[permaculture] what about lubrication?

Toby Hemenway toby at patternliteracy.com
Mon Mar 31 00:52:20 EDT 2008


Harmon Seaver wrote:
>  I can't find where he says that the US has "1.5
> billion acres" of cropland, let alone "prime cropland". . . Maybe some of you should try reading the book before posting about it, eh?
>   

That's classic--Harmon is unable to find it, so he demeans others, 
determined to make other people wrong. Why not learn to disagree with 
people without smearing their intelligence?

Quotation marks, in my hand, means I'm quoting text, in this case cut 
and pasted from the book's website (Full disclosure: I copied it last 
December for a different use, but I assume it's still on line). The 1.5 
billion figure is also quoted in several book reviews, like Albert 
Bates's in Permaculture Activist, and Dave wrote the number on the board 
when I saw him speak. It's also in my own copy (signed by Dave, whom I 
first met in 1995--so it's not like I dislike the guy).

> corn . . . is only 72.1
> million acres. , or  about 16.6% of the "cropland", or about 7.45% of
> the total "agricultural" acreage -- and last I know of, the USDA
> considers forests and rangelands "agricultural"
If an intelligent person is unable to see how specious this argument is, 
there's some prejudice deeper than logic going on. The 16% and 7% 
numbers are irrelevant and misleading, since we're not going to plant 
corn in arid rangeland (to arrive at 16%) or National Forest ( 7%). The 
only honest comparison is the percentage of corn out of all land 
currently planted to crops, which is roughly 30% (this year it's 91 
million acres out of 315 million). Using 434 million as the basis is 
also a stretch since it includes fallow land (a rough constant),  
exhausted marginal lands, and conservation land. Planting any of that 
will have dire consequences, which is why we don't.

As has been pointed out, the increase in corn acreage has come at the 
expense of soybeans and other crops, showing that we cannot increase 
corn acreage even by a few percent without serious consequences. It's 
arguments like the above that cause an otherwise valuable book not to be 
taken seriously by policymakers and energy scientists, and that's a shame.

If anyone is interested in hearing a reasoned argument against biofuels 
by an energy scientist, check out "The Myths of Biofuels" by David 
Fridley (who must be, of course, another lying shill for the oil 
industry!). A trailer is at 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DeVT7jMYZlo&feature=related

Toby
http://patternliteracy



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