5. Oncoming Energy Issues

Feb-10-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: Like many others, I’ve been puzzled as to why there has been such intense denial to the obvious and proven fact of man-made climate change. In a great article Bill McKibbon makes the answer clear. Because to stop using oil would cause massive economic dislocation to oil companies. This is an article worth reading; and the January image of our planet, centred on snow-free north America is pretty telling. The second piece explores the economics further, the 3rd looks at the crisis renewables face, and we end with a Big Picture photo feature on coal. Lovely photos; depressing scenarios.

* The Great Carbon BubbleBill McKibbon NationofChange

We have some truly beautiful images made possible by new technology.  Last month, for instance, NASA updated the most iconic photograph in our civilization’s gallery: “Blue Marble,” originally taken from Apollo 17 in 1972. The spectacular new high-def image shows a picture of the Americas on January 4th, a good day for snapping photos because there weren’t many clouds….As Jeff Masters, the web’s most widely read meteorologist, explains, “The U.S. and Canada are virtually snow-free and cloud-free, which is extremely rare for a January day. The lack of snow in the mountains of the Western U.S. is particularly unusual. I doubt one could find a January day this cloud-free with so little snow on the ground throughout the entire satellite record, going back to the early 1960s….Watching the weather over the past two years has been like watching a famous baseball hitter on steroids.”

In the face of such data — statistics that you can duplicate for almost every region of the planet — you’d think we’d already be in an all-out effort to do something about climate change. Instead, we’re witnessing an all-out effort to… deny there’s a problem.

And when they do break their silence, some of our elite organs are happy to indulge in outright denial. Last month, for instance, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by “16 scientists and engineers” headlined “No Need to Panic About Global Warming.” The article was easily debunked. It was nothing but a mash-up of long-since-disproved arguments by people who turned out mostly not to be climate scientists at all, quoting other scientists who immediately said their actual work showed just the opposite. It’s no secret where this denialism comes from: the fossil fuel industry pays for it. (Of the 16 authors of the Journal article, for instance, five had had ties to Exxon.) Writers from Ross Gelbspan to Naomi Oreskes have made this case with such overwhelming power that no one even really tries denying it any more. The open question is why the industry persists in denial…

* The Big Choice  Capital Institute

Barring a miracle technology advance in the next decade (keep working brilliant scientists and entrepreneurs), if we want to avoid civilization-transforming and global  security threatening climate change, we must absorb a global security threatening $20 trillion write off (that’s 40 percent of global GDP) into our already stressed global economy.  Even if gradually spread over a decade or more, with partial offsetting value creation in sustainable energy industries, this is an unprecedented challenge. 

* Rare Minerals Dearth Threatens Global Renewables Industry  Guardian

Shortages of a handful of rare minerals could slow the future growth of the burgeoning renewable energy industries, and affect countries’ chances of limiting greenhouse gas emissions, business leaders were told at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week.

Last year, prices of many scarce minerals exploded, rising as much as 10 times over 2010 levels before dropping back, said PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Terbium, yttrium, dysprosium, europium and neodymium are widely used in the manufacture of wind turbines, solar panels, electric car batteries and energy-efficient lightbulbs. But because these “rare earths” are mined almost exclusively in China, it is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to source them in the required quantities.

In a survey of some of the largest clean energy manufacturers, 78% told PwC said they were already experiencing instability of supply of rare metals, and most said they did not expect shortages to ease for at least five years. Currently, 95% of the rare earth minerals needed by clean tech industries come from China which has set strict export quotas. Last year China reserved most for its own for its domestic wind, solar and battery industries, shifting costs to the US and Europe which do not mine any of the minerals.

* Coal  The Big Picture



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