Thanks to Jim O'Connor and Tim Waibel for their letter about the future of ethanol ("Products change, but corn endures," Readers Write, June 12). But they shouldn't sell themselves short! Ethanol was the first really big renewable fuel available in the United States. It is now the primary choice oxygenate blended with gasoline to minimize engine knock. But the future of ethanol need not be tied to petroleum. Ethanol can stand on its own in the future as a 100% renewable fuel and not be blended with gasoline at all. Yes, as electric vehicles gain market share in the years ahead, petroleum will see its market share diminish. To address global warming, we must leave all the remaining fossil fuels untouched in the ground. Petroleum, coal and fossil-based natural gas must become resources of a past era — and yes, this is a huge challenge!
If most family autos and pickup trucks become powered with renewable electricity (also a big challenge) there will still be niche markets for internal combustion engines, but these engines will represent a small percentage of transportation power requirements and can be supplied with renewable fuels, such as renewable diesel (hydrogenated vegetable oils and animal fats), methyl esters (biodiesel), renewable methane from anaerobic digestion of food wastes, and ethanol. These renewable fuels can't possibly replace the volumes that petroleum currently satisfies, but they will easily meet the reduced need for liquid (and gaseous) fuels, once most of the transportation that requires petroleum is replaced with electric vehicles. All renewable fuels, including ethanol, have a bright future without petroleum.
Kirk Cobb, White Bear Lake
The writer is a retired renewable fuels design engineer.
Get protein elsewhere
Amanda Little's opinion ("Our supply has never been more vulnerable," June 14) is more than a little misleading. She quotes Michael Pollan as saying the time has come "for deindustrializing and decentralizing the American food system [and] breaking up the meat oligopoly." This quote in the context of her article may lead one to infer that Pollan is a proponent of the animal protein industry and that animals are the only source of protein. But science shows that there is another source of protein – plants. By comparison, science also shows that animal protein diets lead to the destruction of our biosphere while plant protein diets lead to the preservation of our biosphere. This has long been known and is bolstered by a new Netflix documentary, "Breaking Boundaries, The Science of our Planet," narrated by Sir David Attenborough, and a United Nations Environmental Program report, "Making Peace with Nature: a scientific blueprint to tackle the climate biodiversity, and pollution emergencies."
Rethinking the meat industry is the right thing to do, but for the purpose of phasing it out rather than perpetuating it. Consider that Pollan is a scholar, gardener, author and journalist who writes about how corporate farming, marketing and politics have skewed food system practices and perspectives. Pollan also has said, "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."
Ron Baumbach, Bloomington
Does transparency matter or not?
State Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer's counterpoint ("Public process must illuminate state history," June 15) is quite ironic. She, and Republicans in general, are deeply, deeply interested in transparency when others do something with which they disagree. When the shoe is on the other foot, however, transparency is the last thing they want to see. At the state level, many Republicans were so uninterested in transparency they couldn't muster up enough interest to hold committee meetings and hearings to do their job.
So, yes, Sen. Kiffmeyer, please explain again why transparency is so important.
Judy Finger, Apple Valley
I'm highly disappointed that the Star Tribune chose to grant Kiffmeyer the space to spew her theories in relation to the Minnesota Historical Society.Again, because our state is finally grappling in public with the harm caused by colonial settlement and disparate laws and ordinances, meant to shine a light on actual history, she will lead the pack of the unwilling back into the dark.
Minnesotans can handle their actual history and deserve a chance to grow and learn from past mistakes. What Kiffmeyer wants is control of the message and to step back into an unexamined false narrative, because change is seemingly uncomfortable for her and a presumed following. I can live with their discomfort if it means progress in recognition of our real past.
Laurie Stammer, Buffalo
Good for what ails us
The June 12 opinion pages featured Steve Backus' commentary "The dea(r)th of critical thinking." Quoting: "I teach critical thinking. ...[M]ost students want nothing to do with it. They think it involves conflict, which is taboo in our culture. They also don't care if something makes sense or not. ... Critical thinking simply means drawing an objective conclusion from a set of facts." Nevertheless, Backus experienced renewed hope by observing students being laser focused on objective, fact-based conclusions.
Something unexpected is discouraging objectivity. Ibram X. Kendi wrote in his book "How to be an anti-racist": "I thought I was stupid, too dumb for college. Of course, intelligence is as subjective as beauty. But I kept using 'objective' standards, like test scores and report cards, to judge myself."
The Smithsonian's African American History Museum created an unflattering chart listing "whiteness" characteristics, including emphasis on scientific method and objective thinking. (Opinion editor's note: It was later removed from their website.) Most characteristics that were listed are commonly considered favorable national values.
Kendi is an "anti-racism" leader, and Kendi's book became a philosophical shot in the arm for the controversial Critical Race Theory used in developing school curricula. The exhibit mentioned was a CRT-inspired project. As another example, Oregon's Department of Education trains math teachers to de-emphasize "getting the 'right' answer." It's considered a manifestation of white supremacy.
Backus is competing against CRT in a difficult, uphill battle.
Steve Bakke, Edina
How grateful I am for Steven Backus' critically thoughtful article. It's long been clear that we have a critical "need" to be endlessly entertained at all times, whatever the cost in time or money. Unfortunately, the pursuit of pleasure has edged out better ways of thinking in both our private lives and in education curricula at every level. Here, Backus has defined for us some of the basic difficulties we find in talking truth both to ourselves and in our communications with others. Happily, he didn't stop with naming three of the central problems that confront us but gave us, too, some hope for the future and several models we can hang our hats on as we go about working to improve.
Nancy B. Miller, Minneapolis
Like Backus, I, too, have taught critical thinking, and while I concurwith everything he said, I would like to point out that a small part of the programcan go a very long way and be less intimidating to the students.
What he suggests includes formulating and evaluating theories.I suggest a course in simply evaluating arguments, especially political arguments.
For example, during the 2016 election, Donald Trump claimed that he would provide the best health care ever, but he never said one word about what it would look like.So, did he have a plan?Probably not.
The essence of critical thinking is logic.There is no place for emotion or wishful thinking.Emotion leads to name calling."Your plan is faulty because ...""Oh yeah? But you're ugly." It doesn't take much deep thought to realize that there is no logical connection. Wishful thinking is more difficult because it can involve cognitive dissonance.You can't deny a conclusion arrived at logically just because you don't like it.For instance, our planet really is warming regardless of how badly you wish it weren't.
David M. Perlman, New Hope
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