enemies list

Natural gas fracking well in Louisiana

Thanks to Ron Steenblik for making me aware of a top 10 enemies list, recently developed by Tom Waterman at The Ethanol Monitor.  Alas, neither Ron nor I made it.  We'll just have to try harder I suppose.  Robert Bryce, who has also been critical of the industry for some years, and has written a good summary of the whole affair, did squeek by with an honorable mention.

In addition to Bryce's take, I see a number of interesting aspects about who is on this list:

  • Only two of the parties listed ("Big Oil" and the Grocery Manufacturers Association) have any direct financial interest in the way the ethanol debate comes down.  That is quite significant in terms of how much I weight what they say.  It is also quite different from the main ethanol boosters, who generally have quite large financial interests in keeping the subsidy spigot flowing.  It also suggests that maybe, just maybe, there may be some real and important aspects of biofuels production that need to be front and center in policy making.
  • Given ethanol's effort to position itself as a green alternative to oil, seeing the California Air Resources Board as enemy number 2 seems rather odd.  Yes, there is clearly a rationale to it (indirect land use again), but the choice underscores a big erosion in the original claims being made for the fuels.
  • If the impact of biofuel subsidies on food prices were really as insignificant at the ethanol lobby likes to claim, it would be surprising for the Grocery Manufacturers Association to waste its time on this issue.    Clearly, GMA is spending enough on the issue to be viewed as a top 10 threat to the industry, so I guess they think there must be a great deal more to the food versus fuel issue than does the ethanol industry.   Now if GMA could only come out against crop subsidies in general, we'd be on our way...
  • Including both Tim Searchinger and David Pimentel on this list indicates that their papers on the environmental impacts of biofuels are being heard and influencing policy.  I've had the privilige to work with both of them, and am grateful for their willingness to expend so much of their time and intellectual capital on this issue -- and perhaps even more grateful that they've continued to do so while enduring continual attacks by ethanol subsidy backers.  They have raised very important issues with respect to protecting the environment as biofuels continue to scale upwards.