‘The wicked and lazy master was the one who buried his talent in the ground and didn’t do anything to multiply it,’ Beisner explained. ‘That’s essentially what those who say we need to stop using oil, coal and natural gas are telling us to do. Just leave those resources buried in the ground, rather than pulling them out and multiplying their value for human benefit.’
Fischer likened the situation to a birthday present he was given at the age of six.
‘I opened up a birthday present that I didn’t like, and I said it right out, ‘Oh, I don’t like those,” the radio host recalled. ‘And it just crushed — and the person that gave me gift was there. You know, I just kind of blurted it out, ‘I don’t like those.’ And it just crushed that person. It was enormously insensitive of me to do that.’
‘And you think, that’s kind of how we’re treating God when he’s given us these gifts of abundant and inexpensive and effective fuel sources,’ Fischer added. ‘And we don’t thank him for it and we don’t use it.’
‘You know, God has buried those treasures there because he loves to see us find them.’
For more than two decades, diplomats have struggled to slow global warming. They have negotiated two major treaties to achieve that goal, the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. And last year, at the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, they agreed to start talking about yet another treaty. A small group of countries, including Japan and the members of the European Union, now regulate their emissions in accord with the existing agreements. But most states, including the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, China and the United States, have failed to make much progress. As a result, total emissions of carbon dioxide, the leading long-term cause of global warming, have risen by more than 50 percent since the 1980s and are poised to rise by more than 30 percent in the next two to three decades.
The ever-increasing quantity of emissions could render moot the aim that has guided international climate diplomacy for nearly a decade: preventing the global temperature from rising by more than two degrees Celsius above its preindustrial level. In fact, in the absence of significant international action, the planet is now on track to warm by at least 2.5 degrees during the current century — and maybe even more. The known effects of this continued warming are deeply troubling: rising sea levels, a thinning Arctic icecap, extreme weather events, ocean acidification, loss of natural habitats, and many others. Perhaps even more fearsome, however, are the effects whose odds and consequences are unknown, such as the danger that melting permafrost in the Arctic could release still more gases, leading to a vicious cycle of still more warming.
All these risks are rising sharply because the traditional approach to international climate diplomacy has failed. For too long, climate science and policymaking have focused almost exclusively on emissions of carbon dioxide, most of which come from burning fossil fuels. Weaning the planet off fossil fuels has proved difficult, partly because expensive and rapid shifts to new energy systems could have negative effects on the competitiveness of modern economies. What is more, carbon dioxide inconveniently remains in the atmosphere for centuries, and so even keeping carbon dioxide at current levels would require deep cuts sustained over many decades — with economic consequences that states are unlikely to be willing to bear unless they are confident that their competitors will do the same. No permanent solution to the climate problem is feasible without tackling carbon dioxide, but the economic and geophysical realities of carbon dioxide emissions almost guarantee political gridlock.
It doesn’t matter how abundant liquid fossil fuels might be; it’s their cost that impacts the economy.
Many people think “peak oil” is about the world is “running out of oil.”
Actually, “peak oil” is about the world running out of cheap, easy-to-get oil. That means fossil fuels might be abundant (supply exceeds demand) for a time but still remain expensive.
The abundance or scarcity of energy is only one factor in its price. As the cost of extraction, transport, refining, and taxes rise, so does the “cost basis” or the total cost of production from the field to the pump. Anyone selling oil below its cost basis will lose money and go out of business.
We are trained to expect that anything that is abundant will be cheap, but energy is a special case: it can be abundant but costly, because it’s become costly to produce.
Americans shop for viciously for bargains, whether it’s getting plane tickets from discount web sites or driving across town to save 30 cents on a tank of gas. But when it comes to electricity, we’ve been simply writing checks for the bills we receive at the end of the month. Few of us know how much we pay for a kilowatt hour, or how many kilowatt hours we use—or what a kilowatt hour actually is.
Since the 1920s, Americans have paid flat regulated prices per hour for electricity. But de-regulated wholesale electricity prices now gyrate extravagantly from nearly zero at night to as high as $3,000 per megawatt hour during a late-afternoon Texas heat wave.
A new study from two UC Davis economists—Katrina Jessoe and David Rapson—suggests that if we had the right information, we could become enlightened shoppers, saving money buying cheap low-pollution hydro or wind power in the middle of the night while turning off the expensive stuff made with fossil fuels in the late afternoon.
In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus provided $3.4 billion to move the US towards a “smart grid.” Establishing that grid involves a long list of behind-the-scenes upgrades but for consumers largely involved the installation of smart meters that record not just the quantity of electricity a home uses, but when it is used. The hope was that consumers who changed their behavior would save money, utilities could avoid building power plants, and we’d all produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
To fill all of these roles, though, consumers accustomed to being passive purchasers would have to become active shoppers.
When Barack Obama first ran for president, being green was so popular that oil companies like Chevron were boasting about their commitment to renewable energy, and his Republican opponent, John McCain, supported action on global warming.
As Mr. Obama seeks re-election, that world is a distant memory. Some of the mightiest players in the oil, gas and coal industries are financing an aggressive effort to defeat him, or at least press him to adopt policies that are friendlier to fossil fuels. And the president’s former allies in promoting wind and solar power and caps on greenhouse gases? They are disenchanted and sitting on their wallets.
This year’s campaign on behalf of fossil fuels includes a surge in political contributions to Mitt Romney, attack ads questioning Mr. Obama’s clean-energy agenda, and television spots that are not overtly partisan but criticize administration actions like new air pollution rules and the delay of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.
While sharks, elephant seals, and Pacific Bluefin Tuna on the great predator highway don’t carry passports, or care about sovereignty, the humans in Washington should care about the languishing Law of the Sea treaty.
Besides its unfortunate acronym, LOST, how else can you explain the perpetually doomed status of the United Nations Convention Law of the Sea treaty? LOST, first adopted in 1982, would create a uniform set of laws for the sea—governing fishing, piracy, territory, and mining—and an international regulatory body, and has been ratified by 161 countries, leaving the U.S. in the company of 35 naysayers that include North Korea, Iran, and Burundi. It’s unlikely we’ll be joining the rest of the world this year—earlier this month two more Republican senators joined the group of 32 who say it will cost the U.S. its sovereignty.
But in this highly partisan time, LOST has a weird dream team of endorsers: the American Petroleum Institute, World Wildlife Fund, Department of Defense, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, John Kerry, John McCain, Sarah Palin; you get political vertigo just reading the list.
Why the support? Money: U.S. companies have more to gain from signing the treaty than just about anyone else, anywhere. The U.S. coastline, already among the world’s longest, will be extended out 200 miles, effectively granting access to enormous stores of fossil fuels and valuable metals and minerals. The Navy and the Coast Guard support the marine governance aspects of the treaty because it creates enforceable standards of conduct everywhere, from the melting Arctic to territorial conflicts with
For years, climate scientists have been warning the world that the heavy use of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) threatens the world with human-induced climate change. The rising atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning fossil fuels, would warm the planet and change rainfall and storm patterns and raise sea levels. Now those changes are hitting in every direction, even as powerful corporate lobbies and media propagandists like Rupert Murdoch try to deny the truth.
CommentsIn recent weeks, the United States has entered its worst drought in modern times. The Midwest and the Plains states, the country’s breadbasket, are baking under a massive heat wave, with more than half of the country under a drought emergency and little relief in sight.
CommentsHalfway around the world, Beijing has been hit by the worst rains on record, with floods killing many people. Japan is similarly facing record-breaking torrential rains. Two of Africa’s impoverished drylands - the Horn of Africa in the East and the Sahel in the West - have experienced devastating droughts and famines in the past two years: the rains never came, causing many thousands to perish, while millions face life-threatening hunger.
CommentsScientists have given a name to our era, the Anthropocene, a term built on ancient Greek roots to mean “the Human-dominated epoch” - a new period of earth’s history in which humanity has become the cause of global-scale environmental change. Humanity affects not only the earth’s climate, but also ocean chemistry, the land and marine habitats of millions of species, the quality of air and water, and the cycles of water, nitrogen, phosphorus, and other essential components that underpin life on the planet.
The Pentagon wants to move toward a greener military, one that relies more on renewable energy and less on fossil fuels. Why? It would save lives. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey made that case last October and a recent Army study found that “[a] fighting force that isn’t restricted by the reach of a tanker truck or weighted down by heavy batteries is more nimble and, as a result, more lethal.”
So in theory, Congress should have no problem passing legislation to provide the funds to make this a reality. However, there are a few hurdles standing in the way: Republicans. The House GOP included a measure in the defense authorization bill this month prohibiting the Defense Department from buying alternative fuels if they cost more than “traditional fossil fuel.” And the Senate Armed Services Committee last week followed suit with an “even tougher” provision mirroring the House version but also exempts DOD from clean energy standards.
Why are the Republicans doing this? VoteVets.org chairman Jon Soltz pointed out yesterday that they get a lot of money from the oil and gas industry
If the world can be seen in a grain of sand, watch out. As Wisconsinites are learning, there’s money (and misery) in sand — and if you’ve got the right kind, an oil company may soon be at your doorstep.
March in Wisconsin used to mean snow on the ground, temperatures so cold that farmers worried about their cows freezing to death. But as I traveled around rural townships and villages in early March to interview people about frac-sand mining, a little-known cousin of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” daytime temperatures soared to nearly 80 degrees — bizarre weather that seemed to be sending a meteorological message.
In this troubling spring, Wisconsin’s prairies and farmland fanned out to undulating hills that cradled the land and its people. Within their embrace, the rackety calls of geese echoed from ice-free ponds, bald eagles wheeled in the sky, and deer leaped in the brush. And for the first time in my life, I heard the thrilling warble of sandhill cranes.
Yet this peaceful rural landscape is swiftly becoming part of a vast assembly line in the corporate race for the last fossil fuels on the planet. The target: the sand in the land of the cranes.
Five hundred million years ago, an ocean surged here, shaping a unique wealth of hills and bluffs that, under mantles of greenery and trees, are sandstone. That sandstone contains a particularly pure form of crystalline silica. Its grains, perfectly rounded, are strong enough to resist the extreme pressures of the technology called hydraulic fracturing, which pumps vast quantities of that sand, as well as water and chemicals, into ancient shale formations to force out methane and other forms of “natural gas.”
That sand, which props open fractures in the shale, has to come from somewhere. Without it, the fracking industry would grind to a halt. So big multinational corporations are descending on this bucolic region to cart off its prehistoric sand, which will later be forcefully injected into the earth elsewhere across the country to produce more natural gas. Geology that has taken millions of years to form is now being transformed into part of a system, a machine, helping to drive global climate change.
“The valleys will be filled… the mountains and hills made level”