A Threat to National Security?
normally like the articles by James Gordon Prather, but the latest one is confusing,
and I have a PhD in physics. What the heck does the C-13/C-12 ratio have to
do with anything? What the heck does it matter whether the deep hydrocarbons
were organically produced? What matters is that Iowa corn or Brazilian sugarcane
took CO2 out of our air, so burning it is carbon neutral. Deep hydrocarbons
didn't take CO2 out of the air during the entire human epoch, so burning it
is not carbon neutral.
~ Dave Grossman
is a correlation over the past 200 years between the increase in CO2 in the
atmosphere and the increase in the C-13 "deficit." Since the IPCC assumes mankind
is responsible for that increase in C-13 "deficit" – burning "fossil fuels"
– the IPCC concludes mankind is almost certainly responsible for the increase
in CO2 in the atmosphere. Go here
to see this argument made.
If you have a
PhD in Physics you probably realize that's bad scientific reasoning. In the
first place "correlation" does not imply "causality." And in the second, if
"fossil fuels" are in fact inorganic, then the burning of them could not result
in a increase in the overall C-13 deficit in the atmosphere.
doubt this letter would accomplish anything more if it was printed. I'm sending
it because I want to improve the content and influence of Antiwar.com, not because
I want to score snark points against one of your columnists whose work I often
enjoy. I must start out, however, by saying that I am very disappointed (perhaps
embarrassed) regarding "Ethanol: A Threat to National Security?" I'll use point
form to inhibit the argumentative nature of what I would otherwise write.
1. The main thrust
of this column (beginning about halfway through) is difficult to interpret.
I think this is mostly due to factual inaccuracies rather than unusually bad
writing. I'll give examples of minor factual inaccuracies later and focus on
the main ones first.
2. Prather's argument
seems to be something like this: burning of biogenic hydrocarbons is the
main worry regarding anthropogenic greenhouse warming; some petroleum and other
stuff we burn might not be biogenic; burning ethanol (biogenic carbon) is worse
than burning petroleum (potentially abiotically produced); this will contribute
to climate change and therefore threaten national security. The main point
Prather seems to be missing here is that corn and sugar cane take CO2 out of
the atmosphere and then release it again when they are burned (net of zero with
respect to CO2 in the atmosphere), whereas burning carbon sequestered in the
ground increases CO2 in the atmosphere (intensifying the greenhouse effect).
2a. As far as
I know, the number of neutrons in the carbon atom have nothing to do with the
reaction of a CO2 molecule to infrared radiation.
2b. A couple of
quotations from the sixties aren't very impressive when you are trying to say
that the common understanding of oil formation is incorrect. Prather cites Wikipedia
regarding fossil fuels, so he should be able to find this regarding abiogenic
formation: "This theory is a minority opinion, especially amongst geologists;
no oil companies are currently known to explore for oil based on this theory."
Prather might also want to read this: Glasby, G.P., 2006. "Abiogenic
origin of hydrocarbons: An historical overview." Resource Geology
2c. I'm not trying
to argue in favor of subsidizing farmers! One of the main arguments against
growing corn for ethanol is that the actual farming requires more use of petroleum
products; that is, it is a highly inefficient way to reduce the rate at which
carbon is taken out of the ground.
2d. Burning of
coal (which I suppose we can all agree is less controversially biogenic) is
the main source of excess anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere; far less of the
CO2 in the atmosphere is from anthropogenic burning of petroleum.
3. Prather seems
to think it is controversial that humans have contributed a lot of CO2 to the
atmosphere. Part of his misperception may be due to the inaccuracies of others.
CO2 is not now at 1774 ppm in the atmosphere as he cites; CH4 (methane) was
at 1774 ppb (that's parts per billion) in 2005. I didn't check his source, but
he can check these numbers. Everybody who is anybody knows that we are close
to 400 PPM in CO2 equivalents in the atmosphere; we are at just a bit over 380
PPM CO2 currently (that is, anthropogenic sources have increased CO2 by about
3a. Humans emit
much more than the amount of CO2 needed to account for this much excess carbon
in the atmosphere. A large proportion of what is emitted is absorbed by the
ocean (thus the increasing acidity of the ocean).
3b. Prather focuses
on isotopes but not in the context of all of the data available. I went to the
realclimate.org archive and found these two pages that he might find interesting:
"How do we know that recent
CO2 increases are due to human activities?" and "How
much of the recent CO2 increase is due to human activities?"
Huh, I think I've
pretty much finished my critique. I hope these comments are taken seriously
as I believe advertising ignorance on such an important issue as climate change
cannot help but reflect poorly on Antiwar.com's credibility on war/peace issues.
~ Steve Latham
response to this letter is the same as to the one by Dave Grossman.
The IPCC argument
that it is "very likely" (90% certain) that the observed buildup is "anthropogenic"
(man caused) goes like this;
- there is a
"correlation" between increase in the measured CO2 levels in the atmosphere
and measured increase in the C-13 deficit in atmospheric CO2
- there is a
measurable C-13 deficit in "organic" hydrocarbons
- "fossil fuels"
are presumed to be "organic" hydrocarbons
- mankind burns
- hence, mankind
is responsible for the increase in CO2 levels in the atmosphere.
Faulty logic notwithstanding,
at a minimum, what needs to be done before Congress requires a 20% reduction
in gasoline use in the U.S. is to measure the C-13 deficit – spot check it at
the refinery – in the gasoline we are burning.
Russia, With Hate
You always have
a point in your numerous articles in defense of Putin, but you always take it
too far. You are not a Russian speaker, so your opinion on what's going on in
Russia relies on filtered, translated and explained opinions of pundits and
counterpundits. While you are getting the stupid anti-Russian slant of many
official and semiofficial American "opinion makers," you are really missing
the boat on the big and quite unpleasant changes happening in Russia today.
downplay the importance of media consolidation into the hands of not just "Putin-friendly"
entities (using the American meaning of this phrase) but fully controlled entities
(using the Russian meaning of that phrase). You continuously confound American
business alignment of MSM with Russian government centralized political control
of their MSM – they really are different animals. Finally, you seemingly are
unable to understand the importance of all anti-Putin opposition uniting to
field several hundred demonstrators – who do this not because they agree on
much of anything, but because all political opposition has been targeted for
political (if not physical) elimination. These pathetic small rallies are nevertheless
crushed physically by OMON (Interior Ministry Security) who are brought in to
the site of demonstrations in numbers exceeding the opposition four to one.
Your continuous and quite incorrect positioning of these demonstrators as nazis
and nihilists is what the state controlled media (which is all media)
in Russia is saying, that is when they show anything about these demonstrations
at all (most don't show anything). My friends in Russia, with whom I video conference
every week report a wide spectrum of opposition groups, including many liberal
ones. They also report heavy violence by the government forces in attacking
these people. And, by the way, most Russian Web sites that featured free political
speech were closed several years ago. I was an avid participant for years –
1999 to 2002. They are either gone or completely dormant.
It is a plain
and sad fact that you make a very poor Russian analyst. Your stubborn defense
of Putin in the face of more and more unpleasant, authoritarian and frankly
criminal behavior is very much like the old Left's clinging to Trotsky and even
Stalin, long after any such sentiments would have to be discarded by honest
men. The fact that Putin is unfairly maligned by the West is a very poor reason
to defend his very bad behavior.
is a link of what Russian media "consolidation" looks like on the inside – from
one of the very last independent Web papers in existence. Have it translated
and read it. In Russia today, consolidation means a ban on mentioning the few
opposition names left on the air, ban on news of opposition demonstrations and
a rule on getting all news from the ruling party politicians only. It is objectively
worse than even our hated Fox News....
Are you going
to be one of the diehards that had to wait until "Kruschev's speech" to "get
article as usual by Raimondo.
But isn't he missing
one of the most obvious points?
Before the invasion,
Iraqi Kurdistan was already separate from Saddam's Iraq – protected, apart,
virtually independent. Isn't that just Iraq 101? So the invasion hasn't changed
much in that regard. Hitchens' argument that Iraqi Kurdistan is an invasion
success story is therefore bogus, as bogus as any of Cheney's rationales. They
were independent before, Saddam-free. ...
neglected to mention the peshmerga's role in the "Iraqi Army" in subduing mainly
Sunnis – just another force for disunity and hatred. The invasion merely allowed
the Peshmerga entry into the rest of Iraq to cause trouble, something they couldn't
And he didn't
mention areas on Kurdistan's edge – Mosul and Kirkuk – that have become violent
flashpoints in the struggle between Kurds and the rest. It's not just impacting
neighboring countries, it's a huge component of the meltdown of Iraq itself.
Mosul's one of the most dangerous parts of Iraq.
Add it up. Hitchens
is a big, teetering bull's eye.
~ Bill Kaufmann
veteran political junkies, the 2008 presidential race in both parties is just
a tired retread. The "electable" and "the lesser of two evils" clichés are already
endlessly repeated. While most voters are not single issue, everyone owes it
to himself to prioritize issues. No more important issue exists in 2008 than
ending our Middle East misadventures, for our very national survival depends
on stopping a thermonuclear war before it begins. Besides, how sincere can Senators
and Representatives be who support President Bush's shredding of the U.S. Constitution,
violation of liberties and perverse taste for torture? A recent Iowa poll showed
the majority of Republican caucus members oppose the Iraq War, yet support candidates
who not only support the war but would also spread it to Iran. Opposing the
war because it is going badly is not enough. Any acceptable antiwar candidate
must also reject the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war, abolishment of due process
and torture. Only one Republican candidate does so, Representative Ron Paul.
Among the announced Democrats, only Dennis Kucinich meets the criteria I have
described. Should Al Gore run, he may as well, but both announced front runners,
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, do not. Just remember, the same people who
say neither Rep. Paul or Rep. Kucinich cannot win told us the Iraq War would
be a "cakewalk." In fact, in my 40 plus years of following national politics,
I've never seen these people correct about anything except their ability to
con the public.
Don't let them
do this in 2008.
~ Robert Fallin
a Market for Security
Although it is
true that we still do not have a good explanation of how so much security failed
on 9/11, Prof. Morgan Reynolds pointed out back in August of 2004, at lewrockwell.com,
that there are only two possibilities: either massive governmental incompetence,
or governmental complicity. Since no one was fired or otherwise sent to the
rear with eleven copies of the order, the incompetence thesis lacks support.
And we seem to
get the same result if we simply follow the money.
[T]he most valuable
antiwar step that anyone could take for America would be to blow the lid off
the 9/11 crime, for then the American people would finally discover just who
it is that they are actually at war with.
As your column
documents, our troubles tend to originate close to home.
~ Jack Dennon
agree with the reader. We will never find out the truth about 9/11. People who
should be investigating are too intimidated. They fear being called "conspiracy