Posts tagged “greenhouse gas emissions”
Today I continue coverage of my recent visit to the Athabasca oil sands near Fort McMurray, Alberta. I was there as a guest of the Canadian government, which hosts annual tours for small groups of journalists and energy analysts. I will be covering multiple aspects of oil sands production in a series of posts.
In last week’s post — Oil Sands and the Environment – Part I — I discussed greenhouse gas emissions, impacts on wildlife, and I touched upon water usage. I also detailed some of the work of Pembina Institute (PI), which is working to improve the environmental conditions as the oil sands are developed. Today’s article will discuss the tailings ponds, water consumption, impacts to water quality, and impacts to indigenous people.
There are two primary ways of extracting bitumen from the oil sands. In situ production involves injecting steam into the ground to heat up the bitumen which is then pumped out of the ground. Surface mining is done when the resource is fairly close to the surface. During my trip we visited one in situ producer – Cenovus Energy – and one surface miner – Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL). These methods will be discussed in greater detail in next week’s post. CONTINUE»
I spent the past week in the heart of the Athabasca oil sands in Fort McMurray, Alberta. I was there as a guest of the Canadian government, which hosts annual tours for small groups of journalists and energy analysts. During my trip I was told that the only person who ever asked as many questions as I did was when David Biello from Scientific American was a guest. (You can read one of David’s articles from his trip here).
I felt like I learned enough to write a book on the oil sands, so I have a great deal of information I want to share with readers in a series of articles. In these articles I will provide an overview of the oil sands, compare and contrast the different ways of processing them, discuss the environmental issues, and then discuss the particular companies that I visited on this trip — Cenovus Energy and Canadian Natural Resources Limited.
I want to start this series with a 2-part discussion on the environmental issues. Generally when people think of oil sands, the environmental issues are foremost on their mind. That has always been the case with me, so most of the questions I asked during my trip related to the impact of oil sands development on the environment. This is a very contentious issue, and one in which the battle lines have been drawn. CONTINUE»
Bloomberg and others have reported that in August the Canadian Prime Minister sent a letter to President Obama, proposing to work with the US to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector as a way to facilitate US approval of the Keystone XL pipeline (KXL.) The only surprising aspect of this story, if accurate, is that it has taken so long for so obvious a solution to be floated. If, as I believe, opposition to the pipeline has little to do with potential spills and local rights of way, and everything to do with the emissions profile of Canadian oil sands crude — accurately or not — then environmentalists should welcome this overture.
All CO2 Is Equivalent
You would never know it from protest slogans conflating all types of air pollution as if they were identical, but the characteristics and effects of greenhouse gases (GHGs) like CO2 are very different from the smog-forming emissions from automobile tailpipes or the sulfate pollution from coal power plants. For that matter, air containing 400 ppm of CO2 (0.04%) is no more harmful to breathe than pre-industrial air with 280 ppm of CO2. More relevant to the current topic, it is also a fact that the climate consequences of each ton of CO2 emitted to the atmosphere are the same as for every other ton, regardless of where they are emitted or from what source. While scientists can distinguish CO2 from fossil fuel combustion from the CO2 you just exhaled, based on differences in the ratio of carbon isotopes they carry, the effect of these on global warming is essentially identical.
This is the 6th and final installment in a series that examines data from the 2013 BP Statistical Review of World Energy.
The previous posts were:
- Renewable Energy Status Update 2013
- Hydropower and Geothermal Status Update 2013
- The State of Oil According to BP
- The US is the Gassiest Country
- King Coal Gets Fatter, While The US Goes on a Diet
Today’s post looks at carbon dioxide emissions, and if you are concerned about climate change the results aren’t good.
The “highlights” are:
- Global carbon dioxide emissions increased by 1.9% to reach a new record high in 2012
- China led all countries in the categories of most carbon dioxide emitted and the greatest increase in emissions
- The US had the greatest decline of any country, with carbon dioxide emissions falling by 217 million metric tons from 2011 levels
- However the US is responsible for 25% of the carbon emitted to the atmosphere over the past 50 years
- Of the countries tracked, 25 saw decreased carbon dioxide emissions from 2011 levels and 39 countries experienced increased emissions
Emissions Keep Climbing
Global carbon dioxide emissions increased to 34.4 billion metric tons (BMT) in 2012. This was a new global record, 1.9% above the previous record set a year earlier. Over the past decade carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 32%. And since 2004 the increase in global emissions has been 5.9 BMT, which is an increase greater than total US emissions.
Seven states in the northeastern part of the United States have officially announced plans to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its alleged violations of the Clean Air Act in failing to address and limit methane emissions resulting from drilling for natural resources like oil and gas.
In a press release issued earlier this week, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman outlined the complaint, which focuses on methane emissions from resource-heavy states like Pennsylvania and Virginia. Joined by Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont, the state of New York is leading the cause, demanding that the EPA take immediate action to reduce methane emissions that threaten to increase the already troubling effects of anthropogenic climate change. (Read More: U.S. Oil Production Surges to Highest Level in 15 Years)
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»
I was strongly opposed to the recent decision to release oil from U.S. and international strategic petroleum reserves. I have covered the reasons for my opposition many times, but the single biggest reason I oppose these sorts of releases is that the fundamental reason for the existence of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) is to provide insurance in case of a supply emergency. Politicians who use the reserve in an attempt to influence gas prices so they can enhance their chances of reelection should be thrown in jail if a national emergency does occur and we find ourselves with a depleted reserve. I have also pointed out the irony that politicians who are deeply concerned about climate change are leading… Continue»
The Phenomenon of Political Contradictions Energy policy frequently highlights some glaring contradictions among lawmakers. Some politicians who have railed against our dependence on petroleum and who insist we must reduce carbon emissions turn around and introduce legislation aimed at making gasoline cheaper. Imagine that an advocate for more exercise and better eating was also advocating cheaper fast food — and you have a situation akin to the mutually exclusive energy policies of some of our political leaders. Jekyll & Hyde I have never been able to reconcile what goes on inside the heads of Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) or Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Congressman Markey has long been a passionate advocate of legislation designed to reduce carbon emissions. Once, after… Continue»
I have taken grief from some readers at times for my position on the issue of Climate Change. I have always maintained that I am not an expert, and therefore I accept the scientific consensus on climate change. This is no different than my standard in many other fields in which I am not an expert. If I get a diagnosis from my doctor, I may get a 2nd opinion, but generally I must defer to the experts on the matter. They might be wrong, of course, but I simply don’t have the sort of training they do to get into the fine details of the diagnosis. I am a believer in peer review and the scientific method. Despite occasional… Continue»
The maps demonstrate that although emissions are greatest in highly urban areas, it is in the suburbs and outlying areas where we pollute the most