Pharyngula

Now this is just getting silly. An Islamic theologian has declared that using ethanol as a fuel is sinful.

As if the debate around using ethanol to fuel cars weren’t already complicated enough, now an Islamic scholar has suggested that driving or even riding in a vehicle fueled by ethanol could be considered a sin for observant Muslims.

The opinion comes from Sheikh Mohamed al-Najimi, of the Islamic Jurisprudence Academy in Saudi Arabia. It is based on the part of Islamic law derived from a statement by the prophet in which dealing with alcohol in any form–including purchase, sale, transport, consumption, and manufacture–is strictly prohibited.

But…but…there are basic biochemical processes going on in every Muslim’s body that produce alcohols! If you’re going to get this ridiculous about restricting anything that has to do with alcohol, they’re going to have to get rid of those sinful dehydrogenases.

But really…don’t you suspect that this has more to do with Saudi Arabia’s status as an oil producing state than in any kind of genuine piety?

Comments

  1. #1 Brendan White
    February 27, 2009

    Of course its a sin, its easy to make something a sin when it is in your financial interest to do so.

  2. #2 Bride of Shrek OM
    February 27, 2009

    You know I have spent a fair bit of time in Muslim countries including living in Egypt and Jordan. I can steadfastly say the no alcohol thing is a total load of shit. When they think no one is looking they hook into it as much as anybody. I have lost count of the amount of times I have shared a drink with a person who claims to be a devotee of the woo prophet Mohammed.

    Funnily enough in Indonesia they get even more curious in that they don’t consider beer to be alcohol even though the local Bintang is as high in alcohol as anything you buy anywhere. Mr Shrek was in heaven cause the beer was about 30 cents a can but I had to pay $80 fucking dollars for a 4 litre cask of shitty Coolabah moselle ( yes fellow Aussies, I WAS desperate).

    You see, it all about appearances. As long as you don’t appear to drink alcohol ( and quaff it in secret) you can claim to be more holy/devout/whatever than the next person and get your brownie points into heaven. Allah apparently can’t see you when you close the front door.

  3. #3 H.Perry
    February 27, 2009

    Myers, try reading some Ayn Rand. Your consistent lack of logic and reason is getting annoying.

  4. #4 Funnyguts
    February 27, 2009

    Hope they don’t need rubbing alcohol ever.

  5. #5 Valor Phoenix
    February 27, 2009

    mhmm, so, 2 + 2 = … Any alternative fuel other than crude oil derived fuels is defamation of islam?

  6. #6 Brian
    February 27, 2009

    How do they feel about sterno?

  7. #7 Twin-Skies
    February 27, 2009

    Funny thing is, the Shariah law (depending on the country) does have exceptions to alcohol usage when it comes to medical reasons.

    That, and I don’t see going green as some sort of religious blasphemy…unless somebody actually decides to drink the ethanol in their tank

  8. #8 RamblinDude
    February 27, 2009

    And I think it’s in the Koran, somewhere in the back, that you are not allowed to harnes the, um, essence of lighting to, eh, replace camels . . . or something. . . .

    And no solar power.

    Praise Allah!

  9. #10 Ian
    February 27, 2009

    That statement about not transporting alcohol is pretty consistent with what my Muslim friends told me growing up. And, you know, if he was talking about corn ethanol, he might have been right :)

  10. #11 H.H.
    February 27, 2009

    So does that means alcohol is never used as an antiseptic in Islamic hospitals?

  11. #12 Dveduu
    February 27, 2009

    I agree… better to use isobutanol.

  12. #13 windy
    February 27, 2009

    So which is worse: ethanol or pork fat biodiesel?

  13. #14 Andyo
    February 27, 2009

    Posted by: H.Perry | February 27, 2009 1:17 AM

    Myers, try reading some Ayn Rand. Your consistent lack of logic and reason is getting annoying.

    A new one? Or do we already know this one? I haven’t been on in less than a day, but I’m always missing these people’s debuts.

  14. #15 coathangrrr
    February 27, 2009

    Well, at least the Randian admits that her writing is nigh impossible to make it through. Of course, I also feel selfish today, so I’ll spend my time on something useful, like not reading anything from Ayn Rand.

  15. #16 Janine, Ignorant Slut
    February 27, 2009

    Andyo, I don’t know that one. But I was thinking that ignoring the person was the way to go.

    On topic, I would be open to committing a new sin but I do not drive.

  16. #17 speedwell
    February 27, 2009

    Hmm, the Koranic prohibition is against wine, quote, unquote. This has, naturally, been used as throughout the history of Islam to justify the consumption of distilled beverages.

    Ethanol is distilled. Not wine. No problem.

  17. #18 Michael
    February 27, 2009

    While I don’t agree with the Muslim’s viewpoint, ethanol is sinful to fuel cars with, he might be trying to save his country a headache…Firstly, ethanol produces poorer gas mileage which kinda defeats the purpose of using less oil. There will be other problems if they decided to produce ethanol by using corn. Prices of corn would go up and so would the price of food for the rest of us. Then there is sugar which can produce more ethanol at cheaper costs but sugar could also increase greatly in price as a result and since there is so much food that uses sugar, the price of food will go up too.

    Now if you are a true blue believer in man-made global warming, there is no way you should be advocating ethanol rather you should be advocating electric cars which get not only better gas mileage but eventually may not use gas at all. Therefore, the economy of the middle east would be hurting big time but the air would be cleaner! Then China who pollutes at will, might have to bail them out too…lol

  18. #19 Jim Battle
    February 27, 2009

    As to not using ethanol from corn to fuel cars: I’ll drink to that!

    With cellulosic ethanol production just around the corner, I wonder how many gallons/bible it yields.

  19. #20 Matt Heath
    February 27, 2009

    Teehee. It’s like those evangelicals in American cattle country that think vegetarianism is a sin (specifically, it’s ungrateful because god gave the animals to abuse as we see fit)

  20. #21 dreamstretch
    February 27, 2009

    Who’s this Islamic scholar called Abn Rand?

  21. #22 Brian English
    February 27, 2009

    If only one could fuel a vehicle with breast milk….

    http://memri.org/bin/latestnews.cgi?ID=IA35507

    It that as crazy as the cracker that is the flesh of a god? or not?

  22. #23 rachelwells
    February 27, 2009

    I don’t know if it’s fair to assume all muslims drink when the western world looks away. I have muslim friends that check the ingredients with such rigor that they’re trips to supermarkets are longer than the movie Titanic.

    Bride of Shrek…. you paid 80 dollars for goon!???? the smell of that makes me gag

  23. #24 humorix
    February 27, 2009

    It is not without calling back(reminding) the predictions of the Senator of Louisiana (more than 1 billion deaths before 2020).
    Everything is a business. To make a height of 50 liters of bioethanol it is necessary to bruler 232 kg of corn (that is on 1 year of food for 1 child).
    In April, 1998, 50 liters of gasoline = $0,1 ( 50 Iraqi Dinars).
    The oil(petroleum) was never so cheap. The price was not multiplied by 1000 since 1998.

  24. #25 Twin-Skies
    February 27, 2009

    Michael

    Firstly, ethanol produces poorer gas mileage which kinda defeats the purpose of using less oil. There will be other problems if they decided to produce ethanol by using corn. Prices of corn would go up and so would the price of food for the rest of us. Then there is sugar which can produce more ethanol at cheaper costs but sugar could also increase greatly in price as a result and since there is so much food that uses sugar, the price of food will go up too.

    Ethanol isn’t just made from corn actually – it’s made from fermented sugar cane. And while it’s true first-geneneration biofuels use food crops, the later varieties are beginning to use more sustainable raw materials such as algae, weeds, and even garbage (biomass reactions). On a broader scale, some cities like San Francisco are implementing a recycle program that allows them to extract the lard accumulated in their sewers, to be converted to biofuels.

    The US Department of agriculture in particular’s researching the use of a common weed as a possible biofuel source. It’s highly resistant to pests and the cold, and will grow in even poor soil.

    Now if you are a true blue believer in man-made global warming, there is no way you should be advocating ethanol rather you should be advocating electric cars which get not only better gas mileage but eventually may not use gas at all. Therefore, the economy of the middle east would be hurting big time but the air would be cleaner! Then China who pollutes at will, might have to bail them out too…lol

    There are several problems with going electric:

    1. Range – your typical in-city electric car will have a range of less than 100 km. While that may not be an issue for city-dwellers, keep in mind that a typical battery-powered car takes hours to fully recharge.

    2. Cost: electric cars, to be frank, are still exceedingly expensive to purchase for your typical consumer. The Tesla Roadster for example costs over 100,000 USD, and even hybrids such as the Prius are considerably costlier than a car of similar size.

    3. Environmental issues: The car may not give off any emissions, but its battery certainly will. Remember that batteries are comprised of a cocktail of toxic chemicals and metals, with a typical Lithium-Ion battery for electric cars expected to completely degrade within three years. They’re heavy too – the Tesla’s Li-Ion pack weighs 1000 kg, or about half the car’s total weight. Even then, it’s only got enough power for a 250-km drive, and will cost in the tens of thousands of dollars to replace.

    4. Application: At its current state of tech, you can’t use electric power for large aircraft use. There are electric planes out there, but they’re low-performance single-seaters. One the other and, Japan and NZ both recently completed test flights for airliners running on pure biofuel mixes.

    I’m not saying that going electric’s a bad idea – I’m just saying the technology has a long way to go before it becomes more commonplace.

  25. #26 David Marjanovi?, OM
    February 27, 2009

    Then there is sugar which can produce more ethanol at cheaper costs but sugar could also increase greatly in price as a result and since there is so much food that uses sugar, the price of food will go up too.

    Yeah, like the so-called “bread” in the USA, and Kellogg’s Cornflakes (I’m not talking about Frosties, mind you, but about the actual Cornflakes! Yuck!) The sugar industry of the First World lives off subsidies and produces so much sugar nobody knows where to put all of it.

    China who pollutes at will

    The industry, yes — but for cars China has higher standards than the USA. I kid thee not.

  26. #27 Liberal Atheist
    February 27, 2009

    But really?don’t you suspect that this has more to do with Saudi Arabia’s status as an oil producing state than in any kind of genuine piety?

    In that case, surely they would consider electric cars to be sinful?

  27. #28 Selcaby
    February 27, 2009

    It’s probably because if Muslims see alcohol anywhere, even sloshing around in a fuel tank, they’re going to get drunk on it. Because obviously they cannot be expected to exercise basic self-control. It’s the same logic that forces women to veil themselves because if a man, y’know, actually sees a woman’s face he won’t be able to resist raping her.

  28. #29 humorix
    February 27, 2009

    Why the model of bumper cars (auto-scooters) in the carnival would be it not adaptable to the urban traffic(circulation) under a wire netting?
    As trolley buses.

  29. #30 www.10ch.org
    February 27, 2009

    There is a drinking age in Egypt, but it is not enforced. At all.

    I doubt that this is genuine piety, as I would suppose that there is actually little of it in the middle east. Surely, most islamism comes from alienation and reaction. As for this, this is just silliness.

  30. #31 dean
    February 27, 2009

    “… try reading some Ayn Rand”

    Why, to see more stupidity and unrealistic world philosophy?

  31. #32 Ranson
    February 27, 2009

    I wonder if all the USA-based muslims are already in trouble, considering that ethanol has been a basic gas additive for ages now.

  32. #33 Uzza
    February 27, 2009

    This prohibition of any dealing with alcohol is not in the Koran, only in the hadith. Not all sects of islam accept them, so the muslims have one more reason to fight with each other.

  33. #34 raven
    February 27, 2009

    H.Perry:

    Myers, try reading some Ayn Rand. Your consistent lack of logic and reason is getting annoying.

    Terrorist attack alert!!! Perry just tried to assassinate PZ’s mind. The UN has determined that reading Ayn Rand is torture capable of causing brain damage.

    Call out the Emeter squad and clear this guy of Thetan ghosts before he strikes again.

  34. #35 Chris Davis
    February 27, 2009

    Jeezers! I have to say that telling someone they need to read more Ayn Rand has to be the weirdest insult I’ve ever heard.

  35. #36 raven
    February 27, 2009

    I doubt if the Koran says anything about alcohol. It probably refers to wine.

    Alcohol wasn’t invented until hundreds of years after the Koran was written. Ironically, IIRC, it was invented by Moslems who developed distillation.

  36. #37 Peter Ashby
    February 27, 2009

    @Blueskies
    You make some good points. However the recharging thing for electric cars is easily avoidable with a small infrastructure change far easier than Hydrogen. With the energy density of batteries getting better and better you have stations that stock standardised recharged batteries. You drive up and swap your nearly discharged set for a recharged set and off you go. We have the robotics so we can avoid heavy lifting.

    I see a medium term future of sustainable (ie not corn) biofuels, largely biodiesel and electric. If I were looking to buy a new car I’d buy a diesel hybrid, or if I were richer, an electric mini and a diesel.

  37. #38 Carpentos
    February 27, 2009

    Looking over the precipice into the void,
    as my soul recoils from the dark, silent space,
    ?Tis here that the bright hope of souls is destroy?d,
    and I shall be cast out, not be seen, not a trace.
    In the cold, silent dark, with no hope, with no care,
    with no life, no Redeemer to hear my plea;
    Drifting deep in the void, as my life is laid bare,
    and my soul cast adrift ?cross the wide, sunless sea.
    And I hear the echoes of past loves now gone,
    the faint voices, the traces of warmth passed away;
    A mem?ry of sweet embrace, kindness and song;
    in endless night, whispers of my long-lost day.
    Where now my Saviour, protector and friend?
    Where now His arm to pluck me from cold death?
    Where now my last hope in cold, bitter end?
    Where now His smile, the warmth of His breath?
    And where now the faces that I loved in life?
    Where now sweet bonds in ?eternity? forged?
    Where now joy of laughter, or passion of strife?
    Where now final justice, and love?s just reward?

    And slowly, but slowly, I find truth in pain,
    turning away from illusions of joy;
    As I drift in the darkness, my soul bound by no chain,
    for all last vestige of love to destroy.
    No gods and no demons, no angels of light;
    no one to defend and no one to obey,
    No end to the void of eternity?s night;
    and nothing to long for as life ebbs away.

  38. #39 Sardine
    February 27, 2009

    Islam = One True Religion (TM)
    Why else would all the oil be under their countries?

  39. #40 Knockgoats
    February 27, 2009

    There was a very recent report about a bacterium, found in garbage dumps, and genetically engineered to produce ethanol instead of its normal lactic acid from the garbage: excellent for avoiding the problems of landfill and incineration as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, if it can be scaled up. Biodiesel using algae grown in tanks in desert areas, and sewage or agricultural fertiliser runoff, also looks like a possible runner as a low emission liquid fuel. Ethanol-from-corn was never anything to do with reducing greenhouse gas emissions – coal is often used to produce the ethanol for crying out loud. It wasn’t even about reducing dependence on foreign oil – but about bumping up the profits of agribusiness.

    Now if you are a true blue believer in man-made global warming – Michael

    Well yes, Michael, I am, in the same sense as I’m a true believer in quantum mechanics, and the modern theory of evolution: that is, I accept the consensus of scientific experts in areas where I am not an expert, in the absence of reasons not to. But I see you’re a creationist moron as well as an AGW-denialist moron – a very common combination. How do you feel about quantum mechanics?

  40. #41 NewEnglandBob
    February 27, 2009

    Bride of Shrek OM #2:

    This is typical of Arab countries. People are taught to be duplicitous and back stabbing. Face is everything to many in these countries and actual accomplishments and truth has little value.

  41. #42 Rob
    February 27, 2009

    The sugar industry of the First World lives off subsidies and produces so much sugar nobody knows where to put all of it.

    How about putting it soda instead of that damnable HFCS?

  42. #43 KI
    February 27, 2009

    On the one hand, we are told that turning fructose into ethanol is immoral food-stealing baby-starving selfishness, while simultaneously being told that fructose will KILL us if we keep eating it. Which is it? Is there an underlying consistency that I can’t see?

  43. #44 One Eyed Jack
    February 27, 2009

    Posted by: Michael | February 27, 2009 3:54 AM #18

    “Now if you are a true blue believer in man-made global warming, there is no way you should be advocating ethanol rather you should be advocating electric cars which get not only better gas mileage but eventually may not use gas at all.”

    Until that electricity comes from non-fossil sources, electric cars are just something to make movie stars and tree-huggers feel good.

    -OEJ

  44. #45 Attila
    February 27, 2009

    In in tech training class I ran into someone who works for POET LLC http://www.poetenergy.com/about/index.asp . He pointed out the use of corn for ethanol raising food prices was perpetrated by the oil companies. Most of the ethanol is made from feedstock corn and a lot of the byproducts of ethanol production is sold as agricultural feed. Ethanol is not the ultimate solution, but it is the near term solution until better battery technology comes online.

  45. #46 Nangleator
    February 27, 2009

    Selcaby @28: “It’s the same logic that forces women to veil themselves because if a man, y’know, actually sees a woman’s face he won’t be able to resist raping her.”

    I don’t see the problem there. There’s just a fun stoning to clear it up, and they all get to feel good about doing dog’s work. Everyone’s happy.

  46. #47 One Eyed Jack
    February 27, 2009

    Posted by: Rob | February 27, 2009 9:00 AM #42

    “How about putting it soda instead of that damnable HFCS?”

    What makes you think that sugar from cane (primarily sucrose) is better for you than HFCS (primarily fructose)? They are both natural sugars.

    Sucrose is a di-saccharide made of glucose and fructose. HFCS is simply corn starch (glucose poly-saccharide) that has been broken down and converted from glucose to its isomer, fructose.

    Foods made with high levels of refined sugar are bad for your diet. Your body doesn’t care one whit whether that sugar is sucrose or fructose.

    -OEJ

  47. #48 Matt
    February 27, 2009

    The why may be wrong, but at least their rejection of ethanol as an alternate fuel source will not further inflate rising crop prices and drive poorer nations to starvation.

  48. #49 Quiet_Desperation
    February 27, 2009

    Myers, try reading some Ayn Rand. Your consistent lack of logic and reason is getting annoying.

    Er… so… Ayn Rand also thought ethanol was a sin?

    (bafflement)

  49. #50 Miko
    February 27, 2009

    Middle East governments use Islam as a tool for oppressing their populations precisely because they have oil: the government claims it somehow owns the oil and uses brutal Iron Age religion complete with omnipresent morality police to make sure that no one challenges their claim of title. If Islam were thought to be somehow anti-oil, the only change would be that the ruling elite would have to find a new way to repress their population.

  50. #51 Alverant
    February 27, 2009

    Actually Michael, my car gets better gas mileage when I use an ethanol blend. And since ethanol can be made within the US, there’s less transportation cost of the raw materials.

  51. #52 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    February 27, 2009

    Myers, try reading some Ayn Rand. Your consistent lack of logic and reason is getting annoying.

    I’ll admit it. I have to ask what the fuck that has to do with this

    Now this is just getting silly. An Islamic theologian has declared that using ethanol as a fuel is sinful.

  52. #53 Bob
    February 27, 2009

    If you’re going to get this ridiculous about restricting anything that has to do with alcohol, they’re going to have to get rid of those sinful dehydrogenases.

    Yeah, if I had a nickel for every time I heard that…

  53. #54 Tulse
    February 27, 2009

    What makes you think that sugar from cane (primarily sucrose) is better for you than HFCS (primarily fructose)? They are both natural sugars.

    The issue isn’t health, but taste — many folks think that cane sugar tastes better than corn syrup in sodas. There’s quite a subculture about this issue (just Google “cane sugar” and “Coke”, or check out Jones soda).

  54. #55 Flex
    February 27, 2009

    A couple of thoughts.

    First, the prohibition against alcohol, as already mentioned above, is not universally practised among Muslim populations. From personal experiance I can attest that while I was stationed in Turkey they had two national brands of beer, several good wine-making co-ops, and their national drink, raki (very similar to ouzo) is a distilled liquer. My understanding is that it is mainly the Arabian Muslims which practice this prohibition. It would be a mistake to assume all Muslims are Arabs, or the converse that all Arabs are Muslim.

    Secondly, HFCS is used in American versions of soda for cost reasons. When I get to Europe I kinda like getting a coke which as been sweetened with sugar. The tariff placed by Congress on sugar imports in 1981 is still in effect, artificially raising the price of sugar in the USA, and making the use of HFCS more attractive for the syrups used in sodas (I believe some form of sugar tariff has been in effect since the 1950′s). The Secretary of Agriculture sets the quantity of in-quota tariff one a year, for the upcoming year. Imported sugar which is under the quota is taxed at $0.00625/lb. Any sugar imported above this amount has a tarif of $0.1536/lb for unrefined and $0.1621/lb for refined sugar, or about 2500% higher. (I found these details, and more, here: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/Sugar/Policy.htm)

    Of course, since the Secretary of Agriculture sets these limits, they may increase somewhat under the new administration. We’ll just have to see.

  55. #56 Knockgoats
    February 27, 2009

    What makes you think that sugar from cane (primarily sucrose) is better for you than HFCS (primarily fructose)? They are both natural sugars.

    WTF has “natural” got to do with it? The death cap fungus is completely natural, but I wouldn’t recommend eating it. IIRC (haven’t time to look it up right now), there is medical research indicating large quantities of fructose in a short space of time are particularly bad for you, because of the sudden jump in insulin demand – sucrose has to be broken down first, so there is a slower rise.

  56. #57 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    February 27, 2009

    kinda like getting a coke which as been sweetened with sugar.

    There’s no better coke than a glass bottle coke with actual cane sugar vs. HFCS.

    You used to be able to get them easily in the US, but most of the glass bottles are now HFCS. Some of the mexican bottlers still use cane sugar. You can find those here occasionally.

  57. #58 KI
    February 27, 2009

    Kosher for Passover coke used to be sucrose, but they changed to fructose a couple years back. The Mexican grocery stores carry the good stuff though, and in bottles.

  58. #59 BlueIndependent
    February 27, 2009

    < ...i>“But really?don’t you suspect that this has more to do with Saudi Arabia’s status as an oil producing state than in any kind of genuine piety?”

    Nope. Not at all. Never has a more truthful and ethically reliable sovereign nation been formed so as Saudi Arabia…

  59. #60 SteveM
    February 27, 2009

    Twinskies:

    Using the Tesla Roadster as en example of a typical electric vehicle is misleading. The Tesla is a specialty exotic aside from its electric propulsion. $100K is not representative of electric vehicles.

    They’re heavy too – the Tesla’s Li-Ion pack weighs 1000 kg, or about half the car’s total weight.

    Are you sure about that? Wikipedia says the battery pack weighs 450kg, which is a little less than the total weight of the car 1220kg. That weight is what I would expect for a small fast roadster like the Elise (er Tesla) that can do 0-60 in 4 seconds.

  60. #61 SteveM
    February 27, 2009

    yikes:

    “…which is a little less than half the total weight…”

  61. #62 ArchangelChuck
    February 27, 2009

    That makes me want to use E-85 just because it offends Islam.

  62. #63 El Guerrero del Interfaz
    February 27, 2009

    Speedwell is right. I remember one of my father business relation, an Egyptian and Muslim, who did not want to touch my dad’s home-bottled and aged marvelous Bourgognes but drank *large* amounts of single malt Scotch and Tennessee whiskey instead. His reasoning was that the Prophet, blessed be his name, only forbade the “jus de la treille”. But never said anything about distilled derivatives of grain.

  63. #64 Bill Dauphin
    February 27, 2009

    BoS:

    You know I have spent a fair bit of time in Muslim countries including living in Egypt and Jordan. I can steadfastly say the no alcohol thing is a total load of shit.

    You know, I had a very similar observation about the Southern Baptists I grew up surrounded by in Texas. I suspect that social prohibition of “earthly pleasures” is virtually always coincident with hypocrisy.

    Re ethanol (and other alcohol) automotive fuels: No matter how green and sustainable the production of such fuels becomes, you’re still burning hydrocarbons, and ultimately we need to move away from that. I think the ultimate answer will be all-electric cars (including possibly fuel-cell cars, since fuel cells are essentially one competing form of battery technology), fed by non-carbon-based primary sources of electric generation. IOW, it needs a whole system-level solution, not just a different hose stuck in the gas filler.

    The question is, what are the right bridge technologies. I’ve often wondered why we haven’t seen hybrids and plug-in hybrids fueled by lower-emissions powerplants/generators (i.e., as diesel or ethanol-fueled engines instead of gasoline motors).

    I wonder: I know that current commercially available fuel cells (e.g., fixed cells to power buildings) “crack” light hydrocarbons such as natural gas to get their hydrogen fuel; if they could also use sustainably, biologically produced ethanol as a feed stock, that might answer many of the traditional arguments against fuel cells, while providing the filler’-up-and-go flexibility that traditional battery-powered electric cars can’t (yet) match. Jus’ wondrin’…

  64. #65 Jonathon
    February 27, 2009

    Wahabbis generally go over the top when it comes to complying with Islamic teachings. If covering the head is required, then covering the whole body is better – ya see?

    So, this fatwa regarding the use of ethanol is just another example. The prohibition on alcohol in the Qur’an is related to actually drinking it (especially to excess), not using it in any other way. Perhaps the Wahabbis are fearful that someone would want to drink ethanol?

    True, there is also the possibility that the oil-rich state wants to discourage the use of ethanol for selfish reasons, but in truth the Saudis know full well that there is a finite amount of petroleum left and that it will indeed run out one day. One would think that they would be busy preparing for that inevitability and looking for an alternative source of income. Solar power comes to mind, given that so much of Arabia is desert. Imagine how much more energy that SA could produce if it installed massive solar panel fields and/or windmills to harness the power of nature?

    Nice try by the Wahabbis, but I don’t think that this fatwa will stick or hold up to the review of other cleric and scholars.

  65. #66 Jonathon
    February 27, 2009

    Ok, small correction. In the article a distinction is made that this is not a fatwa or legal ruling but rather the personal opinion of al-Najimi himself. He suggests that the issue be debated. Hopefully, it will and the correct decision (that it is not in violation of Islam) will be made.

    Damn, how stressful it must be to be a fundamentalist and always worried that one will somehow, even inadvertently offend the deity.

  66. #67 Tulse
    February 27, 2009

    No matter how green and sustainable the production of such fuels becomes, you’re still burning hydrocarbons, and ultimately we need to move away from that.

    Why, if the total cycle is carbon-neutral and the emissions are relatively benign?

  67. #68 Lowell
    February 27, 2009

    I’m surprised PZ entertained the possibility of genuine piety.

  68. #69 tony
    February 27, 2009

    No matter how green and sustainable the production of such fuels becomes, you’re still burning hydrocarbons, and ultimately we need to move away from that.

    But you’re simply returning atmospheric carbon to the atmosphere! Closed cycle. No net addition!

    The problem with fossil fuels is that you are adding carbon to the atmosphere.

    sheesh!

  69. #70 KI
    February 27, 2009

    Electric cars are fine in the summer, but I would be wary of the Minnesota winter. Imagine…it’s twenty below at six pm. Your car must move, light the way, defrost the windshield, and heat the compartment you sit in. All electrically. When it’s so cold the batteries can’t hold a charge.
    I’m sorry, but we need to burn something or we’re stuck for six months of the year.

  70. #71 Matt M
    February 27, 2009

    Perhaps Minnesota will get the electic cars with optional charcoal heaters for the passenger compartment.

  71. #72 Tulse
    February 27, 2009

    When it’s so cold the batteries can’t hold a charge [...] we need to burn something

    You’re assuming that a) all electric cars will be powered by batteries, rather than say fuel cells or supercapacitors, b) future battery technology will remain sensitive to cold, and c) even with current technology, there are not possible solutions (such as using some marginal power to keep the batteries warm enough to function — after all, don’t you Minnesotans use block heaters?).

  72. #73 gaypaganunitarianagnostic
    February 27, 2009

    In Texas and much of the rest of the western part of the US, The distance between major cities are too great for (present bay) pure electrics. Plug-in hybrids avoid that problem. Compressed air and air-hybrids may have possibilities too.

  73. #74 Ryan Egesdahl
    February 27, 2009

    Never mind the fact that the additives put in ethanol to make it a good fuel prevent you from drinking it without being poisoned.

  74. #75 KI
    February 27, 2009

    True, I’m basing my argument on present technology. I think batteries have a lot of problems, though, not the least of which is disposal. Block heaters work by plugging in to the home grid, so the batteries would get cold very quickly once you started away. Fuel cells powered by hydrogen might be the ticket-if we can keep the water vapor from coating the road with black ice.

  75. #76 MJ
    February 27, 2009

    Liberal Athiest @27 said:

    “In that case, surely they would consider electric cars to be sinful?”

    This seems like terrible reasoning. PZ is claiming that the motive for saying ethanol is sinful is oil-profits. But that’s not the reason provided to the faithful for believing that ethanol is sinful. The reason provided is a general prohibition against alcohol. Now surely the Saudi motive for saying that ethanol is sinful extends to saying that electric cars are sinful. But the reason provided to the faithful doesn’t so extend. So no one is claiming, or believing, at the moment, that electric cars are sinful.

  76. #77 Kemist
    February 27, 2009

    What makes you think that sugar from cane (primarily sucrose) is better for you than HFCS (primarily fructose)? They are both natural sugars.

    Well…

    There’s this and this for starters.

    There’s quite a body of evidence out there that too much fructose might aggravate what is called “metabolic syndrome” (a combination obesity/cardiovascular disease/type II diabetes). And in a population that has already a bunch of risk factors like the US’s (obesity, sedentarity…), well, you get the idea.

  77. #78 Ryan Egesdahl
    February 27, 2009

    Oh, I just remembered something: doesn’t Shari`ah say something about protecting the environment? How does this guy resolve these two beliefs? Yeah, Mohammed completely understood the utility of grain alcohols as biofuels in automobiles, especially as an alternative to the massively polluting fossil fuels that we use now.

    Yet another instance of some religious nut applying religious law where it was never intended.

  78. #79 One Eyed Jack
    February 27, 2009

    Posted by: Knockgoats | February 27, 2009 10:28 AM #56

    “WTF has “natural” got to do with it? The death cap fungus is completely natural, but I wouldn’t recommend eating it. IIRC (haven’t time to look it up right now), there is medical research indicating large quantities of fructose in a short space of time are particularly bad for you, because of the sudden jump in insulin demand – sucrose has to be broken down first, so there is a slower rise.”

    ‘Natural’ in this context refers to fructose fructose being the primary sugar in fruits. It’s not the same as saying cap fungus or arsenic are also natural.

    I would like to see that research. Fructose is not directly metabolized in the blood stream. It must first be converted to glucose or glycogen. Sucrose is a simple di-saccharide that is easily digested. I am skeptical that the difference in the digestion rates of fructose and sucrose is large enough to matter. The total amount of sugar (fructose or sucrose) certainly is a much greater factor than which sugar is used.

  79. #80 catgirl
    February 27, 2009

    I actually don’t think this guy is as corrupt as you say. I don’t agree with his views that alcohol is wrong, but at least he is consistent and not hypocritical. However, I think it would be fine for him to use denatured ethanol as a fuel (which essentially all of it is if mixed with gasoline), and it’s ok to use rubbing alcohol because it’s not ethanol. Can’t you get past your hatred of all religious people and at least appreciate someone who is not a total hypocrite like the homophobes who eat shrimp are?

  80. #81 One Eyed Jack
    February 27, 2009

    Posted by: Tulse | February 27, 2009 10:19 AM #54

    “The issue isn’t health, but taste — many folks think that cane sugar tastes better than corn syrup in sodas. There’s quite a subculture about this issue (just Google “cane sugar” and “Coke”, or check out Jones soda).”

    I have heard this as well. I have no doubt that there are people with sensitive enough palates to distinguish the two. When I hear this type of thing I always wonder how much is a genuine taste difference and how much is fad/elitism?

    It’s a bit like bottled water in my mind. Studies have shown that the average bottled water is no better in quality than average tap water. Yet some will stick their nose in the air and say they only drink bottled water.

    -OEJ

  81. #82 One Eyed Jack
    February 27, 2009

    Posted by: Kemist | February 27, 2009 12:02 PM

    “What makes you think that sugar from cane (primarily sucrose) is better for you than HFCS (primarily fructose)? They are both natural sugars.

    Well…

    There’s this and this for starters.

    There’s quite a body of evidence out there that too much fructose might aggravate what is called “metabolic syndrome” (a combination obesity/cardiovascular disease/type II diabetes). And in a population that has already a bunch of risk factors like the US’s (obesity, sedentarity…), well, you get the idea.”

    Neither of those studies contained control groups with high sucrose diets, so they are irrelevant to the discussion.

    I agree completely that diets high in sugar are harmful. I disagree that whether that sugar is fructose or sucrose matters. Balanced diets containing reasonable amounts of either sugar are not harmful.

  82. #83 Bill Dauphin
    February 27, 2009

    Why, if the total cycle is carbon-neutral and the emissions are relatively benign?

    I guess I’m skeptical that we yet (or are soon likely to) have a way to fuel hydrocarbon-burning cars that is carbon-neutral over the total cycle… which I take to mean that the production of the fuel sequesters at least as much atmospheric carbon as its combustion emits. And even if that’s the case in theory, in practice I’m not sure millions of privately owned, uncontrollably mobile point-source emitters are really offset by relatively highly localized sequestration, even if it is quantitatively eqivalent.

    But I’m no expert on ecological balancing; it’s possible there are aspects I’ve missed. Still, it seems clear that if we had zero emissions battery-powered cars using electricity generated by zero emissions technologies (a big stretch, I know, but we are talking about ultimate solutions here), the question of offsetting vehicular carbon emissions would be moot.

  83. #84 Tulse
    February 27, 2009

    I’m skeptical that we yet (or are soon likely to) have a way to fuel hydrocarbon-burning cars that is carbon-neutral over the total cycle… which I take to mean that the production of the fuel sequesters at least as much atmospheric carbon as its combustion emits.

    My understanding is that is precisely what many of the cellulosic sources do — carbon neutral from ground to tailpipe. But I also agree that one should demand careful quantification of such a claim.

    And even if that’s the case in theory, in practice I’m not sure millions of privately owned, uncontrollably mobile point-source emitters are really offset by relatively highly localized sequestration, even if it is quantitatively eqivalent.

    If it is truly quantitatively equivalent, why not? It’s not like the effect of localized sequestration is limited to the local area, any more than a bucket pulling water from a lake only lowers the water level near the bucket.

    Like you, my preference would be for electric cars powered by zero-emission power, and I think that’s where we’ll end up. But I don’t think we’re there yet, and if the option is to power a car with electricity made from coal or ethanol made from wood waste and switchgrass, I think the obviously-preferred solution is the latter.

  84. #85 tim Rowledge
    February 27, 2009

    Myers, try reading some Ayn Rand. Your consistent lack of logic and reason is getting annoying

    Uh, is that ‘Ayn’ as in ‘pain’, or ‘Ayn’ as in ‘whine’?

  85. #86 SteveM
    February 27, 2009

    My understanding is that is precisely what many of the cellulosic sources do — carbon neutral from ground to tailpipe. But I also agree that one should demand careful quantification of such a claim.

    That assumes that all the energy expended producing the ethanol comes from biomass, and none from fossil fuel. Currently ethanol production from corn is not neutral and uses more fossil fuel than it produces in ethanol. Other sources could conceivably produce more ethanol than they would consume in production and so be self sustaining.

  86. #87 tim Rowledge
    February 27, 2009

    Until that electricity comes from non-fossil sources, electric cars are just something to make movie stars and tree-huggers feel good

    Not really the case I suspect. A few points that seem to me to make electric/hybrid cars of today a good thing

    • a) in typical urban driving a large amount of fuel is wasted while the vehicle sits stationary at lights, junctions or in jams. Electric/hybrid vehicles can usually simply turn off most of their energy usage in these cases. Saves total energy, reduces airborne pollution, even noise pollution. Saves health costs.
    • b) a plug-in charged electric vehicle allows for any source of energy to be used to produce that electricity. Sure, it might come from a fossil fuel power station but at least it is technically feasible to thereby concentrate both efficiency and clean-up efforts in one easy to spot, easy to monitor place. And who knows, the power station might be hydro, or tidal, or solar, or zero-point perpetual motion magic-wand-waving. Oh and prayer power. Mustn’t forget that.
    • c) even if movie stars and tree-huggers are the only ones interested in buying the current versions in order to feel good – so what? If that produces funds that provide any help at all in developing better forms of battery or power storage or transmission or generation, how is that a bad thing? Did you enjoy complaining about those damn yuppies buying early laptops before they became cheap enough for most of us?
  87. #88 Tulse
    February 27, 2009

    ethanol production from corn is not neutral

    And I think everyone except the corn lobby agrees it is a lousy feedstock. Cellulosic sources, such as wood waste and weedy plants like switchgrass, should require far less energy inputs to grow the same amount of ethanol, and should be carbon neutral.

  88. #89 Rick Pikul
    February 27, 2009

    Posted by: One Eyed Jack | February 27, 2009 12:16 PM

    Posted by: Tulse | February 27, 2009 10:19 AM #54

    The issue isn’t health, but taste — many folks think that cane sugar tastes better than corn syrup in sodas. There’s quite a subculture about this issue (just Google “cane sugar” and “Coke”, or check out Jones soda).

    I have heard this as well. I have no doubt that there are people with sensitive enough palates to distinguish the two. When I hear this type of thing I always wonder how much is a genuine taste difference and how much is fad/elitism?

    I’ve taste-tested it, (Canadian pops still use real sugar), there is a very distinct difference. It’s not so much a case of having a sensitive palate, but in not having a substandard one.[1]

    [1] e.g. if you can’t tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi, the HFCS/sugar issue is likely irrelevant to you.

  89. #90 Siv
    February 27, 2009

    As a Muslim I only have one thing to say. This guy is full of bull shit, I’ll use whatever I want.

  90. #91 One Eyed Jack
    February 27, 2009

    Posted by: Rick Pikul | February 27, 2009 1:34 PM #89

    “I’ve taste-tested it, (Canadian pops still use real sugar), there is a very distinct difference. It’s not so much a case of having a sensitive palate, but in not having a substandard one.[1]

    [1] e.g. if you can’t tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi, the HFCS/sugar issue is likely irrelevant to you.”

    That is what I call an elitist statement. The two taste different, period. Like Coke or Pepsi, it is a matter of personal preference. To say one is better as an absolute is disingenuous.

    Which takes us back to the original post where it was implied there is a health or inferiority issue to products made with HFCS. It is not better than sucrose. It is not worse. It is different.

  91. #92 Bill Dauphin
    February 27, 2009
    in practice I’m not sure millions of privately owned, uncontrollably mobile point-source emitters are really offset by relatively highly localized sequestration, even if it is quantitatively eqivalent.

    If it is truly quantitatively equivalent, why not?

    Because the carbon emissions of an internal combustion engine are dependent on how it’s used, and whether it’s kept in good repair, and these things are impossible to control or even monitor when said engines are broadly distributed throughout the population. A relatively small number of fixed emitters can be watched, maintained, upgraded, and improved in a somewhat organized fashion; tens or hundreds of millions of wandering privately owned emitters, not so much.

    I’m also not confident that the location of emissions is totally immaterial. I’m no climate scientist, but intuitively it seems at least plausible that things like local microclimate, location relative to large-scale atmospheric patterns, lattitude/sun angle, etc., might have something to with particular emissions’ impact on global climate. But this is a secondary point in any case; my bigger concern is worry about maintenance, control, and mitigation of essentially uncontrollable sources of emissions.

  92. #93 Tulse
    February 27, 2009

    Because the carbon emissions of an internal combustion engine are dependent on how it’s used, and whether it’s kept in good repair, and these things are impossible to control or even monitor when said engines are broadly distributed throughout the population.

    In which case they are not quantitatively equivalent to a few single sources. My point was merely that as long as the total amount of CO2 emissions is the same, it doesn’t matter if it is many small sources or few large ones. (I agree with all the potential difficulties you point out, BTW.)

  93. #94 Kemist
    February 27, 2009

    Neither of those studies contained control groups with high sucrose diets, so they are irrelevant to the discussion.

    From another study:

    “[...] experimental studies in animals have shown that fructose can induce most features of the metabolic syndrome, including insulin resistance, elevated triglycerides, abdominal obesity, elevated blood pressure, inflammation, oxidative stress, endothelial dysfunction, microvascular disease, hyperuricemia, glomerular hypertension and renal injury, and fatty liver. These effects are not seen in animals pair-fed glucose or starch, which suggests that the mechanism is not mediated by excessive caloric intake (4). The consumption of large amounts of dietary fructose also can rapidly induce insulin resistance, postprandial hypertriglyceridemia, and blood pressure in humans more than starch (or glucose) does in controls (3, 5, 6). Moreover, it is a potential risk factor for fatty liver disease (7).”

    The conclusion is cautious in saying that correlation does not equate causation, but nevetheless, there is evidence that a high fructose diet (and HFCS contains more fructose fraction than does sucrose, which is half glucose/half fructose) might be problematic.

    Considering that fructose consumption has quadrupled in the last few years, partly due to the introduction of HFCS… it might have a significant role in the increase of incidence of metabolic syndrome. I don’t think it’s time to panic when we see HFCS in an ingredient list, but it’s certainly warranted to ask a few questions.

    Fructose in itself, consummed in a reasonable manner (whether you take it in fruits or soda), is probably relatively harmless. But the thing is that many people consumme a lot more sugar from soda than they could possibly get by eating fruit. In those amounts, there might be a significant difference in health outcomes between the two sweeteners.

    As for the taste, the only example I have is that of Pepsi in Canada vs that of the US. I’m sorry, but Pepsi from the US is disgusting compared with what we get here, and from the sample I’ve polled of my friends who tasted both, it’s unanimous. Coke, however, tastes the same in both places.

  94. #95 Bill Dauphin
    February 27, 2009

    In which case they are not quantitatively equivalent to a few single sources.

    I meant to be drawing a distinction between theoretical carbon neutrality (i.e., based on design values) and actual practice.

    Actually, I think you and I are in what my engineer friends would call “violent agreement.” 8^)

  95. #96 Alice
    February 27, 2009

    So are people really so dumb that they think the alcohol you drink to get drunk is the same as alcohol in ehtanol? Can I get a buzz off the fums from my local gas station? What a bunch of goofs. I guess then they had better ban al production, import and sales of hand lotions, cosmetics, alcohol swabs, hand sanitizer and many cleaners. They all contain alcohol.

  96. #97 Tulse
    February 27, 2009

    I think you and I are in what my engineer friends would call “violent agreement.” 8^)

    But we can’t agree, this is the Internet!!!

  97. #98 One Eyed Jack
    February 27, 2009

    That sounds like an interesting study, Khemist. Do you have a link? I’d like to read it.

    -

  98. #99 Anonymous
    February 27, 2009
    Hadith – Al-Tirmidhi #2776, Narrated Anas ibn Malik

    Allah’s Messenger cursed ten people in connection with wine: the wine-presser, the one who has it pressed, the one who drinks it, the one who conveys it, the one to whom it is conveyed, the one who serves it, the one who sells it, the one who benefits from the price paid for it, the one who buys it, and the one for whom it is bought.

    This is what the guy’s talking about. Sounds like a helluva stretch to me.

  99. #100 tim gueguen
    February 27, 2009

    I don’t know about Coke elsewhere, but Coke bottled in here in Saskatchewan definitely tastes different from that bottled in the US. Is it the type of sugar, or the water? Beats me.

  100. #101 'Tis Himself
    February 27, 2009

    I’m reminded of the old joke about Abraham talking to god: “The Muslims get all of the oil and we have to cut of the tips of our what?”

  101. #102 SteveM
    February 27, 2009

    So are people really so dumb that they think the alcohol you drink to get drunk is the same as alcohol in ehtanol[sic]?

    Are you really so ignorant that you think the alcohol that gets you drunk is not ethanol? 100% pure grain alcohol is ethanol. MIT’s favorite party drink is ethanol punch.

  102. #103 SteveM
    February 27, 2009

    I guess then they had better ban al production, import and sales of hand lotions, cosmetics, alcohol swabs, hand sanitizer and many cleaners. They all contain alcohol.

    There are many forms of alcohol,none of these are ethanol and are poisonous.

  103. #104 DaveG
    February 27, 2009

    That’s OK, as long as they still allow police to idly watch as children die in fires.

  104. #105 DaveG
    February 28, 2009

    My favorite camel joke:

    A man visits Ahmed’s Camel Rental, selects a fine dromedary and hits the desert. Two days out the camel suddenly collapses of dehydration, leaving the man stranded. Luckily, before long a passing caravan stops, revives the camel and accompanies the traveller back to town. The man seeks out Ahmed and demands a refund for his 4 lost days. Ahmed examines the camel and determines that it was never bricked.

    “Bricked?” exclaims the traveller. Ahmed leads the camel over to a water hole, lowers its mouth to the water, seizes a pair of bricks, walks behind the camel and forcefully claps the bricks together on the animal’s testicles. The camel makes an agonized gasp and slurps up several gallons of water.

    “Gosh, doesn’t that hurt?” asks the traveller. “Only if you get your thumbs in the way.”

  105. #106 Twin-Skies
    February 28, 2009

    @SteveM
    My bad – the official site indicates it’s 992 lbs., or roughly 450 kg. Mixed up my measurements again :p

  106. #107 Mover
    February 28, 2009

    I’ll take it.

    Any excuse to rid our gasoline of ethanol is a good excuse.

    Ethanol is murdering gas mileage, causing food to become way more expensive and it saves exactly 0 (zero) in CO2 pollution.

  107. #108 Chronos
    March 1, 2009

    Wading in a day late on the HFCS thing: HFCS is made by turning corn starch into corn syrup (pure glucose), enzymatically converting the corn syrup into fructose, then feeding the converted syrup back into the stream of raw corn syrup to achieve a specific fructose:glucose ratio. Because the original content of the corn syrup is pure glucose, any fructose content greater than zero turns it into “high-fructose” corn syrup.

    The raw HFCS coming out of the enzyme reaction is HFCS-90 (90% fructose, 10% glucose), but the stuff that gets used in food is HFCS-55 or, less commonly, HFCS-42. That’s not far off from the 50:50 ratio of glucose to fructose found in ordinary cane sugar ? which means that if consuming HFCS is bad because of fructose, consuming corn syrup should be bad in almost equal measure.

    Do they taste different? Yes. HFCS comes pre-dissociated into monosaccharides, allowing more rapid exposure to the taste buds without waiting for saliva to enzymatically cleave the disaccharide bond, so the sweet flavor hits faster. (Compare to invert syrup, which is made from cane sugar.) Also, fructose binds more tightly than glucose does to the sugar receptors on the tongue, making the sweet flavor stronger and longer-lingering. The result: HFCS has a slightly different flavor profile, and it’s gram-for-gram sweeter than sucrose ? either greater sweetness for equal calories, or equal sweetness for fewer calories.

    Honestly, the first time I heard the HFCS scaremongering without knowing the facts, it sounded a bit concerning to me, but it took me less than 15 minutes of fact-checking on Wikipedia to completely debunk the idea that HFCS is radically different from cane sugar.

  108. #109 Chronos
    March 1, 2009

    … which means that if consuming HFCS is bad because of fructose, consuming corn syrup should be bad in almost equal measure.

    So close… I meant “cane sugar” here, of course.

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