I’m going to ask very nicely that you please read this through and consider it carefully because I know what I’ve got to say here is not going to be popular on the surface and the knee-jerk reaction, if you don’t really take the time to understand it, is going to be to reject it. Please understand that my desire is that we get off of burning hydrocarbon mineral resources for fuel entirely.
We are in an extremely precarious situation in which oil supply is not able to keep up with world oil demand, and the growing economies of China and India are going to exacerbate that problem. We are in danger of starving to death with even a minor interruption in supply. We are also on the brink of world war III directly because of oil. Iran holds the worlds second largest reserves of conventional, poke a straw in the ground and light sweet crude that you can almost put in your gas tank without refining spurts out, oil.
There is concern over Iran’s nuclear development. Sanctions won’t be effective and the reason they won’t is because the world needs Iran’s oil and Iran isn’t going to just give it away without getting something in return. Iran needs nuclear power now because it makes business sense, they can sell the natural gas and oil for much more than the power they can generate via nuclear will cost. They need it in the future because when the oil runs out they still need to be able to desalinate water to grow enough food to feed their population.
Arguably Iran needs nuclear weapons because they’ve got a crazy neighbor that has a predisposition to bombing neighboring countries on a regular basis which happens to possess nuclear weapons already and Iran also has a resource that various nations wants and without a deterrent they’ve got no hope of avoiding invasion. Iran isn’t going to voluntarily give up their future, allow their country to be overrun so their resources can be stolen and then allow their people to starve to death. We and Israel can threaten them with military action but they know that lacking a deterrent, that military action will happen anyway because they have oil.
The only way to diffuse this situation is for the United States to become self-sufficient for our energy needs very rapidly and that can not happen fast enough to avoid catastrophe if we only pursue renewable options. Furthermore, if we do not address our needs internally and continue sending our money to the Middle East, we will not have the economic means to convert to renewable resources. If we starve to death or if we’re all glowing in the dark after world war III happens, nothing else will matter.
To the extent that our oil habit is destructive to the environment, it is morally objectionable to export our environmental destruction to the Middle East, Canada, and Mexico, and other nations. We should bear the environmental costs of our energy appetite so that we have the motivation to change our ways. Changing our ways doesn’t mean we have to suffer a poor standard of living. Quite the opposite, continuing with the status quo will insure a poor standard of living for Americans.
It is really important that we make the transition to a sustainable economy while maintaining and improving the world wide standard of living. The reason for this is that the more people on this planet, the greater the demand for resources, the more waste produced, the more environmental destruction results. Countries with a good standard of living, excepting immigration, have a negative population growth. People who feel they will be secure in their old age don’t tend to have a lot of children. This is the most humane way to contain the world population, bring the standard of living up to acceptable levels for the entire world population. This will take energy, however, how much energy is a huge variable depending upon how we go about it.
We need to take immediate steps to end US imports of hydrocarbon fuels, oil, natural gas, etc. We have ample supplies of all of these raw resources right here in this country. I’ve already stated in previous messages what I think we need to do in terms of developing renewables, but nothing can scale these things up fast enough and we need to avert starvation, world war III, and poverty.
To this end, we need to allow drilling offshore, the development of oil shale which presently is under a moratorium, develop tar sands, build refineries capable of dealing with heavy sour crude, and build coal-to-liquid capacity. We do need to do this as cleanly as possible, develop and deploy the necessary technology to clean up any spills that do occur, put in place legal infrastructure that will provide oil companies meaningful incentive to do things as cleanly as possible.
We have as much heavy crude in Southern California as does the entire country of Venezuela. The only reason Venezuela is able to provide substantial oil to the world, (including all the Citgo gasoline stations you see around the United States) because they developed their heavy crude resources and built refinery capacity that is able to refine it into diesel, gasoline, and other useful distillates.
We have 35 billion barrels of oil sitting in a recently discovered field about 150 miles off of New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico. This isn’t heavy crude, it’s light sweet crude we could feed to our existing antiquated refineries and make gasoline and diesel. In all probability there are many more oil fields like this off of the continental shelves of this country as similar fields have been found along the continental shelf of virtually every other country that has allowed exploration. In this country, most of the offshore areas are off-limits to exploration and production. We have an estimated 3.5 TRILLION barrels of oil in oil shale and tar sands. Right now there is a moratorium on the production of this oil.
We need to allow exploration of the continental shelves, build refineries capable of dealing with heavy sour crude and develop the heavy crude resources in California. The crude that can be extracted from shale and tar sands will be heavy crude so we need the capability to do cracking and reforming as well as sulfur removal.
Now, if we do all of this several things are going to happen; the cost of crude world-wide will plummet and Iran’s oil will lose it’s value and thus the incentive for world war III will go away. Likewise, the value of Iraq’s oil will also plummet and we won’t have the incentive to remain there. The value of the US dollar will improve when we eliminate the export of billions of dollars in exchange for foreign oil. Our national productivity will improve as we bring our troops home from foreign soil. All of this new activity will create jobs in the United States. Lower energy costs will lower our manufacturing costs allowing us to recover some of our lost manufacturing base, providing more export products and jobs.
When we stop occupying foreign countries, stop killing and maiming their citizens, and stop creating environmental problems for them while we steal their resources, the world will view us with less hostility and more respect.
Getting at all of this oil still won’t be cheap; oil that is left is plentiful but it involves drilling deep to get at abiotic oil, drilling under water to get at light sweet crude along the continental shelves, building new refinery capacity to utilize easy to get at but difficult to refine heavy crude, or extracting oil from oil shale or tar sands, economic incentive will still exist for the further development of renewables. Wind power has become less expensive than coal, and solar is approaching the cost of coal. Solving oil shortages will not change these basic economics. When our citizenry start to see the environmental costs because they are here at home and not half-way around the world, that will further motivate people to move towards renewables. But in the interests of avoiding a near-term end to civilization as we know it, we must end our dependence upon foreign oil and gas now.
In addition to opening up these things for development here in the states, I believe we need to slap a $20/barrel tax on imported oil.
Now you say but this is going to contribute to global warming; in the short term this is true, but we’ve been given a bit of a short-term reprieve in global warming and in the long term this will enable us to have a chance at making the shift. Otherwise our economy is going to grind to a halt and we’re going to fight world war III and final. It will go nuclear if it happens, that is pretty much inevitable, and Iran is allies with China and Russia so it won’t be small scale nuclear. If this happens we won’t have to be concerned with global warming.
But if we avoid this fate by doing something intelligent for a change, nature has given us a short-term reprieve and this is how; our climate is tied to our suns activity. The last three solar cycles have been increasingly active; this has added strongly to global warming. Now we are in a solar minimum and the start of the next cycle is so far two years late. This winter was the coldest winter on record in the northern hemisphere. In Washington state we had snow in June in the passes. We had snow at sea level in mid-April, the latest we have ever had it.
This pattern is the same pattern the sun has displayed in the past before entering periods of inactivity like the Maunder minimum. Even if this does not happen, a delayed start has always been the sign of a weak cycle, so we are going to have in all probability a decade or longer of cooler than normal climate.
However, there are greater issues caused by carbon dioxide than global warming, the biggest issue are the effects on ocean chemistry. The oceans cover more than 70% of the Earth’s surface, and by no coincidence, we get 70% of our protein from the oceans. Carbon dioxide increases ocean acidity, and this dissolves the shells of various ocean life forms from microscopic on up. If allowed to continue this will destroy the entire oceanic food chain.
Carbon dioxide depresses the freezing point of the oceans, even in the absence of heat, it threatens to release huge amounts of methane presently trapped in methane hydrates. Methane is 100x more effective in terms of it’s greenhouse gas effects. If this happens, we’re in a big world of hurt. So no, we can’t keep allowing carbon dioxide to enter the atmosphere, we need to stop burning fossil fuels.
We have to address the immediate threats immediately and if we don’t we won’t have the infrastructure necessary to address the longer term threats, and starvation and war is inevitable. First stop the hemorrhaging that is the life blood of our nation flowing to the Middle East, then treat the cancer which has taken many forms ranging form our dependence upon hydrocarbon combustion, to the military-industrial complex, to the oligarchy that has replaced what was supposed to be a democracy, and then start the healing, correcting environmental damage, repairing foreign relations, fighting world-wide poverty, and a general transition towards sane sustainable living.