Is phrased by Marcelo Rinesi. He has also published this short article here. I think this article is of a bluntness and clarity of point that when read to the amassed members of the UN it would shame them into a hushed silence – and hence they will do whatever it takes to not have it read in that manner. So I am having it read here instead. So take it away Marco…
We are going to burn all of the oil and coal we have, because their benefits as energy sources are concrete, immediate, and local, while their costs are gradual, delayed, and global.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but when facing similar choices, humankind has never chosen the more long-term view.
There are only three conceivable scenarios in which we stop burning fossil fuels at a massive scale. First and foremost, nobody will use fossil fuels if there’s a more effective energy source available. For that to happen, we need investments in science, development, and infrastructure that are orders of magnitude larger than what we’re doing now, because our technology isn’t there yet, and our energy transport infrastructure is still woefully inadequate.
A second scenario involves the impact of climate change being so harsh and destructive — and impacting directly the developed world in such a way — that the use of fossil fuels becomes an immediate casus belli. Of course, by then the proverbial horses will be out of the equally proverbial barn, but every megatonne of carbon is likely to have an impact, and, besides, this would be a matter of politics, not global climate management.
Finally, and perhaps most likely, we’ll stop burning fossil fuels simply because we’ll run out of them. More precisely, we’ll stop using them when they become so hard to extract that using alternative energy sources becomes more convenient. Given how bad those alternative energy sources are at the moment, by that moment we might also be well into the catastrophic climate change scenario.
What happens afterward will depend on whether or not we have upgraded our energy infrastructure by then. Make no mistake, we can and should try to get as energy-efficient as we can, but to an enormous degree civilization is simply about energy per capita, which is one of the reasons why we no longer have to dedicate 90% of our population to growing food. In terms of quality of life and political freedom, 17th-century Europe, Japan, and China are perhaps the highest you can go without massive non-human energy sources. If we have found a viable alternative to fossil fuels by the time or before we have used most of them, then we will “only” have to deal with climate upheaval of a scale unprecedented in human history. If we haven’t, then we’ll have to deal with climate upheaval of a scale unprecedented in human history… while dealing with an economic depression that will make 1930 look like a Golden Age, and WWII a minor inconvenience. And, needlessly to say, the longer we burn fossil fuels, the deeper the climate catastrophe is going to be.
The time for smooth, convenient solutions was decades ago, when scientists first began to raise the alarm about the greenhouse effect and peak oil, and the twin approaching disasters of a changing climate and an energy crunch. By now, the most we can do, and the least we have to, is to scramble however we can. Yes, even during a global recession, and even during the next ones. If you think upgrading the energy foundations of a planetary civilization is hard during an economic recession, imagine how hard it’ll be with a fraction of the energy available, and climate-related disruptions erupting everywhere.
We need to make extraordinary advances in energy sources, and we have to do if fast, or, to put it simply, the 22nd century will look like the 17th. We need to constrain our use of fossil fuels as much as possible. It’s one thing to have to deal with an oncoming train, and quite another to be running toward it. And we need to become much better at handling our atmosphere and ecosystems, mass human migration and infrastructure development, and political coordination and humanitarian support, because the latter half of the century is shaping up to be one ugly mess. We are in this fix because a few short decades ago we did nothing. If we do nothing, or even if we just don’t do enough, the fix we’re going to be a few short decades from now will be much, much worse.
If we fail, the best case scenario is losing most of what we’ve accomplished in the last few centuries. In the worst case, we also lose everything else.
What is needed is wealth – affluence. It isn’t just something we want – it is something we need. The world populations aren’t just expanding, they are exploding. Natural resources aren’t just diminishing, they are collapsing. We face poverty on a scale, in terms of severity and numbers bigger than ever before in human history. Never have a billion people lived under these ghastly conditions.
Listen to the slow, grinding nightmare Sachs paints – making a billion (or more) people in poverty slave and toil to escape this poverty. This is monstrous – but in the current paradigm he is right, this is the only way to do it. But there is a better way to do it. Increase the basic premise of industrial growth and we can bypass this nightmare. Introduce more energy and economic growth and hope and progress to the mix and you create the options to save people’s lives. Because what we see here before us is simply not acceptable. The solutions proposed, even if they make sense, are not enough. We can do better.
Oil platform explodes off La. coast; oil spreading
NEW ORLEANS, La. – An oil platform exploded and caught fire Thursday off the Louisiana coast, spreading a mile-long oil sheen into the Gulf of Mexico. All 13 crew members were rescued.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Bill Coklough said the sheen, about 100 feet wide, was spotted near the platform, 200 miles west of the site of BP’s massive spill. Firefighting vessels were battling the flames.
The company that owns the platform, Houston-based Mariner Energy, did not know what caused the blast, which was reported by a helicopter flying over the area. Seven Coast Guard helicopters, two airplanes and three cutters were dispatched to the scene.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Mariner officials told him there were seven active production wells on the platform, and they were shut down shortly after the fire broke out.
The platform is in about 340 feet of water and about 100 miles south of Louisiana’s Vermilion Bay. Its location is considered shallow water, much less than the approximately 5,000 feet where BP’s well spewed oil and gas for three months after the April rig explosion.
Responding to any oil spill in shallow water would be much easier than in deep water, where crews depend on remote-operated vehicles access equipment on the sea floor.
A homeland security update obtained by The Associated Press said the platform was producing 58,800 gallons of oil and 900,000 cubic feet of gas per day. The platform can store 4,200 gallons of oil.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the administration has “response assets ready for deployment should we receive reports of pollution in the water,” Gibbs said.
Crew members were found floating in the water, huddled together in survival outfits called “gumby suits.”
“These guys had the presence of mind, used their training to get into those gumby suits before they entered the water,” Coast Guard spokesman Chief Petty Officer John Edwards said.
The crew was being flown to a hospital in Houma. Coast Guard Cmdr. Cheri Ben-Iesau said one person was injured, but the company said there were no injuries.
A company report said the well was drilled in the third quarter of 2008.
There are about 3,400 platforms operating in the Gulf, according to the American Petroleum Institute. Together they pump about a third of the America’s domestic oil, forming the backbone of the country’s petroleum industry.
Platforms are vastly different from oil rigs like the Deepwater Horizon. They are usually brought in after wells are already drilled and sealed.
“A production platform is much more stable,” said Andy Radford, an API expert on offshore oil drilling. “On a drilling rig, you’re actually drilling the well. You’re cutting. You’re pumping mud down the hole. You have a lot more activity on a drilling rig.”
In contrast, platforms are usually placed atop stable wells where the oil is flowing at a predictable pressure, he said. A majority of platforms in the Gulf do not require crews on board.
Many platforms, especially those in shallower water, stand on legs that are drilled into the sea floor. Like a giant octopus, they spread numerous pipelines across the sea floor and can tap into many wells at once.
Platforms do not have blowout preventers, but they are usually equipped with a series of redundant valves that can shut off oil and gas at different points along the pipeline.
Numerous platforms were damaged during hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The storms broke pipelines and oil spilled into the Gulf. But the platforms successfully kept major spills from happening, Radford said.
"Those safety valves did their job," he said.
Federal authorities have cited Mariner Energy and related entities for 10 accidents in the Gulf of Mexico over the last four years, according to safety records from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.
The accidents range from platform fires to pollution spills and a blowout, according to accident-investigation reports from the agency formerly known as the Minerals Management Service.
In 2007, welding sparks falling onto an oil storage tank caused a flash fire that slightly burned a contract worker. The Minerals Management Service issued a $35,000 fine.
Mariner Energy Inc. focuses on oil and gas exploration and production in the Gulf. In April, Apache Corp., another independent oil company, announced plans to buy Mariner in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $3.9 billion, including the assumption of about $1.2 billion of Mariner’s debt. That deal is pending.
On Friday, BP was expected to begin the process of removing the cap and failed blowout preventer, another step toward completion of a relief well that would put a final seal on the well. The Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20, killing 11 people and setting off a three-month leak that totaled 206 million gallons of oil.