World Energy Revolution Needed For Climate, Says Condoleezza Rice

September 26, 2007

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Monday the world needs a revolution on energy that transcends oil, gas and coal to prevent problems from climate change.

“Ultimately, we must develop and bring to market new energy technologies that transcend the current system of fossil fuels, carbon emissions and economic activity. Put simply, the world needs a technological revolution,” Rice told delegates at a special U.N. conference on climate change.

A landmark report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this year said human activities such as burning fossil fuels and forests are very likely causing climate change that will lead to more deadly storms, heat waves, droughts and floods.

The Bush administration’s position on climate change has evolved from skepticism to agreeing to work with other large emitters to forge international goals to reduce greenhouse gases. Rice will host a two-day meeting this week for the world’s biggest greenhouse-gas emitters.

President George W. Bush opposes mandatory caps on greenhouse emissions, preferring voluntary goals.

He believes the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases unfairly exempted rapidly developing countries and that ratifying it would have hurt the economy of the United States, the world’s largest emitter of heat-trapping gases.

Addressing climate change requires an integrated response that encompasses environmental stewardship, energy security and economic growth and development, Rice said.

“How we forge this integrated response has major consequences, not only for our future, but also for our present and especially for the millions of men, women and children in the developing world whose efforts to escape poverty require broad and sustained economic growth and the energy to fuel it,” she said.

BEYOND KYOTO

Since 2001, the U.S. government has invested nearly $18 billion to develop cleaner sources of energy, Rice said. Those include technologies that run on hydrogen, permanently burying emissions of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, advanced nuclear energy, renewable fuels and greater energy efficiency.

As the world looks to form a new emissions-cutting agreement to succeed the first phase of Kyoto, which expires in 2012, many countries say only mandatory caps on emissions can effectively prod the private sector to cut emissions.

British Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said earlier on Monday the United States and other large emitters must take on binding reduction targets on greenhouse gases.

“It is inconceivable that dangerous climate change can be avoided without this happening,” he told reporters at a meeting at the British mission.

Backers of mandatory emission caps say they promote low- carbon technology by, in effect, making polluters pay for emitting greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

Rice did not mention greenhouse gas-cutting goals, but said one of the biggest challenges is encouraging private sector investments to bring about a low-carbon energy future while ensuring continued economic growth.

“President George W. Bush opposes mandatory caps on greenhouse emissions, preferring voluntary goals.”

Without any caps and targets that are mandatory I feel that we will see what is happening most of the time now.  Companies putting out TV advertisments showing how ‘green’ they are but no real substance or change.  The worlds largest producer of the gases that are changing the face of our world forever really need to do more.  Saying ‘please’ to offenders isn’t really strong enough.

On a personal note, now that my daughter is in the world I feel the need more than ever to make a difference for the future of our small planet.  We don’t have another one.


O Canada, what are you doing?

September 19, 2007

Our civilization’s addiction to oil is being displayed in all its nefarious glory in the tar sands of Canada. According to Chris Nelder:

What we have here is arguably the most environmentally destructive activity man has ever attempted, with a compliant government, insatiable demand, and an endless supply of capital turning it into “a speeding car with a gas pedal and no brakes.” It sucks down critical and rapidly diminishing amounts of both natural gas and water, paying neither for its consumption of natural capital nor its environmental destruction, to the utter detriment of its host. And all to eke out maybe a 10% profit, if it turns out that the books haven’t been cooked, and if the taxation structure remains a flat-out giveaway.

Greenpeace recently announced a new campaign against the tar sands, pointing out that “Tar sands produce five times more greenhouse gases than conventional oil, because they are energy-intensive, requiring huge amounts of natural gas to separate and process the bitumen.”

As I recently posted, processing tar sands leads to more pollution in the United States. Tar-sand oil production leads to more global warming, is being pursued because of peak oil, and continues the wholesale destruction of ecosystems, as Nelder enumerates:

 

Tar sands plants typically use two to four barrels of water to extract a barrel of oil … and after it’s been through the process, the water is toxic with contaminants, so it cannot be released into the environment. Some of it is reused, but vast amounts of it are pumped into enormous settlement ponds to be retained as toxic waste. These “ponds” are actually the largest bodies of water in the region — big enough to be seen from space — and some of the world’s largest man-made ponds overall, with miles of surface area. It may take 200 years for the smallest particles to settle down to the bottom of this toxic brew, which also contains very high levels of heavy metals and other health-threatening elements … With the tar sands currently producing at the rate of about 1 million barrels per day (mbpd), water levels in the river are already going down. Given such intense water demands, it’s completely unclear how production can be increased to the target of 4 mbpd by 2020.

The natural gas used is so unsustainable, oil companies are considering putting nukes on top of the tar sands:

Professor Kjell Aleklett of Uppsala University, a recognized expert on tar sands, puts it bluntly: “The supply of natural gas in North America is not adequate to support a future Canadian oil sands industry with today’s dependence on natural gas” … After gas, the next obvious choice is nuclear energy — building dozens of nuclear plants to generate the heat needed to create the steam needed to drive the hydrocarbons out of the sand.

So how do we end this addiction? Let me modestly propose three broad policy goals:

  1. Use less oil in vehicles, which obviously means higher mileage standards, but should also include a sufficient program of R&D and government purchases of electric vehicles. But we need something that can help reduce the number of miles driven, or else oil use will creep up over the years as people drive more, so:
  2. Radically increase funding for light rail, electrified rail freight, buses, and high-speed intercity rail;
  3. and now for something different — how about freezing construction of new highways, and instead using the money for R&D, public transit, and fixing the existing roads and collapsing bridges? The people organizing the recent fast against global warming called for a freeze on coal plant construction; to that demand we could add a call for a halt to new highway construction.

Between tar sands and other petroleum boondoggles on the one hand, and biofuels production on the other, we need to find ways to decrease the need for the use of fuel-based vehicles, for the sake of the planet and its people.

Jon Rynn

The evidence is in open view and plain to see, yet we continue to do things that are blatantly obviously damaging to our current situation.

The way to go forward with energy production is laid out in front of us. We have all the technology needed to produce green energy…… Yet we continue to pursue strategies like this.