EPA Dodges Responsibility on Ethanol

The EPA is mandated by law to analyze the impacts of biofuels and report to Congress every three years, but its inspector general acknowledged that the agency has failed to complete such a report since 2011. A Denver Post editorial lists several negative impacts of using ethanol made from corn in fuel, which is the likely reason the required reports haven’t been filed. Mandating ethanol in fuel hasn’t reduced oil imports or improved air quality; two reasons given for imposing its use.

The list of negatives about ethanol is extensive. Farmers jumped on the corn for ethanol bandwagon by plowing up 6.5 million acres of conservation land in the process of planting an additional 19 million acres of corn. Massive amounts of water have been used to irrigate the larger fields of corn and more water is required to process the corn into ethanol. Fuel efficiency is less for gasoline mixed with ethanol. The higher prices for corn naturally resulted in higher prices for food. Top that off with the “…growing evidence that the mandate reduces greenhouse gas emissions much less than originally forecast, if indeed at all.”

Just guessing, but maybe the EPA doesn’t want to submit the required report because they can’t think of anything positive to say. Is it possible they’re working to protect a political agenda and not to protect the environment?

Nuclear Waste Disposal

Activists have successfully fought nuclear power generation by preventing a national solution to disposing of the waste. A Denver Post article describes how federal officials worked to open a central disposal facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Nevada politicians opposed after the money was spent to prepare the site, and Obama declared Yucca Mountain as an “unworkable solution” early in his Presidency. The result was that about 70,000 tons of waste (increasing by about 2,000 tons per year) is now stored at 99 power plants and 14 closed plants around the country. Guarding the spent fuel is expensive and the waste will eventually have to be repackaged if a permanent solution can’t be developed. I’ve never heard that anyone claim that what we are doing now is safer than what could have been accomplished by opening Yucca Mountain.

There is a long list of positives about nuclear energy. Advocates of reducing carbon dioxide emission to combat climate change should be thrilled that nuclear plants don’t emit carbon dioxide. Nuclear power generates about a fifth of the electricity in America despite the fierce opposition that has successfully impeded its development. Wind power might catch up with that amount by 2020. I was surprised to read that John Kotek, acting assistant secretary for nuclear energy, also added, “We benefited from the nuclear deterrence.”

The federal government convened a meeting in Denver to discuss the problem of nuclear waste. Kotek said, “We’re not at all at the stage of looking at locations. We’re developing a process.” He also added, “…having a waste disposal path would make nuclear more acceptable.” In my opinion, he doesn’t get it. Opponents fully understand that solving the problem of waste disposal would make nuclear energy more acceptable. That’s exactly why they will never agree to any solution. Plans to drill an exploratory bore hole thee miles deep under North Dakota for nuclear weapon waste were scrapped in the face of objections from residents. The problem won’t be solved until we find some politicians with the courage to do the right thing. Considering our latest crop of politicians, I’d say we shouldn’t hold our breath.

Renewable Energy’s Secret

The title is from an article in the Denver Post published in November 2015 which described bird deaths from the Iyanpah Solar Generating System in the Mojave Desert and wind turbines in Central California’s Altamont Pass. The article describes how two scientists published accounts of very large numbers of birds being incinerated when flying into the area of the solar system or killed when flying into the path of the wind turbines. A concerted effort was made by alternative energy companies to dismiss the data based on the accusation it was the result of “data dredging—teasing out statistical patterns that may not exist.”

A recent news report makes me suspicious there might have been some truth in the data presented by the two scientists. “The Obama administration is revising a federal rule that allows wind-energy companies to operate high-speed wind turbines for up to 30 years, even if it means killing or injuring thousands of federally protected bald and golden eagles…Under the plan…wind companies and other power providers could kill or injure up to 4,200 bald eagles a year without penalty—nearly four times the current limit. Golden eagles could be killed (apparently without limits) if companies take steps to minimize the losses…” The Fish and Wildlife Service Director said the proposal would “…provide a path forward for maintaining eagle populations while also spurring development of a pollution-free energy source that’s intended to ease global warming… (and) help the country reduce its reliance on fossil fuels such as coal and oil that contribute to global warming.”

I find it quite curious that the government is proposing allowing environmental damage to address environmental damage.