Tuesday, January 8, 2008

energetic switchgrass, damn greedy pharma, and deforestation?

more good news on the renewable energy front: switchgrass used for cellulosic ethanol production produces more energy than it uses. 5.4 times more. so, given enough land and cellulosic ethanol processing capacity, a new fuel distribution infrastructure, and a new generation of slightly modified cars, we could have one part of our energy problems taken care of. that is a lot of givens.
i still prefer butanol and biodiesel because of lower distribution costs, but politicians have latched onto hydrogen and ethanol, so we'll have to run with them for the time being.

one more reason to get mad at the broken Big Health industry: drug companies' biggest justification for high drug prices is that they are necessary in order to pay for research and development of new drugs, yet they spend twice as much money on advertising as they do on researching new drugs. of course, they are private corporations, so they are forced to do this sort of thing in order to compete with each other and maximize profits. the question, then, is how to modify the system and force them to behave. i wonder if there shouldn't be a public competitor in the drug industry, the same way that there is a mix of public and private companies in other utility industries. such an entity could focus on researching drugs with maximal benefit to humanity and making them available at least cost rather than maximal profit. this would force Big Pharma to reduce costs to remain competitive.

a leading expert on tropical deforestation has published a study which claims that the world's forests may be naturally recovering faster than we cut them down and that we need a new World Forest Observatory to more closely track developments. the article is certainly an interesting read, if nothing else. including statements like:

"Assessment 2000, for example, showed that all tropical forest area fell from 1,926 million hectares to 1,799 million hectares between 1990 and 2000. Ten years earlier, however, FAO's previous report said that tropical forest area fell from 1,910 million ha to 1,756 million ha for the same 90 countries between 1980 and 1990."

even if it is true that the total forest cover is constant, the quality of cover is decreasing as centuries-old forest is replaced with new growth. so, it is still absolutely politically incorrect to buy Brazilian hardwood, no matter how beautiful.

1 comment:

The Shaman said...

Glad to see you tackling this subject.

I'm doing the same.