Wine - Seeing the World Through the Bottom of a Glass (5)

Cross-posted from

What can wine tell us about the world? Plenty, it turns out.  It is one of civilization's oldest products.  At one time it was a necessity, when food was served rotten and water was where you washed and evacuated.  Now it is enjoying a resurgence.  It is an agricultural product, and a unique one.  You see, vineyards have kept records of temperature, yield, and ripeness-dates for centuries, giving us incredibly precise records that tell us reams about the global environment. It is also a luxury item, particularly at the top end.  As such, its sale and purchase can tell us volumes about the global economy.

Today we look at wine, ethanol, and biofuels, and their effect on hunger and the economy.

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When I First Caught the EV Bug

When people ask me when did I start becoming interested in electric vehicle I honestly tell them I can't remember. Electric vehicles weren't an "aha!" moment in my life where I suddenly realized that I was seeing something revealed for the first time. Electric vehicles and many other forms of capturing and using alternative energy have always been in my psyche. I think it goes back the OPEC oil embargo of the 1970's.

I was a preteen and a teenager during that time, very much interested in cars and driving, as well as being interested in science's ability to solve our everyday problems. One of our neighbors purchased one of Bob Beaumont's tiny Sebring-Vanguard CitiCars and I was enthralled. I never got a chance to look at it up close. I just would see it driving on the street here and there every once and a while. The Apollo space missions were well on their way and on the moon was an electric car. I remember going to GM's Tomorrow Land in Disney World and becoming fascinated by what I saw.

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Farm bill: insurance racket draws Waxman scrutiny

I mentioned last week that the House Ag committee was going to start marking up the farm bill this week.

CQhighlights one spot which combines the controversial subjects of biofuels and crop insurance.

I'm absolutely no expert in energy or ag: but it seems to me that, the way the US has gone about this, biofuels are very much a road to hell paved with good intentions.


Corn or soybeans grown for biofuels are covered by the same insurance policies that farmers buy to protect the commodities they grow for food. But the long-term viability of biofuels depends on cost-effective production of "cellulosic" ethanol from plants such as switchgrass, which are not currently eligible for crop insurance protection.

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Electric Speeeeeeed!!!

One of the most pervasive views that I have worked hard against is that electric vehicles are small, slow, derivatives of golf carts. Golf carts may be slow, but electric vehicles never have been.

The Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat of Paris, France on his electric vehicle the Jeantaud

I just want to set the record straight. The first speed record ever recorded for an automobile was done on December 18, 1898 in an electric vehicle.

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Obama's Auto Plan Neither New Nor Bold

Cross-posted at Democratic Courage blog.

Barack Obama got huge coverageyesterday for "standing up" to the auto industry by calling on them to accept tighter fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks - and doing it in their own backyard in Detroit. Although it's encouraging anytime a candidate calls for increasing fuel economy, we have to ask:  is Obama's proposal really anything to coo about?

The core of Obama's plan is raising fuel efficiency standards to 40 miles per gallon by 2022 - and paying off American auto companies for doing this by funneling $3 billion in taxpayer subsidies to the big auto companies in exchange, primarily to alleviate their high health care costs.

Two problems: first, Obama's plan doesn't move anywhere near fast enough to address the twin challenges of global climate deterioration and reliance on oil. His plan is about the same as that proposed by the Bush administration (although the administration's plan includes huge loopholes that Obama's doesn't). The 2022 deadline is at least ten years behind what is technically feasible and at least that many years behind what is climatologically essential. The latest international climate report concludes that urgent action is needed to avoid mass extinction, melting ice caps, famine and disease. "We don't have the luxury of time," said Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  What's more, research by the Union of Concerned Scientists shows that currently available technology could raise fuel efficiency standards to 40 miles per gallon by 2012, while still producing net savings for consumers.

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