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ZippyTheChimp
March 27th, 2005, 12:40 AM
March 27, 2005

OP-ED COLUMNIST

Geo-Greening by Example

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN (http://www.nytimes.com/top/opinion/editorialsandoped/oped/columnists/thomaslfriedman/index.html?inline=nyt-per)


http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/h.gifow will future historians explain it? How will they possibly explain why President George W. Bush decided to ignore the energy crisis staring us in the face and chose instead to spend all his electoral capital on a futile effort to undo the New Deal, by partially privatizing Social Security? We are, quite simply, witnessing one of the greatest examples of misplaced priorities in the history of the U.S. presidency.

"Ah, Friedman, but you overstate the case." No, I understate it. Look at the opportunities our country is missing - and the risks we are assuming - by having a president and vice president who refuse to lift a finger to put together a "geo-green" strategy that would marry geopolitics, energy policy and environmentalism.

By doing nothing to lower U.S. oil consumption, we are financing both sides in the war on terrorism and strengthening the worst governments in the world. That is, we are financing the U.S. military with our tax dollars and we are financing the jihadists - and the Saudi, Sudanese and Iranian mosques and charities that support them - through our gasoline purchases. The oil boom is also entrenching the autocrats in Russia and Venezuela, which is becoming Castro's Cuba with oil. By doing nothing to reduce U.S. oil consumption we are also setting up a global competition with China for energy resources, including right on our doorstep in Canada and Venezuela. Don't kid yourself: China's foreign policy today is very simple - holding on to Taiwan and looking for oil.

Finally, by doing nothing to reduce U.S. oil consumption we are only hastening the climate change crisis, and the Bush officials who scoff at the science around this should hang their heads in shame. And it is only going to get worse the longer we do nothing. Wired magazine did an excellent piece in its April issue about hybrid cars, which get 40 to 50 miles to the gallon with very low emissions. One paragraph jumped out at me: "Right now, there are about 800 million cars in active use. By 2050, as cars become ubiquitous in China and India, it'll be 3.25 billion. That increase represents ... an almost unimaginable threat to our environment. Quadruple the cars means quadruple the carbon dioxide emissions - unless cleaner, less gas-hungry vehicles become the norm."

All the elements of what I like to call a geo-green strategy are known:

We need a gasoline tax that would keep pump prices fixed at $4 a gallon, even if crude oil prices go down. At $4 a gallon (premium gasoline averages about $6 a gallon in Europe), we could change the car-buying habits of a large segment of the U.S. public, which would make it profitable for the car companies to convert more of their fleets to hybrid or ethanol engines, which over time could sharply reduce our oil consumption.

We need to start building nuclear power plants again. The new nuclear technology is safer and cleaner than ever. "The risks of climate change by continuing to rely on hydrocarbons are much greater than the risks of nuclear power," said Peter Schwartz, chairman of Global Business Network, a leading energy and strategy consulting firm. "Climate change is real and it poses a civilizational threat that [could] transform the carrying capacity of the entire planet."

And we need some kind of carbon tax that would move more industries from coal to wind, hydro and solar power, or other, cleaner fuels. The revenue from these taxes would go to pay down the deficit and the reduction in oil imports would help to strengthen the dollar and defuse competition for energy with China.

It's smart geopolitics. It's smart fiscal policy. It is smart climate policy. Most of all - it's smart politics! Even evangelicals are speaking out about our need to protect God's green earth. "The Republican Party is much greener than George Bush or Dick Cheney," remarked Mr. Schwartz. "There is now a near convergence of support on the environmental issue. Look at how popular [Arnold] Schwarzenegger, a green Republican, is becoming because of what he has done on the environment in California."

Imagine if George Bush declared that he was getting rid of his limousine for an armor-plated Ford Escape hybrid, adopting a geo-green strategy and building an alliance of neocons, evangelicals and greens to sustain it. His popularity at home - and abroad - would soar. The country is dying to be led on this. Instead, he prefers to squander his personal energy trying to take apart the New Deal and throwing red meat to right-to-life fanatics. What a waste of a presidency. How will future historians explain it?




Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

RandySavage
April 12th, 2005, 04:25 PM
Thanks for posting that.

Thomas Friedman is about as bright as they come. As a progressive who is disgusted by the countless wasted opportunities and reactionary policies of the Bush Oligarchy, I always get fired up (in a good way) by Friedman's op-eds.

A fast and drastic breaking from Middle Eastern (or any other country) energy-dependence should be the primay objective of America, Americans and the sitting administration in these early years of the 21st century. Yes, there will be bitter economic pills to swallow (in the beginning), but the benefits for the future generations are incalculable.

Instead, this President and Congress will drill the last pristine wildernesses of the continent, allow Detroit to continue to produce ridiculously high mpg vehicles, and stifle American technological competitiveness.

The only bi-partisan cheer (and the loudest overall cheer) that Bush recieved in the State of the Union was when he mentioned funding for fuel cells. Americans are pratically begging to be led down this path... it should be both a foreign and domestic policy priority. Yet it is not. If only a visionary - or even moderately capable - leader were in the White House... imagine what could be achieved.

lofter1
December 30th, 2005, 12:05 AM
His Car Smelling Like French Fries, Willie Nelson Sells Biodiesel

Beyond Gasoline

By DANNY HAKIM (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=DANNY HAKIM&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=DANNY HAKIM&inline=nyt-per)
New York Times
December 30, 2005

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/30/business/30biowillie.html?hp


Willie Nelson drives a Mercedes.

But do not lose faith, true believers. The exhaust from Mr. Nelson's diesel-powered Mercedes smells like peanuts, or French fries, or whatever alternative fuel happens to be in his tank.

While Bono tries to change the world by hobnobbing with politicians and Sir Bob Geldof plays host to his mega-benefit concerts, Willie Nelson has birthed his own brand of alternative fuel. It is called, fittingly enough, BioWillie. And in BioWillie, Mr. Nelson, 72, has blended two of his biggest concerns: his love of family farmers and disdain for the Iraq war.

BioWillie is a type of biodiesel, a fuel that can be made from any number of crops and run in a normal diesel engine. If it sounds like a joke, a number of businesses, as well as city and state and county governments, have been switching their transportation fleets to biodiesel blends over the last year.

The rationale is that it is a domestic fuel that can provide profit to farmers and that it will help the environment, though environmentalists are not universally enthusiastic about it.

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2005/12/29/business/30bio.1842.jpg
Paul Natkin/Farm Aid, via Associated Press
Willie Nelson helped promote it in Seattle.

"I knew we needed to have something that would keep us from being so dependent on foreign oil, and when I heard about biodiesel, a light come on, and I said, 'Hey, here's the future for the farmers, the future for the environment, the future for the truckers," Mr. Nelson said in an interview this month. "It seems like that's good for the whole world if we can start growing our own fuel instead of starting wars over it."

In some ways, it is a return to the origins of the diesel engine; some of Rudolf Diesel's first engines ran on peanut oil more than a century ago.

Last week, a cargo-loading company that operates in the Port of Seattle said that to fuel its equipment next year it would purchase 800,000 gallons of biodiesel, most of it a blend known as B20 that is 80 percent conventional diesel. As of late September, Minnesota requires almost all diesel fuel sold in the state to be 2 percent biodiesel, and Cincinnati started using a 30 percent biodiesel blend, B30, in its city buses because of concerns about fuel shortages after Hurricane Katrina.

Biodiesel can cost as much as a $1 a gallon more than regular diesel when pure, though it is typically sold as B20. Prices vary depending on volume and region, and new tax incentives are aimed at closing the cost gap. BioWillie was selling for $2.37 a gallon yesterday in Carl's Corner, Mr. Nelson's own truck stop in Texas that serves as headquarters of his year-old company, Willie Nelson BioDiesel. That was just 4 cents more than the conventional diesel selling at another station nearby.

Mr. Nelson's BioWillie is aimed mostly at truckers and is usually sold as B20 (pure biodiesel can congeal in colder climates). BioWillie is currently sold at 13 gas stations and truck stops in four states (with Texas having the most), and it fuels the buses and trucks for Mr. Nelson's tours.

If BioWillie demonstrates anything, it is that the combination of Middle East wars, global warming and rising prices at the pump has led many people to offer solutions to the world's energy's squeeze. Depending on whom you ask, cars will someday run on hydrogen, electricity, natural gas or ethanol.
Mr. Nelson is making his bet on biodiesel.

"I don't like the war," he said in the interview. "In fact, I don't know if you ever remember a couple years ago, it was Christmas day, and my son Lukas was born on Christmas Day, he's like 16 years old, and we were watching TV and there was just all kind of hell breaking loose and people getting killed and I was talking to my wife, Annie, and I said, You know, all the mothers crying and the babies dying and she said, 'Well, you ought to go write that.' "So I wrote a song called 'Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth?' "


He began to recite the first verse:
So many things going on in the world,
Babies dying, mothers crying.
Just how much oil is human life worth?
And whatever happened to peace on earth?
"That upset a lot of people, as you can imagine," he continued. "I've been upset about this war from the beginning and I've known it's all about oil."

Every alternative to oil, however, has its drawbacks. Biodiesel would reduce most emissions of smog-forming pollutants and global warming gases, and it could be used instead of foreign oil. But some studies show that it increases emissions of one harmful pollutant, nitrogen oxide, and it could not be produced in vast enough quantities to supplant oil-based fuel, or come close to it, unless the nation starts turning the suburbs over to farmland. And as with ethanol, producing great quantities of biodiesel from corn or soybeans could drive up food prices.

Bill Reinert, Toyota's (http://www.nytimes.com/redirect/marketwatch/redirect.ctx?MW=http://custom.marketwatch.com/custom/nyt-com/html-companyprofile.asp&symb=TM) national manager for advanced technologies, said in an interview this year: "I frankly don't see biodiesel being an early alt-fuel player across a wide swath of geography. It's a boutique fuel. There's not enough payoff and not enough people into it."

Peter J. Bell, the chief executive of Distribution Drive, a distributor of biodiesel that is working with Mr. Nelson, said of the nation's nearly 200,000 gas stations, "650 carry biodiesel, so we have a job in front of us." Mr. Nelson sits on the board of Distribution Drive's parent, Earth Biofuels, a publicly traded company.

Daniel Becker, the Sierra Club's top global warming expert, said he would prefer to see wider use of a cleaner alternative fuel, like natural gas.

Referring to biodiesel, he said, "In order to grow soybeans, you need multiple passes over the field with diesel tractors, you need a lot of fertilizer that's energy intensive to produce and, at the end of the day, you have a product that is no boon for the environment."

He went on: "If you're going to go to the trouble of using an alternative fuel, use a good alternative fuel. If you really want to listen to Willie Nelson, go buy one of his records and play it in a hybrid."

Mr. Nelson first heard about biodiesel two years ago from his wife while they were staying in Hawaii. He recounted the story.

"My wife came to me and said 'I want to buy this car that runs on biodiesel, and I said, 'What's that?' And so she told me, and I thought it was a scam or joke or something. So I said, 'Go ahead, it's your money.' "

She bought a Volkswagen Jetta with a diesel engine and started filling it with fuel made from restaurant grease. This is not uncommon. Home hobbyists make their own biodiesel by collecting used grease from restaurants and chemically treating it to turn it into usable fuel, or by outfitting their car or truck with equipment to re-form the grease.

"I drove the car, loved the way it drove," Mr. Nelson said. "The tailpipe smells like French fries. I bought me a Mercedes, and the Mercedes people were a little nervous when I took a brand new Mercedes over and filled it up with 100 percent vegetable oil coming from the grease traps of Maui. I figured I'd be getting notices about the warranty and that stuff. However, nobody said anything."

"I get better gas mileage, it runs better, the motor runs cleaner, so I swear by it," he added.

How far does he think biodiesel can go?

"It could get as big as we can grow fuel or find different things to make fuel from, such as chicken fat, beef fat, add that along to soybeans, vegetable oils, peanuts, safflower, sunflower," Mr. Nelson said.

O.K.. What about hemp?

"Hemp is a very good one," he replied, not missing a beat. "In fact, several years ago, a friend of mine named Gatewood Galbraith was running for governor of Kentucky and we campaigned all over the state of Kentucky in a Cadillac operating on hemp oil. He was trying to get it legalized in the state of Kentucky and, of course, he lost, but the cannabis thing in fuel is a very real thing."

Mr. Nelson said he did not expect to make much money on his venture. As he put it when asked about his Mercedes, "I didn't get it selling BioWillie, I'll tell you."

"I hope somebody makes money out of it; I'm sure they will. And probably what'll happen is that the oil industry will wait until everybody else builds all the infrastructure and then they'll come in and take over," he said. "But that's O.K. I don't worry about that. As along as the idea progresses because all I'm caring about is getting it out there and maybe helping the country, the farmer, the environment."

Asked if he intended to become a fat cat C.E.O. with a big cigar in his mouth, he replied: "I'll give you my part of it. I'll just sign over all my earnings and belongings to you right now and I'll sing 'Whiskey River.' "

One thing is certain: if Mr. Nelson's venture makes any money, none of it will go to pay a $16 million tax bill to the Internal Revenue Service. That debt, which arose from Mr. Nelson's participation in illegal tax shelters, was erased in 1993 with surrender of some property and the profit from his album "The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories?"



Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html)The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)