Anyone with a basic understanding of economics knows that "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch". Even if it's free to you, someone is paying for it. Unfortunately most environmentalists have an increadibly weak grasp of economic principles, which is why we get stupid ideas like biofuels.

THE drive for "green energy" in the developed world is having the perverse effect of encouraging the destruction of tropical rainforests. From the orang-utan reserves of Borneo to the Brazilian Amazon, virgin forest is being razed to grow palm oil and soybeans to fuel cars and power stations in Europe and North America. And surging prices are likely to accelerate the destruction. ...

Rising demand for green energy has led to a surge in the international price of palm oil, with potentially damaging consequences. "The expansion of palm oil production is one of the leading causes of rainforest destruction in south-east Asia. It is one of the most environmentally damaging commodities on the planet," says Simon Counsell, director of the UK-based Rainforest Foundation. "Once again it appears we are trying to solve our environmental problems by dumping them in developing countries, where they have devastating effects on local people."

Duh. Biofuels will always cost more than they're worth. Why? Because once you harvest the biomass that has already grown naturally (such as rainforests) you have to plant something else, nurture it, and harvest it, all of which costs money and energy. In fact, it almost always costs more energy to grow and harvest biomass than you get back when you burn it. The only advantage of biomass fuels is that, like using hydrogen for fuel, they allow you to shift the waste product from the exhaust pipe to the fuel production location, which can be far away. Unfortunately, the people who live in that far away place will now have to deal with your polution, and the net result is generally more total pollution than you started with.

Similarly, think of the effect American environmentalists have had on the Middle East. Environmentalists won't allow our country to drill for oil because of the pollution, so we have to buy oil from the Middle East. Middle Eastern dictators, however, couldn't care less about the environment so they drill in the cheapest and dirtiest ways possible. The end result is that we in America pay more for oil than we have to, and we shift the modest pollution we'd cause by drilling here over to the Middle East where it's magnified a hundredfold -- not to mention the pollution caused by the supertankers that bring us the oil.

The majority of environmentalist policies cause more harm than good, and the people who are harmed the most are the poor and those who live under tyrannical dictatorships.



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