Happy Halloween! »« Humans versus wildlife

Could be worse

Hey, residents of the east coast! Feeling down? Struggling with the aftermath of a small climate disaster? Let me cheer you up. It could be so much worse. You could be living in Alberta!

You see, there are many consequences of human greed and shortsightedness. There’s an oil industry that’s demanding the right to pour pollutants into the atmosphere for your personal convenience, and that’s contributing to the frequency and strength of storms, which lead to heavily publicized events when a major storm hits a hugely populated area. So sure, deaths and power outages and property destruction in New York are a big story. But most of the damage is being done out of sight and out of mind. No way is the oil industry going to openly destroy the environment in your backyard (deniably indirectly, though, that’s OK) — but any place that is largely empty of humans — especially wealthy, well-connected humans — is fair game. Like the boreal forests of Canada.

Here’s such a forest in Alberta. These trees had the misfortune to be growing above the tar sands…they were in the way.

Hmmm, you say. Surely those forests have been replaced with something scenic. Yes, they have: like this.

I’ve seen landscapes like that before…in cynical dystopian science fiction movies. Harvesting the oil from the tar sands involves denuding the surface, digging deep, and sluicing the whole sticky black mess with vast volumes of water to extract the wanted fraction…and the waste water, saturated and sludgy with toxic hydrocarbons, runs off into gigantic holding ponds. I don’t know what it’s being held for, or how long…for armageddon, maybe?

Inspiring, isn’t it? Next time I’m in Alberta, I should take some time to tour the northern part of the province to see the natural beauty. Oh, wait. I don’t have to go to Alberta — the sludge ponds are visible from outer space!

We’d sing…sing…sing…!

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

What? Did you think I’d break out into the Lumberjack song?

Here is the consequence of our need for oil.

Just remember, everywhere…it could be worse. And it probably will get worse.

Comments

  1. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    There’s an oil industry that’s demanding the right to pour pollutants into the atmosphere for your personal convenience – PZ

    Oh, you mean like being able to fly hither and thither every couple of weeks?

  2. kevinalexander says

    But the LORD has given us DOMINION!!!

    Our Prime Minister knows that JESUS!! is coming any day now so why care about a few trees?

  3. shouldbeworking says

    And just how’s this bad? Those trees are being recycled instead of just thrown away. And we have the lowest taxes in Canada. So we win. Your rethuglicans could learn a thing or three from us (if they could count so high).

    /sarcasm

  4. says

    Ahem.

    I have a personal message from my cynicism. It reads thusly:

    “Dear PZ: Please stop. I once thought my thoughts prowled the deepest, most depressed quanta of the soul. (Though I recognize souls are strictly a literary construct, they are nevertheless useful in times like this).

    “I find myself denuded of my own self-worth, my own assumption of the greatest lows to which we could sink, the greatest exploitation of others for our own gain (which I enjoy calling evil). Exposing the transformation from pristine beauty of nature pushed through the abattoir of capitalism (or perhaps the holy temple of capital gains — depends on how you look at it) to the bared and bloody bones of profit, all at the expense of the future of our own children, is unacceptable. It’s as if you’ve stopped all attempts of subtlety, and instead focus on the vulgar and obvious consequences of our actions. (Yes, these are our actions, as we allow them to happen — even encourage them.)

    “And so I shall sue. You owe me not just a Leica camera, but a new sense of innocence. You destroyed mine, and I want it back.”

    If you need me for the defense, I’ve never been that innocent. But fuck this is depressing.

  5. thetorf says

    As a Canadian atheist I have often mused about how much of a difference it would make if we changed the national anthem from “God keep our land” to “We’ll keep our land.” If it were a vow we made every time we sang, rather than a wish to a flimsy god, would it make us a little less useless in protecting our land?

  6. jand says

    Myers=Zelig?

    I found I was going back to the (what do you call the thingy under the title where the name of the author of the post goes?) thinking, o this is a coblogger Chris Clarke post? But noe (sg. of noes), PZ Myers.

    Chapeau

  7. Brownian says

    If it were a vow we made every time we sang, rather than a wish to a flimsy god, would it make us a little less useless in protecting our land?

    I doubt it. What else are Albertans going to do with all hell for a basement but suck it all up and sell it?

  8. CorvusCorvax says

    Actually, come to Alberta and see for yourself. Tour around.

    -Born in fucking Fort McMurray

  9. Amphiox says

    And meanwhile, cancer rates climb among the citizens of Fort McMurray, the Alberta town closest to the Tar Sands, (and whose economic boom and probably entire existence depends on the Tar Sands).

    http://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/idCATRE51568020090206

    Probably not directly related, but the non-divided two-lane highway that connects Fort McMurray with the rest of civilization is rapidly entrenching a reputation as one of Western Canada’s great ‘Death Roads’.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/things-are-going-to-get-a-lot-worse-on-albertas-oil-highway/article4204250/

  10. mh1123 says

    as an Albertan I am outraged by this insult to my province, as a human I am embarrassed at how we treat our planet…..

  11. Usernames are smart says

    I, for one will welcome my EV overlord once my Prius gives up the ghost.

    The plan is to install solar panels on the roof of the garage and stack a rack of marine (deep-cycle) batteries therein. Hopefully this will be enough to never have to fill the vehicle with “dirty electricity,” but we’ll see.

    Oh, and for the record, 120,000 miles ago, I was driving a Ford F-150. I will NEVER go back.

  12. sidelined says

    Nice to hear an honest criticism of the oilfields PZ. I am curious though as to the nature of how much in oil resources you personally use as a function of your lifestyle. It is true that the damage done from the use of oil as a resource is indeed large. However, let us not stop with just the oilsands here in Alberta. Let us also eliminate the use of coal and natural gas. Since these 3 entail more that 3/4 of the worlds energy supply I am sure a man as smart as yourself would be able to explain to myself and others here just what you would do to replace these resources that allow for the standards of living enjoyed by all of us.

    Perhaps wind power? We have that here in Alberta too. Expensive power subsidized the government. And there are issues concerning it as a source of noise pollution so maybe we should scratch that. We could go solar I suppose since the costs are so minimal and the technology so advanced as to be cheap enough to use right? No? Hmm. Hydroelectric? Great energy source free from nature after a wee bit of modifying the landscape and it never runs out. Would that be enough to be a replacement? Nuclear? Wave power?
    I could go on but the fact of the matter remains that the issue is not the specific energy source so much as the consumer of the source and the footprint they wish to impose upon the world.

    How big is your footprint PZ?

  13. says

    Expensive power subsidized the government.

    oh noez! not the gubmint!

    besides, it’s not like there are any externalities that actually make fossil fuels a lot more costly than renewables. nah, those are just figments of the progressive imagination

  14. david23 says

    For those of a scientific nature. You may want to check out the Elements December 2011 volume 7 number 6 on Mine Wastes. This issue has the up to date work regarding the tailing ponds at Fort Mac.

  15. says

    @19

    Probably has more to do (or as much) with having something to sell from Alberta then an energy source in particular. Alberta makes a lot of money off its oil products. So getting this to stop is as much about the alberta economy as it is the energy needs.

  16. says

    Probably has more to do (or as much) with having something to sell from Alberta then an energy source in particular. Alberta makes a lot of money off its oil products. So getting this to stop is as much about the alberta economy as it is the energy needs.

    which refutes my point not a bit; no one is stopping alberta from becoming a place in which turbines for example are manufactured

  17. firetree says

    How interesting. Canadians, with the help of big energy businesses have figured it all out. Here is the plan. Collect the tar sand oil. Pipe it through the United States from far North to far South. The refinery would be in Texas but the product will be shipped to China. Conclusion: oil spills in the U. S.;
    refinery air pollutants in the U. S.; gas in China and profits in Canada,Switzerland, and Cayman Islands. As they say in China “ding hao”.

  18. wholething says

    Every time I go to Alberta, I die a little.

    The travel time alone puts you that much closer to death.

  19. nms says

    no one is stopping alberta from becoming a place in which turbines for example are manufactured

    If you’re going manufacture things you might as well move to *shudder* Ontario!

    In 1976 the Alberta government established a fund to save some of the province’s resource revenue. Initially the fund recieved 30% of the province’s oil and gas royalties. The money was meant to be used for infrastructure projects and economic diversification. Then I guess they decided being a resource colony would be easier and in 1987 the transfers to it were stopped.

  20. sidelined says

    Jadehawk replies:

    besides, it’s not like there are any externalities that actually make fossil fuels a lot more costly than renewables.
    ——————————————————————————————————

    Great! We have costs associated with the use of non renewable resources. That is understood by all even here in the Great White North. However the problem is not merely academic but hinges on the actual consumption of fossil fuels. What would be the means by which you save the environment while at the same time eliminating the harmful emissions that we ALL produce as a consequence of our indulgences?

    For instance. Would you be willing to shut down the internet to eliminate the 3% to 5% of global electrical consumption it now uses?

    Too drastic? How about limiting travel to 100 miles from your place of birth if using a vehicle run off non renewable resources?

    No? Perhaps we could eliminate air conditioning in summers and heating in winters except for the specific use of keeping water flowing through pipes?

    Whatever the technology is it has to fill in the gap that is taken by these non renewable resources and I would love to hear the plan behind it

  21. Ze Madmax says

    sidelined @ #31

    You do realize the three issues you bring up could be gradually fixed by phasing out fossil fuels and replacing them with renewables/nukes?

    I mean, is not like we can feasibly just shut down stuff that requires fossil fuels until the renewable-based infrastructure is set up… that would be stupid. But even more stupid would be to think that because you can’t just magically switch from fossil to renewables, that we should stick with fossils until we’re all drowning in filth.

  22. unbound says

    @17 – Shrug? Wow, the education system has certainly failed you. Did you even watch the video? Millions of liters of toxic junk pushed into the rivers…does it really take a genius to figure out it has to go somewhere?

    Alternatives? All kinds of them are being developed. If the oil companies spent the money they blasted (and continue to spend) in Alberta on those alternatives, many of them would actually be viable. Heck, every year the US government still gives fossil fuel companies about $10 billion in subsidies while spending only about $1 billion on renewable fuel research.

  23. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Oh, you mean like being able to fly hither and thither every couple of weeks?

    Because it’s totally reasonable to hold one individual responsible for what can only be solved by top-down public policy. Of course we should hobble one individual on the (yes, totally fucked) mass transportation playing field and expect him to bear the consequences of the tragedy-of-the-commons scenario. He should take a principled stand and refuse to go to any conferences, confident in the knowledge that everyone else will but it’s all worth it.

  24. says

    @ Jadehawk
    Currently the high Canadian dollar (on par with the states) has done a lot to kill the Canadian manufacturing sector (which as someone else noted was mostly located in Ontario).

    Course the biggest problem is probably that Alberta is very conservative *giving us such minds as our current prime minister unfortunately*. I’m not terribly disagreeing that there are alternatives (or that they are preferable) I just think there are some significant hurdles to seeing some change on this front.

  25. djinnanetoniks says

    I hate arguments about the oilsands, cause no one bothers to do any research about it… on either side of the argument. either you’re railing against it as a horrible travesty that leaves nothing but massive scars and dead birds in its wake, or you discount that it is doing actual serious harm due to the fact that those arguments are being made by people who don’t understand economics, or engineering. people who actually know what’s going on seem few and far between.

    I wish that the oilsands was as easy to take a side on as abortion. But even though the reasons for it being there are stupid, due to economics/technology from the past century that hasn’t had the good decency to die yet, what people miss out in the sensation of pictures of ducks dying after landing on a freshly filled tailings pond, is how much effort is being put in to safeguarding wildlife that does remain in the area, and rebuilding and restoring the land and environment after the need of that land has stopped. People see the tailings ponds and the immediate emotional reaction is that whatever has caused this monstrosity must be stopped, but what they don’t understand is that it is an incredibly necessary step in allowing the land to be reclaimed and return to the state it was before the oilsands moved in, and i cannot stress this next point enough, Without all the Oil that was near the surface in the first place.

    I may not know a lot about biology but i’m pretty sure that having heavy oils in the upper layers of clay under forest soil can’t be good for any plants that do in fact grow there.

    The reason that the Tailings ponds are so very visible is that when they are first filled they are filled with what is essentially a colloid of sand, silt, clays and fractional percentages of the original oils that were all contained in them when they were mined. before the land can be reclaimed these materials have to settle to the bottom before the water can be pumped away, and in the cases of the earliest ponds this takes up to 25 years just to settle, and then the land can start being monitored and tested to ensure it passes environmental regulations and then it will be replanted with local plant life.

    and then of course when some engineer or company devises a better, cleaner, more efficient way of removing oil from the oil sands, people scream that it can’t possibly be true because “Everyone knows what the Oil Sands looks like and that doesn’t look like the Oil Sands, therefore that Can’t be the Oil Sands” (example : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1mZMOP-wbY)

    I know people have an instinctive reaction to what the Oil Sands look like, but people have the same reaction to animal experimentation that we require for medical research, and PZ i thought you knew to watch out for manipulation like this, you even warned us all about it yourself not even 2 weeks ago in your post “Bad Arguments #3: Science says what?”
    “What made it worse, though, was the quality of Kruszelnicki’s arguments. Would you believe that at one point she showed us a grisly video of the outcomes of abortions? Bloody severed body parts, slack gooey limp bodies, puddles of blood with twitching bits of flesh, that sort of thing. There were several different reactions from people I talked to afterwards. Many were just repulsed, and had closed their eyes or walked out of the room when it was shown (oh, yeah, that was an effective tactic in a debate: disgust the audience). Everyone was appalled that such a blatant and logically irrelevant emotional appeal was being made; that’s another brilliant move, insult the intelligence of the audience by assuming that they won’t be able to detect the patent emotional manipulation being practiced.” (emphasis mine)

    but the good thing is that there Are researchers, both scientists and engineers working to lessen our impact on the environment for as long as we still need to dig dead prehistoric algae out of the ground so we can drive our cars and heat our homes. If you’ve been reading this site for any time at all you should know that scientists hold their ethics of practice in the highest regard (hopefully, we’ve all seen the stories of the ones who don’t *cough* Andrew Wakefield *cough*) and the engineers in Alberta are held to just as high a standard. I should know, I am one.

    http://www.apega.ca/about/ACT/code.htm

    These are the ethical guidelines that i practice under when doing my research at my university, and these are the guidelines that i will practice under for the rest of my life no matter where i end up working. i know i can’t speak for every engineer but i know a great many of them that take our oath to follow these guidelines every bit as seriously as a doctor takes their oath to do no harm.

    hopefully then the next time the Oil Sands comes up as a topic here we can have a little more focused conversation rather than just a repeating litany of “Oil Sands Bad!” ” Wind and Solar Aren’t Ready Yet!”

  26. kreativekaos says

    Kudos on such an informational posting PZ.

    (I remember a number of years ago when 60 Minutes first did a report on the tar sands,…the first time I learned of them. At that time, there didn’t seem to be much (reported) info on environmental impacts–the media, environmentally ignorant politicians and electorate, and corporate types seemed to be too busy touting the potential for extracting large amounts of petroleum from these sands.

    Over the course of the past few years, we’ve been being enlightened to the immense environmental degradation tar sand mining is doing for the pittance of petrol product being extracted in order to help keep a fossil fuel economy and life style on life support .
    Shame on you, Canada and US!)

  27. kitt2 says

    It’s the “Oil Sands” not the Tar Sands
    Did you get up on the wrong side of the bed today, PZ? I suppose you are entitled to be cranky from time to time, however, you would be much better off to pick on your own country. Leave mine alone.

  28. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    you would be much better off to pick on your own country. Leave mine alone.

    Poor thing:(

  29. Justin says

    Don’t you know? The oil sands are a gift from gawd! Also, we need to ship the oil to China as fast as physically possible. Because whatever helps China helps us. Just ask Romney! /sarc

    As for the environmental impacts, we are already leaving ourselves with an impoverished and increasingly infertile planet, not even mentioning what the next generation will find.

    Bravo humans. Bravo.

  30. says

    unbound:

    Alternatives? All kinds of them are being developed. If the oil companies spent the money they blasted (and continue to spend) in Alberta on those alternatives, many of them would actually be viable. Heck, every year the US government still gives fossil fuel companies about $10 billion in subsidies while spending only about $1 billion on renewable fuel research.

    Yes. But you simply don’t understand.

    The current fossil fuel companies already have billions. The so-called “green-energy” companies don’t.

    It’s really just economics — those that have, continue to have. Those that don’t, don’t. It’s the Way The World Works.

    Also, you don’t have an alternative. I mean, other than the alternatives that have already been presented. But since those alternatives don’t represent multi-billion dollar companies, they’re obviously not real alternatives now, are they?

    Plus, magic free market.

  31. tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach says

    Albertans seem to be strange people; we get quite a lot of them visiting Vancouver island in their implausibly large trucks and near Texan loudness. Occasionally some will buy a nice mountainside lot, with plenty of trees in order to build a house. First job is always to cut down the trees and level the lot as much a possible. I have two neighbours that have done that. Very odd. I guess they’re just used to images like the one above that they think a trees natural state is ‘logged’.

  32. kraut says

    “Shame on you, Canada and US!”

    and fuck you. Get rid of your vehicle, oil guzzling public transport, electrical generation by diesel power, transportation by either diesel engines or truck and then you can fucking complain about an industry that supplies what WE ALL use and need
    considering the current infrastructure and global economy.

    There is NO, and I mean absolutely NO alternative available at present or in the near future (10 – 20 years) that can replace a primary mobile energy source like oil (included refined products diesel and gas).

    There are technological changes in the works to rely more on subsurface extraction, treating the ponds so the waste can be used.
    There is also no clear evidence that any of the waste actually pollutes any rivers at present, that has to be studied further.

    The oil sands are nothing new, just the scale has increased.
    Those advocating shutting down the oil sands (I am not talking about anyone from the US, they can scream all they want, closing the sands will not affect them economically, it just keeps the Arabs happy) – just what the fuck do you want to do with thousands of then unemployed, who with actual production and servicing that industry keep Canad a place that can afford health care, decent roads and infrastructure?

    Overall I am astonished and dismayed of the pure gut reaction by those here who label themselves scientifically inclined and skeptical to jump without further investigation onto the NO TAR SANDS bandwagon, but keep happily using all the oil powered infrastructure of our societies.
    To those, including PZ, I can only conclude with a happy” fuck you arseholes.

  33. kraut says

    “Albertans seem to be strange people”

    Don’t worry, I am living in Fort St. John that keeps the lower mainland and everything south of Prince George in cash and we up here think that folks from the lower mainland and the Islands are weird.

  34. Justin says

    AH HAVE MAH THINGS!! DON’T MAKE ME GIVE UP MAH THINGS! Even if it means the destruction of our civilization.

  35. sprocket says

    It’s the “Oil Sands” not the Tar Sands

    The term “Tar Sands” goes back to the 1970’s and is also acceptable terminology.

  36. kreativekaos says

    kitt2 @ 39:
    Oil sands, tar sands or, more technically, bituminous sands, are a type of unconventional petroleum deposit. The oil sands are loose sand or partially consolidated sandstone containing naturally occurring mixtures of sand, clay, and water, saturated with a dense and extremely viscous form of petroleum technically referred to as bitumen (or colloquially tar due to its similar appearance, odour and colour). Natural bitumen deposits are reported in many countries, but in particular are found in extremely large quantities in Canada –Wikipedia

    No need to quibble about a close three letter descriptor, fairly commonly used interchangeably in this case.

  37. mildlymagnificent says

    Being neither Canadian nor USAnian my experience may not be relevant. But here in Australia I have solar on my roof, only enough for about half of my current consumption for the time being. By the time we’ve upgraded insulation and other bits of this house, that will go up to 70 or 80+%. Maybe 100+% during summer days that aren’t the fourth or fifth day of a heatwave. And the balance? Our state supply is currently 25% wind.

    I see no reason why people can’t move onto similar profiles suitable for their area. And EVs and hybrids have to be a good investment in any place where renewables are coming on line. Even if the power initially came from a fossil carbon emitting supply, the longer the car is held, the higher the proportion of power coming from renewables. If we envisage neighbourhods and commercial facilities in 10 years time, I’m pretty sure most of us would expect car recharge facilities at offices and shopping centres.

    I’m also expecting good power storage both for balancing large scale grid problems with fluctuating wind as well as household and street scale storage and buffering to become more and more available and affordable.

  38. Amphiox says

    And EVs and hybrids have to be a good investment in any place where renewables are coming on line.

    A small correction – only plug-in hybrids.

    In regular hybrids, the batteries are charged solely from the gas engine. Efficiency is obtained because electric motor support allows for the gas engine to run more exclusively in high efficiency modes and for the gas engine to be smaller.

    But the energy source is still 100% gasoline/fossil fuel and thus would not be impacted in any way from renewables coming on-line for the regular power grid.

  39. says

    I am sure a man as smart as yourself would be able to explain to myself and others here just what you would do to replace these resources that allow for the standards of living enjoyed by all of us.

    Perhaps wind power? […] Solar? […] Hydroelectric? […] Nuclear? […] Wave power?

    Yes?

    Along with geothermal, cellulosic ethanol, biomass, and whatever else can come up with…

    Any and all, wherever applicable, as much as possible and as quickly as possible.

    We can’t altogether quit fossil fuel cold turkey, but we can and should do everything we can to replace it where we can, and minimize it where we can’t.

  40. Amphiox says

    @44;

    Right, kraut.

    So, the extraction of oil sands is COMPLETELY BEYOND CRITICISM IN ALL ITS ASPECTS just because we need to use oil, hmm?

    Like, with a slight expenditure of a little bit more money (hence, greed) the extraction could be done with much less environmental impact. Like those open sludge ponds (in which migrating ducks die within seconds upon landing), which aren’t in fact necessary as there are other ways to dispose of the waste. And the wholesale destruction of those trees? That wasn’t necessary either. Not if the company were willing pay a little bit more to extract the resource, and consumers were willing to pay a little bit more for their gas.

    But no, to even draw attention to that is off limits for you. It’s hypocrisy for you because, you know, we still need to use the gas. Don’t question. Don’t criticism. Just consume.

    And the slightest bit of criticism of the methods of extraction automatically equals NO TAR SANDS, as if the issue were a binary one.

    And you have the nerve to call yourself a rational thinker, or to cast aspersions on us in the realm of scientific thinking and skepticism.

    You, as demonstrated by the utter and pathetic ignorance of your rant @44, don’t even know what those terms mean.

  41. kreativekaos says

    kraut @ 44:

    You seem to miss the entire point of factors like, direction, incentives (or lack of) to begin shifting to alternatives and long-term results of continuing to rely on a fossil fuel basis.
    It’s about choices, funding and movement–not stagnation and acceptance of a century-plus energy technology.

    And there is the opinion that we will need fossil fuels to continue to fill the gap until appropriate alternatives can be developed or ramped up practically and economically. Gee,..I wonder if the planetary climate systems have 50-100 to years to wait, as population and consumption continue to increase?

    The US has virtually ignored funding in intensive alternative energy research for at least 20 of the past 30 years. We had 8 years of a President (Reagan) who didn’t give a damn about scientific advancement and research into alternatives, but rather chose to spend huge sums to fund a ‘fail from the start’ Strategic Defense Initiative, as well as tax breaks for the rich.
    And we’re now on the verge of voting in another short sighted conservative who would likely drag his feet on addressing the pressing problems of energy and climate change.

    There are many, though certainly no where near enough, who ‘get it’, and making personal choice in the direction of lifestyle changes, and voluntary changes in how and with whom they source their energy. And although there are some tax incentives in place for solar, wind and energy conservation technologies, we need competent and aggressive national leadership and funding to begin deal with corporate greed and denialism of all types to pull out of from yoke of fossil fuels. Over the long haul, either you support and encourage movement out of fossil fuels or you don’t. Job loss in this area is inevitable, as are new jobs in the many varied alternatives as they come online. And frankly, if there is a continuing resistance to getting a grip on greenhouse gas pollution and climate change, a long-term increasing disruption of climate stability will inevitably affect jobs and lives.

    Also,.. take a listen to some of the latest commentary by even the more timid climatologists, who are linking the most recent extreme weather patterns with the increasing average global temperature (or do you fall into the ‘denialist’ camp?)

    Overall I am astonished and dismayed of the pure gut reaction by those here who label themselves scientifically inclined and skeptical to jump without further investigation onto the NO TAR SANDS bandwagon, but keep happily using all the oil powered infrastructure of our societies.

    Yeah,… and who, to some degree, encourages ‘using all the oil powered infrastructure of our societies’, while discouraging, ignoring, obfuscating (their good at that) measures, programs, research and incentives that would enlighten our populace about the seriousness of these issues?– Industry, corporations, advertising. I think it could be safely said that there is financial incentive to maintain unfettered and guiltless consumption of energy and product, as many of our conservative politicians, pundits and electorate seem to support, directly or indirectly with their rhetoric–(after all, we’re Americans, and we’re entitled to whatever we want, whenever we want it, right?)

    -Energy conservation programs? (I’m not changing my lifestyle!)
    -Intensive alternative energy research? (Government waste!)

  42. Amphiox says

    We can’t altogether quit fossil fuel cold turkey, but we can and should do everything we can to replace it where we can, and minimize it where we can’t.

    We can start by extracting the oil that we do need in a more environmentally responsible way to start with.

    It’s actually true that at present oil has a number of advantages that no other alternative can match.

    It has a higher energy density than any other chemical fuel source that is readily available. A gas tank weighs less and contains more stored energy by an order of magnitude than the very best battery.

    The rate of energy you can extract from it by burning it vastly exceeds the rate at which you can extract energy from any renewal source, such as solar or wind.

    It’s liquid so it is easy to contain and transport.

    It’s noncorrosive, so you can move it vast distances with pipelines with a minimum of maintenance and much less risk of leakage, unlike ethanol which is much more corrosive and much harder to transport as a result (and has a much lower energy density as well).

    I don’t actually think we’ll ever, at least in the foreseeable future, replace oil for uses such as in airplanes. There just isn’t anything else that has sufficient energy-to-weight, unless someone makes a breakthrough in liquid nuclear fuel.

    In fact, if we could find a way to manufacture oil or something like it from renewable energy sources (using the oil as the storage and transport method) in a carbon neutral fashion (that’s basically what cellulosic ethanol is, except in a liquid form that’s not as advantageous as oil) that would probably end up being the most advantageous way to achieve longterm energy sustainability.

  43. chigau (棒や石) says

    I will catch up but that first photo looked like the “chop-stick” pile at any Weyerhaeuser site.

  44. dave3000 says

    Jeez I hate when people post some close up pics and shout “oh noes we are destroying the world!” Of course I think we should be pursuing green energy sources but in the meantime the world needs this oil and this is not as bad as some people would make it out to be.

    Here’s some quick research:

    Is it killing the forest?

    The oil sand deposits are huge – they cover over 20% of the province – but Canada’s boreal forest is incredibly big – over 6 million sq km. The currently mined area is 602 sq km – only 0.0001% of the forest. Even if over the next 100 years we mine all the feasibly mineable area it would amount to only 0.005% of the forest. That ignores any reclamation efforts. This also ignores the increasingly used in-situ steam extraction process which leaves the trees intact. So in the grand scale of things we are taking about a very, very tiny percentage of trees.

    Water?

    Yes the current process uses a lot of water. However it currently is less than 1% of the Athabasca River’s annual flow. Water recycling is increasing every year and water consumption will drop. Water pollution is heavily over-hyped as well. The oil sands were naturally leaching oil in the surrounding rivers for thousands of years before any development occurred. There may be some additional pollution but it’s not the environmental catastrophe that some people are making it out to be.

    Greenhouse gases?

    This area is probably the worst of the bunch. It takes a lot of energy (natural gas) to process the oil. It takes up to 20% more energy to produce a barrel of oil-sands oil vs regular oil. It just because the production is concentrated in one place that it looks much worse than compared to other energy sources. Again the efficiency of the extraction process is going up every year which means less greenhouse gases per barrel will be emitted.

    Again I’m not defending the continued reliance on non-renewable resources. I’m just trying to put the scale of this in perspective.

    Sources:

    http://www.borealcanada.ca/boreal-regions-e.php
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athabasca_oil_sands
    http://environment.gov.ab.ca/info/library/8042.pdf
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_sands#Environmental_issues

  45. bcskeptic says

    @37: Right on. I would’ve thought PZ and this crowd would take a more scientific approach than generally shown here.

    That being said, governments *could* choose a different course to put incentives in place for a more concerted development of alternative energy sources. Higher gas taxes for one; larger tax incentives for distributed energy production like solar panels, geothermal heating/cooling, biomass etc. etc.

    What it takes is political will, and a populace that will support that will, requiring a populace that actually understands and believes the science of global warning and that life as we know it is unsustainable and we’re all fucked if we don’t do something. Until that happens, no politician is going to stick her neck out to get lopped off by a scientifically illiterate public.

    Depressing I’d say.

  46. kraut says

    dave3000 – thanks for some sanity.
    Of course I am for increased funding for alternate resources – but please, don’t think that wind and solar with present technology are anything positive.
    Calculate the cost of a wind turbine, the cost of its set up and the fact that the damn thing has a lifetime of about 10 years vs. its actual production – think it is cheap or environmentally friendly? Same as the stupid claim that hybrids are in any way friendly, or that electric powered cars are environmentally friendly. Check out production, transportation routes to put one of those things together, and the incidental input of non renewables. Think again.

    What the bloody fuck think you will produce power to for electric vehicles? Or produces hydrogen?
    Power plants taking away agricultural viable land, forests, valleys, wildlife habitat – I know, because in my area two dams already have destroyed beautiful valleys, and another one will come no doubt – ever heard of site C damn, Williston Lake, Dinosaur Lake – there you fools , that is were power for California comes from – not to mention Enron still owes BC several 100 millions.

    You really think hydrogen is a solution? Ever heard of the law of thermodynamics – you cant get more energy out of the process than you put into it? So, hydrogen is a loosing proposition, getting less energy out of it then what you put in to produce it. Simple, ain’t it? Same with bio fuels, big smokescreen with not much to show for. At best 20% loss of output vs. input – keep on dreaming, but the alternates we have so far do not cut it. None of them.

    And those evil billowing “smokestacks – nothing but goddamn bloody water vapour, the shit that comes out of your hydrogen powered car or your high efficiency mod con boiler or 96% furnace.
    Part of the process heat that in many refineries here in Canada is already captured in co gen.plants.
    Man, are you guys fucking stupid….

  47. kraut says

    Ah – and don’t get me onto geothermals – another fraud if there ever was one, 40 – 50 grand to heat a house with equipment replaceable after 10 years – man, what a waste of fucking money.

    I am a salesman and designer and installer for home heating systems, and I like underfloor hydroniks with hi eff. mod con boilers – NG usually.After my first three day course into geothermals basically all of the twenty contractor present had one conclusion – a scam job replacing about 30%-40 max of the energy with ground heat – thats it, people, fucking 40% max. savings and you spend about three times what a regular heating system for NG costs – oh, be so fucking proud of your non existing knowledge about alternates.

  48. Maureen Brian says

    Sorry, djinnanetonics, but I spent most of the summer – in Europe – being flooded over and over again. Why? Because the jet stream which usually lopes along as a wavy line just clipping the top of Scotland every few days developed great sweeps and loops. Most of the time it was going North to South or South to North, with disastrous effects.

    Yes, that’s the same jet stream which is part of current weather events on the US East coast.

    I tell you what! You find a way to hermetically seal off Alberta and then you can do what the fuck you like with it.

    Until then it’s one planet, one weather system and you have to live with that fact that I get a say, too. As does PZ!

  49. kraut says

    2.730 gWhrs – that is the production of the G.M.Shrum power station. That mean 2730 wind turbines at a cost of 1.0 Mio/piece.
    2.230 billion$, about 1/3 of what a dam costs that has a lifetime (at present) of fifty years and going strong, for another fifty?

    Windgenerators last about ten years. So in the end at least three times the cost of hydro power, which uses a big land base.
    How many total watts do the oilsands produce?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_sands

    One barrel oil is equivalent to 1.7mWh (efficiency input vs. output is at about 1/6) the daily production amounts to about 92 gWh, about 40 times that of one of the biggest producers in BC.

    Imagine to produce that by alternate sources…
    Conclusion: stop talking, stop heating your houses, stop traveling, grow your own food, don’t buy anything form foreign countries or from beyond a days ride,walk to work and then you can demand to shut the oilsands down. Otherwise – just shut the fuck up.

  50. says

    kraut #64:

    Conclusion: stop talking, stop heating your houses, stop traveling, grow your own food, don’t buy anything form foreign countries or from beyond a days ride,walk to work and then you can demand to shut the oilsands down. Otherwise – just shut the fuck up.

    Why don’t you, and every other OMFSM REEEL SKEPTIK in here, just stop fucking ‘splaining for the tar sands?

  51. yngvebae says

    Because the only way one can criticise tar sands is if we are willing to live in a cave.

    I agree that we do not have a good alternative to fossil fuels when it comes to transportation and several other areas. That does not mean, however, that it is ok to burn every last bit of oil and coal that is in the ground. I have few doubts that we will burn every last drop, but it is not something to be proud of.

  52. chrisdevries says

    What people on both sides of the environmental debate (between conserve and exploit) commonly don’t realise (or if they realise it, they rarely articulate it in the media) is that conservation’s real value to humanity is not in protecting a bunch of endangered species, or stopping deforestation (or any other goal of the environmental movement). The environmentalist position is fundamentally an anthropocentric one: if we don’t mitigate the impacts we are having on the Earth, its species and its systems, it will be the end of us as a species. Period.

    One advantage of being educated in the geological sciences is that I can try and see the world through the lens of geological time, and it is my opinion that there is basically nothing that humanity can do to this planet that will prevent life from re-colonising it at some point. Even global nuclear war won’t kill everything. There are habitats that would be protected from radiation and there are species that have resistance to its deadly effects. A new ecology would quickly become established, and the Earth would see a gradual diversification of life with time. As half-lives ticked by, more areas of the Earth would become available for radiation-vulnerable species; migration into these zones would be preferable to the immense competition for resources species would face in the habitats they evolved in, but it would still provide for new selection pressures and the evolution of new forms.

    So the ecology we rely on now could be almost totally obliterated by human activity and still there would be a resurgence of life over millions of years, life that could easily match the quantity and diversity of life forms seen today. We know this because there have been quite a few extinction events (both massive ones and limited ones) in the history of the Earth; life always finds a way to come back. But it would be life without homo sapiens.

    Many people say “nah, there’s no way we’ll go extinct! We’ll find ways of surviving without the natural systems we depend on today, because…technology! Human ingenuity and creativity!”, and I agree that we have enough tenacity to struggle through a crappy, super-polluted, nearly lifeless world for a long period of time, but there is no way we can do this forever. How much harder would it be for the people who make this claim to start using some of that ingenuity to ensure that our forebears don’t have to live on a shithole planet?

    Like PZ said…greed and shortsightedness are the problem, and they are almost certainly going to be the character flaws that, if not overcome, will secure our place in the annals of extinct vertebrates.

  53. Old At Heart says

    NUCLEAR.
    NU-CLEE-ARRR.

    “Oh no, wind is pricy” “Oh no, the SUN will burn out!” “Oh no, our dams will kill wildlife!” “Oh no! Think of the geo-heat!”


    First of all, a geothermal power plant and geothermal flooring are VERY different animals. That out of the way…

    There has not been a single meltdown of a nuclear reactor in the past 25 years that hasn’t been past its useful life. Past its expiration date. The Fukushima 50? All still alive. But its the one thing Big Oil and Big Green both hate: An alternative that is safer than oil, less environmentally damaging, cheaper, and just as reliable for most purposes (cars comprise a paltry amount of our energy use).

    Noooo-Cleeee-Arrrrr.

    Say it with me tarfolks of Alberta!

    Nu-cle-ar! Nu-cle-ar!

    …But what about radioactivity?
    COAL PLANTS GIVE OFF MORE RADS, THAT’S A FACT. GROW UP AND SMELL THE THORIUM SALTS!

  54. unclefrogy says

    look Kraut you do not seem to understand the real world very well. No one can tell anyone else to “shut the fuck up” and expect them to do that. It has been pointed out that it is not a binary problem, do you know what that means? It means either or, two choices because there are many other things to do and many ways to do things. The oil companies and most of the corporate world is focused on quarterly profits and stock price though the oil companies are forced to do long range planing. They are not as interested in perfection or zero impact they are interested in the lowest bid the lowest cost the law will allow their looking for cheap. For them it seems more cost effective to influence the law rather then to spend more money on cleaner production.
    I took the Tar sands as used here as an example of gross energy production same as mountain top removal for coal would be.
    Stop being so fuckin defensive there are a problems with how we do things. The results are not dependent on our motivations or our intentions but on our actual actions. We need to change how we do things if you are an engineer it is just a problem with more elements than two use your fuckin head not your threatened ego! Solve the fuckin problem or at least help. complaining of criticism will get us no where.
    uncle frogy

  55. bad Jim says

    How hard is it to understand that this isn’t about sin?

    What you do and what I do is of course endlessly interesting, but what finally matters is what we all wind up doing together. Anyone who is passionately fascinated with the personal behavior of a political opponent to the exclusion of the policies being advocated is invited to explore the thrill of a self-administered probe with an untwisted and unlubricated …

    Seriously. Sure, any one of us can feel better about every step we take to minimize our harm, but that’s about it. We have to get everyone on board to make a difference. Or, you know, penalize or criminalize destructive behavior, the same way we do with everything else.

  56. Rasmus says

    Kraut:

    dave3000 – thanks for some sanity.
    Of course I am for increased funding for alternate resources – but please, don’t think that wind and solar with present technology are anything positive.
    Calculate the cost of a wind turbine, the cost of its set up and the fact that the damn thing has a lifetime of about 10 years vs. its actual production – think it is cheap or environmentally friendly? Same as the stupid claim that hybrids are in any way friendly, or that electric powered cars are environmentally friendly. Check out production, transportation routes to put one of those things together, and the incidental input of non renewables. Think again.

    Wind turbines are designed to last 20 years on average. I think that is a conservative estimate. They will probably last longer than that on average. (Don’t come back with some crappy example of one wind turbine that failed after a year. It would be a strange world where all machines survived their first year of operation.)

    Hybrids and battery electrics are cleaner than petrol or diesel cars under most circumstances, although there are places where the elctricity generation is dirty enough that hybrids and electrics are worse than efficient petrol/diesel cars. The environmental impact of building a hybrid or all electric is almost neglible compared to the impact of driving it. You’re not exactly the first person to think of that aspect. How about you go investigate?

    What the bloody fuck think you will produce power to for electric vehicles? Or produces hydrogen?
    Power plants taking away agricultural viable land, forests, valleys, wildlife habitat – I know, because in my area two dams already have destroyed beautiful valleys, and another one will come no doubt – ever heard of site C damn, Williston Lake, Dinosaur Lake – there you fools , that is were power for California comes from – not to mention Enron still owes BC several 100 millions.

    EVs store energy and that makes them ideally suited to be charged by intermittent sources. You could charge them off wind power during the night and solar during the day. And natural gas of course. Most of our energy is used for other things than driving cars and to be honest most of that energy is probably going to come from natural gas for the forseeable future, if we care about the enviroment. If we don’t give a fuck we could also burn oil, unconventional oil, coal, lignite, wooden houses, food, pets, grandparents, children… Just because something burns doesn’t mean that it’s nice to burn it!

    Nuclear would be a nice thing to have if we lived in a world where people were rational about risk.

    You really think hydrogen is a solution? Ever heard of the law of thermodynamics – you cant get more energy out of the process than you put into it? So, hydrogen is a loosing proposition, getting less energy out of it then what you put in to produce it. Simple, ain’t it? Same with bio fuels, big smokescreen with not much to show for. At best 20% loss of output vs. input – keep on dreaming, but the alternates we have so far do not cut it. None of them.

    Who said hydrogen is the solution?

    I don’t know if a hydrogen economy could ever work and what technology might allow it to work, but with the technology that we have now hydrogen is a great thing when it comes in groups of four attached to a carbon atom, also known as methane. The world’s natural gas reserves will power the planet for centuries and the reserves are growing by the day as exctraction technology improves and more is discovered. Go look for some natural gas in Alberta instead of that nasty black stuff you’re pumping up now!

    And those evil billowing “smokestacks – nothing but goddamn bloody water vapour, the shit that comes out of your hydrogen powered car or your high efficiency mod con boiler or 96% furnace.
    Part of the process heat that in many refineries here in Canada is already captured in co gen.plants.
    Man, are you guys fucking stupid….

    No, it’s mostly water. It’s not “nothing but water”. Although methane is by far the best fossil fuel and arguably the best fuel period for most uses, it still produces quite a bit of CO2 per unit of heat generated.

    Ah – and don’t get me onto geothermals – another fraud if there ever was one, 40 – 50 grand to heat a house with equipment replaceable after 10 years – man, what a waste of fucking money.

    I am a salesman and designer and installer for home heating systems, and I like underfloor hydroniks with hi eff. mod con boilers – NG usually.After my first three day course into geothermals basically all of the twenty contractor present had one conclusion – a scam job replacing about 30%-40 max of the energy with ground heat – thats it, people, fucking 40% max. savings and you spend about three times what a regular heating system for NG costs – oh, be so fucking proud of your non existing knowledge about alternates.

    Did these three days involve reading studies? If not, how do you know that it’s geothermal energy that sucks and not the companies that you sell for that suck at geothermal? I’ll grant you that natural gas heating is a good technology. And you don’t even have access to methane fuel cells yet which may soon allow you to make reasonably clean electricity in the home in addition to heating. That does not necessarily mean that all heat capture solutions are always bad in all situations. Let’s look at the data before we decide.

  57. says

    Rasmus #71:

    The world’s natural gas reserves will power the planet for centuries and the reserves are growing by the day as exctraction technology improves and more is discovered.

    I hope that your “improvements” do not include the water-table-contaminating method known as hydraulic fracturing.

  58. Matt Penfold says

    There has not been a single meltdown of a nuclear reactor in the past 25 years that hasn’t been past its useful life. Past its expiration date. The Fukushima 50? All still alive. But its the one thing Big Oil and Big Green both hate: An alternative that is safer than oil, less environmentally damaging, cheaper, and just as reliable for most purposes (cars comprise a paltry amount of our energy use).

    When you say stuff that is so obviously untrue, do you really expect to be taken seriously ?

  59. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    Oh, you mean like being able to fly hither and thither every couple of weeks?

    Because it’s totally reasonable to hold one individual responsible for what can only be solved by top-down public policy. – Josh, OfficialSpokesGay

    It’s totally reasonable to hold individuals responsible for their own contribution to the problem; and if you’re going to (rightly) protest about such issues, it’s a lot more convincing if you have taken steps to reduce your own energy consumption. Otherwise, it’s just one more example of: “This is a serious problem – let someone else do something about it”, which we see at all levels from individuals to governments.

  60. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    People see the tailings ponds and the immediate emotional reaction is that whatever has caused this monstrosity must be stopped, but what they don’t understand is that it is an incredibly necessary step in allowing the land to be reclaimed and return to the state it was before the oilsands moved in, and i cannot stress this next point enough, Without all the Oil that was near the surface in the first place.

    I may not know a lot about biology but i’m pretty sure that having heavy oils in the upper layers of clay under forest soil can’t be good for any plants that do in fact grow there. -djinnanetoniks

    Ah, so the oil companies are not doing this because it’s extremely profitable, and stuff the environmental consequences, but out of the pure goodness of their corporate heart, to help the poor plants. Sorry I hadn’t understood that.

    (Seriously, are you stupid, or a corporate shill? It’s clearly one or the other.)

  61. sheila says

    Talking of alternatives, here’s an island that’s planning to get all its electric from renewables and shut down the fossil fuel plant next year: http://elhierro.sheilacrosby.com/?p=28

    It is possible. It even saves money, because (duh!) once the things built, you don’t have to import oil any more.

  62. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    The oil sand deposits are huge – they cover over 20% of the province – but Canada’s boreal forest is incredibly big – over 6 million sq km. The currently mined area is 602 sq km – only 0.0001% of the forest. – dave3000

    When you get your figures wrong by a factor of 100 (600 is .01% of 6,000,000), it’s a pretty good sign that you needn’t be taken seriously.

  63. SteveV says

    Um. I recall John Morales getting his figures wrong by a factor of 10^150.
    Do you take him 10^148 less seriously?

  64. Rasmus says

    I hope that your “improvements” do not include the water-table-contaminating method known as hydraulic fracturing.

    I’m afraid it does. Nobody knows exactly how bad fracking is, but even if you think that the most alarmist of the opponents have the right numbers then the impact is still much lower than that of coal and unconventional oil and probably conventional oil too.

    I think the thing to do is to outlaw extraction and burning of different fossil fuels in descending order of harmfulness, starting with lignite and ending with conventional natural gas.

    And yeah, there is so much natural gas in the ground that we can’t afford to burn most of it. I don’t actually think that it’s a good idea to run the economy on natural gas for centuries. All I’m saying is that the world’s natural gas reserves are large enough that we don’t need coal and oil.

  65. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    There has not been a single meltdown of a nuclear reactor in the past 25 years that hasn’t been past its useful life. Past its expiration date. The Fukushima 50? All still alive. But its the one thing Big Oil and Big Green both hate: An alternative that is safer than oil, less environmentally damaging, cheaper, and just as reliable for most purposes (cars comprise a paltry amount of our energy use). – Old At Heart

    What a load of crap. If the Fukushima reactors were past their useful life, why were they still being used? Transport accounts for around 1/4 of global energy usage, and almost all of that currently uses fossil fuels. Much of industry’s share (also around 1/4) is also in the form of oil or gas. If nuclear energy were really cheaper than oil (leaving out the environmental costs of both), then it would be rapidly displacing it. As for “Big Green”, that’s just a propagandistic canard – it’s telling that you don’t even try to identify who this “Big Green” is – because, of course, you can’t. What Fukushima did was to show that whatever your disaster, nuclear power can make it worse: while it is claimed that it killed no-one, the Japanese government was obliged, at a time of utmost national crisis, to divert huge resources to preventing an even worse disaster than the tsunami, and could not send help to the worst affected regions by the shortest route, because that led through the area at risk; we have no idea how many lives were lost as a result. It also showed that the nuclear industry maintains its long tradition of cutting corners, corrupting politicians, and lying about safety issues. Fish from the area has now been found to be still contaminated, probably in part from radioactively polluted groundwater. Nuclear power also has a close connection with the danger of nuclear weapons proliferation – the materials, skills and technologies have a large overlap – as is shown by the genuine uncertainty whether Iran is aiming to build nuclear weapons.

    We should not scrap existing nuclear plants (other than in response to acute safety issues) if the replacement would be fossil fuel plants – but pouring more money into new plants is, apart from anything else, a waste of resources that would be better employed in reducing energy consumption, and developing renewables and energy storage technologies. The fiasco of the Olkiluoto 3 plant in Finland, supposed to be the demonstration that nuclear plants can be built on time and on budget, but now grossly over budget and with no timetable for completion (it was supposed to come on-stream in 2009 but the 2014 target has now been abandoned), instead demonstrates the exact opposite.

  66. SteveV says

    Nick Gotts@81,
    Now there you’ve got me. It was years ago and I only remember it because it prompted me to delurk for the first time.
    I do recall asking if he had String Theory envy.

  67. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    Sure, any one of us can feel better about every step we take to minimize our harm, but that’s about it. We have to get everyone on board to make a difference. Or, you know, penalize or criminalize destructive behavior, the same way we do with everything else. – bad Jim

    True, but individual example is an important part of the process to move us in that direction. This can be seen in the case of secondhand tobacco smoke: in a number of countries, it is now illegal to smoke in enclosed public places – but it was only possible to pass and enforce such laws because increasing numbers of individuals recognised that they had a right not to breathe smoke, or that they had no right to make others breathe their smoke. If those who campaign for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can be seen to be responsible for high emissions themselves, and not to be trying to reduce them, accusations of hypocrisy are easy to make, and impossible to refute.

  68. SteveV says

    Crossposted from Another Place

    Depressing. The climate change/energy debate is so very important and yet it’s suseceptible to factual analysis, but still we seem to end up with the sort of angry screaming that just drives people into bunkers.
    (oh dear, am I tone trolling?)
    My position is pretty inclusive – if our aim is to maximise human happiness then we need a certain amount of energy. Exactly how much energy depends on many factors, but it should be possible to calculate a minimum figure at least. In the long term we need to reduce our numbers quite drasticaly, because the perfectly natural asperation of “Third World” peoples for “First World” living standards cannot be acheived as things stand. In the meantime we need to find ways of generating enough energy to stave off economic and civilization collapse (yes, sometimes I am that pessimistic!) without bringing about that same collapse from other causes.
    We will need all of the energy technologies to do this.

  69. throwaway, these are not the bullies you're looking for says

    accusations of hypocrisy are easy to make, and impossible to refute.

    and completely ad hominem thus irrelevant.

    It’s like a vegan telling a meat-eater not to complain about where their meat comes from because they still eat meat. Absolutely ludicrous.

  70. throwaway, these are not the bullies you're looking for says

    Let me clarify that analogy a bit better: the meat eater in this instance has no viable alternative to the meat on the market. The only spots I can see the analogy failing is that meat isn’t necessary for thriving, careers, public service or humanitarian efforts. And the fact that there are more eco-friendly sources of meat available. But meat is still a lot more energy negative and uses energy from fossil-fuels as well. So, stop eating meat guys, or else we can’t take you seriously.

  71. feedmybrain says

    @Nick Gotts

    What Fukushima did was to show that whatever your disaster, nuclear power can make it worse

    Fukishima showed that there were problems with Fukishima, how many tsunamis hit Europe? We’re comfortably in the middle of a plate over here so if your objection is only based on natural disasters then we should be fine.

    It also showed that the nuclear industry maintains its long tradition of cutting corners, corrupting politicians, and lying about safety issues.

    I’m not sure who is running ‘The nuclear industry’ but if tighter regulations were introduced would that do? Or is your oppostion ideological?

    We should not scrap existing nuclear plants

    Nice of you to let us keep some of our power infrastructure.

  72. julial says

    Recycling won’t do it.
    Conservation won’t do it.
    Renewables won’t do it.
    As an old Malthusian, I’ve only seen one plausible solution.
    STOP BREEDING LIKE FUCKING RABBITS!
    Well, actually there is one other answer, dying a lot more.
    And the answer is on the horizon.
    The ‘nice’ solution is bioengineered virally vectored immune mediated contraception. Drop human fertility by 90% for two generations and we’re down to a sustainable 100 million or so. Yes, libertarians, this does constitute forced sterilization, but at least it would pretty much equally affect everyone.
    The ‘nasty’ solution is a similarly engineered plague. Pick your poison; smallpox, ebola, something else. Whether it comes from a military program or just some wacko supergreen terrorist group doesn’t matter once it’s distributed.
    Or the natural, therefor morally good(sic), answer of doing nothing and watching climate change and the desertification of our corn growing acreage drop food production to a point where we cannot sustain our finely tuned technological civilization. Unfortunately, in that scenario, religion wins because it is so much easier to maintain than science. None of that expensive education and equipment to maintain, don’t you know.
    Sorry, I’ve gotten a little dark and cynical after watching the baby toddle towards the cliff for 60 years.

  73. frankathon says

    Haven’t read the thread, too tiered.

    THANK YOU for bringing attention to this and you should see the agreement the Cons are trying to pass through with China.

    Just know that the Harper Cons dont give a rats ass about the environement. How many years till next election? Not that it matters they rigg the elections every time… *cough* Robocalls!

    We’re doomed.

  74. Rasmus says

    As an old Malthusian, I’ve only seen one plausible solution.
    STOP BREEDING LIKE FUCKING RABBITS!

    Okay. Done, with the exception of countries where having at least one son who grows up to make a decent living is the only way to secure an income past your retirement. I guess we should help those countries to get a functioning society and allow women to make money.

    Then what?

  75. Matt Penfold says

    What a load of crap. If the Fukushima reactors were past their useful life, why were they still being used?

    A few months before the tsunami the Japanese regulators had granted a 10 year operating licence extension in respect of reactor 1 so it was clearly not passed its useful life!

  76. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    accusations of hypocrisy are easy to make, and impossible to refute.

    and completely ad hominem thus irrelevant. – throwaway

    Don’t be idiotic; the fact that it’s a fallacy doesn’t mean it’s not an effective rhetorical tactic. Many, many people are looking for any excuse not to take anthropogenic climate change and the other environmental problems caused by fossil fuels seriously; hypocrisy gives them one.

    Fukishima showed that there were problems with Fukishima, how many tsunamis hit Europe? We’re comfortably in the middle of a plate over here so if your objection is only based on natural disasters then we should be fine. – feedmybrain

    Yes, your brain evidently needs a lot of feeding. Since I made clear (a) that it was far from my only objection, giving details of what some of the other objections are and (b) that we should not close existing nuclear plants if the alternative is fossil fuel, it’s clear that either you didn’t read my comment, or can’t answer it rationally. One further problem I did not mention is the terrorist threat: Fukushima made it clear that you don’t need to steal nuclear material or sabotage the reactor itself to cause disaster: just disable the cooling systems. We do have would-be terrorists in Europe, in case you hadn’t noticed.

    I’m not sure who is running ‘The nuclear industry’ but if tighter regulations were introduced would that do? Or is your oppostion ideological?

    No, as I’ve made abundantly clear, it’s pragmatic. In most countries, the nuclear industry is run by private companies. There is a structural problem with regulating it: most types of nuclear power plant are inherently dangerous*, and controlling those dangers properly greatly increases costs and hence reduces profits, so there is a strong incentive to – as I said – cut corners, corrupt politicians, and lie.

    As an old Malthusian, I’ve only seen one plausible solution.
    STOP BREEDING LIKE FUCKING RABBITS!

    Sorry, I’ve gotten a little dark and cynical after watching the baby toddle towards the cliff for 60 years. – julial

    You’ve also evidently taken great care to remain ignorant. The proportional rate of growth of global population peaked in the 1960s at around 2.4% p.a.; since then it has approximately halved, and since some time in the 1990s, absolute population growth has also fallen slightly. There are very few countries which have not seen a considerable fall in the birth rate over the past half century, and most of the growth is now in the poorest countries – whose citizens place use much less energy and other resources than those in rich ones. While demographic projections are always tricky, most relevant experts expect population growth to cease around mid-century. Moreover, we know what to do to encourage this – the most important measure being to improve the status and education of women. Your “plausible solution” is just one more way of passing the buck, and generally comes with a nice side-helping of racism.

    *This is made quite clear by the fact that you simply cannot fully insure nuclear plants against accident in the commercial market.

  77. khms says

    how many tsunamis hit Europe? We’re comfortably in the middle of a plate over here so if your objection is only based on natural disasters then we should be

    I seem to recall that several German reactors are in earthquake country. For that matter, there’s a bloody big mountain range through the middle of the continent – I wouldn’t be so sure “in the middle of a plate” is enough to keep you secure.

    Anyway, we haven’t forgotten Chernobyl, demonstrating that you don’t need natural disasters to create nuclear catastrophes. (And wasn’t Three Mile Island also primarily caused by incompetence?)

    Oh, and you may have heard that the EU recently had a general nuke security check done, to standards widely criticized as far too low – and you know what? Most reactors failed even those standards. Worse, it came out that lots didn’t even follow previous decade-old standards.

    If we could have a nuke industry that followed the rules, maybe we’d be willing to tolerate those nukes more. However, that seems impossible.

    Also, after all these years of having a nuclear industry, Germany has still not managed to find a place where radioactive garbage can safely be deposited permanently. Somewhat of a slight problem there …

  78. Matt Penfold says

    Oh, and the claim Fukushima claimed no casualties is not true.

    Whilst it is true no one died either in the explosions or as a result of radiation poisoning, sick and elderly people died during the evacuation of the area surrounding the plant.

    I have trouble understanding the mentality of someone who thinks those deaths don’t count.

  79. julial says

    Rasmus @91

    Okay. Done

    Done? DONE? We’re done? Thanks for the information. I must have missed it. Perhaps the rate of the rate of increase has decreased?
    I’m going to assume that you meant that you agree with the problem statement, not that anything substantial has been achieved.

  80. says

    just like Kristine Kruszelnicki’s use of shocking abortion imagery, these tailings pond pics don’t make much of an impact on anyone familiar with the Oil Sands fiasco. These kinds of industrial sites are everywhere, all around the world.

  81. julial says

    Nick Gotts (formerly KG)
    @93

    While demographic projections are always tricky, most relevant experts expect population growth to cease around mid-century. Moreover, we know what to do to encourage this – the most important measure being to improve the status and education of women. Your “plausible solution” is just one more way of passing the buck, and generally comes with a nice side-helping of racism.

    I agree. Education, not only of women, is crucial. However, the rates of ecological destabilization (biological diversity destruction, climate change)currently in effect do not allow leisure time to wait for the substantial cultural and the hypothetical demographic shift you describe. Even a slightly larger population is unsustainable at levels of consumption and comfort substantially less than that to which we in the first world have become accustomed.
    Can you show with any supported confidence that it is not already too late? We’re in the middle of (and have probably caused) an extinction event on the order of magnitude of the K/T asteroid strike. The size of this is beyond my direct comprehension. In this I take comfort and rationalize my relative inaction and impotence.
    Regarding your implication of racism, I find that insulting and simply another empty argument which will obstruct effective actions to alleviate the problem.
    That methodological naturalism, and it’s handmaiden, engineering, have over the last couple centuries, unwittingly caused this situation is obvious. What is not so clear is whether or not science can get us back out of the corner we’re in.

  82. Rasmus says

    Done? DONE? We’re done? Thanks for the information. I must have missed it. Perhaps the rate of the rate of increase has decreased?
    I’m going to assume that you meant that you agree with the problem statement, not that anything substantial has been achieved.

    Well I think that the environmental impact is proportional to the size of the population all else being equal.

    The fact is that most of the world is struggling to procreate at replacement rate and the world as a whole is just above replacement rate, trending down towards equilibrium. We’re 7 billion now and we will be 10 billion in 2100 assuming nothing unexpected happens. That’s less than 2% per year. I think that is going to be a manageable rate of change.

    The real problem is that we have corporations feeding us lies about things like being able to drive around everyday in a two tonne SUV and flying intercontinental flights several times a year and eating meat and dairy products several times a day. There is no way that 10 billion people can do that on this planet with any technology that is anywhere close to our current reach.

  83. SteveV says

    That methodological naturalism, and it’s handmaiden, engineering, have over the last couple centuries, unwittingly caused this situation is obvious. What is not so clear is whether or not science can get us back out of the corner we’re in.

    If science and engineering fail then we are truly screwed, just as we are if we despair and don’t even try.

  84. julial says

    Rasmus @99

    The real problem is that we have corporations feeding us lies about things like being able to drive around everyday in a two tonne SUV and flying intercontinental flights several times a year and eating meat and dairy products several times a day.

    Again, I agree that we’re currently stuck with a stubbornly stable culturally persistent market economy. It sucks, but changing it from within looks to be too slow and not very effective. From each according to their ability and to each according to their need is a really nice attitude, just like do unto others… What we haven’t seen is a system able to enact these ideals over time without substantial unpleasant side effects.
    What I’m suggesting is a move of desperation. Cutting off the toddler’s legs to keep it from going over the cliff isn’t nice. Just necessary.

  85. julial says

    SteveV @101

    If science and engineering fail then we are truly screwed, just as we are if we despair and don’t even try.

    I agree agin. If I could think of a more effective method, I wouldn’t be commenting on blogs. I’d do it. I’d REALLY like prayer to work. It just doesn’t and hurts by distracting from more reasonable efforts.
    Maybe we are truly screwed. Can’t worry about it too much. It’ll all work out.
    http://joyreactor.com/post/418988

  86. savant says

    Hi everybody;

    Long time reader first time writer here. Albertan atheist! I’ve worked up in the tar sands and thought I’d give you all a ground-eye-view of the horror that is Fort McMurray, Suncor, Jackpine, and all the other blasted wastes of the Albertan North. Not all negative, but there’s a lot to be unhappy about.

    If you think that the aerial view of that plant is bad – that’s nothing. Driving north from Fort McMurray towards Suncor, you turn a bend and it really does feel like you’re crossing the barrier into hell. It goes from scenic green spruce hills to steel-girded desert in an instant. Reminded me very much of the introductory scene in the movie Avatar, where the shuttlecraft is panning over the jungle and all of a sudden focuses on a black, denuded landscape with a light-festooned steel fortress of evil at its centre.

    These are just the processing plants, though – the desert goes out for kilometers. They have to take off the top layer of soil to get at the tar sand, which is scooped up by shovels and hauled by truck to the plant, where steam separates the tar from the sand.

    The entirety of northeastern Alberta is parceled up into lots that the oil companies will be eventually carving up and boiling down to sand. It’s a deep tragedy, though – well, the oil has always been leaking out of the sand here, and the river has always been full of carcinogens from it. They’re just coming out a heck of a lot faster, and will be here awhile. It’s about 20 years for a tailings pond to settle out to the point where the water is as clean as it was going in, which is why there are so many. The bird defenses on them aren’t too bad these days – random firing air cannons to scare them off are required. Still, it’s a giant poisonous lake, so there’s only so good it can get.

    Environmental concerns are varied. The people working there are uniformly disdainful of climate change and the environment in general – the oil companies own the media, the local government, etc, so completely that there’s a constant stream of low-level denial going on. The itinerant workers vary on that though – there’s about 65,000 people in the region who live in camps and have moved up for work, and they’re much more conscious about what they’re doing. It’s hard to ignore the sudden change from gorgeous wilderness to blasted wasteland, after all. East-coast and BC workers especially will come for the work but at the same time loathe what they’re doing.

    The companies are also varied. Best is, surprisingly, Shell. They actually can up the muskeg in barrels to preserve the microbiota and take extensive photographs of the original environment before they work, and put in a lot of effort to return spent areas to their original state. It’s obviously not the same, but I’ve walked through some of the recovered forest and it doesn’t feel like a quick job. Their recovery teams did a great job, the recovered forests are almost indistinguishable from any other replanted forest out there.

    That’s just one company, though; they aren’t all as good. Strangely enough, one of the sites almost didn’t get turned on again after the 2008 recession. Reason why? It was majority owned by the people of Norway, who were concerned about the environmental impact of reactivating the plant. That one was the last to come back into operation.

    I hope that gives everyone a bit of perspective on the tar sands!

  87. JoeKaistoe says

    This post reeks of sensationalism and has clearly not had the eye of skepticism applied to at least parts of it.

    Specifically, I don’t understand how the use of tailings ponds (or “sludge ponds”) is a criticism of them. This is a common practice across numerous types of mining (including coal and potash) designed to reduce fresh water consumption and reclaim more product. The water that is in those ponds is reused in the plant in lieu of fresh water. The settled contaminants are dredged from these ponds and either reprocessed to regain settled product, or properly dealt with. The death of a large amount of ducks due to adverse weather is trivial when compared to the environmental effects of not using this mining technique.

    The use of the phrase “tar sands” is also disingenuous, as well, used to make it sound worse. The product is Bitumen, which is processed to produce oil. It is not similar to tar.

    I’m not saying I like the oil sands, I’m saying please apply the same amount of skepticism to this as you do to anything else.

  88. Matt Penfold says

    The use of the phrase “tar sands” is also disingenuous, as well, used to make it sound worse. The product is Bitumen, which is processed to produce oil. It is not similar to tar.

    You must have known when you wrote this that it was bullshit, so why did you write it ? Or do you not know that bitumen is a term used to describe naturally occurring viscous deposits of oil in sand ?

  89. feedmybrain says

    Nick Gotts (formerly KG)
    I realise it wasn’t your only objection, a mis-type clearly as I put your next objection just below it.

    Renewables are not currently capable of solving the energy problems and nuclear is cleaner than fossil fuels. It makes sense to use nuclear whilst transitioning. That’s assuming that renewables can ever cope with the world’s energy needs alone. At the moment they’re a long way from doing that, solar power conversion and storage is rising but very slowly and as long as other sources are cheaper there isn’t an impetus to invest more.

    Whilst I’m not discounting the threat of terrorism completely it seems minor. From a 2004 UK report http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/POST-PN-222.pdf

    The core of a nuclear reactor in a power plant contains
    over 100 tonnes of radioactive material at several
    hundred degrees Celsius. Its safety therefore relies on
    controlling the nuclear chain reaction, cooling the reactor
    core and containing the radioactive material. Terrorists
    might attempt to cause a release in two ways:
    • Directly: reactor cores are protected by thick concrete
    shields, so breaching the reactor containment and
    shielding would require a violent impact or explosion.
    • Indirectly: A release might occur if enough critical
    safety systems were damaged, but because of defence
    in depth, this would require a high degree of access,
    co-ordination and detailed plant knowledge.
    Most published commentary focuses on the first
    possibility, particularly on aircraft impact. Different
    studies, discussed in more detail in the full report, draw
    different conclusions depending on the facility in
    question, the type of aircraft, and its speed and angle of
    postnote July 2004 Number 222 Terrorist attacks on nuclear facilities Page 3
    approach. For example, studies carried out for the
    Sizewell B public inquiry conclude that, in a worst case
    scenario, if a military aircraft were to strike the reactor
    building, there would be a 3-4% chance of uncontrolled
    release of radioactive material. The US Nuclear Energy
    Institute rule out breach of a US style reactor
    containment by large commercial aircraft, on the grounds
    that an aircraft would be unlikely to strike at the angles

  90. dave3000 says

    Nick Gotts @77

    When you get your figures wrong by a factor of 100 (600 is .01% of 6,000,000), it’s a pretty good sign that you needn’t be taken seriously.

    Sorry honest mistake – that’s no reason to disregard the main point of my post which was to try to put some honest facts out there to counter the extreme positions on both sides. 0.01% is still a very small part of the forest.

  91. JoeKaistoe says

    @106

    I’m well aware of what bitumen is. I’m also aware of what tar is, are you?

    Tar is a specific thing, and while Bitumen is tar-like in appearance (and is called tar by some), it does not make it tar any more than my calling richardson ground squirrels gophers make them gophers. Scientifically and chemically, it is not tar.

    I did say it is not similar. I should have said it is not chemically similar.

    It is used when referring to the oil sands as an appeal to emotion of people’s perception of tar compared to oil, and thus is as valid in a reasoned argument as, “think of the children!”.

  92. Matt Penfold says

    I’m well aware of what bitumen is. I’m also aware of what tar is, are you?

    We I do yes, but you admit you don’t.

    Tar is a specific thing, and while Bitumen is tar-like in appearance (and is called tar by some), it does not make it tar any more than my calling richardson ground squirrels gophers make them gophers. Scientifically and chemically, it is not tar.

    Now what should have followed here is an apology from you for being an ignorant about the meanings of the word tar.

    You seem unable to cope with even basic standards of decent, or even literacy.

  93. gingerbaker says

    kraut:There is NO, and I mean absolutely NO alternative available at present or in the near future (10 – 20 years) that can replace a primary mobile energy source like oil (included refined products diesel and gas).

    Bullshit.

    We could be 100% renewable in 5 years if we truly wanted to be. If we covered the Mojave Desert with PV panels, we could generate 100% of every calorie of power we needed as a nation for the next ten thousand years. Since we shelled out a few trillion* Federal tax dollars for the infrastructure, the electricity generated should be free – that is, after all, what solar power actually costs – zero.

    That’s right – rip the meters off the walls of our homes and businesses.

    We could employ millions of out-of-work folks retrofitting our homes and businesses to 100& electrical heat, power, cooking solutions. We could employ millions more to add electrical induction-charging under our highways and streets, so that even with the cruddy battery technology we have today, we could have a 100% electrical fleet.

    * yes- it would cost a few trillion dollars. Quite cheap, and peanuts compared to fitting solar to individual rooftops because of huge economy of scale savings. Or, we could fruitlessly continue our current thirty-year-old failed strategy – trying to shoehorn renewables into a fossil-fuel economy that will do anything to resist such change. The cost for failing to keep CO2 emissions to a 2 degree Celcius increase – the current extremely conservative estimate based on our current failed strategy, however, is $1024 trillion. So, you see, it doesn’t pay to squabble over a couple of trillion here or there for infrastructure improvements, does it? No matter what it costs, it is a bargain.

    BTW, nobody has yet to mention the REAL problem with tar sands. And that is that if it is extracted and burned, the resulting CO2 emissions will guarantee the planet will heat up beyond a 5 degree Celcius increase. And that is the end of civilization as we know it. The tar sands, if we are to survive as a species with a functioning civilization – MUST stay in the ground.

    PS – for those of you who would, in good conscious, bewail the destruction of the Mojave ecosystem, I have great news for you. If we don’t hurry up and actually solve the global warming problem, we will have all the desert ecosystems you could ever dream of, because that is exactly what the breadbasket of the U.S. (and Europe and Asia, btw) will become – a desert six times dryer than Oklahoma was during the Dustbowl.

  94. Rasmus says

    It’s easy to make cars that run on methane, of which we have plenty in the ground.

    There is sufficient fossil hydrocarbons in the ground to power the world economy for the foreseeable future and well past the point of peak conventional oil.

    There is also enough fossil hydrocarbons to raise the atmospheric CO2-concentration to a level that is likely to fuck up the climate and the world’s ecosystems beyond anything that we can adapt to. There will be friction while we switch from machines that run on oil to machines that run on natural gas, but all that will do is delay the rise of CO2 levels by a few years.

    Worry about the environmental impact of stuff. The megacorporations will happily do what it takes to solve peak oil without your help, but they won’t fix the climate unless they’re forced to.

  95. Raskos says

    Regarding your implication of racism, I find that insulting and simply another empty argument which will obstruct effective actions to alleviate the problem.

    What you have to realize is that this isn’t an argument, it’s a tactic. You’re supposed to flounder around trying to deal with this very distasteful accusation (probably making yourself look more and more like a racist as you do so – it’s one of those “has your Dad caught you jerking off in the closet yet” verbal traps) and your interlocutor gets to crawl up on the moral high ground, having pulled the mask off your very questionable agenda. It’s a route commonly taken by proliferationists, and you have to admit it’s economical – it saves them having to think up any substantive response to any of your arguments.

  96. unclefrogy says

    julial

    we do not need to make our own plague virus/bacteria evolution is very capable of doing that itself.
    it does not have to be a plague on humans or animals either it could be one that likes grasses to really reduce the population.

    uncle frogy

  97. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    Renewables are not currently capable of solving the energy problems and nuclear is cleaner than fossil fuels. It makes sense to use nuclear whilst transitioning. That’s assuming that renewables can ever cope with the world’s energy needs alone. – feedmybrain

    Longer term (I’d say second half of this century), they most certainly can – specifically, solar power* could easily supply several times the world’s current energy consumption, while the theoretical limit is orders of magnitude greater (see Science special section on Scaling up Alternative Energy, vol 329, pp. 779-803); but it has recently been reported that wind power could do so as well. The biggest problem with both is of course intermittency, but a combination of wide-scale grids, improved storage methods (for example by liquefying air, a very recent technology which has the advantages of being scaleable, transportable, and not using any scarce elements) and intelligent demand scheduling can deal with that. Moreover, both technologies are rapidly improving in efficiency and reducing in price, and can be expected to continue doing so for some time as economies of scale operate. Even apart from its long record of serious safety issues and its proliferation and terrorist problems (I’m unconvinced by your sources on the latter, one of which has an obvious conflict of interest, while we have a long record of assurances about the safety of plants and their “defence in depth” which have turned out to be rubbish), nuclear power is a poor choice “while transitioning” because the power plants simply take too long and cost too much to build. Moreover, there is doubt about whether nuclear fuel reserves are sufficient to replace fossil fuels without depending on experimental or completely untried technologies (fast-breeder reactors, thorium reactors, recovery from seawater**). The capital that would be used for large-scale building of new nuclear plants should go first into demand reduction, and second into renewables.

    I would also stress that because of the urgent nature of the problem (if GHG emissions do not start falling soon after 2020, and reach effectively zero by 2050, we’re in serious trouble), there is no technology or combination of technologies that will prevent dangerous climate change without considerable behavioural change in countries with high per capita emissions.

    *I’m only considering earth-based solar power here. Space-based solar could probably provide vastly more, but obviously is a long-term prospect only.

    **I’m not against research into these technologies, but they are much further from making any significant impact on fossil fuel use than either energy efficiency, solar, or wind.

  98. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    julial,

    However, the rates of ecological destabilization (biological diversity destruction, climate change)currently in effect do not allow leisure time to wait for the substantial cultural and the hypothetical demographic shift you describe.

    Since, as I pointed out, this shift has been underway for half a century, you’re just confirming your ignorance by describing it as “hypothetical”.

    Even a slightly larger population is unsustainable at levels of consumption and comfort substantially less than that to which we in the first world have become accustomed.

    [citation needed]

    Regarding your implication of racism, I find that insulting

    Since what you have proposed is deliberately infecting billions of people with a pathogenic virus, I couldn’t give a shit what you find insulting.

  99. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    What you have to realize is that this isn’t an argument, it’s a tactic. You’re supposed to flounder around trying to deal with this very distasteful accusation (probably making yourself look more and more like a racist as you do so – it’s one of those “has your Dad caught you jerking off in the closet yet” verbal traps) and your interlocutor gets to crawl up on the moral high ground, having pulled the mask off your very questionable agenda. It’s a route commonly taken by proliferationists, and you have to admit it’s economical – it saves them having to think up any substantive response to any of your arguments. – Raskos

    Since I gave substantive arguments, it’s clearly you who has none; and since most population growth is now among non-white populations, it’s quite clear who the accusation of “BREEDING LIKE RABBITS” is aimed at. Besides which, what julial is proposing would be utterly vile even if there was no racist implication.

  100. unclefrogy says

    where would we store or handle the spent 100 tons fuel from nuclear power plant for 100,000 years and why is that cost not included in the cost estimates.

    the “life span” of a wind turbine is 10 years? or more like 20 years?
    does that include the entire tower or just the generator (the bearings, gears and shaft) and/or the composite blades on top?

    just solve the problems or would you rather be rich and starve?

    that is the choice after all.

    uncle frogy

  101. cardinalsmurf says

    Curious! I went to Google Maps to try to find the spot pictured above. I haven’t found it yet, but in the process I stumbled upon a couple curiosities:

    1) Google’s images are washed out to the point where it’s not immediately evident one is looking at sludge ponds. It could easily be mistaken (minus nearby context) for muddy water.

    http://goo.gl/maps/AmFlz

    2) One particular mining site appears to have a strange flaw in the imagery. At mid-range zoom levels it looks normal. When zooming in for a closer look, the top-left section of the site is overlaid by another image, which is wrong. When zooming back and forth from the threshold the incorrect image becomes obvious.

    The exact same location, when viewed through Yahoo Maps it’s evident their maps are much older as the mining site seen in Google’s maps is conspicuously absent. New site?

    The site is north along the highway leaving Fort Mackay and SW/S of Calumet Lake.

    I’m not suggesting any conspiracy, just thought others may also find this curious or have information shedding light on it.

  102. khms says

    I find it interesting that of the people claiming that renewables can’t possibly replace fossil and/or nuclear energy (incidentally, just an older form of fossil: fossilized supernova), none have even tried to comment on the several references to the German situation. Why might that be?

  103. Rasmus says

    the “life span” of a wind turbine is 10 years? or more like 20 years?
    does that include the entire tower or just the generator (the bearings, gears and shaft) and/or the composite blades on top?

    I bet the moving parts wear out first. The tower is a concrete structure and those tend to last 100+ years under most circumstances.

    Speculating, I can’t think of a reason why they couldn’t reuse most of the towers by switching out the worn out generator for a new one. The towers are made up of concrete rings stacked on top of one another, so even if the top of the tower has been damaged by vibrations from the generator they might be able to repair the tower by switching out the rings closest to the top.

  104. savant says

    Curious! I went to Google Maps to try to find the spot pictured above…

    http://goo.gl/maps/AmFlz

    The site is north along the highway leaving Fort Mackay and SW/S of Calumet Lake.

    I’m not suggesting any conspiracy, just thought others may also find this curious or have information shedding light on it.

    You’re looking at Shell’s new expansion, Jackpine. The main plant is on the other side of the road. Jackpine’s probably in operation now, so it’s going to look rather different from what you see there – more roads, trucks, and dug-up areas – but that’s basically right. You can identify the tailings ponds pretty easily because they’re squarish, or at least regularly shaped.

    The overlay is probably just a more-recent satellite pass, though, not a conspiracy. Things go up so quickly in the oil sands that Google Maps really doesn’t work. According to Google, I spent three years up there living in a sand pit instead of a high rise! So yeah, you can only get so much out of Google Maps

  105. julial says

    Nick Gotts (formerly KG) @ 117

    Since, as I pointed out, this shift has been underway for half a century, you’re just confirming your ignorance by describing it as “hypothetical”.

    No, your hypothetical remains that because it projects forward 40 years. My ignorance persists as to what actuality will prevail, as does yours. I trust those predictions with the same confidence with which I trusted the trillions of dollars of American economic surpluses projected during the Clinton administration.
    As to the inability of the planetary resources to support more people at first world levels, I don’t need citations for that any more than I need citations to say that the sky here is blue on a clear day. But quick googling on “how many people can live like americans” yields 2.3E6 hits from which I filtered out one from the first page for you.
    http://persquaremile.com/2012/08/08/if-the-worlds-population-lived-like/
    OK, we wouldn’t need more resources if we all lived like Bangladeshis. They’re not first world. I personally don’t want to optimize the world to bipedal ape production. I’d like to see some (actually a lot) of the space reserved for other than human ecologies. First because I recognize my own ignorance regarding their necessity for my well being and secondly, well, just because I like them.

    Since what you have proposed is deliberately infecting billions of people with a pathogenic virus, I couldn’t give a shit what you find insulting.

    No, pathogenic means disease causing. Please explain why not optimizing feundity must be considered a disease state.

    Nick Gotts @ 118

    it’s quite clear who the accusation of “BREEDING LIKE RABBITS” is aimed at.

    No, my comment was directed to the human population at large. You really should have your hearing checked, you appear to be hearing dog whistles where there are none.

  106. says

    No, my comment was directed to the human population at large. ,/blockquote>*rolleyes*

    and I’m sure you’d also direct any disapproval of sleeping under bridges equally at the rich and the poor

  107. says

    oops

    No, my comment was directed to the human population at large.

    *rolleyes*

    and I’m sure you’d also direct any disapproval of sleeping under bridges equally at the rich and the poor

  108. Raskos says

    more than 100 comments and not a single Ethical Oil shill has shown up?

    Actually, probably at least one has shown up without identifying themselves as such. And I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t a correspondent from the Alberta government as well – the Tories hire people to present the government’s side in exchanges of this sort, and when it comes to the Tar Sands (actually, that little pissing match probably marked the surfacing of either an EO or a GoA shill – they really get shrill about “Oil Sands” versus “Tar Sands”), the government acts as a stenographer for the Oil Patch.

  109. Koshka says

    From 1st page of a google search for “breeding like rabbits”.

    A North Carolina sheriff has apologized for calling illegal immigrants “trashy” and saying the growing Hispanic population in his county was “breeding like rabbits”.

    If you dont want to have to deal with the ‘very distasteful accusation’ of racism you should probably consider what you say.

  110. mildlymagnificent says

    For those concerned about population and energy use, you can’t go past the statistician magician, Hans Rosling.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_religions_and_babies.html for the population issue. Then look at his The Magic Washing Machine linking energy use with population.

    And for energy storage I like the cheap as dirt option. http://www.ted.com/talks/donald_sadoway_the_missing_link_to_renewable_energy.html . None of us will be much fussed if this idea doesn’t work out because someone comes up with something better, but the thinking and its spread is the only way that someone will come up with something better.

  111. julial says

    Koshka @ 130

    If you dont want to have to deal with the ‘very distasteful accusation’ of racism you should probably consider what you say.

    OK, I did the google on “breeding like rabbits” and yes, the one you mention with racist overtones did appear. Along with a dozen others which did not. Admittedly, two of the hits had articles which opposed my characterization of the cause of population increase. They pointed out that we haven’t started breeding like rabbits but stopped dying like flies. (Tone police, is that phrase OK?) But to curb the current population instability, we either have to start dying like flies again, or stop breeding as much like rabbits as we do or learn to live with negligible biodiversity and humanist opportunities. I still contend that(“demographic projections are always tricky”, “assuming nothing unexpected happens”) the situation is dire and business as usual will be catastrophic.
    I do not find your cherry picking of google to support your presupposition of my prejudices compelling.

  112. Ichthyic says

    I trust those predictions with the same confidence with which I trusted the trillions of dollars of American economic surpluses projected during the Clinton administration.

    wtf?

    there were surpluses. they got spent. not complicated.

  113. Koshka says

    I do not find your cherry picking of google to support your presupposition of my prejudices compelling.

    I have not presupposed your prejudices. You were using emotive wording and further highlighted the phrase by capitalising. You appeared to very much want to draw attention to that specific phrase.

    Population control will affect non-white people far more than white people. Do you deny this?

    My suggestion is that you consider your wording better to express your point.

  114. julial says

    There was no racist intent or even perception that the wording would be taken as such. That sub-thread was initiated by a comment from Nick Gotts (formerly KG). I cannot prove my lack of latent racism and I refuse to try.
    Koshka @ 134

    Population control will affect non-white people far more than white people. Do you deny this?

    I do not deny that. I would further state that the education of women and increasing their opportunities outside of motherhood used as a method to decrease fertility and thereby population growth will have differentially greater effect among those who have the highest fertility. If that happens to be among non-whites, does that make the effort racist?

  115. julial says

    Ihthyic @133

    there were surpluses. they got spent. not complicated.

    Agreed, some of them got spent. Wars are stupid for most of us. But we were pretty intoxicated by the dot-com bubble.

    http://www.economics21.org/commentary/how-did-federal-surpluses-become-huge-deficits

    “The first thing to understand is that, like most projections, the 2001 projections were simply wrong.”

    http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/beat-the-press/clintons-surpluses-were-due-to-the-stock-bubble

    “The huge surpluses of the last Clinton years were the result of a boom that was driven by a stock bubble.”

  116. vaiyt says

    The ‘nice’ solution is bioengineered virally vectored immune mediated contraception. Drop human fertility by 90% for two generations and we’re down to a sustainable 100 million or so. Yes, libertarians, this does constitute forced sterilization, but at least it would pretty much equally affect everyone.

    How do you guarantee that it will affect everyone equally? Who are you going to trust with which is basically the ultimate genocide weapon?

    Do you think for one second that world economy will handle all the drop in labor force and deaths?

    How do you make human fertility rise again?

    The ‘nasty’ solution is a similarly engineered plague. Pick your poison; smallpox, ebola, something else. Whether it comes from a military program or just some wacko supergreen terrorist group doesn’t matter once it’s distributed.

    See above. Who is this virus going to hit? Who do you think will have a way greater chance of shielding themselves from the plague?

    And, like the example above, how do you make it stop?

    Your Dr. Pianka delusions are laughable. Your plan is just not feasible. There’s no way such a harebrained scheme could end well, and the already disadvantaged are the ones more likely to pay the price.

    I would further state that the education of women and increasing their opportunities outside of motherhood used as a method to decrease fertility and thereby population growth will have differentially greater effect among those who have the highest fertility. If that happens to be among non-whites, does that make the effort racist?

    That solution doesn’t entail forcing anyone, and impacts the poorest people positively.

  117. Rasmus says

    Yes, julian, I had to gloss over your ‘solutions’ to get to the stuff worth commenting on. There is no entity that has the power to impose population control and that’s a good thing for so many reasons.

    The real solution to the population problem is basically social democracy. As soon as there is anything resembling a semi-functional social safety net beyond your own family or clan, population growth seizes and in the absence of immigration, population declines. Russia and Japan are two examples of that.

  118. julial says

    Rasmus @ 138

    The real solution to the population problem is basically social democracy.

    I so hope you are right.
    Even if you are and social justice can be established as it never has been, I worry. Not for myself, because I don’t have that long, but for my children and theirs. My cohort of 6 siblings and their spouses is represented by exactly 1 grandchild. I can’t prove whether my concern for his life is driven by fear of the other (persons of color.) I know I object to the quiverfull loonies as much as I have any self aware concern over immigration. Maybe I am unconsciously overwrought by the idea of being outbred. I was active in the first earth day and was permanently moved by Paul Ehrlich in 1968. I’ve watched the extinction of so many species through human expansion. I hope I am dead by the time the chimps, orangs and gorillas go extinct. And the bonobos, specially the bonobos.

  119. julial says

    vaiyt @ 137

    How do you guarantee that it will affect everyone equally?

    I don’t. I would expect it to more affect those who are most fertile. Social support for their collapsing populations would be required. Overshooting to extinction would be bad, at least from the human perspective. But I would expect there to be a sub-population refractory to the effects of the attack. Probably, they would be from the initially most fertile. Quite possibly they would inherit the earth.

    Your Dr. Pianka delusions are laughable. Your plan is just not feasible. There’s no way such a harebrained scheme could end well

    OK, you don’t want to listen to an ecologist regarding projections of our current predicament. Seems others at his speech differed.
    http://www.pearceyreport.com/archives/2006/04/transcript_dr_d.php
    “a few hundred members of the Texas Academy of Science rose to their feet and gave a standing ovation to a speech that enthusiastically advocated the elimination of 90 percent”
    I don’t see our current trajectory as ending well, certainly not from the perspective of any apex preditors still alive or the dwindling stock of amphibian coal mine canaries.
    Perhaps you would rather listen to politicians “growth is good” or economists who think we’ll just switch to an alternative resource after we trash the atmosphere sufficiently to make it economical to do so.
    I can’t see our current course as ending well.
    Dr. Pianka was advocating what I described as the “nasty” scenario. I was not. What I would expect though, is that the increasing availability of genetic engineering expertise and surplus equipment will make it possible, and easier and therefore more likely than the “nice” scenario, that someone with a similar attitude as Pianka would create and distribute something like a hotter, tweaked version of the 1917 influenza.

    That solution doesn’t entail forcing anyone, and impacts the poorest people positively.

    So racism only exists in an action when that action is to the detriment of its object? You must be really pro affirmative action. We’re at a point where the second meta-argument is being made. People are objecting to whites who are arguing against affirmative action as discriminatory. I would like to see a society where actions are race neutral because race is no longer recognized.

  120. says

    Unlike the US, they are required to replant the area when they’re done extracting in it.

    Which is slightly better, but…

  121. says

    Re: tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach 30 October 2012 at 10:10 pm

    I’ve seen this – I grew up in the PNW – and my childhood home no longer exists because of this.

    See, we get alot of rain there. Not as much as people back east think, but the least of the places I live got 100″ a year.

    Anyhow, back to the home. It had a lovely, 10′ diameter maple blocking the view over the river. We built a deck in it, even though it was slowly moving off our property. It was beautiful.

    The next owner cut that tree down.

    See, the tree was moving because when you put alot of water into soil, that soil tends to move. But trees have roots and resist that motion. No buildings can resist it – the Devil’s slide in California has a similar, if more extreme problem:
    http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/esc/geotech/geo_design/geo_design_west/west.html

    Anyhow, back to our house – during the nearly a decade we resided there, it moved almost a foot. We replaced the foundation, changed the hill’s drainage pattern, did massive digging to resist the motion or at least, have the house stay in one piece as the ground moved. And we bought adjoining property so that we’d control the uphill and water sources affecting the house.

    The next owner cut down that massive maple tree.

    The house isn’t there anymore.

    These two things are probably connected.

  122. says

    Re: julial
    31 October 2012 at 10:15 pm

    Your links are wrong, misleading. There’s something else that happened in 2001 that neither of those seem to take into account: Tax cuts.
    http://usbudget.blogspot.com/2008/03/effect-of-bush-tax-cuts-on-revenues.html

    Why do people pretend as if tax cuts and spending increases under Bush happened in a vacuum?

    http://www.factcheck.org/taxes/supply-side_spin.html

    You know something that didn’t happen 2001-2005? GDP didn’t magically shrink for two years.

    Here’s a wonderful source for GDP, fertility, all sorts of data being argued here:

    http://www.google.com/publicdata/directory