Posts Tagged ‘fossil fuels’

From Gary Peters, more food for thoughts:

Americans are clueless, and most politicians prefer to keep them that way.  James Kunstler put it more flamboyantly a short time ago, saying that “The fog of cluelessness that hangs over North America about the gathering global oil crisis and its ramifications seems to thicken by the hour.”  Not long ago I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Why is Our Oil under Their Soil?”  Though it cannot be found in our constitution, Americans assume that the right to cheap gasoline is one of those “unalienable rights” that they’ve read about but can’t quite remember where or when.
One question I like to ask Americans when they talk about oil is this:  When do you think oil production in the U.S. will reach a peak?  Most everyone guesses many years into the future, with five years from now being about the lowest figure that I’ve gotten in reply.  When you tell them it peaked in 1970 they are generally dumbfounded or think you are just kidding.
If you want to carry this a step farther, ask them what they think the population of the U.S. was in 1970–they probably won’t have a clue, but it allows you to point out to them that even though oil production peaked in the U.S. in 1970 and has declined ever since, we have subsequently added another 100 million people to the nation, which is one of the reasons that we so desperately need to import oil in huge quantities, no matter what.  In 2007 the U.S. consumed an average of 20,697,540 barrels of crude oil per day, but produced only 8,487,080–an average shortfall of more than 12 million barrels per day, which had to be imported.
When Senator McCain tells you that he wants the nation to be energy-independent, make sure that he can tell you how he is going to do that.  If we could double our production of crude oil, a physical impossibility no matter what stories you hear about ANWR or the California coast, we still would be far from oil independence.  Where is the straight talk?
Americans think of themselves as a fair people, but seem unbothered by the notion that though we have just under five percent of the world’s population, we consume about 25 percent of the world’s crude oil.  Even President Bush admitted that we were addicted to oil, though he never followed up on that statement or tried to cure us or at least to get us into rehab. 
When George W. Bush was sworn in as our 43rd President, on January 19, 2001, Brent crude was selling for $26.23 per barrel; this morning it was selling for $134.64.  As Robert Scheer recently noted, “No President has been more brilliant in destabilizing the politics of oil-producing countries from Venezuela to Russia and on to the key oil lakes of Iraq and Iran.
With the price of gas now above $4.00 across the U.S., people are finally beginning to feel the heat–we are not only a nation addicted to gas, we are a nation so dependent on it that we have seldom stopped to think about it.  Worse yet, it comes at a time when house prices are falling thanks to a pathetic runaway abuse of subprime mortgages and other unreal fiscal irregularities, which created first an amazing housing bubble and now a drastic removal of air from it.
With respect to the intertwined problems of global warming and our profligate use of fossil fuels, neither presidential candidate has stood up and told Americans the truth:  The lifestyle that we have today is not sustainable.  Energy expert Vaclav Smil noted recently that “Today there is no readily available non-fossil energy source that is large enough to be exploited on the requisite scale.” Richard Heinberg recently wrote that “Addressing the core of the problem means letting go of growth; in fact, it means engaging in a period  of controlled societal contraction characterized by a stable or declining population consuming at a per-capita level far lower than is currently taken for granted in the industrialized world.”  This message may be much closer to the truth than anything current politicians are saying, but we can’t remain in denial.  In 1949 Aldous Huxley wrote that “The human race is passing through a time of crisis, and that crisis exists, so to speak, on two levels–an upper level of political and economic crisis and a lower level crisis in population and world resources.”  Almost sixty years later his words still ring true, and we are still living in denial.


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In the process of doing research for the 350 campaign, I came across an AFP press release from a few weeks ago, that is too important to be ignored:

Global warming has plunged the planet into a crisis and the fossil fuel industries are trying to hide the extent of the problem from the public, NASA’s top climate scientist says.

“We’ve already reached the dangerous level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” James Hansen, 67, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, told AFP here.

“But there are ways to solve the problem” of heat-trapping greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, which Hansen said has reached the “tipping point” of 385 parts per million.

In a paper he was submitting to Science magazine on Monday, Hansen calls for phasing out all coal-fired plants by 2030, taxing their emissions until then, and banning the building of new plants unless they are designed to trap and segregate the carbon dioxide they emit.

The major obstacle to saving the planet from its inhabitants is not technology, insisted Hansen, named one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2006 by Time magazine.

The problem is that 90 percent of energy is fossil fuels. And that is such a huge business, it has permeated our government,” he maintained.

“What’s become clear to me in the past several years is that both the executive branch and the legislative branch are strongly influenced by special fossil fuel interests,” he said, referring to the providers of coal, oil and natural gas and the energy industry that burns them.

In a recent survey of what concerns people, global warming ranked 25th.

The industry is misleading the public and policy makers about the cause of climate change. And that is analogous to what the cigarette manufacturers did. They knew smoking caused cancer, but they hired scientists who said that was not the case.”

Hansen says that with an administration and legislature that he believes are “well oiled, our best hope is the judicial branch.”

Last year Hansen testified before the US Congress that “interference with communication of science to the public has been greater during the current administration than at any time in my career.

Government public relations officials, he said, filter the facts in science reports to reduce “concern about the relation of climate change to human-made greenhouse gas emissions.”

While he recognizes that he has stepped outside the traditional role of scientists as researchers rather than as public policy advocates, he says he does so because “in this particular situation we’ve reached a crisis.”

The policy makers, “the people who need to know are ignorant of the actual status of the matter, and the gravity of the matter, and most important, the urgency of the matter,” he charged.

“It’s analogous to an engineer who sees that there’s a flaw in the space shuttle before it is to be launched. You don’t have any choice. You have to say something. That’s really all that I’m doing,” he explained.

On my end, I am going to contact NRDC and E2 to get their counsel, and see what kind of actions can be taken to address Mr. Hansen‘s concerns. I would love to get your ideas as well.

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Not as sexy as Cassandra‘s video, but just as, if not even more informative, is the new documentary; ‘Peak Oil – Sprawling From Grace; Driven To Madness‘. The trailer just came out:

According to EMotionPictures,

‘This feature length documentary explores the ravages of American suburban sprawl, what America has lost as a result, and the perils we face if we don’t change the way in which we build our cities. Americans have been lulled into a false sense of security by cheap energy that has allowed us to spread endlessly into our landscape. We are trapped behind the wheels of our automobiles. With the demand for oil outpacing the Earth’s ability to supply it, this suburban living arrangement will fail. America’s love affair with the automobile is unsustainable and, like Nero, we are fiddling away, confident that tomorrow will be as promising as today. The wake up call is coming.’

It seems as if everyone‘s got an opinion on how to handle the American suburban sprawl . . . What I think: we are not going to raze our suburbs, let’s get real. Instead, we have to live with what we have, adapt, conserve and retrofit, using a combination of new policies, new technologies, and new behaviors.

Now, what do YOU think?



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