[Coral-List] need for more oil

Douglas Fenner dfenner at blueskynet.as
Sun May 16 22:23:09 EDT 2010

   I notice that Exon's ads on PBS TV in the states say that "we need more energy" from all sources, including oil.  To meet demand.  But is there a difference between demand and need??  Is continuing to increase oil production the way to combat global warming???  I read something the other day that even if we manage to reduce the carbon economy by 90% in 20-30 years and hold temperature increase to 2 dec C, sea level rise due to the higher temp will continue for 1000 years or more.  What is the chance we will be able to reduce the burning of carbon by 90% in only 20-30 years??  None, especially if we insist on drilling for more oil.
      Do we really need to increase fossil fuel production??  Well maybe we do if we insist on all driving more vehicles, and that those vehicles be ever more giant gas guzzlers, like SUV's and giant pickups.  Or are we just indulging ourselves, fiddling while Rome burns?  The average French person produces 1/3 the amount of CO2 as the average American, and the average Australian produces slightly more than the average American.  The French don't exactly have to live a life of abject poverty because they have destroyed their economy in order to reduce CO2 emissions.  They are a developed country with a major economy and wealthy life style compared to many countries.  If they can do it, why can't we??  (yes, the US and Australia are geographically larger, but I bet that is only a small part of the reason for the difference)
     So, is this all really necessary, or even smart??  Isn't it time to get cracking on shifting away from wasting huge amounts of fossil fuels, and start building renewable energy sources??  Isn't that a better solution that drilling for more oil??  Yes, such huge shifts will take time, so maybe we better get at it right away, in a serious way.
     The solution for the need for more oil and for controlling climate change are the same- reduce fossil fuel usage, develop renewable energy sources, and conserve (instead of wasting).  An awful lot is riding on our ability to make this huge shift, the impact on coral reefs if we don't get climate change under control will make this oil spill look like nothing.  We will loose coral reefs as we know them.  I don't think 80% or 90% dead corals is acceptable, and it will certainly be expensive to economies that depend on tourism like Florida, the Carribean, and the Great Barrier Reef area.  It will push a lot of poor people that depend on reef fish for food ever closer to starvation.
      Unfortunately, it looks to me like the world is addicted to fossil fuels.  That's been helped by gigantic subsidies in some places, like the billions of subsidies given to the giant oil companies in the US in recent years.  No, with record profits in the tens of billions, those poor companies just couldn't manage to get along without their snouts in the public trough.  But that's small compared to the subsidy that the US government provides in the form of the naval fleet keeping the Straits of Hormuz open and safe for oil tankers.  I read somewhere that if all the subsidies were removed, the price of gas in the US would be about $18 a gallon.  At that price, all sorts of renewable energy sources would instantly become economical, and expand rapidly of their own accord.  But we insist on subsidies by the general taxpayer to keep the price low, so we can all waste it as much as we want, and at the same time we can complain about high taxes.  By the way, if taxes on oil were used to recoup all those subsidies by boosting the retail price to the real cost, other taxes could be reduced to keep it totally revenue-neutral, no net cost to the country.  But sectors of the economy that are subidized by low fuel prices would now have to compete on a level playing field, which they might not be able to do very well, like US agriculture.  Oh, they're fine, they have that $200 billion (with a B) subsidy bill signed by Bush a few years back, helping to keep them the richest farmers on earth.  Not to mention the effect of the subsidized competition on farmers in other countries, particularly poor ones, and thus on food supplies in poor countries.  By the way, US oil production peaked a while back, and world oil production may be near it's peak now and start on the way down in the future.  The amount of calories of fossil fuel needed to produce calories of food in developed countires is sufficient that in effect we are eating oil, which as it runs out doesn't bode well for feeding the world (unless we shift to renewable energy).
     Some societies just can't manage to make the changes needed to keep from destroying their environment, which may have severe effects on the society.  Maybe that's the world society now?  Drive the car full speed off the cliff.  Drill baby drill, yup that's the solution to our problems.

NASA simulations have determined that carbon levels above 350 ppm are incompatible with sustaining a planet similar to that on which civilization has developed and to which life on Earth is adapted (The Open Atmospheric Science Journal, 2008, 2, 217-231.).   In May 2009, the atmosphere hit a record 389 ppm. (Keeling curve, Mauna Loa, Hawaii, May, 2009).

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