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As the awareness of any subject broadens, so do the terms accompanying its spread.
As the awareness of any subject broadens, so do the terms accompanying its spread. With the first voiced concerns about chemicals and the food we eat, “natural” became a catchword of direction, an idea in general more than a specific eating plan or directive. Once “natural” caught on, the more specific term “organic”, with all its legal and social needs being met, has become closely identified with one market, food. From this now well established base of dietary recognition springs a new word invoking old meanings.|
Suddenly everything seeks to be “green.” As with the first popular usage of “natural,” green in its early use was by those interested or concerned with the environment. Lately Madison Avenue has unceremoniously snatched the word to attract those who wish to see a more natural-world-association in their lives.
Now we have green clothing, green buildings, and green cars, its association now put on anything one wants to sell. The word stands in danger, if not having already happened, of becoming so abstracted that it stands for nothing and yet covers everything. Most are lulled toward a good feeling intimated by the word never delving deeper into what is actually being presented.
There is a jeopardy in never having put one’s hand to seed and soil. The ease of access to our food supply makes us forget the time lag involved in going from seed to harvest.
This is apparently the case of those so willing to promote ethanol as the biofuel green savior of the world’s fuel needs. The solution appears attractive to mega farms, who receive a portion of the 17 billion dollars of subsidies given out by the government for corn-ethanol production. It would seem most legislators see growing corn as simple as pumping oil or gas from the ground, not realizing the amount of energy and chemicals needed for its growing. Recent expert opinions claim a 1-to1 ratio, achieving no positive energy outcome from the input.
While ethanol may be kinder on the environment than petroleum, its production is not so, with the nitrogen needs being most problematic. Those high nitrogen fertilizers and pesticides used in fields are never completely absorbed by the plants and the rest goes into our underground water supply. The runoff eventually accumulates in rivers, like the Mississippi, which empties this leftover nitrogen soup into the gulf of Mexico, enlarging the already New Jersey State sized “dead zone” where aquatic life no longer exists.
The U.S. goal for biofuel by 2017 is 35 billion gallons, and yet if achieved would only displace 3.5 percent of gasoline use. To meet this goal, the entire U.S. corn crop would need to be used, taking away from the world’s poor a food source that will triple in need by 2050. While being applauded as a green solution, its promotion as an answer to our energy needs only brings about greater destruction of land cleared of carbon absorbing trees, the destruction of animal habitats, and ignoring the water intensive needs for growing on the scale proposed.
The idea that biofuel can be an overall solution is masked and made palatable by its green nature and promotion as a green answer for use in our green cars and in our green homes, when in fact it is a concept that will only become more unwieldy and detrimental in the future. This grasping at straws approach will only eventuate in the straw that will break the proverbial camel’s back.
Morris Berman notes that, “An idea is something you have; an ideology is something that has you.” At this time, it would seem biofuel ideology has a hold on farmers, consumers, and politicians, all acquiescing with a green fervor.
Lack of practical experience can often make an idea seem simple to achieve - just grow our fuel – sounds good! Even now, we try to find ways to increase production with genetically modified seed, using more land, more chemicals, more pesticides, with larger multi-million dollar refineries, and more equipment.
The energy used to light our goldfish pond at night, and the lights along the winding path going to our carport from our house, work for us dependably each day, freely given each day by a new crop of energy from the sun.
When our agricultural and technological resources are used to feed the peoples of the world first and our machines second, then we will grow.
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