Corn fuel and wishful thinking

An energy-related gaffe that’s been going on south of the border for about 10 years now jumped back into my mind...

An energy-related gaffe that’s been going on south of the border for about 10 years now jumped back into my mind after reading a recent green-lobby press release.

In a recent story by Global News, readers were told “The Pembina Institute and a number of green energy firms say in a letter to Premier Rachel Notley and others in her government that the province has shown strong leadership in its Climate Leadership Plan.

“But the letter says there are questions about how the targets will be enforced and what considerations would lead to a deviation from the targets. The groups that signed the letter are asking the Alberta government to turn that target into law.”

Nothing could be further from the truth about Notley’s NDP government “showing strong leadership.” Strong leadership means doing what’s best for Alberta and Albertans rather than going down the Council of Canadian’s manifesto like a grocery list.

The green groups are rushing to make major decisions that should include all stakeholders, not just members of lobby groups that are in bed with the NDP.

But mistakes like this are made all the time in politics, as political lobbyists such as the Pembina Institute encourage weak politicians to make critical decisions with little or no forethought of consequences. As I said, this brings to mind another politician from the same political stripes, with the same habit of making critical judgments with little or no forethought, screwing it up, backtracking and then declining to take any responsibility.

U.S. Democratic President Barack Obama in the fall of 2015 made a decree about reducing the mandatory amount of ethanol (corn gasoline) in fuel. Years ago U.S. politicians who were doing everything they could to reduce the American addiction to foreign gasoline brought in this “ethanol” requirement, which mandated the use of ethanol to a certain level in gasoline.

Another apparent “benefit” touted by Obama was that ethanol is “green,” whereas other gasoline isn’t. This is where a serious logical error occurred. The premise was flawed. No thought put into idea at all, obviously. Hilariously incompetent.

According to a brilliant story on www.organicconsumers.org, “Adding up the energy costs of corn production and its conversion to ethanol, 131,000 Btu are needed to make 1 gallon of ethanol. One gallon of ethanol has an energy value of only 77,000 Btu. “Put another way,” Cornell University agricultural scientist David Pimentel said, “about 70 percent more energy is required to produce ethanol than the energy that actually is in ethanol. Every time you make one gallon of ethanol, there is a net energy loss of 54,000 Btu.”

Think of it this way: what kind of equipment is used to harvest cornfields? Tractors burning fossil fuel.

The same logic applies to wind-farms (how long do the turbines last, how much do they cost for upkeep?) and solar power (how long do panels last, what happens to them in a bad hail storm?). A reasonable, logical Albertan wonders if questions like these are included in the green-lobby’s Grade 2-mentality demands.

There’s a term for what Obama and his corn fuel fantasies (which applies equally to the NDP and their idealistic green-lobby buddies) actually are.

It’s called wishful thinking. “Having or expressing a desire or hope for something to happen based on impractical wishes rather than facts.” (Oxford online dictionary)

Stu Salkeld is the editor of The Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.