Sunday, February 20, 2005

Weekly Briefs

From Bad to Worse. Ethanol is a huge vote-getter in farm states even if it's an economic and energy loser for the rest of us. So it's no surprise that Congress wants to require that refiners double the amount of ethanol in gasoline, and that means double the current taxpayer subsidy, one that goes primarily to a handful of powerfully connected companies, NOT to farmers.

The Oilmen Cometh. ChevronTexaco's chief executive became the third oil company executive to sidle up to, if not outright join, the peak oil bandwagon. Dave O'Reilly told an audience at a recent conference, "The time when we could count on cheap oil and even cheaper natural gas is clearly ending." He said a global bidding war will likely erupt for remaining oil and gas reserves. O'Reilly joins two other oil executives, BP's Frances Harper and legendary oilman T. Boone Pickens who have in recent months predicted that a peak in world oil production is either imminent (Pickens) or likely within the next 10 years (Harper).

Global Warming Debate "Over." Rarely do scientists make unequivocal statements. They prefer to couch their conclusions in terms of probabilities and percentages and then wait for more data. This week a piece of data--the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back--is now in on the global warming debate. Long after the debate about whether there is global warming was over, industry flacks continued to pretend that it wasn't happening and that if (hypothetically) it were happening, humans had nothing to do with it. Now, a new study of the warming of the oceans has put the final nail in the coffin of such arguments. "If you take this data and combine it with a decade of earlier results, the debate about whether or not there is a global warming signal here and now is over at least for rational people," the study's lead author said. Only human activities such as the industrial release of carbon dioxide explain that warming, he added.

The Day After Tomorrow Scenario. In this overhyped Hollywood thriller, the ocean currents that warm the northern latitudes of Europe and North America cease which turns both into icy wastelands within seven days. No one is predicting anything that sudden, but scientists are increasingly worried that ocean currents which carry warmth to these areas may be slowing, the result of increased fresh water flows due to global warming. Recent findings detailed here and here are cause for alarm. The Ocean and Climate Change Institute shows how this sudden cooling is consistent with overall warming using animation to illustrate the paths of the oceans' great underwater rivers.

Speak No Evil. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), who relies on fantasy science to reinforce his belief that global warming is a hoax, has requested the financial records of two organizations that appeared before his committee opposing President Bush's air quality destruction bill (given the Orwellian title of "Clear Skies"). Usually such records are examined with an eye toward revoking the nonprofit status of an organization. But Inhofe says he not trying to intimidate anyone. The names of the organizations--State and Territorial Air Pollution Program Administrators and the Association of Local Air Pollution Control Officials. Some real rabble rousers, or maybe they just make Inhofe look like a kook.

Ocean Trashman. Some U. S. senators want to spend $50 million picking up trash on the country's shorelines. Maybe they could pass a no littering ordinance for the sea while they're at it.

Interconnected. Global warming combined with overpumping of aquifers will disrupt water supplies and agriculture and likely lead to food shortages in the coming decades, according to the Earth Policy Insitute. “In recent months, rising oil prices have focused the world’s attention on the depletion of oil reserves. But the depletion of underground water resources from overpumping is a far more serious issue,” says Lester R. Brown in his new book, Outgrowing the Earth: The Food Security Challenge in an Age of Falling Water Tables and Rising Temperatures.

Trading Places. Greenpeace protestors disrupted trading at London's International Petroleum Exchange when they slipped onto the trading floor, made lots of noise and soon found themselves in a brawl with agitated traders. I'm afraid this symbolic protest on the day the Kyoto Protocol went into effect served little purpose. We need to focus on lowering the use of petroleum, not on the people who merely trade it. (Thanks to Mobjectivist for noticing this news item.)

(Comments are open to all. See the list of environmental blogs on my sidebar.)

No comments: