UN urges US to cut ethanol production

Says the FT:

The UN has called for an immediate suspension of government-mandated US ethanol production, adding to pressure on Barack Obama to address the food-versus-fuel debate in the run-up to presidential elections. Most US ethanol is made from corn. The dispute over ethanol promotion pits states such as Iowa that benefit from higher corn prices – and in some cases are swing states in the election – against livestock-raising states such as Texas that are helped by lower corn prices. The UN intervention will be seized upon by state governors, lawmakers and the meat and livestock industry, who have expressed alarm at surging prices for corn. Members of the Group of 20 leading economies – including France, India and China – have already expressed concern about the US ethanol policy. The US is poised to divert around 40 per cent of its corn into ethanol because of the Congress-enacted mandate despite “huge damage” to the crop because of the worst drought in at least half a century, José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, warned.

The biofuels stuff has always been dubious or stupid, though you can make a case that the Brazilian version is worthwhile. The US corn-ethanol programme is and always has been insane (when looked at from a fuel perspective, or a food perspective, or a value-for-money perspective, or any sane perspective) or pork (when looked at from a political perspective). But there is now a whole subsidy-sucking industry built around this pork, so don’t expect it to die without squeals. In fact its probably powerful enough not to die at all.


* Latest Drought Science Alarming for US – EW.
* Heatwaves blamed on global warming – Nature, on Hansen.
* Atmospheric CO2 forces abrupt vegetation shifts locally, but not globally

Hobbes on climate change

Via HT I find Kerry Emanuel saying:

I think debate is good but we should be debating points that are actually debatable

and who could disagree with that? But the problem is who gets to say what is debatable. You and I know, of course. But the wackoes don’t [What is the Plural of “wacko”? Is it -oes or -os? And what about “Bozoes” – that looks wrong]. Or rather, it is impossible to distinguish from outside their heads the difference between “this is debatable” and “I’m going to force you to debate this if I can, either because it plays well or in order to avoid debating real issues” (compare For if a man pretend to me that God hath spoken to him supernaturally, and immediately, and I make doubt of it, I cannot easily perceive what argument he can produce to oblige me to believe it).

The connection to Hobbes is that he argues, for example, that if you let someone “independent” interpret your laws, then that person or group is effectively sovereign; and therefore argues for all judges to be effectively the person of the sovereign, delegated (as I believe was the theory in England, but no more). With no-one wielding the civil sword to decide questions such as “what is debatable” there is no law in this area, no compact, and thus effectively a state of war. Which is exactly what we see.

[Updated: to include sea ice pic and link to Neven.]


* Calvin and

Olympic badminton rowing


The mighty DeutschlandAchter.


The NZ pair (gold) congratulating the UK pair (bronze). The UK were completely out of their lane over the finish line.

Or, if you’re interested in my original subject:

It am all de news: Olympics badminton: Four pairs charged with not trying.

My take on this is different: I’ve watched some of the sport (not the badminton, obviously, because it shouldn’t be an olympic sport any more than football should be) and its exciting: you’re watching people doing their very best to do as well as they possibly can. The rowing is gorgeous, especially the VIII’s: 2000m at 1:20 splits with every single stroke exactly the same as the previous one. Woo!

But the badminton story is that, suddenly, due to the pattern of who had won or lost, it became advantageous to some of the players to lose, not win their matches. At which point they… started to lose, not win, their matches. Which is exactly what they should be doing. Der.

The fault, obviously, lies with the idiots who designed the heats system that lead to these perverse incentives.

But enough of that nonsense! On with the rowing:


Bit of a shame for the Poles. They get something close to a row-over, and a head-wind so no real incentive to try extra-hard.


But on reflection, the headwind is great for crews in the lead… they aren’t going to get a record, so they don’t have to kill themselves, just win. And we see: the UK’s first olympic gold. Cycling disappoints, swimming disappoints, rowing comes through. As always 🙂


Your olympic news service continues… as expected (really, in our heart of hearts, we knew) the Germans win the men’s eights. But it was a thrilling race; we caught them up and were ahead at 1500m by a few feet, but they pushed out well ahead at the end. And perhaps because we’d pushed, Canada overtook us to the line. But it was worth it.


Men’s lightweight IV, Thursday. Superb race (item 13) with a wonderful push through by SA at the line.

That Drysdale digs a bit, eh?