New, Improved Environmental Destruction!

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BP and the University of California Berkeley announced on Thursday a public-private partnership agreement to establish the Energy Biosciences Institute. The Institute will focus on developing biofuels.

Besides just firming up BP’s reputation as the most earth-friendly of the oil companies (an honor no greater than being the most Jew-friendly member of the SS) and Berkeley’s reputation as a hotbed of liberalism, the announcement marked biofuels’ entry into the mainstream.

I should be dancing, but I’m not. First of all, public-private partnerships: Ick. Secondly, biofuels advocates keep missing the point. Prime example: Ethanol–at least the corn-based ethanol Bush is pushing–requires an absurd amount of fossil fuel to produce. The European Union recently made a similar gaffe when it required that biodiesel be used as an additive. The Houston Chronicle reported in September that production of soy in Argentina is so rapidly that environmental groups fear deforestation and anti-poverty groups fear the food supply will be jeopardized.

Meanwhile, Craig Venter, formerly of Celera Genomics—the company that wanted to patent the human genome—is trying to manufacture, as in from scratch, an organism that would break down crops such as switchgrass that could provide ethanol more sustainably if they could be processed more efficiently.

These approaches miss the forest for the trees. Nature has its own very functional system, of which we are but a part. We do not fully understand that system, or else we would have no more need for science. We have to learn how to respect it and stay out of its way.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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