Monday, September 8, 2008

Let's Talk Environment

I'm curious to see where everyone stands on the environment.


1. Global Warming, is it real?

2. What can the United States can do about it?

3. Fuel, to drill or not to drill?

Two Dogs said:

1. No. Proven by scientific study by the absence of any rise in temperature since records have been kept.

2. Abolish the EPA, drop the Endangered Species Act, remove restrictions for businesses and reduce the number of people employed by the Fed by a factor of 95%. Ship screeching "environmentalists" to Antarctica or even better, to an area populated by the "endangered" polar bear.

3. Drill every single place that drilling/energy companies can get land that they purchase with their own money. Then send all savings of tax money to me.

One Salient Oversight said:

1. Yes. Proven by scientific study as represented by the IPCC. A consensus of climate scientists - those experts in the field - say that it is happening and that, even when other variables are taken into consideration, is caused by human activity.

2. The US needs to take the lead by reducing its carbon emissions to zero. Solar and wind power is a mature technology and is economically viable. Power stations that emit CO2 (coal, gas) need to be progressively shut down while wind turbines and solar panels need to be built. Geo-thermal energy is also a possibility. Gasoline also needs to be phased out and replaced by electrically powered vehicles. This can be achieved simply through regulation with the federal government mandating a date in the future when no CO2 is allowed to be emitted through the generation of electricity and no new road vehicle be powered by hydrocarbons. With these laws in place and with enough time to prepare, the market itself will create solutions.

3. I'll answer this by not taking into consideration 2) above, which gives the solution of having electrically powered vehicles. Basically the problem with "drilling" for more oil is that the sheer amount of oil available to be extracted on US territory represents no more than a couple of months supply in total. So if oil companies began drilling all over the place and were magically able to extract all the viable sources of oil quickly, the result would not even be half of America's yearly consumption rate. Then add to this the fact that it would take 10-20 years for the oil to be extracted anyway. Put simply, any further drilling of oil in the US will not produce enough oil to make any difference whatsoever.

Be sure to check out the comments on this post. There are a lot of links in there and some good debate!


Tom said...

1. We don't know. The data involved is ratty and has been processed by shoddy statistical methods. For example, you have readings from thermometers that haven't moved in years... that were once in the middle of a field, and are now surrounded by parking lots. Pre-thermometer temperature reconstructions are even harder to validate, as they require things like trying to figure out what fraction of tree-ring width comes from temperature, and what comes from water, soil, and other conditions. Fundamentally, we don't know how much of current temperatures are man made, and how much comes from natural variability.

2. Build nuclear plants. Last December, solar power produced 3 gigawatt-hours of energy. A single AP-1000 nuclear reactor can produce that in a little under three hours. And it can do that at night and when it's cloudy. Two AP-1000 reactors can produce the power produced by wind last April, which was 4.4 terawatthours.

At the same time, invest in the future. Solar and Wind aren't practical yet, but I have high hopes for them in the 2050s or so.

Flex fuels are important, when it comes to cars, so people can choose between gasoline, ethanol, and methanol. By 2015, all cars on the road should be flex-fuel ready.

Cars like the Chevy Volt will be coming out in the next couple of years. Capable of using electricity for the first 40 miles of each day's driving, it portends a huge change in how energy for transportation is delivered, while at the same time allowing people to gas up for longer drives.

Spending large amounts of money to cut out carbon is generally a poor investment, especially if it's to the point where it cripples economic growth. It's better to invest far smaller sums in technology, and reap net economic benefits, like compact florescent lights that save me a lot on energy.

It's also important to realize that global warming is not really a crisis. The ocean level rise by 2100 will be about 18 inches... which is what the ocean level rose between 1850 and 2000. We didn't drown then, and we won't drown now. NYC and the Netherlands have expanded, rather than lost, land in that timeframe. More people die of cold than of heat each year. Warmer weather leads to longer growing seasons. _If_ global warming is happening, and _if_ it's caused by CO2, then it's not clear that all of the results will be bad.

Finally, let me just restate the simplest argument: I won't believe global warming is a crisis until the people who are telling me it's a crisis start acting like it's a crisis. When Al Gore uses less energy then I do, when people attend climate conferences by telephone rather than private jet (to Bali!), then I might feel more urgency about this issue.

3. Drill, baby, drill! The cars being built today will be running on gas for the next 15 to 20 years, and we'll still be making gasoline-powered cars for the forseeable future. So we will be needing large amounts of oil until the middle of the millenium.

We might not be able to drill our way to energy independence... but for every barrel of oil that we get from home, that's $100 or so less the mideast gets.

What's more, making firm plans to drill will lower oil prices today. That's because the prospect of more supply competing for demand in the future makes it more attractive to pump oil out now, when the supply is a bit limited.

One Salient Oversight said...

BTW, some sources for the "drilling" question:

With respect to the world oil price impact, projected ANWR oil production constitutes between 0.4 and 1.2 percent of total world oil consumption in 2030, based on the low and high resource cases, respectively.17 Consequently, ANWR oil production is not projected to have a large impact on world oil prices. (Energy Information Administration report - May 2008

The Bakken Formation has about the same amount of "technically recoverable oil".

One Salient Oversight said...

Climate Change - a guide for the perplexed. New Scientist Magazine.

A lot of myths and misconceptions about global warming (esp the points raised by Two Dogs and Tom) are explained there.

Tom said...

In June 2008, we imported 1.4 million barrels a day from Saudi Arabia. So if we can pump 700k gallons a day from ANWR, and a similar amount from Bakken, then we can suddenly stop importing oil from Saudi Arabia.

That seems like a reasonable goal to me.

I'm not a huge fan of the articles about global warming found in New Scientist and Scientific American. They're generally published by climate scientists... people whose livelyhoods depend on their being global warming.

When you go back to the sources of the raw data, things paint a different picture. Check out, a project in which people are surveying the thermometers that take the instrumental record.

Garbage in, garbage out.

One Salient Oversight said...

They're generally published by climate scientists... people whose livelyhoods depend on their being global warming.

This implies that the tens of thousands of climate scientists out there are conspiring together to create this issue.

I find it very difficult to understand the logic of saying that climate scientists can't be trusted on the issue of climate science.

It's tantamount to saying that a structural engineer can't be trusted to assess whether your building is dangerous or not, or saying that a doctor can't be trusted if he diagnoses a problem in your health.

Palin doesn't get me said...

I find it offensive that your blog exists. Since the purpose of your blog is, as you say, to help educate your children and let them make up their own minds before they vote, why don't you tell them to go to the library and actually read instead of soliciting the opinions of random people whose credentials you have no idea about and whose knowledge is circumspect. When the hell did knowledge and merit go to hell in this country? The sad thing, in some ways, is your uneducated vote will count the same as mine even though I actually give a damn enough about this country to investigate the issues and create my own opinions.

Your website stands as an altar to the mediocrity that has besieged this country.

Pay attention to history, learn math to figure out how not to sign for idiotic mortgages, and study history in order to not repeat the mistakes of the past. Why don't you pass that on to your kids?

Yes, I am an ELITIST. I busted my butt in school so that I could go to an Ivy League college where 75% of the people were better off than me and I learned that I had to always keep learning in life. I then went to a top medical school. Thankfully, I'm back on the East Coast practicing surgery and saving lives. I googled "uneducated white women and Palin and idiots" and found your blog.

BLBeamer said...

"Palin doesn't get me" seriously needs an enema. Maybe it would unclog his sense of humor - or his personality.

Tom said...

The problem with climate science is that there isn't really any way to tell if what people are saying is right or wrong, sort of waiting for years and years. (And by then, there will be new theories to explain things.) So it tends to select for people who believe in global warming, and doesn't have a strong way of rejecting things that are wrong.

This is different from scientists that can experiment, and engineers that have to actually limate science fields selects for people who believe that global warming is going on, in the same way that, say, decosbuild working systems. (If the building falls down, you no longer work as a structural engineer.)

This isn't to say that there aren't climate scientists doing good work. But when climate scientists say one thing and statisticians say the other, I believe the statistician.

Roland Hulme said...

Brilliant question, Coffee Bean!

I've actually battled Tom with this question and he's actually put an element of doubt into my mind - along with this article here.

I would say I still believe in it - but I'm not totally convinced it's as bad as all that. The scientific 'concensus' seems to be a bit too premeditated and some of the evidence has been proven to have been tampered with. Why, if there's a legitimate case for global warming?

Likewise, there's no point in Europe and America capping their industry, wrenching the economy to a halt, if India and China are going to continue churning out pollutants and overtaking out economy at the same time.

We need to switch over to clean energy, sure. But lets do it practically, without creating a new economic order like Obama and McCain propose.

I'm also with Tom on nuclear power - I used to live in France and they've shown it to be clean, cheap and safe. It can meet a huge amount of our energy needs that wind and water and solar won't (at least not for years.)

As for drilling in Alaska? I've seen different estimates about how much oil is actually there. That's the big question.

BLBeamer said...

Come on, people: have any of you ever been to Chicago in the winter? I have and let me tell you, my thoughts were, "Global warming: if only! Faster, please."

Just Me said...

I didn't check in yesterday, so I weigh in late today.

1. I don't know if Global Warming is a real issue or not. I do see that our climate (at least around here) is changing. I well remember winters where there was snow constantly on the ground from December through March. For at least the last decade or so, I don't recall much more than an occasional dusting with a foot-deep blizzard every few years. Other areas of the country are getting the severe winters.

2. I don't know if we can control or alter our changing climate. (Two Dogs, you have me ROFLMAO.)

3. Yes, DRILL! While we're doing that, let's aggressively employ as many alternatives as possible.

I'd love nothing more than to install a patch of solar panels on my roof and reduce my debt to the electric company, but the things are priced out way of my reach. Oh, yippee, I can get a low-interest loan. More debt. Just what I need.

Ten years ago they were pushing ethanol to fuel our vehicles. We purchased a flex-fuel vehicle in hopes of eventually using E85 instead of gasoline. Now I know that producing E85 is much costlier than anticipated so it has fallen out of favor.

Even now, I don't care that E85 costs as much per gallon and gets lower mileage. I'd rather see my fuel dollars going to American farmers than the Middle East, but the closest E85 station is over fifty miles away from me.

So, in short, until alternative fuel options are placed within the reach of John Q Public, I don't anticpate any change in the status quo.

Roland Hulme said...

I really liked Just Me's answers.

I noticed the country getting warmer - last winter was SO mild. Plus, in England, we used to have white christmases all the time - now we haven't had one for, like, twenty years.

I'd go to ethanol in an instant, but the nearest pump is 45 miles away and I get 180 miles per tank, so I could drive there and back and then have enough fuel left to drive back again before I run out.