If you’re trying to figure out which candidates are actually interested in and capable of fighting global warming, look for emissions caps (even cap-and-trade is something) and mandatory advances in fuel-efficiency. Those plugging biofuels or mandatory ethanol content are either morons or just looking for the farm vote; this is not yet a plausible means of fighting the greenhouse effect. Indeed, it is not clear how achieving significant ethanol content is even possible, in the short term, given the absence of production and distribution networks. I know a couple of candidates are spouting off about an “Apollo program” to fight climate change, and I agree that a strongly-funded (and well-managed) research initiative is a great idea. However, unless there are concrete policy suggestions to fill in the short term before the research program comes up with its magic answer, this “plan” generally just amounts to empty rhetoric by a politician who has no idea what to do.
Also, if I may indulge in the fallacy of appeal to authority, this week’s edition of Nature also contains a commentary and article reinforcing two points I just can’t shut up about. The commentary points out the fallacy of producing ethanol from corn, still widely touted as a biofuel initiative by the slate of incompetents running for President. The second article, on the more rational initiatives involving jatropha, reinforces the need for agronomic research to underpin mitigation responses generally, and biofuel/biodiesel plans specifically. Politicians in all nations and from all parts of the political spectrum are jumping onto the biofuel bandwagon and proposing grandiose schemes that aren’t supported by science or even a modicum of rational thought, and without regard for the potential consequences. Biofuels sound green, but the reality is that for the most part the plans of our presidential hopefuls amount to new clothes for old subsidies.