Pimentel interview comments

Tom Philpott (Grist) questions entomologist and biofuels skeptic extraordinaire David Pimentel (Cornell) about why crop-based energy won’t work. Interesting interview, but Pimentel does need to get out a bit more. And I wish Philpott had been a bit more probing on some of Pimentel’s assertions – like this one:

Pimentel: Conserve! One word. And no one talks about it, including the environmentalists.

Is he just yanking our chains??!! No one else talks about conservation?? He’s joking, right?

This is an interesting exchange:

Philpott: So if we converted 100 percent of a year’s worth of solar energy stored in plant matter to fuel, we’d only supply half of our current energy consumption. What’s that telling us?

Pimentel: It’s telling us we’re using too goddamn much fossil energy! And another thing it tells us is that you’re not going to be self-sufficient, or even produce half of our energy from biomass in the U.S., if we want to eat.

Yeah – thanks, Dr. P – I realize now you do need a PH.D. to figure out we’re using too much fossil fuel!

Interestingly however, Pimentel is very pro-organic:

“Pimentel: I don’t want to say that organic can supply all the food in the world, but it can be much more sustainable than conventional ag and just as productive.”

Biofuels Are an Environmental Dead End, Alternet, By Tom Philpott, Grist Magazine. Posted December 13, 2006.

What annoys me about Pimentel, is his focus on the problems. He finds that the numbers don’t seem to work, so he discounts a solution. He seems to be in favor of solar energy, which is great, but solar won’t help us run the trucks and trains that carry us and our good across the country. That does not mean we should ignore solar energy. It just means we need different solutions for different applications. But Pimentel acts as if alternative fuels advocates suggest that the entire energy input of the US should be covered by soy or corn.

Solving the sustainable-energy puzzle will require many different pieces, and solar, biofuels and conservation are some of the big pieces. Pointing out the lousy energy balances in ethanol is not particularly helpful. How about helping solve the problem? How about putting that Cornell-educated mind to work and help figure out how to make fuels that grow back in a more efficient way?

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