Posts tagged “global warming”
If not for the US government’s latest demonstration of incompetence that played out at the end of last week (a.k.a. sequestration), the top news story might have been a report issued by the US State Department late Friday.
The report was the Draft Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the Keystone XL Pipeline project, and it was unwelcome news for environmentalists who have been protesting the crude pipeline extension that would link Canada’s oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries.
It may seem arbitrary, given the large number of oil and gas pipelines that already criss-cross the US, that this particular one has generated such a high profile debate around energy security and the environment. But this debate isn’t really about a pipeline. This pipeline isn’t going to make or break the development of Canada’s oil sands, nor — as I will show here — is it going to make a measurable difference with respect to climate change.
Oil Money is Bad Money, Except When…
Al Gore has just released a new book — The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change — and is on a media tour to promote it. But he has had to face some very uncomfortable questions involving a charge that has been around for a while: That Al Gore is a hypocrite.
The hypocrisy charge has been raised against Gore over the years. Until now, the most infamous incident of apparent hypocrisy took place in 2007 when it was widely reported that Al Gore’s mansion had a utility bill about 20 times more than the average family home. (See Al Gore’s ‘Inconvenient Truth’? — A $30,000 Utility Bill). I found the news troubling; after all Gore was the Conservationist-in-Chief but he certainly didn’t appear to be walking his talk.
But I also wrote that if he was running a staff out of his home, then the higher electric bills were more understandable. I also learned at the time just how rabidly partisan people can be when discussing Gore. Some on the left would not tolerate criticism of Gore, and I was vilified for saying that I was disappointed in his behavior.
But, I really wanted to like Al Gore. I thought of him as someone who was making a positive impact by calling attention to a serious problem, and getting people to conserve. I defended him when people noted that Gore traveled around the world in fossil-fueled jets. After all, I argued, if he traveled halfway around the world but convinced 500 people in a foreign country to become involved and take action, then the net impact could easily be lower carbon emissions as a result of his travels.
I, along with my editor Sam Avro, recently conducted a broad-ranging interview with John Hofmeister, former President of Shell Oil and currently the head of Citizens for Affordable Energy, a non-profit group whose aim is to promote sound U.S. energy security solutions for the nation. Previous interview with Mr. Hofmeister were:
In the current installment, he outlines his ideas for what would constitute a sound plan of attack on climate change.
Global Warming Debate is Settled — With a Twist
I began by asking Mr. Hofmeister whether he agreed that the debate on global warming is over. He responded that he is not a scientist or climatologist, but said that once a critical mass of public officials has determined that something is a problem, then the debate is effectively settled. He also agrees that humans create significant waste, and that if this waste is cleaned up, that would address the climate change issue:
With sustainability and clean energy both hot topics nearing the end of the presidential campaign, pollsters are hitting up citizens from around the United States in order to see where the general population stands on those subjects and their relation to climate change.
The results show that Americans overwhelmingly support political efforts to reduce the effects of greenhouse gases, with most agreeing that climate change is an important issue that needs immediate attention.
Last week I received an email from John Bockris, a retired Distinguished Professor from Texas A&M University. I presume Professor Bockris had come across some of my writings on methanol, as that was the topic of his correspondence. I don’t think Professor Bockris realized that we had met when I was a first year chemistry graduate student at Texas A&M. At that time he was one of the most well-known professors in the chemistry department. (See also: Methanol versus Ethanol: Technical Merits and Political Favoritism)
I asked for permission to publish our correspondence, and permission was granted. My reply to him is in blue. Just one correction. He referred to me as Dr. Rapier. When I was halfway through my chemistry Ph.D. at Texas A&M, it had become clear to me that chemical engineering salaries were much higher. So I switched to the chemical engineering department and got my Master of Science degree. Thus, I am merely “Mr. Rapier”, or more preferably just “Robert.”
I include his contact information in case anyone wants to engage with him about methanol. CONTINUE»
This post continues a theme I covered in my book Power Plays. Part 1 covered the impact on oil price and supply in Petroleum Demand in Developing Countries. Here I discuss some of the climate change implications.
Climate Change Implications
Regardless of one’s beliefs on climate change, it is a fact that the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration has been increasing since coal began to be burned in large quantities during the Industrial Revolution around 1750. Since then, the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration has increased from about 285 ppm to the present value of about 390 ppm (See Figure 1). Based on our scientific understanding of the greenhouse effect, we would expect that the increase should cause the average surface temperature of the earth to climb, and this has the potential to cause serious environmental damage. CONTINUE»
Global Experiment With the Climate
I want to preface this column by saying that I am very concerned about climate change. The rapid growth of atmospheric carbon dioxide shows no sign of abating, and I have concerns over what this will ultimately mean for the climate. The fact is that we are conducting a global experiment with the atmosphere, and predictions of severe consequences as a result should be taken with the utmost seriousness.
Having said that, I think it is important to maintain a healthy scientific discourse on the matter. “The science is settled” is just not a statement that I am comfortable with, and I am uncomfortable labeling those who question climate change with something that evokes comparisons with Holocaust denial.
Without a doubt, some of the attacks against climate science are ignorance-based. But some of those challenges and questions are by sincere people — sometimes scientists — who doubt the science in the same way that there have always been skeptics in science. In most cases the small band of skeptics is wrong, but sometimes they overturn entrenched paradigms. Those skeptics should be engaged on the basis of science, and not politics or personal animosity. (Hint: If your willingness to accept the conclusions of a report is based on whether it agrees with your position, then your position isn’t based on science nor is it objective — regardless of which side you are on).
So, in a nutshell I accept that accumulating carbon dioxide has the potential to change the climate — and may very well be doing so now — but I believe skeptics should be engaged scientifically rather than shouted down. On the flip side, I believe skeptics must engage on the basis of the science and not engage in ad hominem attacks.
Not all skeptics are idiots. But not all proponents are well-informed, as I show in today’s column.
In the first installment of this series, I reviewed U.S. and global oil reserves according to the 2012 BP Statistical Review of World Energy. The second installment covered oil production, and the third looked at global consumption trends. Today, I look at the growth of global carbon dioxide emissions since 1965. A great deal has changed over the past 46 years.
Major Worldwide Growth in CO2 Emissions
In the U.S., the public is bombarded with messages about climate change. One may get the impression that if we only stop the next pipeline and slow down the growth of Canada’s oil sands, we are one step closer to victory. But this is really akin to fighting a small local skirmish while a war rages on the other side of the globe. But the skirmish does not change the outcome of the war. I am going to take up this theme in a follow-up column, but for now let’s examine what’s going on in the world. CONTINUE»
In this week’s episode of R-Squared Energy TV, I answer the following questions:
- What are the chances that electric vehicles will be more than a boutique item, and will make up a noticeable portion of cars on the road by 2020?
- Do you agree with the recent report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) that building the Keystone Pipeline will raise gasoline prices?
A recent study published in the subscription only Nature Climate Change (which I do not have a subscription for) found the price Americans are willing to pay to have 80 percent “clean” energy by 2035. Drum roll please … $13 bucks a month.
The researchers went a step further and calculated that the cost would have to drop even further to overcome political barriers:
The researchers — Joseph E. Aldy, Matthew J. Kotchen and Anthony A. Leiserowitz — ran a what-if exercise and found the current level of public support insufficient to overcome entrenched opposition in Congress.
Majority rule does not really apply there, of course: getting anything controversial through the Senate, for example, requires 60 votes to break filibusters. With some number-crunching and assumptions about how preferences back home would influence the votes of lawmakers, the researchers found that the annual added cost per household of a clean energy policy would have to drop below $59 a year to pass the current Senate and below $48 a year to pass the current House.