Tag Archive: Clean Coal

Sep 10 2012

Frackonomics, or, Why we can’t have anything nice

I was recently asked by a friend to contribute to a sort of compact reference on fracking (you can see the product here). As I was working on the section on the economics of fracking, it struck me that what is wrong with the economics of fracking is what is wrong with our whole energy economy; the incentives are set up to create a perverse outcome.

Because the environmental costs of fracking (and pretty much all extractive energy industries) are externalized, or perhaps “socialized” would be an easier term here, and the profits are privatized, the appearance of a very profitable industry is based upon false economic information.  The creation of these incentives to extract fossil energy with little regard to the environmental consequences (and sometimes even common sense) has vested enormous economic power in the hands of people who use that money to purchase political power.  They then perpetuate those same incentives over the objections of those who for years, Cassandra-like, point out that their continued activity is rendering our environment inhospitable to human life.  As an article in the Independent from 2006 “Disappearing world: Global warming claims tropical island,” chronicles:

Rising seas, caused by global warming, have for the first time washed an inhabited island off the face of the Earth. The obliteration of Lohachara island, in India’s part of the Sundarbans where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal, marks the moment when one of the most apocalyptic predictions of environmentalists and climate scientists has started coming true.

As the seas continue to swell, they will swallow whole island nations, from the Maldives to the Marshall Islands, inundate vast areas of countries from Bangladesh to Egypt, and submerge parts of scores of coastal cities.

Jun 06 2011

Pique the Geek 20110605: Misconceptions about Science

This week we shall explore misconceptions about science generally, and then take a few specific cases for further examination.  There are a few concepts that are essential to understand about what makes science work, and why it is the best tool that we have to understand the natural world, and to use science to improve the human condition.

There are two fundamental large scale misconceptions about science, and we shall treat them first.  Then there are an almost unlimited supply of what I call false science, meaning that scientific terms and logic based on incorrect premises are used in attempts by those who actually know better to influence people.  The fundamental misconceptions are sort of to be expected from folks who are not educated in science, but he false science is used by nefarious persons to influence those not versed in real science, usually for a monetary or a social goal or goals.  Please let us explore.