Why neither Live Earth nor biofuels will save the planet

The madness of crowds can explain plenty of things: that no-one questions jetsetting popstars' claims that they want to save the planet; and why everyone is jumping on the biofuels bandwagon. But if you really want to save the planet - and profit from an important trend - look elsewhere.

Something happened to me over the weekend that made me shudder but I am slowly dealing with the consequences.

I actually agreed with something that ultra-rightwing US commentator Rush Limbaugh said in one of his columns. Yes really. The invective-loving sanctimonious fool was 100% right on this one issue but I regard it as an exception.

My agreement with Limbaugh was a very unusual event and equally bizarre he was talking about the successful and youthful Sheffield band the Artic Monkeys at the time. It was all rather odd. Take a look at the article here.

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Now, I regard Mr Limbaugh's opinions as being somewhere to the right of Hitler, General Franco and Mussolini and am astonished by the size of his audience in the US. However, sometimes even a rabid dogmatist like the pill-popping Mr Limbaugh can get it right. After all, it's very hard to be wrong 100% of the time, isn't it?

Limbaugh praised the Artic Monkeys comments regarding the Live Earth concerts over the weekend, organised by the well-intentioned, but slightly misguided Al Gore.

After some bad jokes about Bruce Springsteen and Annie Lennox, the vitriolic columnist put his usual apoplexy to one side to heap praise on the Arctic's comments on the event. He said:

"But this group, the Arctic Monkeys, they don't even understand what the big deal is, "Why do people listen to us? We're 21 year old kids; we're a rock band. We don't know anything more than anybody else does. Why do people listen? What does a rock concert have to do with this?"

He then went on to praise the clear-headedness of the band.

Despite the odd juxtapositioning, Limbaugh and the Arctic Monkeys have a very valid point.

A pop star telling us to be green is hypocritical. Their life of fast cars, private jets and excess is directly contributing to global warming, making the whole thing a stomach-churning sight.

The fact that Madonna headlined the gig was also outrageous: she can in no way be described as green. So, how on earth could she stand there and be utterly convinced that she is an eco goody-goody. Worst of all, how could the audience accept that in the first place without recycling their plastic water bottle by throwing them at her face?

Well, actually, it was all probably very easy for her. It's all down to the madness of crowds.

I believe that we are going the wrong way about saving the planet, but no-one can now question the agenda of the Greenpeaces and Friends of the Earths of this world. Both organisations are anti-nuclear and pro biofuels. From where I am sitting, that is utter madness.

Biofuels continue to be touted as a way of cutting emissions despite the fact that they destroy the rainforest. Today, Bloomberg is pushing the ethanol story yet again, after many investors have lost their shirts in the sector over the past few years.

The news agency is forecasting a resurgence in the industry after a bumper US corn crop. Maybe this will be true in the short-term, but it will only be short term and I see many more investors losing their shirts in the ethanol game. Remember, this method of destroying food to make fuel will never solve all our energy problems. It's inefficient and dangerous for food prices.

What we actually need is oil clean coal technology and more nuclear power stations.

Madonna would have impressed me if she had argued for the construction of new nuclear power stations. But she didn't. The reason she didn't, is because she did not understand the issues. She is, after all, merely a singer and not a scientist.

Saturday's concert was a showcase for her to sell more records, nothing more, nothing less. Madonna, like many people, got lost up in the euphoria of it all.

If this proves anything it proves that things do not change. It is getting on for 200 years since Charles Mackay wrote Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, but it could not be more true today especially in the energy sector.

Why nuclear is the only option

Mackay's book sought to answer why otherwise intelligent individuals turn into seething masses of idiocy when they engage in collective action? The book explains that the madness and confusion of crowds knows no limits, and has no temporal bounds.

My advice to you is not to get swept along by the madness of the eco-crowd. I treasure this planet as much as the next man and I believe we need to take action to prevent man's impact becoming even damaging than it already has. Unfortunately, the sandal-wearing tofu brigade thinks it has all of the answers. I believe that they don't.

We have to accept that oil and coal electricity generation are here to stay. We have to make the technologies cleaner and we have to invest in nuclear power. The biofuels lobby should be ignored. It's about time we stopped all of this madness and told Madonna to take a running jump.

By Garry White for his Garry Writes' newsletter.