concentration camps for animals are now common in America.  Herr Heinrich Himmler would be impressed with our highly streamlined maiming and killing of the living creatures. Click here or visit a monstrous cattle feedlot in Coalinga along Highway 5 in California. I call it an Auschwitz for cows. I was born in Poland and spent a lot of time visiting and trying to comprehend the real Auschwitz.  I still cannot understand that part of human nature, but I unmistakably smell it and see it in Coalinga.  Thousands of people pass by this hellish place each day.  Do they look at the suffering, dirty, and overheated cows?  Do they try to imagine how any living creature must feel breathing ammonia diluted with air and spending her last days in a human-made inferno?
05/31/2008  Does GM really think that people will be clamoring to buy the 5500-pound hybrid dinosaurs?  Maybe Mr. Lutz needs to take a walk and visit a Toyota Prius dealership. Click here
05/30/2008 It is not so easy to do the right things with an old coal-powered Carnot cycle.  Click here
05/30/2008 I certainly hope that the current worldwide agricultural disaster will not lead Africa to accept more grants to buy more fertilizer- and field chemical-thirsty GM plants from Monsanto.  The farmers in the poorest nations can ill afford to be buying the expensive patented  seeds, and their chemical cocoons.  How many of those farmers will end up drinking another favorite product of Monsanto, Roundup, to free their families from debt and misery?  Thousands of farmers in India have already done just that. Click here
05/29/2008  Big investments, and even bigger costs overruns, have not lead to a large consumption of liquefied natural gas (LNG).  Perhaps these last vestiges of the truly global hydrocarbon economy are not as attractive as many thought?  In the meantime, how about simply producing the local unconventional natural gas, without liquefying it? Click here
04/27/2008  Every now and then the lunacy displayed by NYT reporters stuns me afresh, even though I have seen it all.   This particular, exquisitely insane article tells us about converting sugar to ethanol in your backyard.  The simple carbohydrate fermentation/ethanol distillation process has been well known for many decades to all moon shiners with extra sugar or starch on their hands.  Now the NYT lunatics want us to drive cars on the backyard moonshine instead of drinking it with friends or selling it to customers.  So let's go over the numbers: 14 pounds of sugar might produce 1 gallon of ethanol of unknown and variable purity, ready to rust your engine and attack all seals.  Let's assume optimistically that you will drive 15 miles on this one gallon (9 for a Chevy Tahoe).  A statistical American (man, women and child) drives 10,000 miles per year.  Thus, you will need 4.7 tons of sugar to satisfy your average driving habit.   You will have to buy about 190 fifty-pound bags of sugar each year.   To supply ethanol for  the miles driven by all Americans, we would need 1.4 billion tons of sugar each year. Global sugar production in 2006/07 is estimated at 161 million tons. So we would need 9 Earths to satisfy the US sweet driving tooth.  And what about my cookies? Congratulations, Mr. Fitzgerald,  Dr. Kammen, and Co.! You surely found a way to finally threaten that big bad oil industry!  I hope that the forward thinking California will not adopt your suggestions for the new low-fat, high-sugar fuel diet.  Otherwise, California will become even more hopelessly bankrupt than it is today. Click here
04/26/2008  Norman Borlaug is well known for hysterical outbursts in defense of "his" green revolution, and abusive remarks about the stupid scientists who do not get, or fully appreciate, the benefits from this revolution.  Now even he is sounding a note of caution.  His green revolution has pretty much run its course and  - without new extensive research - the revolution's most prominent outcome, more and better specialized pathogens and pests, is threatening the world's food supply.  Click here
04/24/2008  At first glance, Mr. Cohen is a clueless journalist.  But, upon reflection, he is just another functionary of mass media, doing dirty work for agribusiness, see my comment above about Mr. Fitzgerald's piece.  I hope that his payoff is sufficient to balance the moral abyss into which he has fallen.  Click here
04/09/2008 No more trials for the major corporate offenders of the U.S. law?  Sure, laws and prisons are, as everyone knows, for the little people.  So when Monsanto tries to bribe yet another corrupt official from yet another poor country, Monsanto will get a slap on the wrist from the understanding federal prosecutors (after all, these prosecutors are very busy finding out who sleeps with whom and for how much). Besides, who cares if another part of another essential ecosystem gets destroyed because of such actions?  (For more, see the note below.)  Click here.
04/09/2008 When the environmentally sensitive land must compete with profits and costs, the land loses in the U.S., let alone in the poor and corrupt countries such as Indonesia or the Democratic Republic of Congo. Click here
04/04/2008 The healthy, uncontaminated - by definition super-organic - food I grew up eating every day is about to give way to a mindless EU bureaucracy that supports the unsustainable industrial farming in an age of going back to the lower-energy agricultural solutions.  Will these few echoes of my youth manage to survive long enough to become the next rage of the rich and the stupid? Click here
03/27/2008 Another deadly progress trap; this time it is farm salmon from Chile.  Click here
03/23/2008 Credit default swaps, designed to provide the financial system solvency when a bank becomes insolvent, have exceeded $45 trillion.  The 2007 world's GDP was 57 trillion dollars.  So who is insane here?
03/01/2008 Sir Branson and Mr. Khosla are also benefiting  from the US government subsidies for agricultural commodities that harm the environment and US citizens. Click here
02/25/2008 Sir Richard Branson has proposed to fly jet airliners on edible oil from babassu nuts and coconuts.  His cronies have inserted one-sentence ads into Wikipedia to commemorate this outlandish stupidity. Both  types of  nuts grow on tropical palms and contain several high-end fats used for cooking, baking, and expensive cosmetics. It is difficult to describe this stint with a correct name: "Nuts" is a vast understatement, "criminal" would be better, but best perhaps are "soulless" and "brainless." Click here
02/17/2008  The article "Dream Stifled, Egypt's Young Turn to Islamic Favor," by Michael Slackman, demonstrates an almost complete lack of understanding of the root causes of current tragic situation of the young Egyptians. Theses causes are (1) a catastrophic overpopulation of Egypt, compounded by (2) an equally catastrophic decline of land fertility. So how did it all happen?  For nearly 5000 thousand years the population of Egypt oscillated between a couple of hundreds of thousands of people, occasionally up to 4 million people, but usually around 2 million people.  Egyptians used with great skill the life-giving Nile river and its annual inundations to keep the delta fertile and the population fed.  Whenever the Nile did not deliver, the Egyptian kingdoms fell.  At around 1850, the new British rulers introduced intensive, fertilized agriculture to Egypt and told Egyptians to grow cotton for export.  The population took off.  In 1958, work on the Upper Aswan Dam had started, and 13 years later the disruption of the eternal Nile cycles was complete.  The soil became salinized and infertile at a frightening rate because of the insufficient flushing and intensive application of fertilizers and field chemicals.  And the population kept on growing at a more than exponential rate (e to the exponent that itself is a quadratic function of time), reaching now 80 million people.  In short, using modern technology and implementing the Western green revolution, Egypt has committed suicide.  Today's difficulties with marriage are the last desperate attempt to choke off the rate of population growth and delay the inevitable collapse. Slackman seems to miss altogether the simple truth that the world's resources are finite, and the current Egyptian population can starve to death, blow itself up to smithereens, or decrease in numbers by limiting its birth rate.  Of course, similar processes are occurring in the United States, and the growth of religious fervor here can also be linked to the lack of economic opportunities for an ever-increasing impoverished and uneducated part of our society.  Click here
01/27/2008 The crude oil and environment guzzling cows and pigs in the US will have to be contained. Click here
01/14/2008 Speaking about progress traps, here is another classical example.  The coastal waters of Africa are emptied by the superbly efficient fishing boats - subsidized by  Europe, Asia, and America.  There is no seafood left for the local population and hunger entices thousands to migrate to Europe.  The circle closes: We abuse their environment, they come back to abuse our social services. Just think about the 300 million Indonesians, whose fisheries are empting out because we have helped to silt the mangrove stands out by cutting their forests for our fuel. We have also helped to cut the mangroves for wood, to build, and to put it the deadly shrimp ponds.  Each year, their mangroves deliver more food and nutrients to the sea, than the fertilized corn fields in the US.  No mangroves, no fisheries, but lots of boat people in Australia.  Click here and here
01/06/2008  I have respected the NYT for almost two decades, so these words do not come easy.  In the Roman census questionnaires in Egypt, mostly between 103 and 215 A.D., there was a category of respondents, atechnos or idiotes, that denoted people with no profession or no education.  Nowadays some of their descendents are journalists, who  opine in their newspaper columns about things they know nothing about.  Today, such a journalist is Mr. Roger Cohen, who writes about agriculture in Brazil.  He repeats the old, tried, and false propaganda he was fed, and appears to make no effort to verify his sources.  His scientific transgressions are serious and many, but never mind, an idiota is talking to atechnos, and everyone is happy.  Here I'll give just one example.  Mr. Cohen claims that Brazilian sugarcane yields 8 times more ethanol per hectare than US corn.   The true factor is ~2 on the average.  The factor of 8, misunderstood by Mr. Cohen,  is an equally false "net-energy ratio," which Brazilians use to hide the fact that ancient fossil fuels (bad) have been replaced with contemporary fossil fuels (good), mostly sugarcane fiber and leaves.  The effect is tragic. The soil is depleted of nutrients and organic carbon, and it becomes dirt that is easily washed away.  I'll stop here, but there is a lot more...  I will only say this: The lunacies of English majors are not helpful, especially when our magnificent world is being destroyed right in front of their and our blind eyes.  Most appropriately, Mr. Cohen has replaced Mr. Friedman who is out on Mount Sinai chatting with God about energy.  Mr. Friedman promises to share his revelations with us in about 4 months.  Nota bene, in 2006, the US imported from Brazil 11 times more energy as crude oil and  petroleum products than as ethanol.  Still the US imports of crude oil from Brazil have amounted to a drop in a bucket.  
I am really thinking about canceling my subscription to NYT... (Click here)
01/05/2008 The good citizens of Dresden also do not quite get it.  The capacity of their old city environment  to absorb their demands is finite.  But they are still requesting another monster bridge that will be insufficient two years from now, as they always are, unless we change our ways.  So how about prohibiting to drive personal cars in certain  areas of Dresden downtown and using public transportation? (Click here)
01/05/2008 This year's theme will continue to be the progress traps into which we fall, because we think that humans can expand ad infinitum on a planet that is already about 10 times too small. A progress trap is defined by the following reasoning: if a little of something is good, then a lot more of the same thing must be better.   So read carefully this editorial by the Governor of Alaska.  He genuinely thinks that the Earth is much bigger than it is and  our impacts are much smaller than they are.  He uses the phraseology of a drug addict justifying his habit to the understanding audience.  What he and others do not seem to get is that we too will go they way the polar bears are going - mostly extinct. (Click here)