January 28, 2008

Myth Versus Misinformation

There is an article that has appeared in the news the last couple of day about myths regarding oil addiction. In it there is something I would like to address.

So biofuels alone cannot wean the United States off oil. Let's say the country converted all the soybeans grown by American farmers into biodiesel; that would provide only about 1.5 percent of total annual U.S. oil needs. If the entire U.S. corn crop was devoted to producing ethanol, it would supply only about 6 percent of U.S. oil needs.

Full Article

I could probably go through and pick this story apart piece by piece but instead let me just use the above quote as an example. Now I am not going to try and argue that biofuels alone could indeed wean us off of oil but instead would like to point how misleading this statement is.

Notice how the author compares the amount of both biodiesel and ethanol that could be produced to the amount of oil we use. The reason this is misleading is because neither ethanol nor biodiesel is ever going to replace motor oil or road tars. Neither will replace petroleum in the making of plastic. Of the oil we use only about half of it becomes transportation fuels. The rest becomes one of the many thousands of other products made from petroleum. So comparing biodiesel and ethanol against the total oil used is just a misleading way of making the numbers look worse than they are.

And this is a good place to point out that it has been said that the oil industry is using tactics similar to those employed by the tobacco industry in the past. And that is to fund think tanks to promote their causes and attack their opponents.

With that in mind, you will notice that the author of this piece is a fellow at the Institute for Energy Research, which has received funding from Exxon.

Fact Sheet


Nathan Schock said...

Great point. This is similar to those people who count rainwater on the corn crop in ethanol production to say that it takes 1,700 gallons of water to make one gallon of ethanol. By using those statistics, they make it clear that they're not interested in a search for the truth. They're trying to make ethanol look as bad as possible.

mus302 said...

Nathan, you bring up another good example. There are many, many others floating around as well. I agree, I think that at least at times the focus isn't on finding truth but more on trying to shape perception.

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