Monthly Archives: February 2016

Why We Doubt the Bad News About Climate Change

It was the spring of 1973, on the day that this college freshman found his way to the rear of the lecture hall for a first session with the famous Georgetown professor, Jan Karski. GOV-105 – The Theory of Communism – was a reasonable choice for a Foreign Service student in the 1970s, with the Cold War still raging, and Vietnam looking like the next of many more “dominos” to fall.

It took only a couple of minutes for Professor Karski to win me over. Bolt upright in posture, head held high, devoutly Catholic, and speaking with the heaviest of accents – everyone knew that Karski had fought the Nazis with the Polish Underground. But I didn’t know half the story on that spring morning.

Professor Jan Karski at Georgetown University

Polish Underground veteran Jan Karski at Georgetown University

As Karski warmed to his topic, a sweeping gesture with his arm pulled back the crisp cuff of his white shirt sleeve, revealing disfiguring scars on his wrist. Soon enough, the same would happen with his other wrist, revealing matching horrors. Whatever could have happened to this man, I wondered, for both of his wrists to be slashed repeatedly? And how was he still alive?

Soon enough, I found a copy of his autobiography, and learned the awful truth. Blessed with a photographic memory, Karski served as a courier for the Underground, committing lengthy communiques to memory and delivering them verbally upon arrival. But he was captured three times by the Germans, and tortured beyond describing, in an effort to pry loose his precious secrets. Karski knew that there was only one way to destroy the files in his memory, and a razor blade hidden in his shoe would have to do the trick. But weakened by days and nights of torture, Karski’s blood-flow failed him, and guards discovered his attempted suicide before his life could fully ebb away.

An audacious hospital rescue by the Underground saved Karski, and sent him on his most important mission, slipping through the back channels of Nazi Europe on a mission to President Roosevelt, armed with the first eyewitness accounts of the Jewish Holocaust in the death camps. But to Karski’s dismay, few Americans in Washington believed his account.

Karski’s story was, quite simply, unbelievable. Roosevelt brushed him off. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, who could not believe what he was hearing, would later say: “”I did not say this young man is lying. I said that I could not believe him. There is a difference.”

Karski’s story tells us something about ourselves as humans. There are dark secrets that our species is simply ill-equipped to deal with, often until it’s too late. This reality is all too familiar to climate scientists in our day. They speak of a world two degrees Celsius hotter than normal as an elusive goal that will require massive effort and some really good luck to boot. But four degrees?

That’s the course the world is on right now. And four degrees is shorthand for environmental, social and economic collapse. Absent determined worldwide efforts, four degrees is what we will reach in a mere sixty years, when my grandkids are my age.

Justice Felix Frankfurter: "I did not say this young man is lying. I said I am unable to believe him."

Justice Felix Frankfurter: “I did not say this young man is lying. I said I am unable to believe him. There is a difference.”

The British climate researcher George Marshall has examined how climate scientists deal with the fact that they carry an almost unmentionably dark outlook for the world in their research. His words are worth repeating here:

“One scientist told me that he was so disturbed by the latest findings that he wrote to a few close friends – he named some of the world’s most senior scientists – and asked them: the future of humanity depends on this, is there any chance – please, any chance – that we could be wrong? They replied immediately, saying that they too constantly worried about this and (contrary to what the skeptics claim) were always open to the possibility of being wrong. However, whenever they went back over the evidence, they could not avoid the uncomfortable conclusion that they had indeed gotten this right.”

You’ve noticed, however, that with few exceptions, scientists seldom speak this way openly. Their findings indicate that business as usual means something impossibly dark for their children to bear, and for billions around the world. But they continue to speak in the bland language of science – confidence factors, uncertainties and arcane measurements. And like Felix Frankfurter generations earlier, wide segments of the public refuse to process even the simple data they serve us.

This reality was driven home with force the other day, when my church received an invitation to listen in on a webinar titled “The Gospel Truth About Climate Change.” The invitation asked a question that the Polish Underground would understand all too clearly:

“Are scientists, economists and politicians purposely creating a culture of ‘climate alarmism?’ Join us as E. Calvin Beisner challenges the myths of climate change and exposes its threat to humanity, liberty and prosperity. Every ambassador of Christ and missionary of the Good News will want to see this eye-opening message.”

[Sigh.] Oh “climate alarmism” again.

And no, every ambassador of Christ will not want to listen to the willful blindness that so often greets deeply disturbing discoveries. Professor Karski would recognize what’s going on in an instant. Even the most distinguished Supreme Court justice – like the President himself – could not bring himself to believe the dark accounts that Karski knew to be true.

How long will it be till love for our children – and for the God of creation – eventually overcomes our instinctive rejection of sobering global-scale news? Can it happen in time to avoid some of the darkest consequences of our fossil-fuel binge? If so, we’ll need to experience a conversion that runs against the very grain of an instinctive human reaction.

God give us the grace to act with open-eyed love, while we still can.

So, What’s Causing Global Warming, Congressman?

After months of writing and waiting, my congressman’s office finally called back.

This isn’t just any congressman: This is Scott Garrett, the long-time Republican congressman representing New Jersey’s 5th District. The map of the 5th District tells you immediately that something fishy has been going on. It’s an irregular strip of upper- and middle-class suburban and ex-urban communities stretching from wealthy Wall Street bedroom communities to rural horse farms. Rep. Garrett’s stock in trade is his powerful voice on the House Financial Services Committee, the source of a trove of cash he receives from the banks he is charged with overseeing.

But that doesn’t keep Garrett from wandering into the general vicinity of climate science. Not surprisingly, Garrett is one of the many in Congress who swell the ranks of climate denial. In fact, the League of Conservation Voters gives him only a 3% rating, one of their very lowest. In 2010, Garrett told the New Jersey Herald that he had no idea if global warming was even happening.

Superstorm Sandy convinced many New Jerseyans that climate change was a serious risk

Superstorm Sandy convinced many New Jerseyans that climate change is  a serious risk — but not Rep. Scott Garrett.

“The real question that still exists in a lot of people’s minds, experts and non-experts alike,” said Garrett, “on the area of global warming and what role the government should have in this realm … I’ve heard a number of experts on both sides of the equation on this issue and to me the evidence, the question is still out there.”

Well, since then, more than five years had passed, several global heat records have been broken and super-storm Sandy has ravaged Garrett’s home state. So I figured that the congressman might have noticed that there simply isn’t any more scientific debate over the reality and the cause of climate change, and its costs to the folks back home. So I began writing and calling. I wasn’t going to be put off by the standard form letters touting how much he loved “landscape” and “beauty,” and all the “job-killing” EPA action he was opposed to.

I asked what he actually supported in dealing with climate change.

I asked again. And again. Until I finally got a call back, after months of trying. It wasn’t Rep. Garrett himself, mind you. It was a fellow named Stephen, one of Garrett’s staffers. Stephen had an upper-crust British accent and the refined manners that would go with it. I couldn’t believe that I was hearing from a Tea Party politician’s office; it sounded like Buckingham Palace on the line.

I’m afraid that Stephen’s British manners outshone mine by a longshot. I kept interrupting his canned talking points about “energy independence” and “all-of-the-above energy” and “job-killing regulation” with one repeated question: “What will the congressman do about the climate crisis?”

Well, of course, the actual answer was – Nothing. But you can’t acknowledge that we face a crisis, and still insist on doing nothing. So Stephen began asking me how I was so sure that climate change is happening. And particularly, didn’t I think that El Niño might have something to do with it?

“El Niño?” I asked, flabbergasted. I thought I should explain some basic facts to this mannerly Brit: El Niño patterns occur every decade or so in the Pacific, and seem to accompany spikes in global temperatures. Yes, the last strong El Niño event occurred in 1997, ushering in the then-record-hot year of 1998 (since then, a record broken four times). And yes, 2015 – the world’s hottest year ever – was also an El Niño year.

But, I asked, didn’t the congressman understand that El Niño effects last only a year or two, while global heat is growing year after year in an alarming pattern? Doesn’t he read about the decline in Arctic sea ice, and the melting of the polar ice sheets? Doesn’t he know what’s happening with rising sea levels? Doesn’t he understand the nature of greenhouse gases that are rising year after year as we burn more and more fossil fuels?


Thermal imagery of effects of 2015 El Niño in the eastern Pacific. NASA image.

The staffer’s response took me off guard: “I suppose,” he said in his most dignified British manner, “we’ll just have to agree to disagree.”

What? Wait a minute! You’re not disagreeing with me. You’re disagreeing with every university in New Jersey – Princeton, Rutgers, Drew, Fairleigh Dickenson and more. And you’re disagreeing with NASA, and NOAA, and the US Armed Services. And you’re disagreeing with 195 other countries that just signed the Paris Agreement to fight global warming.

“So, what’s your alternative theory for rising global heat?” I asked. El Niño is probably to blame, Stephen implied in an artfully cautious response. El Niño, the periodic one-year phenomenon that the whole world has failed to understand as the cause of a century-long heating of the earth.

“And how do you know about El Niño?” I asked. Of course, he admitted what everyone knows: from climate science. You know, the same scientists whose conclusions Stephen dismisses as alarmist propaganda. Or at least, when those conclusions suggest that we need to move away from fossil-fuels produced by powerful campaign contributors like the Koch Bothers.

Well, Rep. Garrett, this is simply ludicrous. Any of the thousands of young people enrolled in New Jersey’s fine colleges and universities can tell you that the basic science of climate change is well settled, and highly unlikely to be undermined by the sources you rely on, like the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute.

Maybe it’s too late, but let me just hope one last time: There are Republicans in Congress who have recognized the danger to our country, our children and our world, and are calling for climate action. In theory, at least, you could join them, and restore our confidence to some degree. The Climate Solutions Caucus is one option; the Gibson Amendment is another. And if you were to add your name to either one, you’d likely hear cheers from the 56% of Republican voters who actually support regulating carbon emissions from power plants.

And then maybe we’d manage to forget that you tried to blame long-term global warming on this year’s El Niño.

I haven’t given up hope just yet. You can still do something really good for us and our children.

What Will My Congressman Do About Climate Change?

You wouldn’t have expected to find a New Jersey produce farmer at the global climate change “COP-21” summit in Paris last December.

But there I was, among Christians from countries all over the world, praying, learning and speaking out – all in support of action to combat the climate pollution that is threatening so many communities worldwide today.

I was amazed at the strong voice in Paris from Evangelicals. The World Evangelical Alliance, representing some 600 million Christians, sent their Secretary-General, Bishop Efriam Tendero, a tireless advocate for poor. The National Association of Evangelicals provided a video message from their President, Rev. Leith Anderson, encouraging and blessing those of us on the ground. The Lausanne Conference on World Evangelization was there too, on behalf of evangelical Christians representing the church in 190 countries.

Christian speakers at Paris Climate Summit: Dave Bookless (A Rocha), Caroline Pomeroy (Climate Stewards), Bishop Tendero (World Evangelical Alliance), Katharine Hayhoe (Texas Tech. Univ.)

Christian speakers at Paris Climate Summit: Dave Bookless (A Rocha), Caroline Pomeroy (Climate Stewards), Bishop Tendero (World Evangelical Alliance), Katharine Hayhoe (Texas Tech. Univ.)

And virtually every other Christian community – Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants and Anglicans – were there as well, all declaring that “the earth is the Lord’s,” and appealing for all to “tend and keep” this injured earth as God’s stewards.

After two weeks of intense activity, I returned home to my farm in Andover, New Jersey. My first act was to sit down to write my congressman – Rep. Scott Garrett – asking him to join with a group of Republicans who are breaking ranks with party leadership in its opposition to climate action. I told him that every country in the world has now agreed to take bold steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and that they are supported by ecumenical alliances representing virtually everyone on earth who holds to the Christian faith.

Rep. Garrett sent me back a polite note, with the disappointing news that he is opposing the Administration’s plans to fight climate change, especially the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of our nation’s commitment to reduce carbon pollution. Even so, Rep. Garrett assured me: “Like you, I support responsible, balanced environmental policies that protect the natural landscape and beauty of our nation.”

Well, I was disappointed, of course. All those awkward questions from Paris came back to me in vivid relief: Why do your politicians remain willfully blind to the cost that we all bear for your pollution? Why do you insist on the right to pollute the air we all share? Can’t you see what’s happening to the world’s climate?

Rep. Scott Garrett, NJ 5th District

Rep. Scott Garrett, NJ 5th District

And they’re talking about my own congressman, no less.

But Rep. Garrett’s reassuring words about his desire to protect the environment made me curious: What specific “responsible policies” does he actually support? So I asked him: “Please be specific: What ACTUAL policies do you support to reduce carbon pollution to reduce the harm of climate change?”

Well, this time, Rep. Garrett’s response didn’t come so promptly. I waited more than a month. Nothing.

Three weeks ago, I summoned up my hopes and wrote Rep. Garrett again: “You have assured me that you share my concern for the creation that we have been entrusted. Please tell me then, what do you propose to do about the alarming increase in greenhouses gases that are dangerously heating the planet that our children will inherit from us?”

Once again, silence.

Well, Rep. Garrett, the world has finally decided to act on climate pollution, and to solve the threat to our children and the poor of our world. Democrats in our country are mostly on board. Some Republicans are speaking up as well. Two Florida congressmen – one from each party – have formed the Climate Solutions Caucus for bipartisan cooperation on climate action.

It’s okay with me if you don’t want to answer my letters. But would you at least consider joining them? Our kids are depending on you to protect the world we will leave them.

John Elwood owns Good Hand Farm in Andover, NJ, and serves as an elder in the Presbyterian Church.

If Climate Change Is So Bad, Won’t God Step In and Stop It?

The outlook for a world disrupted by too much climate pollution is grim. Researchers speak freely these days of a sixth “mass extinction event,” like the one that doomed the dinosaurs. Others depict a world awash with climate refugees, fleeing from drought, famine, resource conflicts and rising sea levels. Military commanders warn of political instability and conflict on an unmanageable scale.

Most of us shy away from these nightmares, not because we necessarily discount the risks, but because the nearly inevitable human reaction is a numbed sense of avoidance and paralysis. It simply must not be true, and if it is, there must be something less depressing to occupy my thoughts at this moment.

But for Christians, we have to ask: What about God? Where is he in all this? We sing and believe that “his eye is on the sparrow” – surely the future of his creation is in his hands, not ours? God would not allow us to destroy his creation, would he?

A remarkable answer to this question comes from Rev. Ed Brown, author of the excellent book, “Our Father’s World: Mobilizing the Church to Care for Creation.” In fact, the question posed above is framed by Brown himself. Here’s a bit of his answer:

“If we choose to destroy our home, God will not stop us.

“Unless, that is, God were to step into history the way he usually does, through human beings who have aligned their lives with him and who are committed to accomplishing his purposes in their own small histories. Remember God’s invitation to Moses in Exodus? God said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out … and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them’ (3:7-8).

“And then the clincher: ‘So now go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.’ When God wants to do something in the world, he does step in, but he does it through people.”

Christians wrestle long and hard with the meaning of God’s sovereignty in his world, and meaningful answers can hardly be reduced to short sound bites. But surely Brown is on to something. And for those addicted to New Yorker cartoons (like me), maybe here the theological debate is best framed with a chuckle, and then a renewed commitment to learn, pray and act.

New Yorker Magazine, January 2016

New Yorker Magazine, January 2016

And if you’re wondering about ways to do that, you might want to take a look here.

The Hezekiah Syndrome: Why We Don’t Worry About the Kids

In the time of the prophet Isaiah, Judah’s King Hezekiah watched with alarm as his Hebrew kin in the Northern Kingdom were carried off into cultural genocide in Assyria. He managed to hold out in Jerusalem, however, and became widely regarded as one of the few “good guys” among Hebrew kings. But when Isaiah pronounced God’s judgment on Hezekiah, the strangest thing happened.

You remember the story, right? Hezekiah welcomed into his treasure vaults some ambassadors sent from another rising power – Babylon. He must have felt like a big shot parading out of all the gold and jewels he had amassed. This prompted Isaiah to deliver a terrifying verdict: All of your precious wealth will be carried off to Babylon. Worse yet, your sons will be led into captivity in chains. There, they will be castrated to serve as eunuchs and slaves of the king of Babylon.

Like a man under a terminal diagnosis, Hezekiah wanted to know how long he had left. The prophet’s good news – I suppose – was that the axe would fall only on the next generation, after his death. The king’s reaction – to me, at least — was stunning: Well, okay then! “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?” (2 Kings 20:19)

Picture4Parents everywhere swear that their overarching goal is to leave a better life for their children – or at least politicians love to tell us so. But the story of Hezekiah confronts us with an enormous challenge. Why doesn’t the Bible seem to condemn this betrayal of the kids? Why is it the scripture’s verdict that Hezekiah “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord?” And when was the last time we heard a sermon decrying Hezekiah as an intergenerational villain?

Creation care advocates see the “Hezekiah Syndrome” at work among us all the time. Sure, it’s starting to look very bad these days. Yes, global heat records are being broken year after year. And greenhouse gases are pouring into the atmosphere faster than ever. Sure, extreme weather is destroying crops and inundating coasts. And refugees are on the move en masse. The extinction of species is accelerating beyond anything seen by paleo-science in eons. And in just a few decades, the world’s oceans have become dangerously acidic, threatening much of the world’s food chain.

But whatever we see today, all the evidence tells us that this pales in comparison to what’s in store for those who will be living later in the century, and beyond. And this would lead us to expect that we would all spring into action, right? Since everyone’s got kids, grandkids or nieces, then surely they will take the climate challenge seriously. At least, they’ll read some actual research, from journals like Nature or Science, or from the National Academies or NASA.

But time after time, we’re disappointed. It would appear that we’re not all that concerned about what might be in store for the kids. If we’re looking to find motivation for responsible climate action, concern for the children simply is not very potent.

It’s not that we haven’t tried. One climate activist has asked us which question we’d rather hear in our old age: “What were you thinking? Didn’t you see the North Pole melting before your eyes?” or, more happily “How did you find the moral courage to solve the crisis?” But we’ve learned that appeals to intergenerational justice have curiously little power.

Now, British researcher George Marshall has given us some solid data about this phenomenon. Marshall cites studies by Haddock Research & Marketing in the US, Canada and the UK which demonstrates that people with children are actually less concerned about climate change than childless people. Really — less concerned. In Canada, “people with children were 60 percent more likely to say that climate change was not really happening than people without children,” says Marshall.

You’d think, wouldn’t you, that the opposite would be true? Parents will naturally sympathize with those whose diapers they changed, or so you’d think. But the Hezekiah Syndrome prevails for reasons that behavioral scientists have explored at some length.

Climate change is sometimes called a “wicked problem” – one that defies some of our most basic human responses. It’s not solvable by any individual acting alone; it lacks an obvious villain to mobilize against; its effects are felt most acutely by those far removed from us, by space, time, race or culture; it lacks a happy ending in human time-scale; and its narrative is mired in “research-speak,” replete with arcane statistics and carefully-worded probabilities.

If a bully is hitting your daughter on the playground, you don’t have to debate what to do. You’ll risk life and limb to protect her. BUT …

  • if it’s “very likely” that the average temperature of her world will be 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer about 30 years from now;
  • if that proves to be a “threat multiplier” driving drought, flooding, hunger, political instability and resource conflicts in many places of her world, possibly her places;
  • if rising sea levels “probably” will force her to abandon Miami, New Orleans, or any of the beaches you enjoyed as a child;
  • if climate refugees will “likely” overrun many distant countries and fuel stronger calls to build border defenses in our own;
  • and if the solutions to these likelihoods seem expensive, uncertain and offensive to some of your friends …

… then maybe, the normal human response mechanisms will lead you to wonder whether all this stuff is just “alarmism.” You brought her into this world, didn’t you? Why would you subject her to all these risks?

“Wicked” problems are tricky that way. Instead of pulling out all stops to address them, maybe it’s understandable why so many parents hardly dare to think about solutions. After all, Marshall says, we can always immerse ourselves “in the daily routine of tears, laughter, and the hunt for the missing shoe, and put climate change into that category of tricky, challenging things we would prefer not to talk about.”

For parents – and indeed for all of us – climate change is a wicked problem. And the response to wicked problems bears all the marks of the Hezekiah Syndrome. Perhaps our reply to Isaiah is not that much different from Hezekiah’s. Oh well, who knows what God and his world will do several decades from now? At least I have peace in my time.

Can we bear to ask whether this might be what we’re saying?

The Iowa Caucus & the Story of Farmer Dog

Now that the Iowa Caucuses are over, the rest of the country might want to know about the Renewable Fuel Standard, that healthy-sounding thing that almost all the candidates from both parties swore to enforce (while campaigning in Iowa, of course). Here it is in terms you can read to your kids. It was written in 2011, and some things have changed since then. But the basic story line is as true as ever:

In a faraway country called Cornlandia, there lived a dog named Farmer Dog.  Farmer Dog was a free dog.  He depended on nobody, and he liked it that way.  He drove his tractor when he wanted to, and he plowed his ground when he wanted to.  He was a free dog.

Farmer Dog on his tractor

Farmer Dog on his tractor

One day, his neighbor told Farmer Dog that he wasn’t as free as he thought.  The gasoline that he used to fill his tractor was bought from a bad duck named Qadaffy, who lived in a foreign land.  Qadaffy Duck pumped oil from deep beneath his ground, and put it on a ship that sailed to Cornlandia.  Recently, Qadaffy Duck had been charging more and more and more for his oil.

Qadaffy Duck had the oil that Farmer Dog needed, so he wasn’t really free.  This made Farmer Dog mad.

But Farmer Dog was a resourceful dog.  So he decided to make his own gasoline out of something that he could grow in Cornlandia – CORN.   It wasn’t really gasoline.  It was called Ethanol.  But Farmer Dog could make plenty of Ethanol.  All he had to do was grow plenty of corn.

Qadaffy Duck sold Farmer Dog the oil for his tractor

Qadaffy Duck sold Farmer Dog the oil for his tractor

So Farmer Dog climbed onto his tractor to plow the ground and plant the corn.  But there was a problem:  he had no gas in the tank!  Farmer Dog was a resourceful dog.  Even though he was mad, Farmer Dog asked Qadaffy Duck for ten buckets of oil for his tractor.  It took one bucket of oil to run the pump, and Farmer Dog went away with nine buckets.  But crude oil isn’t gasoline, so Farmer Dog went to a neighbor who could turn the remaining oil into gasoline.  It took another bucket of crude to run the refining machine, and Farmer Dog went back home with eight buckets of gasoline.

He poured four of those buckets into his tractor, and it roared to life, plowing the soil, planting the seeds, cultivating the ground, and harvesting the mature corn.  When he was done, his wagon was full of bright yellow corn, but the four buckets of gasoline were used up.

He took the corn to the distiller and asked him to make it into Ethanol, so he could be free from the evil Qadaffy Duck. The distiller needed Farmer Dog’s last four buckets of gasoline to run the distilling machine.  Now the last of the gasoline was all gone.  Farmer Dog watched as the distiller worked.  Ethanol poured from his machine, bucket after bucket!  When the distilling was finished, there were eighteen buckets of Ethanol, which Farmer Dog happily took home.

But there was a problem.  The Ethanol didn’t provide as much power as Qadaffy Duck’s gasoline.  It was about one-third weaker!  Farmer Dog was not happy.  All this work to be free from Qadaffy Duck’s oil, and only enough Ethanol to equal about 12 buckets of gasoline: only two more buckets than the ten he had bought from Qadaffy Duck to start with!

All that work and all that cost to gain only two buckets of fuel!

Farmer Dog was not happy, but he was a resourceful dog.  He had an idea: What if he could get the people of Cornlandia to give him a little extra money for every bucket of Ethanol he made with his corn? Better yet, what if he could make all his neighbors buy a little of his Ethanol to mix with their gasoline?  Then, maybe it would be worth it.

Off he drove to visit Governor Mutt, Cornlandia’s top dog.  The Governor thought Farmer Dog’s idea was brilliant, and he made all Farmer Dog’s neighbors give him extra money for every bucket of Ethanol he made.  He also made them all buy a little of Farmer Dog’s Ethanol to mix with their gasoline.

Governor Mutt made everyone buy Farmer Dog's ethanol

Governor Mutt made everyone pay for Farmer Dog’s ethanol

Farmer Dog was happy, and he made more and more Ethanol, since everyone had to buy some.

But there was a problem.  Farmer Dog’s neighbors were not happy at all.  The corn they had once bought to feed their chickens and dairy cows was now gone for Farmer Dog’s Ethanol.  Now the chickens laid no eggs, and the cows gave no milk!  They had to buy Farmer Dog’s Ethanol.  And worse yet, they had to pay Governor Mutt’s tax for every bucket he made from his corn!

Farmer Dog was selling so much Ethanol that he needed more and more gasoline to run his tractor and the distilling machine.  Qadaffy Duck sold him all the oil he needed.  Qadaffy didn’t seem to be such a bad duck any more.

And Farmer Dog and Qadaffy Duck lived happily ever after.

** THE END **

Ethanol graph





Note to reader:  I actually made this story up.  But here are a few actual facts for you (current as of 3/2011):

FactWorld corn prices have increased by 73% since June 2010, according to a World Bank January 2011 report.

FactAccording to the World Bank, rising global food prices swelled the numbers of those in extreme poverty by 44 million souls last year alone – people living on less than $1.25 per day.

FactA 2008 report by the World Bank attributed 70-75% of the world food price rises to subsidies for biofuels like corn ethanol.

FactOne tankful of ethanol consumes more than enough corn – 8 bushels – to feed one African person for an entire year.

Fact34.9 percent of the U.S. corn harvest went to make ethanol last year, almost as much as for animal feed. This year, about 36 percent of the American corn harvest will be ethanol.

FactU.S. acreage to grow corn for ethanol last year was as big as the entire state of Ohio, or Virginia or Tennessee.

FactU.S. law requires the use of ethanol in fuels:  13.2 billion gallons of it last year.

FactAmerican taxpayers paid $23 billion in taxes or government deficits last year because of subsidies for corn ethanol. The Congressional Budget Office reported that the cost to U.S. taxpayers from ethanol subsidies totaled $1.78 per gallon of ethanol produced.

FactWhile researchers disagree on the exact number, they all agree that making ethanol uses a lot of fuel.  Some argue that it uses more fuel than the actual ethanol produced.  But even the most optimistic admit that for every unit of ethanol produced, you have to consume at least two-thirds of that amount in petroleum.

FactIf we used all the corn grown in the U.S. for nothing but ethanol, we would only satisfy 12% of our gasoline demand.  But if we count the petroleum used to make the stuff, we would only have about 3% more fuel – and no corn at all for that old-fashioned practice … eating.

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.   Isaiah 55:2

Thanks for reading, and may God bless you.