BiofuelThanks to my fellow blogger Stephen Graham for a recent spate of great contributions – I know they’ve been popular – including one in which he berates George Monbiot for his atrocious ignorance on libertarianism. Richly deserved. Moonbeam is, rightly, a target of this blog on occasion. He represents the utter antithesis of what we’re all about, and the beautiful gemstones of towering fallacy that regularly emerge from his fertile mind entertain and bemuse in equal measure.

On this occasion Monbiot has outdone even himself, in an article which claims that “biofuels could kill more people than the Iraq war.” Ever read a sentence that makes you snort into a drink with mirth and incredulity? Moonbeam’s spent the past decade telling everyone that burning fossil fuels is destroying the planet, and now the only alternative, widely heralded among the Greens, isn’t good enough for him. What a squeaky wheel. Is he ever happy? Monbiot’s wife must need counseling by now.

Don’t get me wrong: it may be true that ethanol will prove to be a harmful industry for much of the third world – it’s already having an effect on the food market here in America – but Moonbeam’s position has made him a beggar, and one thing we know about beggars is that they can’t also be choosers. His position is:

(1) We should stop burning fossil fuels now, and
(2) We should not be using the only currently viable alternative;

…the only conclusion being that the only solution he’ll be happy with is society reverting to preindustrial lifestyles. That’s fine, but I wish he’d fess up and say so. Then everyone will know just what a Moonbat Moonbeam really is (hat tip to Perry de Havilland at Samizdata.Net for the original moniker).

Conor Foley, one of Monbiot’s fellow columnists at the Guardian, takes issue with him on this one, and there’s nothing better than Feuding Greens:

“Yet the report [quoted by Moonbeam] actually shows that the price of sugar, the main ingredient of Brazil’s ethanol industry, fell last year – a point which completely contradicts Monbiot’s thesis. It also makes his other sweeping generalisations and apocalyptic comparisons between the growth of biofuels and the invasion of Iraq sound rather ridiculous.” [Emphasis gleefully mine.]

You hear that? Monbiot, rather ridiculous! I love it! And it gets better:

“Monbiot … seems to be either unaware of the link between northern protectionism and world poverty, or simply not to care very much about poor people.”

Ouch! Since Moonbeam likes to regard himself as a Prince of Altruism, this will hurt a little, like a genetically modified bee sting in the ass. Foley ends thus:

“I just wish that he would stop hectoring us.”


Well, here’s my two cents: biofuels as they currently exist are not the answer to the problems posed by our energy crisis. On this, I agree with Monbiot – shock – though I’m not claiming that we need to stop burning fossil fuels immediately either, which makes me rational and sensible, and makes Monbiot a fucking fruit loop.

Food crop-based ethanol (like the popular corn-based variety) is a horrendously inefficient energy source, and as Moonbeam points out it is also conflicting with the existing food market and creating other problems we’re already beginning to see. But, thankfully, the existing biofuels are not the only alternative future fuels. There are a couple of other very strong solutions which just aren’t available quite yet: cellulosic ethanol, which we’ve mentioned before and which will allow us to use grass and wood and a majority of what we currently regard as trash and turn it into biofuel; and the hydrogen fuel cell, on which some current prototypes are already running using liquid hydrogen and emitting only water vapour as waste. Both of these technologies are being developed right now by free market capitalism, in which many people are now investing as fossil fuel prices rise. In other words, it is a capitalist free market which posed the problem, and is now providing the solution. The system is necessarily self-assessing, self-correcting and self-funding.

See, Monbiot and Foley are both wrong! The latter because he’s embracing the left-wing credo on energy in the first place. The former because he’s a whining, impatient malcontent who won’t be happy until he helps us reenter the dark ages, and even then only for a brief moment as the dust settles and he realises what a shithole he’s managed to create for humanity. His eggs will never be fried to his liking, if you know what I mean.

A little patience will shortly yield the solutions to the issues of energy and climate, and it will join the rest of capitalist answers in benefiting rather than further impoverishing the citizens of the world, at every economic strata. Maybe these Feuding Greens could agree to patiently, sensibly invest in that future, rather than get their carbon-free underwear soiled by fighting over the shortcomings of the present.