Earth Day

On this Earth Day it might be helpful to step back for a moment from the more trendy aspects of environmental stewardship and remember that if we are to truly take care of the planet we call home, we had better do it with a dash of common sense.

This year’s Earth Day theme is “Green Cities,” but in states like West Virginia, where the largest city is home to about 51,000 people who just want clean water, the focus will necessarily be a bit wider. And, just maybe, this Earth Day will give us a chance to examine those wider issues with greater scrutiny.

For example, let us look at one of President Barack Obama’s favorites – biofuels. His administration was no doubt frustrated by the results of a study the federal government funded, and which was released in the journal Nature Climate Change, that demonstrated biofuels made from corn residue will actually release 7 percent more greenhouse gases in the early years than conventional gasoline. The study showed biofuels will not meet standards set in a 2007 energy law to qualify as renewable fuels.

According to the research, regardless of how much corn residue is taken off a field, the process contributes to global warming. Yes. Contributes.

“I’m amazed (this information) has not come out more solidly until now,” said Adam Liska, lead author of the study and assistant professor of biological systems engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Liska should not be amazed. The Obama administration has spent billions of dollars in an effort to subsidize the cellulosic biofuels industry. Despite those federal efforts, the industry has not reached a point where most of its producers are able to earn the $1 per gallon subsidy they need to make the expensive fuels.

Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Liz Purchia said the study “does not provide useful information relevant to the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from corn stover ethanol.” In other words, now that the shoe is on the other foot, the EPA is willing to use the excuse that sometimes a single study does not give the entire picture.

Earth Day reminds us all to try to do what is right for our planet, to pass along a better world for our kids. It should also remind us to do our own research and thinking on the matter, and not to blindly follow any one agenda. Reduce, reuse, recycle. That is solid advice that makes sense. Using taxpayer money to funnel billions into an industry that is going to make the problem worse at the outset does not.