Feb 27 2013

A Dispatch From The Committee To End The Future

(4 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Greetings fellow inhabitants of Earth.  We, the Committee to End the Future, a purposely shadowy global organization of extremely wealthy and powerful people wish to thank you for your cooperation in completing the final round of our “Great Game.”

For centuries we have played a series of rounds of the “Great Game,” accumulating resources by dominating governmental and economic structures, subjecting citizens of the various countries of Earth to a variety of schemes to divert the products and value of their labors to our use and to pauperize those not of our sort.

To cut to the chase, though, the reason for this communication is to warn our fellow inhabitants away from a very dangerous movement that could potentially disrupt our game and cause something of an annoying reset just as we are getting close to declaring a winner.  We have discovered to our dismay that a small but noisy group of citizen activists wish to rein in the emission of carbon and methane which are essential to both our economy and completion of the Game.

If these noisy, misguided activists are successful, we shall have to write off many Trillions of dollars worth of energy assets that are important as game pieces as well as means of game completion.

We hope that we can count on you, our fellow inhabitants to continue your demand for carbon and methane emitting energy sources which are essential, let us not forget, to your personal comfort and ease of living.  No matter what these activists say or do, please continue to ignore them.  Continue to listen to the politicians that we support and their long-term, incremental plans that will bring down carbon emissions so gradually that you will never notice it.

We are now very close to the end of the Game.  No game is complete without an end state.  In short, we need to know who the winners are.  At the end of this round of the Great Game we shall finally know, and in the tradition of the Egyptian Pharoahs that buried their fellow players alive at the end of their games, so shall we.  We believe that our fellow inhabitants will enjoy a final rest from the great toils required of all those who play the Game.

Thank you for your cooperation!

But Seriously…

A short time ago somewhere between 35 and 50 thousand people braved the chilly winter winds and cold temperatures in Washington to tell President Obama to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline that will bring tar sands sludge from neighboring Canada to the United States for refining.  The same weekend, President Obama went golfing with a couple of oil company bigwigs at an exclusive private golf resort owned by one of the CEO’s. Oh, and the President also golfed with some sports star famous for not being able to keep it in his pants.  Naturally, all the media coverage has been about the philandering sports star.

President Obama’s choice of golfing partners seems to be a bad omen for the ultimate success of the movement seeking to stop not just a pipeline, but an industry hell-bent on exploiting an energy resource. Exploiting that resource will wreak destruction of a number of types on the Canada’s environment, and will if fully exploited have a dramatic deleterious global effect on the climate.

In fact the boreal forest of Canada, which is being buldozed, stripped of trees and whose waters are being polluted by this project is the most important carbon sink in the world:

An American research centre says Canada’s boreal forests, which contain a quarter of the world’s wetlands, are the most important global carbon sink and their preservation should be an international priority.

The Pew Environment Group, a non-profit research trust established by the family of Sun Oil Company founder Joseph N. Pew, released a report Wednesday called Canada’s Boreal Forest, the World’s Waterkeeper. …

Carbon sinks are essential to controlling greenhouse gases and the forests of northern Canada now play a larger role in reducing carbon emissions that the rainforests of the Amazon… the report says, the wetlands and peatlands store an estimated 147 billion tonnes of carbon, more than 25 years worth of current man-made emissions. The delta of the Mackenzie River alone stores 41 billion tonnes.

The flow of water from the boreal forests to the Arctic is also critical for forming sea ice, which cools the atmosphere, the report says.

The Tar Sands Oil and refinery byproducts are by far more dangerous to the climate than other energy resources that are available:

Emissions from tar sands extraction and upgrading are between 3.2 and 4.5 times higher than the equivalent emissions from conventional oil produced in North America.  On a lifecycle basis, the average gallon of tar sands bitumen derived fuel has between 14 and 37 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than the average gallon of fuel from conventional oil.

But as bad as these impacts already are, existing analyses of the impacts of tar sands fail to account for a byproduct of the process that is a major source of climate change causing carbon emissions: petroleum coke – known as petcoke. Petcoke is the coal hiding in North America’s tar sands oil boom.

Petcoke is like coal, but dirtier.  Petcoke looks and acts like coal, but it has even higher carbon emissions than already carbon-intensive coal. … A ton of petcoke yields on average 53.6 percent more CO2 than a ton of coal.  The proven tar sands reserves of Canada will yield roughly 5 billion tons of petcoke – enough to fully fuel 111 U.S. coal plants to 2050.  Because it is considered a refinery byproduct, petcoke emissions are not included in most assessments of the climate impact of tar sands or conventional oil production and consumption. Thus the climate impact of oil production is being consistently undercounted.

The fight against Keystone appears to be an uphill battle for regular people who are fighting one of the wealthiest industries on the planet and some of the wealthiest individuals.  Perhaps it is time that we asked ourselves, what is the climate worth to us, because we can make some pretty good estimates of what it is worth to the big energy companies who want to invest $7 Billion in the pipeline.

In fact, a couple of weeks ago Greg Palast posted an article which shows that to one energy company (among many), the execrable Koch Brothers, risking the destruction of the earth’s climate by exploiting the Tar Sands is worth Two Billion dollars a year.

Keystone, Koch, Kaching!

Here’s an interview with Palast about his story:

Here’s part of the transcript for those who have trouble with videos or read faster than they watch:

Three big dots. Okay. The XL pipeline, Keystone pipeline, is the proposed pipeline, extension of a pipeline that would take tar sands oil from Canada – what they do is they have, you know, big bulldozers that rip up the earth, they melt the dirt, they melt the sludge, and there’s this heavy goo that’s kind of like hot asphalt, which they want to move down to refineries, down to Houston, Texas.

And my first question was: what? Why? You know, isn’t Texas where oil comes from? In fact, that’s our big oil-exporting state, is Texas. So why are we taking oil from Canada past the north, the northern interior of the U.S., where we can use heating oil? Why are we taking it down to Houston? Coals to Newcastle to the Gulf coast. And the answer is: Koch.

The Koch brothers are the owners of the big refineries, like the Flint Hills refinery, along the Gulf coast of Texas. And you have to understand, refineries, these kind of giant filth machines, are actually very sensitive instruments. They can’t just suck up and refine any old oil and throw filth into the air; they’re very specialized machines. And the Gulf coast refineries, especially those controlled by the Koch brothers in Flint Hills, can really only handle heavy crude oil.

So the stuff that’s in Texas itself, West Texas crude, which is light and sweet, it’s good oil; it’s not filled with a lot of crappy sulphur. That’s no good for the Texas refineries. Rather, they need that heavy, gunky stuff which is ultrapolluting. …

And I wanted to know why we’re taking oil from Canada across the entire United States to Texas. And, again, it’s because the Kochs want it. Now, why do they want it? The answer is, right now they’re getting their oil-the only place they can get lots of heavy crude oil-if you want heavy crude, you’ve got to get it from a heavy dude named Hugo Chávez, the president of Venezuela. And one thing about Chávez, who I’ve known for many years, is that he doesn’t let go of his nation’s oil on the cheap. He is a cornerstone of OPEC. And Venezuela’s been selling heavy crude at a premium to the price paid in Texas, because it costs more to get heavy oil from Venezuela than it does to get light oil down the road from Texas. But they have no choice, the Koch brothers, but paying Hugo for his gunky oil.

Now, on the other hand, the Canadians not only are selling for less than Texas oil-they’re selling, as of today-if you check out this week’s reports, about $33 a barrel less is the price of West Canada Sands (WCS) oil, as they call it, versus WTI, the West Texas Intermediate. So you’re saving about $35 a barrel-$35 a barrel-if you can get the oil from Canada as opposed to Venezuela. So they’ve got to cut off Chávez and they’ve got to bring the oil in from Canada.

And that’s the reason why we are talking about endangering the most sensitive aquifers and important-that is, water sources in America-to have a pipe with the filthiest oil in the planet, the most polluting oil on the planet, to drag it all the way from Canada all the way down to Texas so that the Koch brothers at Flint Hills can make-their savings would be about $2 billion a year that the Koch brothers will make off our risking the aquifers across the United States.

So there you have it.  There are billions of dollars on the line, the President has said that he wants to do something about climate change, but he is short on specifics or hard promises and he seems more interested in meeting with wealthy energy interests than climate activists.

It seems likely, too, that these guys, who can probably hear billions of dollars screaming at them, will probably fight tooth and nail to get this thing done and will find creative ways to get around any obstacles put in their paths.  Even the obstacle of an oil and gas glut and a declining demand for gasoline in the US have not cooled these oil baron’s ardor to increase supply.  Perhaps the reason can be intuited from their plans – a cursory glance at the pipeline project map below shows that most of these proposed pipeline projects terminate at a seaport that would just happen to be perfect for exporting the product to foreign markets.  


Imagine that, it looks quite likely that the propaganda these guys and their purchased politicians have been spewing about “American energy independence,” is really a smoke screen, obfuscating the fact that the product is redundant in the declining American market and is to be sold at greater profit in foreign markets where demand is higher and supply is weaker.

Keystone and the larger picture

According the the study that Bill McKibben cites in his Rolling Stone article which explains the scientific consensus on the need to limit climate change to 2 degrees celsius quoted in this article the climate clock is ticking, so to speak:

How much time do we have before the burning of fossil fuels pushes the climate system past tipping points? In a worst-case scenario, about 11 years at current rates of fossil fuel use, according to the paper.

What they found was stark: To have a 50-50 chance of keeping temperature rise below 2 degrees, humans would have to stick to a carbon budget that allowed the release of no more than 1,437 gigatons of carbon dioxide from 2000 to 2050.

To have an 80 percent chance of avoiding that threshold, they would have to follow a stricter budget and emit just 886 gigatons.

The paper found that by 2006, nations had already spent a quarter of that amount, or 234 gigatons. Meaning, the planet’s carbon budget would be exhausted by 2024-11 years from now- if emissions levels stayed the same, or even earlier if they continue their upward trend.

McKibben’s article in the Rolling Stone estimates that our (remaining) global “budget” for carbon emissions is 565 gigatons by mid-century, to have as he puts it, a slightly worse chance than playing russian roulette with a six-shooter.  According to climate expert James Hansen the Tar Sands contain 240 gigatons of carbon by themselves.  McKibben estimates that there is currently 5 times the amount of carbon that we can more or less safely use in current proven global reserves:

John Fullerton, a former managing director at JP Morgan who now runs the Capital Institute, calculates that at today’s market value, those 2,795 gigatons of carbon emissions are worth about $27 trillion. Which is to say, if you paid attention to the scientists and kept 80 percent of it underground, you’d be writing off $20 trillion in assets. The numbers aren’t exact, of course, but that carbon bubble makes the housing bubble look small by comparison. It won’t necessarily burst – we might well burn all that carbon, in which case investors will do fine. But if we do, the planet will crater. You can have a healthy fossil-fuel balance sheet, or a relatively healthy planet – but now that we know the numbers, it looks like you can’t have both. Do the math: 2,795 is five times 565. That’s how the story ends.

With that kind of money at risk, you can bet the energy industry and Wall Street, which is intimately involved in the energy economy are going to use every bit of influence they’ve got to jockey for the rights to exploit energy resources.  They will find it expedient to line the pockets of politicians with money.  

Get ready to hit the streets again

Lately there has been a great deal of focus on the Keystone XL pipeline.  It is important to stop it, but win or lose on that, as huge a problem as the Athabasca tar sands which will supply the Keystone pipeline are, it’s a smaller part of the global problem which we have a short amount of time to deal with.

According to International Energy Agency estimates, by 2017 the US will overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s top oil producer.  This is not because those other producers are projected to decline in production.  The oil companies are expecting to see a rise in demand; one oil company is predicting a doubling of global demand for oil by 2050.

It’s a matter of competing values.  If the energy industry, with the support of its well-lubricated legislators values win, the great likelihood is that the Earth will become a far less habitable place and we will all incur hardships or worse.  

It all comes down to this, what is a habitable planet worth to the vast majority of people who aren’t the owners or owned by the energy industry?  

How much would you do to improve your chances and your children’s and grandchildren’s chances of survival?

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