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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Don’t assume; TAKE ACTION toward Renewable-Energy Era ─ Klare

Oil shale
Western Colorado
America’s Intractable Character of War lacks will to care ─ even as Planet cries for relief
Excerpt, editing by 
Carolyn Bennett

Michael Klare appeared today on a segment of KPFA’s “Upfront” program and talked about ideas laid out in his article “The Third Carbon Age.” It was my introduction to the professor and I found in his concerns mine.

Professor Michael Klare is credited with having coined the concept “extreme energy” to describe “a range of techniques for the production of energy from unconventional resources which share characteristics of being environmentally damaging or risky.”

Professor Klare
E.g., exploitation of oil sands and shale oil, deepwater drilling, hydraulic fracturing, mountaintop removal mining, petroleum exploration in the Arctic, and natural gas hydrates.

Michael T. Klare is Five Colleges Professor of peace and world security studies (PAWSS) and director of the Five College Program in Peace and World Security Studies (PAWSS). Based at Hampshire College, Klare also teaches at Amherst College, Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Among his most recent books are Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum (2004); Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy (2008); The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources (2012). He holds graduate degrees from Columbia University (M.A.) and Union Institute (Ph.D.) and has written widely on U.S. military policy, international peace and security affairs, the global arms trade, and global resource politics. 

These are some notes edited from his article “The Third Carbon Age: Don’t for a Second Imagine We’re Heading for an Era of Renewable Energy.

Coal mining
Empire, Wealth, War: BRITAIN

First Carbon Era: Coal

The first carbon era began in the late eighteenth century, with the introduction of coal-powered steam engines and their widespread application to all manner of industrial enterprises. Initially used to power textile mills and industrial plants, coal was also employed in transportation (steam-powered ships and railroads), mining, and the large-scale production of iron.  What we now call the Industrial Revolution was largely comprised of the widening application of coal and steam power to productive activities.  Eventually, coal would also be used to generate electricity, a field in which it remains dominant today.
This was the era in which vast armies of hard-pressed workers built continent-spanning railroads and mammoth textile mills as factory towns proliferated and cities grew.  It was the era, above all, of the expansion of the British Empire.  For a time, Great Britain was the biggest producer and consumer of coal, the world’s leading manufacturer, its top industrial innovator, and its dominant power -- and all of these attributes were inextricably connected.  By mastering the technology of coal, a small island off the coast of Europe was able to accumulate vast wealth, develop the world’s most advanced weaponry, and control the global sea-lanes.

War, Wealth, Global expansion: USA

Second Carbon Era: Black Gold

The Oil Age began in 1859 and before 1940, it was important in illumination and lubrication but after the Second World War “oil became the world’s principal source of energy.  Ten 10 million barrels daily in 1950 rose to 77 million daily global-consumption barrels in 2000.

As coal had risen to prominence by fueling steam engines, oil rose to prominence fueling the world’s growing fleets of cars, trucks, planes, trains, and ships; and in 2013, petroleum supplies an estimated 97 percent of all energy used in transportation worldwide.

Agriculture and warfare drove the prominence of oil. In a relatively short period of time 

On farms around the world oil-powered tractors and other agricultural machines replaced animals as the primary source of power

Oil spill
On the modern battlefield oil-powered tanks and planes replaced the cavalry as the main source of offensive power. 

Post World War II years saw mass automobile ownership, continent-spanning highways, endless suburbs, giant malls, cheap flights, mechanized agriculture, artificial fibers, and -- above all else -- the global expansion of American power

The United States rose as the richest, most powerful country of the twenty-first century because it “possessed mammoth reserves of oil, was the first to master the technology of oil extraction and refining, and was most successful at using petroleum in transportation, manufacturing, agriculture, and war.”

Oil spill
Oil technology allowed the United States ─

…to accumulate staggering levels of wealth,

…to deploy armies and military bases on every continent, and

…to control the global air space and sea-lanes – thus extending its power to every corner of the planet.

But “
…As Britain experienced negative consequences from its excessive reliance on coal, so the United States -- and the rest of the world -- has suffered in various ways from its reliance on oil.” 

More War, more Global expansion, Wealth ltd: USA

Third Carbon Age
Age of Unconventional Oil and Gas

In contemporary times, humanity is not entering an Age of Renewables but “the third great carbon era, the Age of Unconventional Oil and Gas.” This a reality that should alarm all of us, Michael Klare writes.

“Hydro-fracking -- the use of high-pressure water columns to shatter underground shale formations and liberate the oil and natural gas supplies trapped within them -- is being undertaken in ever more regions of the United States and in a growing number of foreign countries.”  In Canada, Venezuela and elsewhere “the exploitation of carbon-dirty heavy oil and tar sands formations is accelerating.”

In a world where conventional oil and gas supply is rapidly disappearing and global demand for fossil fuels is rising and the world’s energy supply is increasingly provided by unconventional fuels, “one thing is guaranteed,” Klare says:

Water scarcity
…global carbon emissions will soar far beyond our current worst-case assumptions, meaning intense heat waves will become commonplace and our few remaining wilderness areas will be eviscerated.

Planet Earth will be a far harsher, possibly unimaginably harsher and more blistering place. 

As the global supplies of conventional gas and conventional oil shrink, “we are becoming increasingly dependent on unconventional sources of supply -- especially from the Arctic, the deep oceans, and shale rock via hydraulic fracturing.

In 2011, the International Energy Agency predicted that production of unconventional oil, mostly from heavy oil or oil sands in Venezuela and Canada, will reach 10 million barrels a day by 2035. [Wikipedia]

“In certain ways,” Klare says, “unconventional hydrocarbons are akin to conventional fuels but they are largely composed of hydrogen and carbon and can be burned to produce heat and energy. And in time, the differences between conventional and unconventional oil and gas will make a greater and greater difference to us.
Hydraulic fracturing

Unconventional fuels -- especially heavy oils and tar sands -- tend to possess a higher proportion of carbon to hydrogen than conventional oil …and so release more carbon dioxide when burned. 

Arctic and deep-offshore oil require more energy to extract, and so produce higher carbon emissions in their very production.

Unconventional fuels’ most worrisome consequence ─ that is, the distinctive nature of these fuels ─ is their extreme impact on the environment. 

Because they are often characterized by higher ratios of carbon to hydrogen, and generally require more energy to extract and to be converted into usable materials, they produce more carbon dioxide emissions per unit of energy released. 

Many scientists believe the process that produces shale gas (hailed as a ‘clean’ fossil fuel) causes widespread releases of methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas.

Water scarcity
Water scarcity
As consumption of fossil fuels grows, increasing not decreasing amounts of CO2 and methane will be released into the atmosphere. Instead of slowing global warming this consumption will speed up global warming.

Production of unconventional oil and gas requires vast amounts of water (for fracking operations, to extract tar sands and extra-heavy oil, and to facilitate the transport and refining of such fuels) thus creating a growing threat of water contamination, especially in areas of intense fracking and tar sands production. In addition to water contamination is the problem of systemic disruption because of for-profit competition among drillers, farmers, municipal water authorities and others.  As climate change intensifies, drought becomes the norm and competition becomes more vicious.

Water scarcity
Character of War (brute force) inside and out: domestic and foreign

“U.S. and Canadian companies are playing a decisive role in the development of many of the vital new unconventional fossil-fuel technologies [and] some of the world’s largest unconventional oil and gas reserves are located in North America” thus effecting a reinforcement of U.S. global power at the expense of rival energy producing countries such as Russia and Venezuela and energy-importing states such as China and India that lack the resources and technology to produce unconventional fuels.

“Washington,” Klare says, “appears more inclined to counter the rise of China by seeking to dominate global sea lanes and bolster U.S. military ties with regional allies like Australia, India, Japan, the Philippines, and South Korea.”

What to do

umanity’s survival, “before we burn ourselves off this planet,” Klare says, depends on our becoming “much smarter about the new kind of energy” and taking necessary steps to constrict the third carbon era and with haste usher in “the Age of Renewables.
Shorten era, avert outcomes: What is required, Klare says, is “a systemic drive to identify and resist those responsible for our growing reliance on unconventional fuels.

“…Calling for greater investment in green energy is essential but insufficient at a moment when the powers that be are emphasizing the development of unconventional fuels.  

“Campaigning for curbs on carbon emissions is necessary but will undoubtedly prove problematic, given an increasingly deeply embedded institutional bias toward unconventional energy.”

Together with calling for greater green-energy investment and campaigning for curbs on carbon emissions ─ though some actions are underway, such as student-initiated campaigns to persuade or compel college and university trustees to disinvest from fossil-fuel companies, they fall short of a systemic drive to identify and resist those responsible for our growing reliance on unconventional fuels ─ more is needed, he says. 

There must be “a drive to expose the distinctiveness and the dangers of unconventional energy and to demonize those who choose to invest in these fuels rather than their green alternatives.” 

Sources and notes

“The Third Carbon Age: Don’t for a Second Imagine We’re Heading for an Era of Renewable Energy” (by Michael T. Klare), August 6, 2013, Tomgram: “Michael Klare, How to Fry a Planet,” Posted by Michael Klare at 8:17am, August 8, 2013, http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175734/tomgram%3A_michael_klare%2C_how_to_fry_a_planet

Michael T. Klare biographical notes at:
TomDispatch, http://www.tomdispatch.com/authors/michaelklare/
Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Klare
Hampshire College, http://www.hampshire.edu/faculty/mklare.htm

“Upfront” at Pacifica’s KPFA, August 22, 2013, http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/94580

Hydraulic fracturing or fracking is a production-boosting technique in which large amounts of water, sand and chemicals are injected into shale (fissile rock) formations to force hydrocarbon fuels to the surface.


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1 comment:

  1. Hydraulic fracturing is now linked with many other happenings such as earthquake,contamination of water,change in direction and many more. So why not government taking serious steps to ban this process?

    Henry Jordan

    Hydraulic Cylinder Seals