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The conundrum of Climate Change

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  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    The Energy Collective, January 31, 2013: Will Climate Change Hawk Kerry Kill Keystone XL?

    "The solution to climate change is energy policy. And, the opportunities of energy policy so vastly outweigh the downsides that you’re expressing concerns about … You want to do business and do it well in America, you have to get into the energy race … I would respectfully say to you that climate change is not something to be feared in response to—the steps to respond to—it’s to be feared if we don’t … I will be a passionate advocate on this not based on ideology but based on facts and science, and I hope to sit with all of you and convince you that this $6 trillion market is worth millions of American jobs and we better go after it." -- John Kerry at his confirmation hearing

    Just for the record, I am a Climate Change Hawk. I don't believe that Obama/Kerry should approve the Keystone XL pipeline expansion project, but like a lot of other issues of this sort, I expect that they will. Global politics and jobs trumps the better arguments of the environment and Climate Change. The real target here for environmentalists is the Tar Sands project in Canada. The Keystone Pipeline XL is the enabler of expanding that project from it's current level. Note that the term XL attached to that pipeline line. There already is a big 30 inch diameter Keystone pipeline carrying 435,000 barrels per day of this dirty crude across the US border to Patoka, Illinois. It was approved by President Bush and has been operational since June 2010.

    Downstream Today: Oil Flows Through Keystone

    However, I don't want to make this post just about Keystone XL or the Canadian Tar Sands project. We've already discussed that extensively in this website in past threads, most recently in Eternal Flame's post: Canada TAR SANDS OIL much more dangerous than "crude" oil. Rather we should also address the other big time contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, including coal mining in China, Australia, Indonesia and the United States, and oil and gas drilling around the world. See the recent article in AlterNet that ranks these projects:

    AlterNet, January 28, 2013: The 14 Fossil-Fuel Projects Poised to F*ck up the Climate

    Using a simple metric of how many additional tons of CO2 each project will emit by 2020, here’s how they rank:

    1. China’s Western provinces / Coal mining expansion / 1,400
    2. Australia / Coal export expansion / 760
    3. Arctic / Drilling for oil and gas / 520
    4. Indonesia / Coal export expansion / 460

    5. United States / Coal export expansion / 420
    6. Canada / Tar sands oil / 420
    7. Iraq / Oil drilling / 420
    8. Gulf of Mexico / Deepwater oil drilling / 350

    9. Brazil / Deepwater oil drilling (pre-salt) / 330
    10. Kazakhstan / Oil drilling / 290
    11. United States / Shale gas / 280
    12. Africa / Gas drilling / 260

    13. Caspian Sea / Gas drilling / 240
    14. Venezuela / Tar sands oil / 190

    Here's where in dealing with reality, I suffer from cognitive dissonance. Remember that Romney campaign ad where he featured a row of Ohio coal miners standing behind him as he promoted the virtues of coal and "good paying jobs" in the coal industry? When I first saw that clip I felt anger...then pity...and then understanding. As the son of a miner and growing up in the mining town of Butte, Montana, I certainly understand the fear and anxiety of a miner struggling to provide for his family. Those of us that have experienced that will feel more empathy than those that have not. It is the fear of losing a job and not being able to provide for your family that has many miners obediently following the orders of their corporate masters. It trumps just about everything else. It's reality.

    Largely is response to CBB's points about "fracking" I spent days browsing the internet educating myself on the issues of not only fracking, but also greenhouse gas emissions. Naturally it covered both coal and oil and gas extraction worldwide. On the topic of "fracking" I saw much resistance being generated in communities across America, much of it in response to the movie Gasland. But I also found something else...resistance and blockage of proposed wind turbine and solar farms not only in the United States but across the globe. A website called Windturbine Syndrome discusses many of these protests against wind farms. Proponents of harnessing wind and solar energy are largely all for it until the NIMBY sets in...Not In My Back Yard. You can read about some of them in the LA Times:

    LA Times, January 24, 2011: Wind farms multiply, fueling clashes with nearby residents

    With regards to the proposed wind farm offshore Massachusetts, the late Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and other notable Democrats have been opposed to this project:

    Senator Kerry explained his reasons this way: “I’ve always said that I think Senator Kennedy has raised very legitimate issues with respect to the siting process and with respect to location. I’ve also suggested that it’s my opinion there may be even better locations for it. I’ve sat with Jim Gordon [president of Cape Wind], I’ve sat with other folks, I’ve met with Coast Guard people. I’ve tried to do due diligence on it, and I’m not sure there aren’t both windier and, you know, more accessible areas.”

    In other words...Not In My Back Yard.

    So when it comes to the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, just remember...it's not in John Kerry's backyard.
  • Are you sure you want to delete this post?
        
    A solution for removing CO2 from the air is this.

    Place pumps at the bottom of the ocean near the continental shelves. The cold nutrient rich water will cause an explosion of life. In the past it was an over abundance of plants in the ocean and on land that led to coal and oil. But nature moves to slow for us so we should learn to terraform here before trying it on distant planets.
  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Dallas, TX
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    Don't forget the "liberty" issues at stake with the KXL pipeline. This is eminent domain off its rockers. And it's bringing Occupiers and Tea Partiers together in East Texas.
  • Democrat
    Meridian, MS
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    Schmidt, I have commented numerous times on this Keystone XL pipeline, but I have to admit that I was never aware of the "stuff" actually already being transported to Patoka, Il. (I have lived in the Chicago area for about 5-6 years, and never heard of Patoka). My question is this: As I mentioned before in those previous threads, and as you confirm in your thread here, this DIRTY oil cannot replace any imported or domestic oil without first being cleaned. So where does this Patoka oil go for processing? And after processing, its cost HAS to be higher than any domestic and probably even most imports.....so who would purchase it? And since it is already coming into the U.S., is the supply so huge that we need to build additional pipelines to transport this same "dirty" oil to the Gulf? Is there some huge demand either for this "dirty" oil or for its more expensive cleaned product, such that we need to bring more of it into the U.S.?
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    michaels39301 Wrote: Schmidt, I have commented numerous times on this Keystone XL pipeline, but I have to admit that I was never aware of the "stuff" actually already being transported to Patoka, Il. (I have lived in the Chicago area for about 5-6 years, and never heard of Patoka). My question is this: As I mentioned before in those previous threads, and as you confirm in your thread here, this DIRTY oil cannot replace any imported or domestic oil without first being cleaned. So where does this Patoka oil go for processing? And after processing, its cost HAS to be higher than any domestic and probably even most imports.....so who would purchase it? And since it is already coming into the U.S., is the supply so huge that we need to build additional pipelines to transport this same "dirty" oil to the Gulf? Is there some huge demand either for this "dirty" oil or for its more expensive cleaned product, such that we need to bring more of it into the U.S.?
    Michaels -- Good questions. Sorry for the slow response, but I had to do some more digging. First with regard to processing of bitumen in Canada before delivery to the pipeline, there are two types of operations used in the Athabasca Tar sands projects to prepare the product before pumping into the Keystone Pipeline:

    1) Upgrading using fractional distillation and/or chemical treatment to convert bitumen so it can be handled by oil refineries. This means at least reducing its viscosity so that it can be pumped through pipelines (bitumen is 1000x more viscous than light crude oil), and often separating out heavy fractions and reducing sulfur, nitrogen and metals like nickel and vanadium.

    2) Diluting to a "dilbit" blend for transport. "Dilbit blends" mix the raw bitumen with a diluent, usually condensate, for the purpose of meeting pipeline viscosity and density specifications.

    From my limited understanding of the descriptions of these two processes, it would appear that the tag of "dirty crude" is more attributable to the dilbit stuff since it doesn't undergo any apparent refining type of cleaning before transport.

    The environmental risks of transport are contained in this report of July 6, 2009: Keystone XL Project Pipeline Risk Assessment and Environmental Consequence Analysis

    From further reading, the two different types of bitumen (dilbit or upgraded synthetic) are sent down the pipeline in large batches separated by a batch of normal "sweet crude" from conventional oil reservoirs to ensure that the two do not contaminate each other in transport. The refineries to process the upgraded synthetic crude or the dilbit need to undergo major expansion and adaptation to handle the stuff, but even then the nasty product needs to be blended with a lighter conventional crude oil before refining. The storage and blending currently takes place in the giant Patoka tank farm before sending the bitumen-crude blend for refining at the nearby Wood River, Illinois refinery. According to wikipedia:

    "A new four-drum coker, part of Wood River Refinery's Coker and Refinery Expansion (CORE) was completed in November 2011.The new coker has a capacity of 65,000 barrels per day and is expected to expand the capacity to handle the bitumen from the Alberta oil sands by nearly 700%. The new Wood River coker's processing capacity is approximately 200,000 - 220,000 barrels per day. The CORE project took about three years to build, with a total cost of US $3.8 billion (US $1.9 billion to Cenovus), and has increased clean product yield by 5% to approximately 85%. While the expansion was undertaken specifically to handle heavy oil imported from Alberta, the refined transportation fuels products are destined for the U.S. Midwest market, including St. Louis and Chicago not Canada."

    I would assume that if the Keystone XL is approved, then some of the gulf coast refineries would undergo similar expansions to be able to process this type of crude. However, note the cost of the Wood River expansion...$3.8 billion. Refineries would need assurances of supply (Keystone XL approval) before committing to that kind of an investment. Even if President Obama removes any environmental restrictions that he is responsible for, protests by local landowners can also delay it. That's happening in both Texas and Nebraska.

    A final point. If the project is approved and the bitumen is mostly purchased and refined by Gulf Coast refineries and not exported to China, then it can back out foreign imports of similar types of synthetic crude, probably mostly from Venezuela.

    This answers your specific technical questions. We've already covered all the other environmental issues associated with this project unless someone has more to add. One can spend days browsing the articles and photos of the project.
  • Center Left
    Independent
    Central, FL
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    Schmidt,
    Great work. Tons of information. I am not in favor of the pipeline either. Why can't Canada build their own refineries ? I am also very concerned with the climate change issue. I fear though that it's too little too late. The ice caps will continue to melt marking the first real evidence of how the world (especially the USA) has screwed the planet with auto emissions.
    I saw Al Gore on TV twice in the last 2 days. He is great with ecological issues but it seems that nobody cares about that any more. It's sad that more people are concerned with potential profits (the wealthy getting wealthier) more than they are the health of our planet. I would vote for Al Gore for president again.

    I saw recently that while we don't like burning coal as much as we used to.... it isn't stopping us from exporting it to China.
  • Democrat
    Meridian, MS
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    Astounding research Schmidt, I applaud and thank you for it. I will read all your references soon, but no time tonight. The Gulf Coast refineries can certainly afford the $3.8 billion each, but I'm sure they need the reassurances you mentioned. However, won't this still increase the cost of the final product, or am I to believe that the refineries will absorb this themselves? In my book, PROFITS are the only goal for oil companies, so I think this specific point is of major concern because the price from these refineries to the oil companies would have to be higher than the "normal" price .
  • Center Left Democrat
    Democrat
    Flagstaff, AZ
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    Scmidt:


    I didn't know that the the pipeline carrying Alberta oil sands went all the way down to the Wood River plant.

    I'm assuming that the same pipeline also connects to the "spur" that goes to Western Michigan.

    In July of 2010, a spill from an Enbridge Energy pipeline near Marshall, Michigan (near Battle Creek) dumped 843,000 gallons of crude, making
    Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River unsuitable for human contact for nearly a year. It took until March 1, 2012 for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife services to announce restoration PLANNING for the area affected by the spill.


    The New York Times published a good article about the Keystone XL pipeline in March of last year:

    http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/13/study-warns-of-economic-damage-in-a-keystone-spill/?src=rechp

    As both you and Michaels have made clear, though, it's a very complicated topic.
  • Center Left
    Independent
    Denton, TX
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    WovenGems Wrote: A solution for removing CO2 from the air is this.

    Place pumps at the bottom of the ocean near the continental shelves. The cold nutrient rich water will cause an explosion of life. In the past it was an over abundance of plants in the ocean and on land that led to coal and oil. But nature moves to slow for us so we should learn to terraform here before trying it on distant planets.
    Massive kelp farms in the middle of the ocean have been suggested as a way to remove some of the carbon out of the atmosphere. Environmental studies need to be done though. We are still uncertain how it will effect migratory patterns or spawning habits etc. Suddenly introducing a whole new ecosystem into an area that was barren before can have massive impacts.
  • Are you sure you want to delete this post?
        
    Zach F Wrote:
    WovenGems Wrote: A solution for removing CO2 from the air is this.

    Place pumps at the bottom of the ocean near the continental shelves. The cold nutrient rich water will cause an explosion of life. In the past it was an over abundance of plants in the ocean and on land that led to coal and oil. But nature moves to slow for us so we should learn to terraform here before trying it on distant planets.
    Massive kelp farms in the middle of the ocean have been suggested as a way to remove some of the carbon out of the atmosphere. Environmental studies need to be done though. We are still uncertain how it will effect migratory patterns or spawning habits etc. Suddenly introducing a whole new ecosystem into an area that was barren before can have massive impacts.
    20 million years ago a shark the size of a city bus roamed the oceans as there were a huge number of marine mammals about. We don't know as yet how currents and such were different to provide such food. But it seems the impacts of more food aren't something that has a negative side.

    Last I saw the pumps were the sticking point.
  • Independent
    Plymouth, WI
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    Why does everyone want to call global warming climate change now? Climate change is natural, it has happened naturally in the past. Global warming was the name for what man has done, created a man made climate change. "This" climate change is global warming and should still be called global warming only, since man created global warming unnaturally it cannot be considered just climate change.
  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    I'm not a "climate" specialist, however I wonder if "humans" would never have been around, if regardless of that also a climate change would have taken place over time. I guess the age and rotation angle of this globe influences that, may be I'mmistaken? However I fully agree that people make a mess of this world 's environment; just check the highways here in FL when the "snowbirds" are around; one big garbage belt ; sorry to say I guess they never heard of a garbage bin in OHIO. (just teasing)
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    The Climate Change deniers like to cite cherry picked data that might suggest a cooling of the planet since 1998. There are several factors that do indeed affect global temperatures from year to year...volcanoes, the eleven year solar cycle, and El Ninos and La Ninas. These natural causes can all be quantified to separate out the man-made global warming trends from natural trends. That's what scientists do.

    The Skeptical Science website has a nice short video that shows the effect of these factors, and after that natural "noise" is backed out, you are left with a definite long term trend of man-made global warming. Take a look at the short video here:

    Sketical Science: What has global warming done since 1998?

    The conclusion: "Here records show that the Earth has been warming at a steady rate before and since 1998 and there's no signs of it slowing any time soon."

    No doubt in my mind. If you chase down the global warming deniers, you'll find unprofessional cherry picked data and bogus trends depicted as factual. If you do further investigations, you'll find that many of these deniers are funded by the Koch brothers or other polluters.
  • Center Left Democrat
    Democrat
    Flagstaff, AZ
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    Schmidt:


    One of my favorite lines from the President's State of the Union address is this:

    "For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change .. if Congress won't act soon to protect future generations, I will"

    He also mentioned, once again, that he wants to eliminate the $4 billion a year in subsidies that we're paying oil companies.

    The video below (at the altar of the dollar) hit my inbox this morning, and it pretty much sums up the issue:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d56faxnxII4&feature=youtu.be
  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    Yes I agree with Obama and you guys; the only problem with this issue, we are not alone in this world!! So again this is actually an United Nations issue. There are a lot more poluters in this world than us. Only a total world unity on this will help, because there are multiple sources of polution, like freighters who dump in the oceans as well cutting of the Amazon forest etc. So it is not an easy task to get everyone on board.