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Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Cost of Radical Environmentalism

Over the last few weeks there have been several articles in the Gainesville Times chronicling the significant increase in the price of certain commodities. The price of a barrel of oil is at record levels, resulting in record prices at the gas pump. Corn, wheat, and rice prices are soaring, giving us higher prices at the grocery store, for everything from milk and bread to eggs and cheese, along with higher prices at our favorite restaurants.

There are many factors working to drive these precious commodities through the roof: a weak dollar, the significant demand for them in many nations, poor yields for some producers, and so on. It is indeed a complicated mix of conditions. However, there is one clear culprit driving food commodities, and the irony is almost too much to bear: Anthropogenic (man-made) Global Warming.

The anthropogenic global warming craze has led many governments to rush to biofuels such as ethanol as a part of the “solution.” So now we have extreme food prices all over the world, the price of oil is still going nowhere but up, and recently the United Nations predicted “massacres” unless the current biofuel policy is halted. (Here’s another thick slice of irony: the UN has been one of the chief cheerleaders of anthropogenic global warming.) This is what happens when there is a rush to “solve” something that perhaps doesn’t even exist.

According to the UK’s Telegraph, “The mass diversion of the North American grain harvest into ethanol plants for fuel is reaching its political and moral limits.” A recent story on Yahoo news revealed that, “UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler, told German radio … that the production of biofuels is ‘a crime against humanity’ because of its impact on global food prices.”

The Telegraph also reported that world grain stocks are at a quarter-century low, also noting that, “America - the world's food superpower - will divert 18% of its grain output for ethanol this year.” This is up from 11% in 2002, and according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, during the next decade, unless there are policy changes, about 33% of U.S. corn will be used for fuel.

According to Bloomberg, corn is up 20% since mid-December and has doubled in price in the last two years. In late January, Richard Bond, CEO of Tyson Foods, the largest U.S. meat company, said, “ethanol has caused a domino effect. For the foreseeable future, consumers will pay more and more for food.”

That “domino effect” is many-pronged. Corn prices are tied to other grain prices. The more earth that is tilled for corn, the less there is available for wheat, etc. The net result is tighter supplies for the othergrains, and therefore increased prices for them as well. Also, much of the American diet contains corn and corn by-products, such as corn syrup. Almost all of these products are seeing significant price increases. Last, the increase in corn prices has resulted in price increases for animal feed, which has made everything from milk to beef to pork to chicken more expensive.

Republican and Democratic politicians alike, including President Bush, are to share in the blame for where our current ethanol policy is taking us. The energy act of 2007, which massively increased ethanol subsidies, was passed by a Democrat led Congress and signed by President Bush.

There seems to be a role for biofuels as a source of energy, but a smarter, more conservative approach is necessary. Other biofuels, such as biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol (made from plant waste matter), are proving more efficient, cleaner, and cheaper than corn ethanol.

Furthermore, there is no need to abandon oil as an energy source. Some recent research is showing that many biofuels are no “cleaner” than oil. Also, in 2006 Reuters reported that, according to a prominent energy consultant group, “World oil production will not begin to fall for at least another 24 years, contrary to doomsday theories that supply is already in terminal decline… the world has some 3.74 trillion barrels of oil left -- enough to last 122 years at current consumption rates and triple the amount estimated by ‘peak oil’ theorists.”

In his book Earth in the Balance, Al Gore, referring to the internal combustion engine, said, “their cumulative impact on the global environment is posing a mortal threat to the security of every nation that is more deadly than that of any military enemy we are ever again likely to confront.” It seems to me that this quote more aptly applies to the radical environmentalism that Gore and his disciples are preaching.

Copyright 2008, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Abortion and the Death Penalty

Recently, as I was taking in a bit of talk radio (Sean Hannity), I heard a discussion of a comment made by Senator Barak Obama on the topic of abortion. A tape was played, and Senator Obama was heard saying, “Look, I got two daughters — 9 years old and 6 years old—I am going to teach them first about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby.” What an unbelievable, uncaring, uninformed, and undeniably stupid thing to say; and this coming from the man whose speeches supposedly cause people to swoon and faint. It just goes to show you how almost indefensible abortion is.

However, I’m very sad to report, Obama’s comments were not the only ones to make my skin crawl. The only people who sounded dumber than Obama were those trying to defend what he said. One such caller went into how hypocritical many pro-lifers are by opposing abortion while supporting the death penalty. He went on to use President Bush as his chief example of said hypocrisy. While Governor of Texas, the caller pointed out, Bush oversaw the execution of 150 people. “Many of those might have been innocent,” he added, while also pointing out that, “abortion is the law.”

The host, Hannity, I’m also sad to report, did a poor job of pointing out the weaknesses in the callers’ logic.

First of all, there are only “claims” of and “compelling evidence” for people being innocently executed in the U.S. In a 5 to 4 decision in 2006 the U.S. Supreme Court, in Kansas v. Marsh, upheld the constitutionality of theKansas death penalty law. As Justice Antonin Scalia noted in his concurring opinion, “the dissent does not discuss a single case—not one—in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred in recent years, we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent’s name would be shouted from the rooftops by the abolition lobby.”

In 1987, Professors Hugo Bedau and Michael Radelet claimed 23 wrongful executions had taken place in the U.S. from 1900 to 1986. In October of 2000 The Boston Globe reported that, “The American system of capital punishment has taken the lives of 16 men despite ‘compelling evidence of their innocence,’ according to a report by death penalty foes scheduled to be released Thursday.”

The vast majority of executed individuals in the U.S. have been “guilty as sin,” as my mother would say, usually of very heinous crimes. Of course one innocent person being executed is too many, but contrast the handful of those who were “perhaps” innocent with the nearly 50 million undoubtedly innocent children who have died in the womb since 1973, the vast majority because they were simply not convenient for someone (or perhaps someone viewed them as a “punishment.”)

The caller mentioned earlier cried hypocrisy toward people who are anti-abortion but pro-death penalty. However, the height of hypocrisy is someone who claims “the death penalty is the ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights,” as does Amnesty International U.S.A., but then pledges to, “defend women's access to abortion,” as Amnesty did in the spring of 2007. And, of course, this is the stance of many on the more “liberal” side of life and politics.

A further example of this hypocrisy is the fact that many states are doing away with the death penalty but eagerly support abortion on demand. States like Illinois, North Carolina, New York, and Nebraska currently have some sort of moratorium on capital punishment, while states like New Jersey are doing away with it altogether. Because of the “chance” that someone innocent might be executed, mass murderers get to live out their days at the expense of the taxpaying citizens of those states; yet with the guarantee that many thousands will innocently be killed in the womb, some politicians even seek to use taxpayer money to fund abortions in this country and the world over.

Execution of murderers and their like has been around since time immemorial. After departing the Ark, Scripture records God telling Noah that, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed. For in the image of God has God made man.” In other words, life is precious, and those who murder are to be held accountable with their own lives.

Thirty-seven states (as well as the U.S. government and the U.S. military), still have the death penalty as “law.” These death penalty laws are passed by state legislatures, signed by governors, and supported by state and federal constitutions. Contrast that with how the “law” supports abortion today. Prior to the dreadful 1973 Roe v. Wade decision 33 states had laws against abortion except when needed to save the life of the mother. Twelve other states had laws that allowed abortion only in cases of rape, fetal deformity, or to protect the life/health of the mother. A ruling by seven unelected judges changed all of that and what had been the will of the people for centuries was cast aside.

The book of Isaiah says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.” What a sad indictment on our nation that so many of our citizens (and politicians) seek to protect those who are guilty of the worst of crimes, while turning a blind eye to the death of the most innocent and helpless among us.

Copyright 2008, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com