A local village chief of the Parakana people in the Amazon basin of Brazil said, “If the government don’t find a solution we will solve it ourselves. We know how to make poison arrows and we are ready to kill people.”

One might think it’s about the food vs. fuel fight, but its not, like the California Air Resources Board who is making policy based on falsehoods. It is about, as Greenpeace is also confirming, extensive settlement of squatters in the region (whose activities include cattle theft and slaughter), the existence of slave labor conditions, and intimidation by predatory farmers.  It’s a food fight indeed, but nothing like the press and media’s misrepresentation of the facts. It’s stealing the land use, the livestock, crops and even people.  And the developed world’s press and media then government followers who’re thinking its ethanol that’s leading to regulations that are completely in error.

Greenpeace has also revealed a primary cause of deforestation, it’s that newly deforested areas are converted to cattle pasture, which then becomes rapidly overrun by the native grasses unsuitable for cattle grazing.  The squatter farmers do not have the land management techniques or the herbicides to maintain the grass quality, requiring them to clear more forest to feed the cattle. It’s a forest to cattle to grass to forest cycle.  Decades are needed, lifetimes for the indigenous people.  And they are willing to fight and kill.

DTN, the agricultural news service, reporting in depth on actual land use change in Brazil, said that “Amazon deforestation has fallen for the past five years, from 10,588 square miles in 2004 to 4,620 square miles last year, according to figures from Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research (INPE).”  The satellite photos are likely quite accurate and the drop, now off by more than 50% must give everyone but the criminal element much relief.

Indirect Land Use Change models suggest that increased ethanol production in the U.S. should lead to increased Amazonian deforestation. Kieran Gartlan, DTN’s South American Correspondent, reports that a “recent study by the Imazon research group showed that only 4 percent of the Amazon, or 50 million acres, has recognized land title. Around 32 percent has already been invaded illegally, while 43 percent is protected in the form of national parks and Indian reserves.”  The models are now blown as falsehoods.  The real numbers could allow that a part of the 4 percent of titled land might be ethanol production, even though that would be some form of overstatement.

Gartlan also reports, “A study carried out by the Soybean Work Group earlier this year showed that of 630 samples of deforested areas since July 2006 only 12 had gone to soybeans and 200 to cattle. The remaining 418, or 70 percent, were unused indicating that the main reason for cutting down trees was for timber and land grabbing.”

And many believed that ethanol was the bad actor – while its not.  What markets are getting served is beef for people and timber for constructing wood products.  Not a fuel in sight other than the soy oil that could be biodiesel but much more likely sold for cooking oil.  Corn and sugar cane are not even mentioned for the area.

This isn’t new news either.  Last June Greenpeace reported with the UK’s Guardian from a three-year investigation revealing extensive “laundering” of cattle raised on deforested rainforest in the Amazon. The Guardian reported on the Espiritu Santo farm, which claimed that it was observing Brazilian law that requires cattle ranches to maintain 80 percent of lands in the Amazon region under forest cover.

A Greenpeace-Guardian examination of GPS and satellite data showed that only 20 to 30 percent of the Espiritu Santo farm is under forest cover. According to the Guardian, the “Greenpeace report identifies dozens of farms like Espirito Santo that Greenpeace says break the rules across Para and Mato Grosso to supply Bertin and other slaughter companies. Campaigners say there are probably hundreds or even thousands more.” Brazilian cattle processor Bertin reports blacklisting only 138 suppliers for irregular activities.

The Californian Air Resources Board regarding Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) would shift some of the blame to U.S. ethanol producers.  That is an effort based on those models mentioned above.  Amazing!  This all got going based on a controversial study published in Science Magazine by environmentalist Tim Searchinger. The “study” introduced the innocuous four-letter acronym ILUC, or Indirect Land Use Change.  According to ILUC theory, corn used for ethanol production cuts into American grain exports and thus provides a bigger market for competitors such as Brazil. This in turn leads to deforestation as Brazil expands its grain production to feed larger exports.  Not so and proven false, for more than a year.

Then last month the California Air Resources Board voted to include an ILUC penalty for biofuels when scoring greenhouse-gas emissions as part of its Low Carbon Fuel Standard.  Falsehoods, faked up theories taking money from consumers now -are real.

Then this month the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency included ILUC provisions in its rulemaking for the second Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2). This is despite the fact there is still no universally accepted science or economic model to accurately measure ILUC.  Daftness knows no limitations, especially when public perceptions from a lie lead to lazy policy making hoping for good public relations no matter the economic cost.

So the hard facts are very different.  U.S. corn exports have not been impacted by ethanol production and have remained between 1.5 billion and 2.5 billion bushels for the past ten years while soybean exports reached record levels last year.  There’re the facts that kill a theory.  Very simple.

What’s actually going on has nothing to do with food, fuel or even beef.  It’s about the money.  “There is a big financial incentive to invade public land and claim possession,” said John Carter a rancher from San Antonio, Texas, who moved to the northeast of Mato Grosso 13 years ago with his Brazilian wife, “Once trees are cleared value increases 10 fold, and this is happening on a huge scale, independent of what fuel they are using in the U.S.”

This isn’t the first time, in 2006, when Greenpeace falsely accused soybean farmers of “eating up the Amazon,” long after the soybean boom had ended, trading companies agreed to a self-imposed moratorium, committing not to purchase soybeans from newly deforested areas. With the soybean area in retraction it was an easy promise to keep.

But the lie won’t die, so now the California Air Resources Board and the U.S. EPA are making stupid policy and making up regulations on a complete falsehood.

Models, assumptions, policy, and regulations – it will be a wonder if anything good gets to consumers for new energy and fuels.   Many people think that the worst of press and media machinations were back in the days of Hearst and making little wars.  But today the muckraking press is still at its game, gathering eyes and ears for the latest lie to show advertising.

Geesh.  And it will never end – as long as people look and listen.

Science Magazine, models are not facts.  It’s now at the point where a model is becoming a disqualifier in my mind, a sure trigger for full throttle skepticism, cynicism and suspicion.  That’s a pity because good modeling built on facts is intensely useful way of saving a great amount of time and money.  But way too much modeling is done on assumptions where the nefarious can hide their agenda and harm us all.


1 Comment so far

  1. Matt on June 4, 2009 9:04 AM

    So called ‘environmentalists’ make decision on emotion and what they ‘feel’ is right.

    Unfortunately, you cannot reason with people like that. They don’t want to hear the truth.
    And somehow they exempt themselves from the process.

    That is why John Denver would tell us all to conserve energy and then Chopper back to Aspen. And, Al Gore (prince of dorkness) keeps a private jet on standby.

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