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Marlo Lewis

Marlo Lewis is a senior fellow in environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute
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Beyond Petroleum: The Ever Receding (Deep Water) Horizon

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011 - by Marlo Lewis

In 2007 Congress and President Bush enacted a Soviet-style production quota for “renewable” motor fuels commonly known as the ethanol mandate. Fuel blenders were required to sell 100 million gallons of “cellulosic” ethanol (alcohol fuel made from switch grass, wood chips, and other plant fibers) in 2010 and 250 million gallons in 2011. For years biofuel lobbyists said cellulosic fuel was ”just around the corner.” However, commercial output was so anemic that EPA last year dumbed down the 2010 quota to 5 million gallons and the 2011 quota to 6.6 million gallons. Alas, even those targets were too ambitious. Today’s Climatewire (subscription required) reports that cellulosic ethanol production in 2010 likely did not exceed 1 million gallons, and the Energy Information Administration projects less than 4 million gallons this year in its most optimistic scenario.

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Our Resilient Earth

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011 - by Marlo Lewis

The BP oil spill may well be the worst environmental disaster in history. Yet it was not the planetary catastrophe some predicted it would be.

In May 2010, experts warned that the Deep Water Horizon rig blowout would cause “irreversible damage to the marine eco-systems of the Gulf of Mexico, north Atlantic Ocean, and beyond.” But a surprising thing happened on the way to the apocalypse. Bacteria gobbled up the oil so fast that by August, the underwater oil plume became “undetectable.”

A study published today in ScienceExpress reports that bacteria also made short work of the massive volumes of methane (natural gas) released when the BP well exploded. This is good news not only for Gulf Coast eco-systems. It also further undercuts the credibility of a popular global warming doomsday scenario.

Some warmists warn that rising ocean temperatures will melt frozon methane crystals (known as “clathrates”) on the deep ocean floor. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. So the fear is that warming will cause even more warming, leading to a runaway greenhouse effect. However, ice core data show no evidence of clathrate melting during the Last Interglacial Period, when the world was warmer than it is today.

Maybe back then the clathrates never melted. Or maybe they did but, as in the case of the BP blowout, the sea bugs ate the methane before it reached the surface.

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