This is really, really sad. A group, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which has done stalwart work on relocalizing the economy, has let their pro-local passion overcome their principles.

Now they simply embarass themselves, beating the drums for corn ethanol, using flackery techniques that would do any corporate PR shop proud. Let’s start in:

New Anti-Ethanol Studies Reach Wrong Conclusion on Greenhouse Gases

Wow, quite a headline, about not one but two studies in one of the most respected journals in the world. Must be quite a … no wait …

A new policy brief from Institute for Local Self Reliance criticizes the authors of two recent studies published in Science for advancing a conclusion not supported by their own studies.

OK, so ILSR has no study — only a “policy brief” — which, in essence, has no more standing than a blog entry, except that it’s put on dead trees and served up to the media in pre-digested sound bites for easier mastication by the empty-headed.

ILSR’s paper notes that the vast majority of today’s ethanol production comes from corn cultivated on land that has been in corn production for generations. Since little new land has come into production, either directly or indirectly, the current use of ethanol clearly reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

OMFG, did they really say that? Were they really willing to leap over the concerns about nitrogen fertilizers? Were they really willing to say that because we’ve destabilizing the climate for decades now, the forcing functions we’re driving now are not destabilizing the climate?

If, as they note, little new land has come into production, then huge crop conversions (wheat and soy acreage going into corn acreage) are exchanging less fertilized food crops for heavy feeding corn, which is then used in SUVs rather than to feed people. But hey, because this is the result we want, we’re going to say that “the current use of ethanol clearly reduces greenhouse gas emissions.” No data, just pulling it out of our … corn holes.

(A lawyer friend says that some respected appellate judges advise that the fastest way to home in on the weakest part of any argument is find where the person making the argument has used “clearly” this way (as in, “this argument clearly shows …”). If it were actually clear, you wouldn’t have to characterize it as such. Instead, the typical reason for saying that X is clearly shown by Y is that you don’t want to actually try proving Y, you just want X to be true, so you “prove” it by assertion and move on as fast as possible.)

The studies fail to recognize the very low greenhouse gas emissions from advanced ethanol plants, plants that can reduce emissions by over 50 percent as compared to gasoline.

Meanwhile, the ethanol plants burning coal, plants that are essentially nothing more than coal to liquids operations with a side of global starvation on the side, use 300 tons of coal a day.

But hey! There’s some better ones on the drawing board, and that’s all that counts. It’s like cellulosic ethanol — the important thing is to be able to suggest that no matter how bad agrofuels actually are, there’s a theoretical chance that they could be better.

Nor do the studies factor in the higher greenhouse gases that will be emitted when crude oil is extracted from unconventional sources like tar sands.

Not that we’ve displaced an iota of tar-sands-derived oil with ethanol because, as you may have noticed, the more energy we waste growing corn at such a low energy profit, the more we turn to destructive oil sources.

ILSR, if you want to oppose tar sands, wouldn’t the obvious thing to do be to suggest getting rid of the infernal combustion engine as fast as possible, rather than trying to keep the whole liquid fuels infrastructure going?

A controversial part of these studies examines the indirect impacts of growing energy crops.

The scare word — a “controversial part” of a study is “the part we can’t even rebut plausibly, so we’ll label it controversial, a word that sheeple in America have been taught to mean ‘scary’.”

For example, if corn acreage displaces soybeans in the U.S., the authors assume that an equal amount of soybeans will have to be grown in the rest of the world to make up for that loss in animal feed. But a byproduct of corn ethanol production is a high protein animal feed called distiller’s grains. Indeed, distiller’s grains produce more protein per acre of corn harvested than is produced from an acre of soybeans.

Naturally ILSR fails to note that, unlike feed corn, soy has lots of uses other than as animal feed, including as one of the highest quality protein sources for people. Whereas distiller’s grains are poisoning cattle and helping prop up the industrial meatrix that is further helping destroy the climate and the health of the people who eat all that grain-fed, hormone-, drug-, and disease-ridden beef.