Friday, March 25, 2011

Good intentions aren't enough

Germany's SPIEGEL asks "Is Environmentalism Really Working?" in a series of articles examining many of the unanticipated consequences of environmental policy — some of which do positive damage. Ethanol fits into that category:
.... Many haven't yet fully realized that E10 is an ecological swindle. People who want to help the environment shouldn't use it. Nine large European environmental associations recently conducted a joint study which concluded that the bottom line impact of the fuel on the environment is negative. Rainforests are being clear-cut in Brazil and Borneo to make room for sugarcane and oil palm cultivation. At the same time there's a shortage of arable land for food production, which is leading to the threat of famine in parts of the world. Last year, the price of grain rose sharply in the global market.

A single full tank of bio-ethanol uses up as much grain as an adult can eat in a whole year. [emphasis added] In order to cover the German requirement for biofuel, an arable area of around one million hectares would be needed. That is four times the size of the south-western German state of Saarland, which would need to be fertilized, treated with pesticides and intensively farmed. Environmental groups say that across Europe, farming for biofuels would create up to 56 million tons of additional greenhouse gases — an environmental crime they say must be stopped immediately. ....
Current US law will result in the banning of incandescent bulbs in the near future. The EU is already doing it. Perhaps we can profit from their experience:
The energy-saving bulbs that replaced them emit blue light and induce stress because they disrupt the body's production of the sleep hormone melatonin. In addition, they contain mercury — to the point that consumers are advised not to use them in children's rooms. ....

The energy-saving bulb is a pretty dirty affair if one takes a closer look at the production process. Eighty percent of the bulbs are made in China where safety standards are so lax that many workers suffer from mercury poisoning. In Germany, the bulbs are classified as special waste and the poisonous substance they contain has to be dumped in underground sites.

Furthermore, the new bulbs don't live up to their promise regarding energy efficiency either. When the magazine Ökotest tested an array of the bulbs recently, half of them didn't last longer than 6,000 hours, well below EU estimates of 10,000 hours, Indeed, it was found that the larger estimate applies only to continuous use. Switching the new bulbs on and off, it would seem, isn't good for them. .... [more]
Germany's Eco-Trap: Is Environmentalism Really Working? - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International