Global warming issue gets new focus: the label

Sept. 27, 2010
The phrase "global warming" soon may go the way of "gasohol"—and for similar reasons.

The phrase "global warming" soon may go the way of "gasohol"—and for similar reasons.

Although "gasohol" still describes gasoline containing 10% or so of ethanol, it's no longer an everyday word. And it doesn't appear on fuel pumps. The ethanol industry campaigned against the label when motorists encountered problems with early ethanol fuel blends and began to prefer neat gasoline.

Years ago, this writer received a telephone complaint from someone at Archer Daniels Midland, the big ethanol maker, because he had written the word "gasohol" in a published article. "What's wrong with that?" I asked.

The answer went something like this: "We can't sell gasohol when it's called 'gasohol.'"

Proposals for sacrificial precaution against global warming have met similar inconvenience. The phrase "global warming" is losing its ability to frighten people into surrendering wealth and freedom. The change has much to do with a series of one-sided bloopers by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, not to mention the tendency of people to wake up when asked to pay up.

So as greenhouse-gas concentrations rise, the credibility of climate activism falls.

John P. Holdren, White House science advisor, proposes to replace "global warming," which he calls "a dangerous misnomer," with "global climate disruption." He's made that proposition for several years as a Harvard University professor. Representing the Obama administration, he made it again Sept. 6 in Oslo, as though the problem is just that everybody's been mislabeling the threat.

Holdren's a scientist expressing a scientific argument. But it's hard not to notice that his case pivots at key points on findings of IPCC, now under pressure for acting as a dispenser more of propaganda than of science.

Warming relief has been used as an argument for heavy subsidization and forced use of ethanol in vehicle fuel. Sometime after "gasohol" faded from common chatter, though, people began to realize government ethanol programs raise food prices better than they suppress global average temperature.

By then, the subsidies were in place.

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