Senator James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma and the Senate Environment Chair tells the Senate why he thinks global warming is a hoax in this video. I’m going to let you decide what you think of his comments rather than influence you with facts that refute him. (But those facts are strewn throughout the last couple of years of my posts if you want the truth.) If only he wasn’t funded so significantly by the fossil fuel industry, then maybe he’d have slightly more credibility. (Did I mention he’s the Senate Environment Chair?)
Obviously my title isn’t referring to Republican Senator James Inhofe who has repeatedly denied what scientists and evidence have made abundantly clear: that we are living on a warming planet caused by our greenhouse gas emissions.
But it’s nice to know that other politicians are listening to the scientists. This week, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island proved that point. Immediately after Inhofe claimed that the government was colluding to mislead Americans about climate change, Whitehouse listed all of the reasons why Inhofe is an idiot on the subject. (And he didn’t even have to point out that Inhofe is in the back pocket of big oil companies.)
Among the points he refutes:
- surface temperatures aren’t rising dramatically because 90 precent of our planet’s warming is being absorbed by our oceans.
- to claim that the government is working in collusion to mislead Americans while we trust these same branches of government is ludicrous (e.g. NASA sends astronauts into space, NOAA predicts our weather, and the U.S. Navy protects our seas)
- groups outside of government with no agenda to mislead such as the property insurance and reinsurance industry have more than enough evidence to believe that global warming and climate change are real.
- that a “petition” signed by 31,000 people refuting global warming isn’t worth the paper it’s written on when its signatories include the Spice Girls and Dr. Frank Burns from M*A*S*H.
Some day the truth will prevail. It always does. But until then, idiocy is something we have to contend with. If you’d like to see exactly how well-versed in climate science Senator Whitehouse is, here’s the clip where he criticizes Inhofe.
“Over the past 15 years, temperatures have been flat while greenhouse gas emissions continue to soar.”
—Senator James Inhofe (R-OK)
Ah yes, the same old song lyric we keep hearing from deniers and skeptics. I’m less bothered when I hear it from people whose ignorance means they simply don’t know any better. I’m incredibly bothered when I hear it from politicians who make the decisions that affect us all, holding onto ideologies that favour their financial backers rather than their constituents who actually voted them into office.
Case in point: Republicans on the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee at the July 18 hearing entitled “Climate Change: It’s Happening Now.”
- Panelist Franklin Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America, stated: “The industry is at great financial peril if it does not understand global and regional climate impacts, variability and developing scientific assessment of a changing climate.” Some GOP members disagreed, blaming a White House conspiracy to mislead Americans. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.): “[President Obama] believes that government can make better decisions than the people, and regulating carbon dioxide will give him all he needs to make nearly every decision for the American people.” Continue reading
“I will be a passionate advocate about [energy policy and climate change] not based on ideology but based on facts and science.”
—soon-to-be Secretary of State John Kerry at his Senate confirmation
On January 29, 2013 the US Senate voted to confirm John Kerry as the next Secretary of State by a vote of 94 to 3. He’ll replace Hillary Clinton and will be sworn in as the 68th Secretary of State tomorrow, Friday February 1, 2013.
This should be a good move for the environment. Continue reading
“We are the Saudi Arabia of natural gas.”
—Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., May 2010
Most everybody seems to be aware that most natural reservoirs of petroleum and natural gas are beyond their peaks, and are slowly drying up. That’s why more imaginative ways to get at the planet’s sources of crude oil are now being exploited. Deep sea offshore drilling and developing the tar sands in Alberta may cost more and cause greater harm to the environment, but given that they still make money, they’re still worth it to those doing the exploiting.
One relatively new term to the fossil fuel vocabulary is “fracking.” Short for “hydraulic fracturing,” fracking is yet another way of getting at some petroleum products that were previously inaccessible. Developed as a technique more than sixty years ago, it didn’t become economically useful until 1997, specifically for accessing natural gas associated with shale which is a fine-grained sedimentary rock made from a mixture of clay and other minerals. Not surprisingly, therefore, natural gas found in shale is known as shale gas.
Shale gas has become an increasing source of fossil fuels, particularly in the US but other countries such as Canada are developing their own fracking operations as well. China sits on the largest source of shale gas on the planet.
The technology of fracking involves pumping millions of litres of water deep into the shale formations where the petroleum products, particularly natural gas (methane) are located. This is done at very high pressures. Chemicals are added to the water to make it more viscous, and because companies believe this is a proprietary issue they won’t usually divulge exactly what these chemicals are, but thousands of litres of the stuff are added to the millions of litres of water. The chemically-altered water cracks the shale or in some cases widens existing cracks, freeing any hydrocarbons deposited in the shale to flow toward the well at the surface. About thirty percent of the water is lost. It’s believed that fracking has contributed in some part to the droughts that Texas has experienced of late.
To keep the fractures from immediately collapsing, something known as a proppant is added to the fracking fluid that will keep them open. Sand is often used, but other materials include ceramic, bauxite, and even glass.
As you can imagine, this issue has its many who are for it, and many who are against it. Those in favour of it point out how much more natural gas and other hydrocarbons that were previously inaccessible can now be extracted, reducing dependence on foreign sources of fossil fuels. Also, natural gas is a cleaner fossil fuel than either coal or oil.
Those against it, however, point out that once again, obtaining fossil fuels with these less conventional methods wreaks havoc on the environment. These include:
—the high volume of water required
—contamination of ground water and drinking water
—risks to air quality and health
—carbon emissions associated
—disruption to ecosystems
—migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface
—surface contamination from spills and flowback
Although Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) stated in April 2011 that there’s “never been one case—documented case—of groundwater contamination in the history of the thousands and thousands of hydraulic fracturing [wells],” that’s a mistake at best, and a lie at worst. Various surface spills have occurred over the years. There have also been blowouts at wells operated by Chesapeake Energy and EOG Resources. One spill of more than 30,000 litres of fracking fluid occurred at a site in Pennsylvania, contaminating the groundwater there.
The Council of Canadians is one group in my country very opposed to fracking. But anywhere that fracking is taking place, you don’t have to look too far to find those who see it as another appalling way to look for energy. A quick Google search reveals that New York State, North Carolina and Alabama all have fracking with many opposed to its development.
I would just love to see as much energy and research invested into renewable sources of energy as there is devoted to squeezing every last bit of fossil fuel out of the planet. People talk about how the infrastructure isn’t ready for renewables yet, it’s not designed to handle the intermittency of wind and solar, and the battery capacity isn’t yet there. Know what I say to that? Then let’s develop them.
That may sound naive, but the ability is there, I have no doubt. The hackneyed phrase applies here, so I make no apologies for using it: over forty years ago we put men on the Moon. Surely we can build better batteries that are smaller and economically competitive, and we can build a grid that can deal with the intermittency of renewables.
All it takes is a little willpower to see where we need to be, and what we need to achieve to get there. We’ll have to do this someday anyway once every last well has run dry, and every last bit of shale gas has been consumed. Even our coal isn’t infinite. I just hope we have the sense to stop looking for unique methods of obtaining tougher sources of fossil fuels and use that ingenuity to develop renewables.