In this edition of Fun With Statistics, we ask you to be careful of fads, especially those driven by popular passion. We all want to be environmentally sensitive; it’s simply a good thing to do. Whether or not you agree that global warming is caused by humans, reducing pollutants and green house gases is still a noble objective. Didn’t Greenland really used to be green? Hmm…
But how about ethanol fuel and bamboo products? Ethanol is touted as a great replacement for petroleum-based fuel, although as we pointed out last December there is still a debate whether it is a net positive or negative from an energy output standpoint when processing energy is taken into account. Now some people are wondering about how ethanol production will affect global warming.
A study published in the latest issue of Science finds that corn-based ethanol, a type of biofuel pushed heavily in the U.S., will nearly double the output of greenhouse-gas emissions instead of reducing them by about one-fifth by some estimates. A separate paper in Science concludes that clearing native habitats to grow crops for biofuel generally will lead to more carbon emissions.
That’s on top of some of the other indirect effects.
The findings are the latest to take aim at biofuels, which have already been blamed for pushing up prices of corn and other food crops, as well as straining water supplies.
Have you noticed how popular bamboo products are? On the surface there’s a good reason. Take bamboo t-shirts for example.
Bamboo naturally grows at a fast rate even when you don’t place any fertilization, chemicals or pesticides on them. This means that there is always an ample amount of bamboo available to make the shirts. Another great thing about these are that they are antibacterial because of properties in the plant. They are also antifungal and do not hold sweat as other cotton t-shirts can. This means that you won’t have to wash it as much as a cotton shirts which saves on energy.
But, as you probably suspected, there is another side of the story. A side that isn’t exactly eco-friendly.
The not so eco-friendly part and the biggest part is in the way that they are made. The t-shirts are made using the bamboo but the process is highly pollutant and harmful to the workers manufacturing the shirts. They use a hydrolysis alkalization process to soak the bamboo leaves and shoots in sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide. It is then placed in a bleaching solution in which it goes through many phases before it is complete. All of these chemicals give off a harmful vapor that could result in health problems for the individuals working.
That doesn’t sound all that great. Bottom line: dig into a manufacturing or business fad. Is the popularly-accepted benefit based on reality? All reality?