As was the case a couple weeks ago when an oil tanker was gashed open trying to take a shortcut through the Great Barrier Reef, the silence of environmental groups has been deafening following the explosion and oil spill off the coast of Louisiana.
Even with a thousand barrels of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico each day, even with an oil slick on the water the size of West Virginia, we're hearing nothing from the self-appointed defenders of the Earth. Not a word. This photo from NASA shows the slick when it was only half that size, closing in on two National Wildlife Refuges. And not a word from any of the environmental groups.
Now they're evening talking about getting rid of the oil by burning it off. That's right -- set the ocean on fire and get rid of the pollution in the water by turning it into air pollution. No response from those groups that were created out of concern for clean water and clean air.
Perhaps we're a bit worked up about the environmental groups' lack of response to these environmental disasters because of all the energy they've spent lately condemning ethanol -- the cleanest motor fuel available today. But when you look at who they've joined forces with recently, that lack of alarm over the oil spills starts to make more sense.
Last month a letter was written to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency urging them NOT to approve a 5% increase in the allowable ethanol content per gallon of gas, from E10 to E15. In this letter, the Center for Coastal Conservation, Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club signed the very same advocacy letter as the American Petroleum Institute and the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, the two largest oil industry groups in the U.S.
These environmental groups dislike ethanol because they've bought into the "indirect effects" arguments against ethanol, an unproven theory that suggests U.S. ethanol production might somehow possibly maybe indirectly cause more deforestation in the Amazon. They know emissions from cars that burn ethanol are lower than emissions from cars that don't, and they know tailpipe emissions would be even lower if gas had 15% ethanol in it instead of 10%. But they keep coming back to that rainforest theory, which, in the real world (not the anti-agriculture fuzzy-math world) is clearly disproven because actual deforestation rates have consistently dropped as the production of ethanol in the U.S. has increased.
All this focus on "indirect effects" and yet they are giving the very direct effects of oil a free pass. How is it ok to ignore a 28,000-square-mile oil slick in the Gulf while devoting members' time and money to lobby against increasing the availability of the only alternative to that oil? It makes no sense, and it's completely counterproductive to their efforts to protect the environment.
People who consider themselves environmentalists should take a closer look at the organizations they support and what those organizations are really supporting. No, ethanol is not perfect, but it is here today as a clean, renewable alternative to oil. In fact, ethanol is the only viable alternative to gasoline today. The bottom line is this: if you're not for more ethanol, you're for more oil.
Posted by: Ron Lamberty