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Friday, July 6, 2012

As Focus on Using Natural Gas Increases, Environmentalists Contemplate Short and Long-Term Implications

Environmentalists have no shortage of doomsday
scenarios related to fossil fuel
Earlier this week we posted a link to an article considering the possibility that shale gas could be the U.S. energy savior.

Here is a link to another article which considers the consequences of increasing the nation's - and the world's - reliance on another fossil fuel, with all of the CO2 emissions that burning such fuels brings.

From Truth-Out:
Most Americans are now convinced that climate change is real because dramatic evidence keep piling up - searing heat waves, multiyear droughts, record-setting wildfires, unprecedented tornadoes and Biblical floods. 
Furthermore, there's now widespread agreement among scientists that humans are causing these problems by burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas), thus emitting carbon dioxide (CO2) gas, which acts like a blanket, warming the planet. 
One obvious solution: use fossil fuels far more efficiently (doing the same work with less energy), thus drastically reducing CO2 emissions. Wherever we use lights, heat or motors, we could greatly enhance efficiency. 
Furthermore, efficiency could improve quickly - the National Academy of Sciences said recently we could cut the nation's energy use 20 percent by 2020 and 30 percent by 2030 using technologies that are available and affordable today. David Goldstein has shown how we could cut national energy use more than 80 percent in ten to 20 years, creating many thousands of good jobs while saving trillions of dollars in reduced fuel costs - enough to fund a modern, renewable energy system. 
One crucial caveat: the people who would benefit least from efficiency are the purveyors of fossil fuels - they'd sell less product, reducing their profits. For them, efficiency is a threat, not an opportunity. 
The Fossil Fuel Industry's "Shock Doctrine" Response 
In response, fossil fuel corporations have devised their own plan to mitigate global warming while burning more and more coal, oil and natural gas. Their plan is called "carbon capture and sequestration," or CCS, for short. 
In a nutshell, the plan would capture CO2 as a gas, pressurize it into a liquid, pipe it to a suitable location and then pump it a mile below ground, hoping it will stay there forever. You may not have heard of it, but the CCS plan is chugging along worldwide. 
A major stumbling block to the CCS plan is public skepticism. Yes, CO2 is the familiar fizzy in beer and soda (and yes, you exhale CO2 as you breathe), but when CO2 gets loose in liquid form, it creates an invisible puddle on the ground, which excludes oxygen, rapidly killing everything in its path. 
A rare natural eruption of CO2 from the bottom of Lake Nyos in Cameroon in 1986 asphyxiated 1,746 people in their sleep. Few people want to live anywhere near a huge, volatile buried puddle of liquid CO2 that might one day leak. 
In addition to public opposition, there are many unanswered questions about the CCS plan. Who would monitor the buried CO2 for the duration of the hazard - 4,000 years or even longer? 
Humans have no experience monitoring anything for millennia. If leakage did occur after, say, 300 years, who would be responsible for trying to stem the leaks? If liquid CO2 migrated sideways below ground and contaminated a town's water supply, who would pay? If CO2 bubbled out of the ground and killed even a few people, who would be liable? 
Council of State Government's "Trojan Horse" Carbon Sequestration Model Bill 
When most informed journalists, liberal advocacy groups and informed citizens think about corporate lobbyist produced "model bills" passed to legislators in statehouses nationwide, the first "Trojan Horse" that comes to mind is the American Legislative Exchange Council(ALEC). 
ALEC, though, as demonstrated in a multipart series, is merely one of many "Other ALECs." These groups share key strands of ALEC's DNA and do yeoman's work pushing the "corporate playbook" in the states. 
Fossil fuel corporations have utilized one of the "Other ALECs," the Council of State Governments (CSG) to promulgate a model state law - based on one written by the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission - to undercut public opposition and limit liability. 
The Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission "is a multi-state government agency that promotes the conservation and efficient recovery of domestic oil and natural gas resources," according to its web site. "IOGCC is a leader and a driver of national oil and gas policy." 
Put more bluntly: this model bill was written by and for the oil and gas industry.
Read the rest of this article here.

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