SAVE OUR WORLD FROM HELL ON EARTH
by Anthony Marr
“EUROPE TO SWITCH ON SAHARAN SOLAR POWER BY 2015 – The race to harness the sun of the Sahara and Middle East deserts is one initiative in a far-ranging European energy consensus”
So go the title and subtitle of an article published on June 27, 2010, by Alok Jha in The Observer, Guardian.co.UK.
About time, I say. But let me backtrack to the basics, then move forward.
When I give a lecture on global warming, I start with a question: “How many of you have heard of the term ‘latent heat’?”
Consistently, it has been – almost none.
This is a very dangerous state to be in. I will then explain with an analogy. Place a pot of cold water on a cold stove and dump in a kilo of ice cubes. Stir with a long thermometer until it is well mixed. The next question is: “What would the water temperature be?” About 0 degrees Celsius. Now, turn on the stove to high heat and keep stirring the ice water. Next question: “When will the thermometer register a temperature rise?” Answer: After all the ice has melted. For as long as there remains ice in the water, the temperature will remain near zero degrees. All the heat entering the pot from the stove will go towards melting the ice first – without raising the temperature of the water. It takes 80 calories to melt one gram of ice without raising the water temperature. So if there are 1000 grams of ice in the pot, the first 80,000 calories of heat entering the pot from the stove won’t raise the temperature for even one degree, and these 80,000 calories are called latent heat, “latent” meaning “hidden”. After the ice has melted off, however, the temperature of the water will rise to the boiling point.
Let me offer another analogy. Suppose you owe your bank $20,000, and you have $10,000 in your account, with no income to replenish it. You monthly payment is $1,000 and you current credit rating is A1. So, you pay $1,000 every month for the first 10 months, and your credit rating remains unaffected. As of the 11th month, however, you will begin defaulting on your payments, and your credit rating will take a nose dive until you are bankrupt. Now if you consider the Arctic Ocean as a giant pot of ice water, and the Arctic sea ice as your money in the bank, you’ll see the point I’m about to make.
Back in the 19th Century, the Arctic Ocean used to be covered with sea ice even in the summer. As of the mid 20th Century, however, the sea ice has been melting down, with more and more ocean water exposed in the summer. Ice being a solar heat reflector and open water being an absorber, more and more heat entered the ocean, and more and more ice is melted. Most of this heat was latent heat, so the ocean temperature was not raised in proportion to the amount of heat absorbed, causing doubters to say, even today, “What global warming?”. But our sea ice “bank account” was becoming depleted.
By about the turn of the 21st Century, a projection was made, and it was determined that the Arctic summer would be ice-free as of around 2100, when the Arctic temperature would skyrocket. In the year 2007, however the Arctic underwent its tipping point, and the sea ice melt rate suddenly accelerated by a huge factor causing the re-evaluation that the Arctic summer will be ice free as of the year 2013 (NASA)! While in early 2007 we expected that we had 9 decades or more to deal with the problem, which could be relegated to our children and grand children, we now in 2010 have only 3 years! While previously, the global average temperature rise by the year 2100 was estimated to be 2-3 Celsius degrees, as of 2007, it has been revamped up to 6-7 degrees, which, in my opinion, is still an under-estimation.
In the mean time, the global average humidity has been steadily declining.
Even in the late 20th Century, the 21st Century has been predicted to be a century of drought.
As of the opening of the century, many countries have been hit – Australia, Brazil (the Amazon rainforest),
China, sub-Saharan Africa, and North America (centering in Georgia and the U.S. southwest – and hit hard. Australia, for example, has lost its rice industry, and over 1 million camels have been culled for lack of water, and while China was a major exporter of rice to S.E. Asia, it is now stockpiling it. With the now predicted temperature rise in the Arctic as of 2013, the global drought will intensify (since warmer air can “hold” more moisture before precipitation), causing a global food shortage, and famine in the hardest hit places. Even today, 40,000 people per year die of starvation.
Come the Big Heat, this too will skyrocket. The two drought centers in the U.S. too will expand and eventually merge in the Mid-West, causing crop failures and food shortage even in homeland America. It is not impossible to see empty shelves in Safeway.
While American agriculture is mostly rain-fed, Asian agriculture is by and large by irrigation. If the rivers dry out, famine would seize the land. Currently, Asian agriculture is being watered by the two thousand glaciers in the Himalayas, which provide water to the Yangtze and Yellow rivers in China, and the 6 rivers in S.E. Asia and India, which collectively feed some 3 billion people. If and when these glaciers melt off – in the latter part of this century – an unprecedented famine will seize the land with a death grip.
James Lovelock, one of the originators of the Gaia Hypothesis in the 70s, predicts that by the end of the century 5 billion people (with a “b”) will have died of starvation due to water shortages and outages.
And this is not even the worst of it by a long shot. There is something even more menacing, more dangerous, not having even been mentioned thus far. It is called the “Methane Time Bomb”, or “Runaway Global Heating”. Again, it has to do with the Arctic. Methane (CH4) is a super-powerful greenhouse gas, molecule for molecule with 70 times more heat-trapping capacity than carbon dioxide (CO2).
It is nothing new to global warming. Through the eons, it has been emitted by marsh lands, rotting vegetation and ruminant animals, and has been part and parcel of keeping the planet warm enough for life. It is a relatively short-lived gas with a life-span of some 30 years before breaking down into CO2 and water (H2O). So if the emission rate is low enough, it could reach a state of equilibrium with the break down rate. With the added emission rate from the cattle industry, which when converted to CO2-equivalent is 25% higher than the CO2 emission rate of the entire transportation system, the global atmospheric methane content has been escalating in recent decades.
Even so, the real danger is if and when methane is released into the atmosphere in massive quantities within a very short time-span by the rapid melting of the permafrost surrounding the Arctic Ocean in northern Canada, Northern Alaska, Scandinavia and Siberia.
The permafrost contains a vast quantity of methane both underneath it in the frozen ancient vegetation as well as within it in the form of methane hydrate. When the permafrost is melted, both forms will release methane into the atmosphere.
When the permafrost is melted rapidly, methane will be released in copious quantities within years and decades, which will overwhelm the break-down rate, thus kick-starting the methane-feedback-loop whereby more methane in the atmosphere will warm up the global temperature more, melting more permafrost, releasing more methane… This is a vicious cycle which, once started, will be all but impossible to break. It is in fact not a cycle, but a spiral toward total permafrost melt down both on land and on the submarine continental shelf. Unless arrested on time, it will be the much dreaded detonation of the Methane Time Bomb, a “slow bomb” which will take decades to spend, or Runaway Global Heating, towards upwards of a 15 Celsius degree temperature rise which can terminate 85% of all species on Earth.
This is not pure extrapolation or projection. It has happened once before in Earth’s history. Currently, we’re already deep in the 6th mass extinction where 120 known species are going extinct every DAY, and about 10 times that many unknown species. This implies that there were five previous mass extinctions. Speaking of mass extinctions, we automatically think of the one at the end of the Cretaceous period 64 million years ago, the 5th, which eliminated all the dinosaurs, with the impression that it is the most calamitous extinction bouts in history. It is not. Although it did wipe out over 50% of all the species at that time, it is dwarfed by the 3rd Mass Extinction at the end of the Permian period 251 million years ago which eradicated 75% of all land species and 95% of all marine species.
And while the 5th was cause by an asteroid strike, the 3rd was cause indeed by global warming.
The End-Permian extinction, Mass Extinction #3, occurred when the supercontinent Pangaea broke up into the modern-day continents, during which time vast amounts of greenhouse gasses (GHGs) were spewed into the atmosphere, which drove the average global temperature up by over 16 Celsius degrees within a short time span.
Note again that it is global warming that sustains life, but a sudden increase of it could destroy it. An analogy is our own bodies, where it is the 98.6 degrees F body-warming that keeps us alive, but a sudden surge to 107F is what could kill us. Likewise for the current Mass Extinction #6, where the only difference from #3 is the source of the GHGs, which for #6 is of human origin.
I’m not religious, and do not believe in biblical prophesies, but the ancient Mayan prediction of the end of the world being on December 21, 2012, never ceases to amaze me with its accuracy, albeit it possibly a huge coincidence. Were a scientist asked to pin point the date of the detonation of the Methane Time Bomb, given the summer of 2013 being the first one with no sea ice, he would say December 21, 2012, since it will be the shortest day of 2012, to gradually lengthen towards the summer of 2013. As far as I’m concerned, there is no direct linkage between the Mayan Calendar established two millennia ago to 1880 AD of the western calendar, the year generally agreed upon to mark the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in England, much less the receding of the Arctic sea ice due to global warming, but still, there it is, staring us in the face today. And if it is so accurate, what does it portend to our future?
One thing it probably could not predict is that methane and latent heat were given significant consideration in neither the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) nor the 2009 climate convention in Copenhagen, in both of which only carbon dioxide was a factor of strategic-discussion and policy-making. In the context of the Methane Time Bomb, the bomb itself is methane, whereas carbon dioxide is only the fuse. So, the “authorities” are addressing only the fuse, but not the bomb.
If only the fuse could melt off all the Arctic summer sea ice and precipitate a global drought of biblical proportions, how much more dire could the situation be after the detonation of the bomb? How short-sighted can our species be?
To deal with this dire and urgent predicament, we should first examine the cause of this short-sightedness, and the first thing to realize about this short-sightedness is that it is not a matter of perception, but of behavior, the cause of which being greed and corruption. Unless we could rid our species of this greed and corruption, we’d never be able to deliver ourselves from this predicament, and it will be our children who will be marched into a global oven to be roasted alive.
Since “the buck stops here”, and “here” is the desk of “the most powerful person in the world”, we first have to ask who this person is. Ask a hundred Americans, and the vast majority would say that he is the president of the United States. But is he? No, he is not even the most powerful person in the United States. If the superlative must be used, he is the biggest puppet in America. So then, who are the puppet master(s)? I could name you five, though there are more: Pharmaceuticals, Meat, Hunting, Insurance, and, the biggest of them all, and most relevant to the case in point, OIL (and COAL).
To begin with, OIL is the lobby that has led the charge on global warming denial. To date, it has spent $220 million in this effort to delude the public regarding the reality of global warming, and it has the results to show for it. In the well known 2007 Nielsen global survey on global warming awareness:
– Globally, Czechs are the most aware about global warming, with 99% saying they know about this issue, followed by 98% of Chinese, Portuguese, Russian and Thai consumers.
– In Europe, 95% of consumers say they are aware of global warming and 57% consider it a very serious problem.
– Latin Americans, who live in a region that scientists predict will be one of the worst hit by global warming in the next twenty years, are the most aware and concerned group about global warming.
– North America – Least Aware and Least Concerned. In North America, which is the world’s largest producer of carbon dioxide emissions, 84% say they are aware of global warming, but less than half of them (43%) consider it a very serious problem. More worrying, 12% of North Americans said they had never heard or read anything about global warming and one in ten consumers said it was “not a serious problem at all.” “North Americans consistently ranked least aware and least concerned about global warming,” said Patrick Dodd, president, A.C. Nielsen Europe. .
Regarding whether global warming is a result of human actions, half the world’s population (50%) said global warming is a result of human actions and 43% believe it’s a combination of both natural changes in the climate and human actions. Again, Latin Americans lead the world for believing global warming is a direct result of human actions – 62% of Latin Americans compared to 32% of North Americans say global warming is a direct result of our actions.
“Those who believe global warming is a result of human actions are more likely to make changes to save the environment,” said Dodd. “In this case, its gratifying to see that those who most believe that global warming is caused by human activities are the Chinese (73%) followed by 70% of Brazilians – two of the world’s largest developing economies.”
One out of eight North Americans (12%), the highest percentage globally, thought global warming is caused by natural changes in the climate.
The dismal score achieved by North Americans is a direct result of the OIL-led global warming denial effort towards making the public consume oil products with impunity. This produces the following vicious cycle that North Americans seem unable to break: OIL deludes public perception and controls government action –> the public does not support government actions to combat global warming –> government takes no action to combat global warming and further heavily subsidizes OIL to make it even more powerful and influential –> OIL deludes the public and controls the government even more…
Following is a break down of how the government caters to OIL, to the tune of billions of dollars:
The U.S. government has generally propped the industry up with:
* Construction bonds at low interest rates or tax-free
* Research-and-development programs at low or no cost
* Assuming the legal risks of exploration and development in a company’s stead
* Below-cost loans with lenient repayment conditions
* Income tax breaks, especially featuring obscure provisions in tax laws designed to receive little congressional oversight when they expire
* Sales tax breaks – taxes on petroleum products are lower than average sales tax rates for other goods
* Giving money to international financial institutions (the U.S. has given tens of billions of dollars to the World Bank and U.S. Export-Import Bank to encourage oil production internationally, according to Friends of the Earth)
* The U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve
* Construction and protection of the nation’s highway system
* Allowing the industry to pollute – what would oil cost if the industry had to pay to protect its shipments, and clean up its spills? If the environmental impact of burning petroleum were considered a cost? Or if it were held responsible for the particulate matter in people’s lungs, in liability similar to that being asserted in the tobacco industry?
* Relaxing the amount of royalties to be paid
This in spite of the fact that OIL ranks at and near the top of all profitable enterprises:
1st Exxon Mobil $45.2 billion in profit
2nd Chevron $23,9 billion
15th Occidental Petroleum $6.9 million
38th Marathon Oil $3,528 million
41th Anadarko Petroleum $3,261 million
ExxonMobil – $36.1 billion
Royal Dutch Shell – $25.3 billion
British Petroleum – $22.3 billion
ConocoPhillips – $13.5 billion
Chevron Texaco – $14.1 billion
Total – $111.3 billion
Following are excerpts from various publications easily found by googling “oil subsidy”:
Albion Monitor, 1995: “The oil industry is soaking up billions of dollars in tax breaks, government funding, and indirect subsidies that pay for oil related environmental damage. Even as they reap these benefits, they are spending millions on slick lobbying campaigns and political contributions to put the brakes on, e.g., California’s growing electric and clean vehicle industry.”
Union of Concerned Scientists: “Money Down the Pipeline: Uncovering the Hidden Subsidies to the Oil Industry” concludes that the oil industry profits from preferential treatment in tax laws and government support. While the non-oil industries are taxed at a rate of 18 percent, the oil industry is taxed at a mere 11 percent. This reduced rate equates to $2 billion in federal corporate income tax benefits per year. They also benefit from low state and local sales tax rates on gasoline, an indirect subsidy exceeding $4 billion a year. Direct government funding of oil and motor vehicle infrastructure and services tops off at $45 billion a year. And taxpayers, not the oil industry, are left to pay the cleanup bill for oil-related health and environmental damage, which could be as high at $232 billion annually…. The current system creates an energy policy by default through lower income tax rates for oil companies, government handouts, and hidden environmental costs. These subsidies fuel our unhealthy appetite for oil.”
International Monetary Fund (IMF), June 2010: “PETROLEUM product subsidies have increased in recent years. In 2003, global consumer subsidies for petroleum products totaled nearly $60 billion. By mid-2008, they had increased more than eightfold—to $520 billion. As international fuel prices surged during this period, many governments chose not to fully pass through these increases to domestic retail prices, resulting in rising subsidies. Although subsidies fell sharply in the second half of 2008 as oil prices dropped, they increased again throughout 2009 as oil prices rebounded, and are projected to reach almost $250 billion by the end of 2010… the global ‘tax-inclusive’ consumer subsidy is projected to reach $740 billion by the end of 2010, equivalent to 1 percent of global gross domestic product.”
These essentially handouts include:
Oil and Gas Tax Breaks
– Intangible drilling costs
– Oil and gas percentage depletion allowance
– Natural gas distribution lines
– Geological and geophysical expenditures
– Deductions for foreign tax
– Expensing for refining equipment
– Passive Loss
– Small Refiners Deduction
– Natural gas gathering lines
– Exemption from bond arbitrage rules
– Manufacturing tax deduction for oil and gas companies
– 1995 Deep Water Royalty Relief Act
– Energy Policy Act of 2005
– Royalty-in-Kind Payments
– Relief for marginal producers
– Relief for deep wells in shallow waters of the Outer Continental Shelf
– Relief for deep water wells in the Gulf of Mexico
– Relief for offshore production in Alaska
– Relief for methane gas hydrates in the Outer Continental Shelf and Alaska
– Relief for enhanced oil and natural gas production
Oil and Gas Research and Development Subsidies
– Oil Technology Research and Development Program
– Ultra-deepwater drilling research and development subsidy
– “Last in, first out,” or “LIFO”
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, albeit it a dim light at the end of a long tunnel:
PITTSBURGH – G-20 convention (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, U.K., U.S., E.U. – whose economies account for over 80 percent of the world’s energy use)
“G-20 government leaders concluded the Pittsburgh Summit last week with a commitment to phase out fossil fuel subsidies over the medium term while providing targeted support for the poorest households. The leaders said that this unprecedented move is expected to encourage energy conservation, improve energy security, and kick-start their commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“In his closing address to the G-20 leaders, host President Barack Obama said, ‘We agreed to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels so that we can transition to a 21st century energy economy – an historic effort that would ultimately phase out nearly $300 billion in global subsidies.’
“Obama said the United States is ‘accelerating its collaboration’ with China, India, Mexico and other key international partners to combat climate change, coordinate clean energy research and development, and support the international climate talks.”
On face value, Obama’s words sound enlightened, but in practice, whether he could cut off the strings on his wrists is highly doubtful. The evil puppet master does not just give in, give up and lie down. For one thing their propaganda machine will tell the public that an end to oil subsidy will mean higher gasoline prices at the pump, and the public will oppose it, regardless of the fact that the subsidy comes out of their own tax dollars, and ending the subsidy could mean a lowering of taxes and more money for them to spend elsewhere as well as to meet the higher gas prices, much less would they even remotely consider that higher gasoline prices will automatically cut down on oil consumption for the sake of the environment, nor would the thought even momentarily flicker through their mind that the money thus freed up could go to research and development of the green technologies, thus creating long term and expanding employment.
While political and industrial leaders glad-hand and posture and play their power games, science has shown the physical truth of energy. Realizing the solar potential of 1% of the Sahara Desert can provide for the electricity needs of the entire European Union; 5% can satisfy the entire world.
But indeed, to transit from oil to green energy (by which I do NOT mean ethanol or any other kind of combustion fuel) will take a heavy infusion of funds to initiate. In 2007, the respected consulting firm McKinsey and Co. estimated that some $50 billion would be needed in annual investment over the next two decades to transition away from fossil fuel to lower or zero carbon sources of energy. This assuredly is not small potatoes, but as assuredly, it is less than the subsidies currently handed to OIL on a platter.
Considering the stakes, and as a matter of course, objections arise, one from the right being that the government will be forced to pick technology winners and losers: Should we invest in photovoltaic or solar thermal?
Or wind? Or geothermal? Ironically the answer could also come from them: Whichever the market will prefer – in efficiency and economy. And I ask them back: How does the current government apportion the subsidies for oil, coal and nuclear?
Meanwhile, the commercial sector appears to be brimming with enthusiasm. Business Week magazine writes (April, 2010): “Investor fervor is fueling the market for public offerings of green companies. Electric automaker Tesla Motors, U.S. green energy producer Ameresco, and Spain’s T-Solar have filed to go public, and many more are waiting in the wings. ‘There’s renewed appetite for green IPOs (Initial Public Offering),’ says Luigi Ferraris, chief financial officer of Italian utility Enel, which plans to sell a minority stake of its renewables subsidiary Enel Green Power for $5.4 billion by the end of the year. That would be Europe’s largest listing since 2007. // Green companies have said they hope to raise $9.6 billion worldwide, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That’s more than triple the total for eco-IPOs during all of last year. Renewable energy projects such as wind farms and solar parks still garner the most interest, but energy conservation and water management are also winning financial backing. // British solar energy producer Engyco wants to secure $1.4 billion, while its Madrid-based rival Renovalia could raise more than $300 million. Indian clean-tech manufacturer Indosolar aims to raise $88 million in Mumbai. San Diego-based Fallbrook Technologies, a maker of efficient transmissions for vehicles, is looking for $50 million. And Tesla is aiming for $100 million. ‘Investment bankers are out there soliciting business,’ says Nigel Meir of Ludgate Environmental Fund in London, which invests in clean technology companies. ‘The green sector has a lot of forward propulsion.'”
On the governmental level, while North American governments vacillate, and the Canadian took a great step backward, causing Wind Energy Association to lament the federal government’s recent decision not to expand or extend the so-called EcoEnergy program (which delivered subsidies to renewable energy developers) in its new budget, other countries are charging full steam ahead in developing green technology and a green economy. India, for example, expanding on its incentives package for wind power, is launching a major campaign in solar energy deployment. With 9,000 megawatts (MW) of solar already up and running, the country has set a goal to have 20,000 MW online by 2022 — enough power to run about 20 million U.S. households. How does India plan to do it? By means of massive subsidies. The Indian government plans to increase solar generation with $19 billion, up to 90% of all costs, including solar panels in all government buildings, making good its pledge to spend $200 billion on building a cleaner, more efficient Smart Grid by 2015.
In Spain: “The most efficient Spanish solar thermal plants produce electricity at a total lifetime cost of about 91.7 fils (25 US cents) per kilowatt-hour (kwh) according to estimates by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a data centre for renewables… high level of subsidy required… (with) the falling cost of solar technology.”
Leading the charge and way ahead of the pack, the cause of the falling cost of solar technology, is China.
[Chinese solar to gain on subsidy cuts in Europe
February 15, 2010
Written by Editor, in China, Green News, Solar
According to Reuters, “Subsidy cuts throughout Europe promise more business for Chinese solar companies at the expense of European and American peers… German companies such as Q-Cells, Solon and SolarWorld could be among the worst hit… Developers are… sourcing from Asian manufacturers… Chinese manufacturers undercut their European peers’ prices between 30 and 40 percent… Chinese companies sell modules at about 1.20 euros per watt, while European panels sell at nearly 2 euros per watt… Chinese manufacturers have an added advantage over overseas peers in that they buy polysilicon, the key material to make solar cells, from Chinese manufacturers with lower electricity and labor costs…. Germany, last year responsible for about half of European solar installation, is cutting feed-in tariffs, the price power distributors have to pay generators for renewable energy, by 16 percent from June in addition to the annual cuts.. Italy, Europe’s third-biggest solar energy market with about 900 megawatts of PV capacity… plans to trim the generous feed-in tariff… France plans to cut feed-in tariffs by 24 percent this year and the Czech Republic will reduce subsidies next year.. Europe is the most important market for solar products. Sales of photovoltaic appliances reached 16 billion euros ($22 billion) in 2009, about three quarters of the world market… combined installation volume in France, Italy, Spain and the Czech Republic will total up to 1.96 gigawatts in 2010, or 18 percent of estimated global 2010 output, and 2.8 gigawatts for Germany.. The Chinese Government has been on a health-kick ever since the ultra-successful Beijing Olympics when the city clamped down heavily on air pollution. Now, the central government has announced new plans to help the growth of green cars within the country… the government will subsidise purchases of clean energy vehicles for public fleets in 13 cities in a bid to help the industry develop green technology…”
While China is leading the way to a green future, the U.S. is playing catch-up, though not without some major advancements of its own. “Despite massive amounts of stimulus funding being spent on wind farms — nearly $2 billion — the vast majority (80%) of it has been spent on overseas companies… the project has resulted in nearly 6,000 jobs for overseas manufacturers and only a few hundred over here… a drop in U.S. wind manufacturing jobs last year… The Roscoe Wind Complex comprises a series of 627 wind turbines providing a 781.5 megawatt capacity covers about 100,000 acres and four Texas counties… a collaborative wind project with the community that included negotiations with over 300 landowners, and a mix of different turbines made by several companies including Mitsubishi, General Electric, and Siemens.. Texas continues to lead the nation in the development of renewable energy and has more wind generation capacity than any other state and all but four countries… 500 workers… investment of over $1 billion dollars… has the capacity to power 230,000 residences… ‘the world’s largest wind farm’… its London offshore wind project will be “the largest offshore wind farm in the world… President Obama has allocated $4 billion in ‘stimulus funds’ to help advance the ‘smart grid’, which is intended to seamlessly integrate all our new solar and wind power into the national supply of electricity… to create new “green” jobs… 2,000 green jobs for five years… China… has become the world’s major source of wind turbines, cutting further into Obama’s “green job” expectations. The wind turbine manufacturing will shortly be joined by our steel and aluminum industries, fertilizer plants and many other production facilities when the U.S. energy penalty taxes mount up.”
“China looms large over the global climate summit in Copenhagen, where Chinese officials are pressing the U.S. and other rich nations to accept new curbs on their emissions and to continue to subsidize poor nations’ efforts to adopt clean-energy technology. China, the world’s biggest source of carbon emissions… is now becoming a source of some of the solutions… bringing down the cost of solar and wind energy… electric car batteries… address a major impediment… heavy subsidies… The so-called China price … spreading to green technology… exported nearly all their output to countries such as Germany and Spain… raising solar power capacity targets five- or tenfold, so that by 2020 China could have more than double current global solar-power capacity… Japan… on a collision course with the ambitions of China.
“Is China outpacing the US in green technology development and implementation? Venture capitalists such as John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins think so, and they are definitely taking notice. ‘China’s growth in renewables is astounding,’ Doerr recently admitted. ‘… we are barely in the race today… China is winning.’… 50% growth in the market share held by the Chinese solar industry… the U.S. solar industry, only 16%… Unlike the U.S., where the solar industry can only get limited financing… the Chinese government has provided abundant financing for green projects… Doerr… ‘the results of their policies are really staggering.’.. U.S. Barely in the Green Technology Race: ‘We are Number 19! We are Number 19?!’… China had passed the U.S. and several western European countries to become the word’s top manufacturer of both solar panels and wind turbines; China might become the Saudi Arabia of alternative energy… China will gain thousands of new jobs, but not necessarily at America’s expense… China powers ahead as it seizes the green energy crown from Europe… running away with the green technology prize. It has conquered a third of the world market for solar cells and is on a breakneck course to build 100 gigawatts of wind turbines by 2020, doubling again the global capacity for wind power… broken the world record for capturing photovoltaic solar energy…”
There are three reasons for the U.S. falling behind China in the Green Race: OIL, OIL and OIL. And a fourth: MORAL BANKRUPTCY, where the OIL CEOs and oil investors laugh all the way to the bank, while sending their own children and grand children into a hell on Earth.
Regardless of which country wins in this new Green Race and which loses, the immediate goal is to wean the human race from the fossil fuels, while building a Global Green Infrastructure (GGI) capable of taking over from the Old Oil Order (OOO) without a disruption or even collapse of the world economy.
Bear in mind that some use of oil is needed to build the GGI, and we cannot afford to burn much more oil, to allot that amount of oil needed to build the GGI is the top priority in terms of future fossil fuels use. If we have to do without oil-based luxuries, e.g. cruise ships, so be it.
Can the planet be saved even if the entire world stopped using oil yesterday? No. Because the CO2 already in the air will keep on heating the planet for centuries to come, and will still ignite the Methane Time Bomb, driving the planet into Runaway Global Heating, albeit some decades later. We need something more, something that can cool the planet back down, and this boils down to Terraforming.
The idea of Terraforming originated in space exploration, where it was conceived that the planet Mars could be geo-engineered into becoming an Earth-like planet capable of supporting life as we know it. As applied to our own planet at this crucial time, it refers to geo-engineering the Earth towards cooling it back down, and that is a far greater endeavor than anything our species has ever attempted to date, even greater than transiting from oil tech to green tech. Likewise, it will require a far greater capital input than green subsidies.
Leading the terraforming technologies is Atmospheric Carbon Capture and Sequestration (ACCS), which basically is to capture the carbon-based gasses (CO2 and CH4) from the atmosphere, turn them into liquid or solid form, and bury it deep underground, just the opposite to what we are doing today, which is to extract carbon from deep underground in liquid (oil) and solid (coal) form, changing all into gaseous CO2 by combustion.
In 1880, when the Industrial Age began, the atmospheric carbon concentration was 280 ppm (parts per million). In 2010, the atmospheric carbon concentration has risen to 387 ppm, on average an additional 1 ppm per year. At this rate, come 2020, it will be almost 400 ppm., while scientists estimate that 350 ppm is the maximum that the Earth can sustain without going into Runaway Global Heating. Accordingly, we need to extract 110 ppm of CO2 from the atmosphere. Nature provides us with the perfect ACCS – plants, which absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and turn it into more plants. Again, we are currently doing the exact opposite – deforestation, slashing-and-burning entire forests, changing the plants into smoke.
Do we currently have any artificial ACCS systems in operation? No, we do not. We don’t even have a working model to show for it. The British billionaire Richard Branson has a standing offer of $25 million for anyone who could come up with a working model of ACCS. No one has yet claimed it. What does this tell us? The fact of the matter is that it takes much much more to create even a working model of ACCS than $25 million – maybe 10 times that much. And to creating a real world ACCS system, maybe 100 to 1000 times that much. And where does this money come from?
There is only one source of funds of this magnitude I can think of: Currently, the global military expenditure is $1.3 trillion (with a “t”) per annum, or $1,300 billion. An across-the-board 10% reduction, with each nation cutting its own military budget by 10% so that no nation will suffer any relative weakening in military strength, will liberate $130 billion per year for such planet saving endeavors. And the military need not fear any lay-offs either, since military manufacturers and personnel can easily be converted and trained into a planet-saving force.
I know my own species well. There is an unsavory human trait that could doom us all: We won’t do the right thing, or even the necessary thing, until our collective back is against the wall. And the biggest Catch-22 of our time: Our collective back won’t be against the wall until the Methane Time Bomb has detonated.
Ultimately, there are two reasons that can cause our collective demise: IGNORANCE and APATHY – especially on the part of the people in the street who still invest in OIL and COAL. Ask them the simple question: Which is worse – ignorance or apathy?
Their answer still is: “I don’t know and I don’t care.”
Anthony Marr, Founder and President
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC)
http://www.facebook.com (search for “Anthony Marr Heal Our Planet Earth”)