Streetwise Professor

May 3, 2022

Samantha Power: Speaking of Manure, She’s Full of It

Filed under: Climate Change,Economics,Energy,Politics — cpirrong @ 12:28 pm

In the latest episode of Condescending Lectures From Our Betters: Shut Up, Proles!, Samantha Power (the Lioness of Libya) recently “informed” us that the drastic decline in the supply of chemical fertilizers is actually a good thing, as it will wean farmers off these horrible concoctions, and induce them to use natural alternatives like manure and compost instead:

This is so bat shit delusional I don’t even know where to begin. Following Power’s advice would ravage agricultural productivity and condemn literally billions to starvation. And as if there isn’t a real time, ripped from the headlines case study that proves the insanity–and evil–of her prescription.

And, where, pray tell, is the manure to come from, if we follow another ukase of the ruling class, namely the war on meat and livestock? After all, livestock belch and fart, producing methane–and we can’t have THAT, can we? For example, Ireland is supposed to cull 1.3 million animals, and Northern Ireland another 1 million, to meet GHG emission standards.

No animals, no shit. No shit!

So we are supposed to become vegans, eating gruel produced from plants fertilized by livestock that don’t exist–smart! What would we do without smart people telling us how to live?

And even if meat survives, if you haven’t noticed: (a) collecting the manure of pasturing animals would cost rather a lot, and (b) pastureland and small grains farmland tend to be located rather far apart (because the former is not suited to be the latter), transporting the manure of pasturing animals to the fields would cost rather a lot (not to mention involve the release of massive GHGs–or did I forget that it would be transported in electric vehicles powered from wind and solar generators?)

In other words, Samantha Power is completely full of shit. As if you should have needed me to tell you that.

This is just another example–an egregious one, admittedly–of the utter insanity of those who presume not just to tell us how to live–but who presume to force us to live according to their obsessions. The utter unreality of the “energy transition” is another example.

You could get the idea that these people want to kill us. And in fact, you may be right. Based on the evidence, you cannot reject the hypothesis.

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  1. In 1920, we had 25 million working horses and mules, requiring one-quarter of our farmland to be feed, to feed 105 million Americans. Feeding 330 million Americans under the Power Plan would require 75 million working animals and a more larger portion of our available land just to feed those animals. Utterly impossible. Smil is a wonder.

    Comment by The Pilot — May 3, 2022 @ 12:57 pm

  2. Everything our elites do to us, is to kill us, been going on for a long time.


    Comment by Joe — May 3, 2022 @ 4:42 pm

  3. I wonder if she’s ever been on a modern farm. My guess is that she hasn’t. Just ignorant ideology masquerading as sound public policy. No doubt she was not required to defend her views or answer even the most basic questions. Typical.

    Comment by Larry — May 4, 2022 @ 2:21 pm

  4. It’s alarming that there is no one in the agri-eco-energy bureaucracy (that must employ upwards of 100,000 people) with the courage to point out that this is fantastical bullshit.
    She must expect windfarms to spread it for free.

    Comment by philip — May 4, 2022 @ 4:36 pm

  5. The US does have options in this respect:
    – US pig farms have VERY poor, very low-tech management of manure. They just dump it in a pond and hope for the best, which has terrible consequences for the health of the local population and contaminates the water table. Plus it gives off a lot of methane, and while people argue about the impact of CO2 on the climate, methane is a much better insulator than CO2, so even if one accepts CO2 isn’t causing a problem, one should not automatically accept that methane isn’t.
    – And speaking of methane, the US flares off a lot of natural gas, which is a feedstock and fuel for fertiliser manufacturing. Hello supply, this is my friend demand… (I know that, obviously it’s not that simple. The gas is geographically diffuse, fertiliser plants are expensive, etc. etc. but the US spends a lot of money on weapons to ensure their freedom of action, surely some of that money would earn a better return by securing the fertiliser supply?).

    Comment by HibernoFrog — May 5, 2022 @ 2:14 am

  6. Just to be clear: I grew up in the countryside, I know that artificial fertilisers are here to stay if we want everybody to eat… I can already see the reductio ad absurdum comments coming for me – replacing SOME fertiliser with manure does not mean the end of humankind…

    Comment by HibernoFrog — May 5, 2022 @ 2:22 am

  7. Replacing some fertilizer with manure does not mean the end of humankind. It does mean more costly inputs. So the regulator forces all farmers to increase their input costs with ordure and the farmer is not out-competed on price. Good. So food prices go up. Not good. Output drops as well. Not good. Food becomes scarce and prices go up even further. Not good. So yeah it’s not the end of humankind, but it is a disaster that’s hard to be glibly philosophical about.

    Comment by Shadeburst — May 5, 2022 @ 6:42 am

  8. “…terrible consequences for the health of the local population and contaminates the water table.” Citation needed.

    Comment by Shadeburst — May 5, 2022 @ 6:46 am

  9. @4 Methane quickly oxidizes to CO2, HF. It will never be a problem. In fact, there’s no evidence CO2 is a problem.

    If you look at Easterbrook’s Chapter 9, Greenhouse Gases of Evidence Based Climate Science, Figure 9.3 and 9.4 show that relative humidity has been steadily declining at all levels of the atmosphere since 1948. Except at the very surface, where it’s been steady.

    Those trends refute the whole “positive water vapor feedback” argument of alarmists.

    There’s just plain no evidence that CO2 emissions have had, are having, or will have any impact on the climate.

    Comment by Pat Frank — May 5, 2022 @ 8:56 am

  10. “there’s no evidence CO2 is a problem”
    Let’s just call that a disputed statement and leave it at that, because for sure it won’t be proven one way or the other in the comment section of a blog.

    “Methane quickly oxidizes to CO2”
    True. Google says 9 years, but it is 28 times more insulating. So I would still expect that those people who do believe in CO2 based warming (which includes the US government, like it or not), as well as those people who believe that it’s worth paying a premium for fertiliser to help insulate the food supply from foreign influence, and those in favour of local public health and environment to push for better use of animal manure in the US.

    In fact, for those who do believe that CO2 is a problem, doing something about methane emissions seems like a huge shortcut towards their goals.

    Comment by HibernoFrog — May 6, 2022 @ 5:19 am

  11. I’d heard of Power and had assumed that she must have been an Affirmative Action hire. So thanks for the photo proving that my inference was wrong.

    Comment by dearieme — May 6, 2022 @ 7:41 am

  12. I’m with Hibernofrog
    In the UK the sewage farms sell fertiliser to farmers. So it”s not a total loss to crap in a toilet, but it’s not enough to fertilise all the soil. (Usual energy loss, see 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.)
    It would be great to connect pig farms to the mains drainage, but then… distance, cost…

    I too was brought up next to a farm. The standard acreage was about 70, rising from river bank to hill. The leas (pasture) was for cattle, the gentle slope was for arable, the hill was for sheep and summer cattle. As an organic cycle it worked pretty well. As a business, it sucked.

    Comment by philip — May 6, 2022 @ 5:24 pm

  13. Anyone up for nominating her for an involuntary diet?

    Comment by Sotosy1 — May 7, 2022 @ 8:56 am

  14. Dear Pilot,

    You should know that logical thinking, no matter how bizarre the premi, is not permitted in our political debates. Next you will be telling us that having a Y chromosome makes me a biological male. Stop this madness!

    Comment by Sotosy1 — May 7, 2022 @ 9:00 am

  15. @7 HF, that there’s no evidence CO2 is a problem may be disputed but it’s a fact nevertheless.

    See for yourself: Propagation of Error and the Reliability of Global Air Temperature Projections

    The US government is just people. Their beliefs have no special merit.

    Going after methane accomplishes no good, but disadvantages farmers and makes food more expensive. The cost – benefit is negative. It’s likely the attack on methane is just a proxy for the attack on meat consumption.

    If the UK fracked natural gas, fertilizer could be made cheaply there. It could certainly be made cheaply here in the US right now, were the Biden regime to become sane.

    Comment by Pat Frank — May 7, 2022 @ 10:32 am

  16. “The US government is just people. Their beliefs have no special merit.”
    Au contraire: The most powerful government in the world has special merit in the field of choosing which things get done and which do not, and doing so on a potentially huge scale. Whether you or I agree with their views is irrelevant: Attacking CO2 IS what they intend to do, which agrees nicely with the next thing you said…

    “It could certainly be made cheaply here in the US right now, were the Biden regime to become sane.”
    Right, this is the discussion that I would find most interesting. Like @Philip notes above, as an organic process it works well, but if it doesn’t work well as a business, surely there is an argument for the US government to incentivise it until it does – surely that would be cheaper and more efficient than the geopolitics that would otherwise be necessary to secure the fertiliser (and therefore food) supply?

    Comment by HibernoFrog — May 9, 2022 @ 2:36 am

  17. @13 HF — power is not merit.

    Also governments are consistent failures at choosing economic or technological winners. So there’s no obvious merit in your argument at all.

    Comment by Pat Frank — May 9, 2022 @ 3:18 pm

  18. @Pat:
    My proposed goal here is not for the government to choose an economic winner (I’ll leave aside your implication that turning manure into compost is somehow a difficult technological challenge). The fact is that the US government spends a lot of money securing the energy supply, the food supply, etc. It is self-evident that greater use of manure in the US is not economically attractive, otherwise industry would be doing it already. But the question is whether it represents good value for the US government to subsidise the use of manure, in order to reduce military spending, since the US would be more food-secure and maybe could choose fewer geopolitical engagements. It’s about one cost vs. another, not about choosing winners or supporting industries for economic/political reasons. I think this is an interesting question, since until this week, I wouldn’t have seen a potential link between manure use and military spending at all.

    Unfortunately, and not for the first time, you are choosing to interpret my argument as being something other than what I’m actually arguing, in order to dismiss it (e.g. solar power, where you repeatedly told me that a 100% solar grid is impossible, despite the fact that nobody in the comments was actually proposing such a daft idea). It’s entirely possible that my proposal has no merit, but if you’re going to dismiss it, you should at least dismiss it for what it actually is.

    Comment by HibernoFrog — May 10, 2022 @ 4:03 am

  19. I forgot a bit: And about the CO2 global warming, again, it doesn’t matter in this case whether the US governments views on global warming have merit. This is what they believe, and within that believe structure, methane is theoretically a juicy target. As you imply, they have the power to execute their ideas, so why not pursue manure? Maybe there’s a technical showstopper, maybe it’s just a case of stated vs. revealed preferences. Either way, I think it’s an interesting discussion which supports more than just a summary dismissal.

    Comment by HibernoFrog — May 10, 2022 @ 4:13 am

  20. I think you’ve wrongly conflated two different contexts and missed the crux of her point. Ofcourse, if she was speaking about manure as an appropriate alternative fertilizer for industrialised agricultural producing countries, it would be absurd and tantamount to mass murder. But she isn’t, from the African small-holder context and development lens that she specifically refers, what she says is correct. Fertilizer is less available from cash crop buyers/input providers this year, intelligent application of manure/urine can increase yields and protect crops. This material can come from goats or a single cow that are often an adjunct to small-holder (subsistence) parcels of land. USAID and other development (security) agencies promote this technique with other technical assistance to boost rural incomes and support (food) security in combustible regions. It’s the total antithesis of murder. Conflating these different contexts is an error. Your outrage would be totally valid if she was speaking about McLean, IL. But she isn’t, she’s speaking about Karamoja, Uganda.

    Comment by Matt Earlam — May 10, 2022 @ 6:38 am

  21. @16 HF “until this week, I wouldn’t have seen a potential link between manure use and military spending at all.

    Go back to last week. There is no link between manure use and military spending. The US was energy independent prior to the Biden regime. It could be again.

    With energy independence comes fertilizer independence and with no impact on government spending at all. Meaning no impact on military spending.

    you are choosing to interpret my argument as being something other than what I’m actually arguing

    Perhaps you should argue more clearly.

    e.g. solar power, where you repeatedly told me that a 100% solar grid is impossible,

    I’ve likely never told you that unless you argued it, although it is true.

    Here’s another truth. Solar is not worthwhile as any part of a domestic energy grid.

    Granted it may be useful to recharge the battery of a rural emergency phone.

    Pursuing methane to no end means disadvantaging farmers to no end, which means making food more expensive for no good reason at all.

    If it’s to the government’s end to harass farmers and reduce the food supply then it’s to our end to remove that government.

    Comment by Pat Frank — May 10, 2022 @ 7:45 pm

  22. @Pat: A parade of bad-faith argument there. Let’s just let it go.

    Comment by HibernoFrog — May 11, 2022 @ 4:32 am

  23. @18 HF — let’s just call that a problem with having your positions confuted.

    Comment by Pat Frank — May 11, 2022 @ 7:49 am

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