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Comment: Re:Vast... Tracts of Land (Score 1) 199

by butalearner (#48939243) Attached to: New Study Says Governments Should Ditch Reliance On Biofuels

like perhaps feeding the starving billions.

I'll just repeat the usual refrain: starvation is just a distribution problem, at least for now. In the US, we throw away 30-50% of our food, and 60% of us admit we overeat. In comparison, 15% of us struggle to put food on the table occasionally, including 5% who struggle often. So right now, we have enough to feed ourselves and hundreds of millions of other people. Maybe you mean taxpayers should pay farmers to grow food specifically for those food insecure people, both here and abroad? We'd also have to pay for distribution, of course, and we'd still probably miss a good chunk of them.

Sorry, I know your main point was showing the disgusting irony of using biofuels to buy the worst kind of food. Totally in agreement there.

Biotech

New Study Says Governments Should Ditch Reliance On Biofuels 199

Posted by samzenpus
from the won't-somebody-please-think-of-the-switchgrass? dept.
HughPickens.com writes The NYT reports on a new study from a prominent environmental think tank that concludes turning plant matter into liquid fuel or electricity is so inefficient that the approach is unlikely ever to supply a substantial fraction of global energy demand. They add that continuing to pursue this strategy is likely to use up vast tracts of fertile land that could be devoted to helping feed the world's growing population. "I would say that many of the claims for biofuels have been dramatically exaggerated," says Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute, a global research organization based in Washington that is publishing the report. "There are other, more effective routes to get to a low-carbon world." The report follows several years of rising concern among scientists about biofuel policies in the United States and Europe, and is the strongest call yet by the World Resources Institute, known for nonpartisan analysis of environmental issues, to urge governments to reconsider those policies.

Timothy D. Searchinger says recent science has challenged some of the assumptions underpinning many of the pro-biofuel policies that have often failed to consider the opportunity cost of using land to produce plants for biofuel. According to Searchinger, if forests or grasses were grown instead of biofuels, that would pull carbon dioxide out of the air, storing it in tree trunks and soils and offsetting emissions more effectively than biofuels would do. What is more, as costs for wind and solar power have plummeted over the past decade, and the new report points out that for a given amount of land, solar panels are at least 50 times more efficient than biofuels at capturing the energy of sunlight in a useful form. "It's true that our first-generation biofuels have not lived up to their promise," says Jason Hill said. "We've found they do not offer the environmental benefits they were purported to have, and they have a substantial negative impact on the food system."

Comment: Re:Scientific question (Score 1) 666

by butalearner (#48875475) Attached to: US Senate Set To Vote On Whether Climate Change Is a Hoax

The problem is that it's being presented under the "appeal to authority" fallacy, but the "facts" that have been released supporting "anthropogenic climate change" have turned out to be, at best, carefully-selected statistics. ... The IPCC climate models continue to fail to account for the 18-year hiatus in warming, with all of the 'explanations' for the hiatus being untested hypotheses with no experimental validation.

Wow, AC, you warn us about carefully selected statistics, and yet you carefully choose the most anomalously high year (1998) as your start point, then claim there is a hiatus. If you want to look at it in chunks, there was also a "hiatus" from 1950 to 1975 or so, followed by fast warming up through the early 2000's.

I'm genuinely curious, though. What do you believe we should do, or not do? Not invest in alternative energy? Solyndra was a big fat failure, but since then (as of Nov 2014), the US DOE clean energy loan program has been turning a profit. Not limit emissions for cars or businesses or power plants? Generally, limiting those things translates to increased energy efficiency, which reduces our need for energy, which saves us money in the long run.

Personally, I want energy independence, and developing clean, alternative energy (nuclear AND wind AND solar) is a too-good-to-pass-up way of accomplishing that. Reducing our impact on the climate is pretty much just a bonus.

Comment: Re:Cool (Score 1) 224

by butalearner (#48874665) Attached to: Facebook Will Let You Flag Content As 'False'

Exactly, dont like the political/religious message so flag it false and less people will see it.

Odds are all political/religious messages are false.

And no, your mileage will NOT vary.

And even if they're not totally false, they are all designed to make people angry, which we already get enough of otherwise. A recent, mostly harmless story was one about EPA's "ban on wood-burning stoves" about to take effect, which, if you take two seconds to read through the vitriol, you'd find that they are regulating newly manufactured stoves, not making existing stoves illegal. But all the article's author had to do was carefully choose his words: "80% of you have stoves that would be illegal to purchase after this rule goes into effect."

This is what the most effective (these days) political messages do: make one large group of people angry and demand change, and make another large group angry because of the half-truths involved.

Comment: Re:Biased Institutions FTW (Score 3, Insightful) 784

by butalearner (#48828871) Attached to: Parents Investigated For Neglect For Letting Kids Walk Home Alone

In their defense, I want them to do their due diligence whenever they get a report. A lot of people would be pissed at the police and at CPS if they got called in and missed neglect or abuse. But it's quite obvious in this case that they went way overboard, and they still are.

I haven't seen it discussed in this thread, but in brief, Maryland state law says that any child under 8 must be supervised by a child 13 or older while in a dwelling or a vehicle. It says nothing about being outside, but they are considering stretching the interpretation and charging the parents.

Comment: Not much aperture (Score 2) 19

by butalearner (#48820551) Attached to: Exoplanet Hunting NGTS Telescope Array Achieves First Light
I wonder what the real step forward is (field of view? accuracy? software?), because that is not much aperture. 1.5 square meters in all, compared to 6 square meters on Kepler and 18 square meters on Hubble. You can get a very basic 200mm reflector on a manual Dobsonian mount for less than $400, but even top of the line custom telescopes could not have been terribly expensive compared to just building the facility.

Comment: Re:Therefore justifying the killing of others (Score 5, Insightful) 894

by butalearner (#48819691) Attached to: Pope Francis: There Are Limits To Freedom of Expression

"If a large enough group of someone is willing to kill you for saying something, then it’s something that almost certainly needs to be said, because otherwise the violent have veto power over liberal civilization."

Definitely worth repeating, as is this later quote: "But when offenses are policed by murder, that’s when we need more of them, not less, because the murderers cannot be allowed for a single moment to think that their strategy can succeed."

Comment: Re:As with all space missions: (Score 1) 200

by butalearner (#48617299) Attached to: NASA Study Proposes Airships, Cloud Cities For Venus Exploration

That single point of failure isn't as bad as you might think, because the pressure could be the same on the inside and outside. Cloud-top Venusians wouldn't even need pressurized suits, just breathable air...and protection from the sulfuric acid. And some way to deal with the 200+ mile per hour winds, perhaps by sort of riding them around the planet. I imagine many unmanned missions would precede a manned one, to set up some infrastructure (power generation, oxygen extraction, food crops, etc.) and provide some back up systems.

I'm not sure how they would be able to leave, though. Rocket launches are difficult enough with solid ground and a non-corrosive atmosphere.

Comment: Re: Please don't (Score 1) 280

by butalearner (#48616439) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Should a Liberal Arts Major Get Into STEM?

From what I've researched, taking undergraduate research classes and doing internships will dramatically increase your starting salary.

I'm not sure this is true. What internships do is allow you to make decent money while going to school. I know several former interns that made a good enough impression on their employer that they continued to work part time during school, if the work location was close enough to school. That's the biggest benefit: avoiding more debt.

Comment: Re:I'd expect Fawkes masks to start making stateme (Score 1) 218

Energy companies - privatized. Prices have gone up, service is still good mostly because of government regulations, the market is now largely dominated by less than 5 big energy companies. Only recently thanks to renewable energy have smaller, local players re-emerged.

Freaking out over Fukushima couldn't have helped with your energy prices, I imagine. I (also) very highly doubt that privatization is beneficial to energy/utilities and telecom, but I admit there are always other factors to consider. For example, in the Greater Phoenix area in Arizona, my water, sewer, trash, and electricity were served by private companies, and bills were sky high and rising. In Alabama, despite being an equally conservative state, I have public utilities and pay way less, despite having a larger house and two more members in my family. However, the former is desert, and in the latter I live a stone's throw away from a big river. Anyway, great post!

Comment: Re:Actually... (Score 1) 135

by butalearner (#48574533) Attached to: Rosetta Results: Comets "Did Not Bring Water To Earth"

Thus proving that the dinosaurs had an advanced technological civilization based on deuterium fusion.

Historical documents show that tyrannosaurs used their relatively small arms to operate the controls of fighter jets, so it stands to reason that dinosaurs figured out economical fusion power. I wouldn't be surprised if all the fossils we've found are just the dinosaur lawyers and telephone sanitizers.

Comment: Re:What's wrong with emacs and make ? (Score 1) 115

I'd like IDEs a lot better if they didn't bury stuff like build information in menus and dialogs. Android tutorials and such always encourage new developers to start from an example, so that's what I've done on multiple occasions. But I quickly get annoyed because I don't know everything that's happening under the hood, so I basically have to google every time I want to do anything. If it could give me one big, organized text file or script that controls how it's built (with environment variables for portability), I'd be so much happier. But no, I have to right-click on the project, open a submenu (the 17th of 38 menu items), click on Project Build Path or something like that, click on this other tab, click the Add JARs button, browse to the desired files...

Comment: Re: rounding error (Score 1) 71

by butalearner (#48524375) Attached to: Technical Hitches Delay Orion Capsule's First Launch

Note, don't go to Mars, sending people to Mars with current technology would be stupid. Get a moon base operating first.

The first part is okay, but the second doesn't necessarily follow. Establishing a permanent presence on another planetary body will take a long time - even if we started ASAP - and technology can be developed in the meantime. One such technology is in-situ resource utilization. The more resources the base can pull from its surroundings, the better. Mars has carbon and the Moon doesn't, which is pretty huge. If water is also significantly easier to extract, then even despite the far greater distance, Mars might be a more attractive location.

But who knows, we may find out we can deal with near-zero gravity better than we thought, and there may be a decently large, carbon- and water-rich asteroid at one of Earth's L-4/5 Lagrange points or something. That would be even cheaper in terms of delta-V to reach than the Moon. Or maybe we set up shop on a co-orbital body like 3753 Cruithne, which orbits the Sun every 364 days, and will be within 13.6 million km of Mars in 2058 (Earth and Mars only come within 56 million km of each other).

Or we just do all of the above, because humanity is awesome.

Comment: Re:rounding error (Score 1) 71

by butalearner (#48523689) Attached to: Technical Hitches Delay Orion Capsule's First Launch
The total cost of Ares development was expected to be upwards of $40 billion in 2009 dollars. The total cost of SLS development was expected to be $18 billion in 2011 dollars. It might not launch if Tea Partiers like Ted Cruz gets their way, but with the pro-NASA congressman expecting to head up the appropriations committee over the next two years, there's still a good chance it will.

The confusion of a staff member is measured by the length of his memos. -- New York Times, Jan. 20, 1981

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