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Greens Gone Wild

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Unfortunately, there's a little thing called "reality" that exists here on Planet Earth that is far too complex to fit neatly into a one-point plan.

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ConocoPhillips (COP) and Tyson Foods (TSN) have announced that they will produce diesel fuel from animal fat.

By 2009, ConocoPhillips expects to produce 175 million gallons of animal diesel a year, about 3% of its total diesel output, with the help of pre-processed fat from a Tyson rendering facility.

In a statement sure to make joyful tears run down the cheeks of animal-rights activists, Geoff Webster, manager of the pig fat fuel project at Tyson, told the BBC, "We won't be processing animals simply to get the fat to turn them in to fuel. We're taking a by-product and using that for fuel. We feel that it is a huge step forward as opposed to taking grains which are needed for food around the world and turning those in to fuel."

Finally-a viable solution to the sustainable fuel conundrum. People eat corn and sugar beets. They don't survive on pork fat.

But, it doesn't appear to please everyone:

"Clearly, the answer to global warming isn't to fill gas guzzling cars with ground up remains of tortured animals, it is to go vegetarian, which is something every person can afford to do and should do for the sake of their own health, animals and the environment," People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said in a statement.


A tortured animal, waiting to be ground up and made into fuel

So, "going vegetarian" is the answer?

Um…apparently not.

A paper released last month by the UK's Optimum Population Trust said that if couples had two children instead of three, they could cut their family's carbon dioxide output by the equivalent of 620 round-trip flights a year between London and New York.


A family of six, destroying the planet

John Guillebaud, co-chairman of OPT and emeritus professor of family planning at University College London, said, "The greatest thing anyone in Britain could do to help the future of the planet would be to have one less child."

Following that line of reasoning, the OPT's board of directors might consider holding their breath for the rest of their lives. After all, human beings do give off CO2 when we exhale.

Unfortunately, there's a little thing called "reality" that exists here on Planet Earth that is far too complex to fit neatly into a one-point plan.

As far as the exploitation of the natural resources we happen to be blessed with?

It all sounds vaguely familiar.

Hmmm…where have I heard this before?

Oh yeah!

Nazi Germany's 1935 environmental protection law, Reichsnaturschutzgesetz, of course!

Our native countryside has been profoundly modified with respect to its original state, its flora has been altered in many ways by the agricultural and foresting industries as well as by the unilateral reallocation of land and a monoculture of conifers. While its natural habitat has been diminishing, a varied fauna that brought vitality to the forests and the fields has been dwindling.

This evolution was often due to economic necessity. Today, a clear awareness has emerged as to the intellectual, but also economic, damages of such an upheaval of the German countryside.

The German government of the Reich considers it its duty to guarantee our fellow citizens, even the poorest among them, their share in the natural German beauty. It has, therefore, enacted the law of the Reich with a view toward protecting nature.


Sheldon Richman of the Cato Institute has an interesting take on natural resources and their use:

Actually, natural resources do not exist at all. All resources are manmade. Something is not a resource until it can accomplish a human purpose. Before Benjamin Silliman, Jr., a Yale University chemist, discovered in 1855 that kerosene (a better illuminant than whale oil) could be distilled from crude oil, oil was not a resource. It was black gunk that ruined farmland and had to be removed at great expense. Silliman turned oil into a resource not by changing its chemical composition but by making a discovery. Nature does not provide resources, only materials. A resource is a material that has been stamped with a human purpose.



It's a "resource" because it can accomplish a human purpose

Okay, what about the "horror" of population growth?

The increases in population and wealth have not been merely coincidental. They are causes and effects of each other. Today, with few exceptions, the most densely populated countries are the richest. Any mystery in that is dispelled by the realization that people are the source of ideas. The addition of people geometrically increases the potential for combining ideas into newer, better ideas. As the Nobel laureate and economist Simon Kuznets wrote, "More population means more creators and producers, both of goods along established production patterns and of new knowledge and inventions." A growing population also allows for a more elaborate division of labor, which raises incomes.


And, finally:

Those who wish to stifle population growth would condemn hundreds of millions of people in the developing world to the abject deprivation that characterized the West before the Industrial Revolution.


John Semmens of the Independent Institute maintains that a growing population may well provide the very means needed to improve the environment:

More people means more minds. Having more minds working on human problems improves the chances of finding solutions. There is more opportunity for specialization and the depth of expertise that specialization brings. The dramatic acceleration in science and technology in our high population era is evidence for the potential advantages of a growing population.




No people, no innovation

Pete DuPont, former governor of Delaware, pointed out in The Wall Street Journal that since 1970, the year of the first Earth Day, America's population has increased by 42%, the country's inflation-adjusted gross domestic product has grown 195%, the number of cars and trucks in the United States has more than doubled, and the total number of miles driven has increased by 178%.

But over the course of these 35 years, the Environmental Protection Agency reports that emissions of the six principal air pollutants have decreased by 53%; carbon monoxide emissions have dropped from 197 million tons per year to 89 million; nitrogen oxides from 27 million tons to 19 million, and sulfur dioxide from 31 million to 15 million. Particulates are down 80%, and lead emissions have declined by more than 98%.


Pete DuPont

Does this mean we don't all have to move out of urban centers and "get back to the land"?

Quite the opposite, actually.

Edward Glaeser, Glimp professor of economics at Harvard, director of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government, and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, pointed out in the New York Sun that eight million New Yorkers take up a total of 301 square miles-less than 1/40 of an acre a person. In addition, more than 1/3 of all public transportation commuters in America live in the five boroughs of New York City.

Pretty good stats. Still not good enough, however, for New Yorker Colin Beaven, who was lauded by Diane Sawyer not long ago on Good Morning America for being so environmentally conscious, he and his family have given up toilet paper completely.


Toilet paper: the bane of Colin Beaven's existence

SAWYER: "Now, I know everybody wants to know what you do instead of toilet paper. I'm not going to tell them. I'm going to let them go online and search this out for themselves. Let me just say it's the Bedouin solution."

Procter & Gamble (PG) spokeswoman Celeste Kuta was recently quoted as saying, "Trees are not cut down to make toilet paper."

Toilet paper is manufactured from the residue of trees cut down for other purposes.

Sorry, Colin. Hope you haven't given up anti-bacterial soap.

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