Wednesday, December 21, 2011

No Magic Bullets, Only Trade-offs



Recently, when conversation here turned to the bounty of fossil fuels North America enjoys, Ducky asked some excellent questions...


How much of these presumed reserves are tar sands and what are the costs of extraction?
Are we certain that fracking isn't going to have negative effects on the water supply?
Is there any reason we shouldn't hedge our bets and invest in renewable energy rather than assuming we can just go on burning coal?
Nothing in Life is Certain

Solar panel and battery manufacturing requires mining for rare earth and common minerals, damaging the environment. Also the manufacturing process for these products produces trace chemical runoff and other toxic byproducts. Nothing against them; nothing is perfect.

Even forsaking all modern technology and returning to the land like Grizzly Adams or the Engels family would end up destroying our environment. Burning wood and building log cabins would cause extreme deforestation, and 200 million outhouses could not be good for our groundwater. As we all returned to growing our own food, sewing our own clothes, with global transportation grinding to a crawl, we would lose the synergistic efficiencies brought to us by free market specialization.
"...the following logic does not work: something bad happens when frakking is done therefore we must halt frakking. The reason this logic does not work is that whenever anything is done something bad happens: and there’s not much point in our all being around if we’re therefore to ban absolutely everything." (Worstall)
Poisoned groundwater is not a cheery prospect. We need to ask more questions like Ducky. What are the chances of contamination? To what extent? Are some formations more vulnerable than others?  Can we use technology to mitigate the effects or decrease the chances of contamination?

Tim Worstall walks us through these complex issues in Fracking Contaminates Groundwater. He says drill anyway, but he gives a fair treatment to the argument. We pollute our air everyday using automobiles and generating electricity for our homes and workplaces, and we are living with it. Could a similar happy medium be found for fossil fuel extraction?

36 comments:

bunkerville said...

Before "Man" excerted his so called footprint on Earth, 90 percent of all the species that had ever lived, had become extinct. While we certainly want to be good stewarts of the earth, there is a compromise between the snail darter and thousands of jobs lost in shutting down the rich farmland of the joaquin valley. IMO.

Infidel de Manahatta said...

Excellent points. If we are going to be afraid of damaging the Earth then we should just eliminate our species since everything we do has some negative effect.

Anonymous said...

The Shakers, founded in England by Mother Ann Lee, wife of one Abraham Standerin, had the right idea.

HANDS to WORK; HEARTS to GOD! was their motto.

Absolutely NO SEX whatsoever, and of course NO PROCREATION.

If Mother Ann had succeeded fully in her mission, none of us would be facing the problems we must grapple with today -- and neither would anyone else.

Think of it! Earth returned to her Pristine Glory at last before the Lord made the heinous mistake of creating Adam.

EDENIC SAVAGERY -- obviously the only way to go.

And now let us hear a rousing rendition of J.S. Bach's cantata KOMM SUESSER TOD.

The Universe may
Be as great as they say,
But it wouldn't be missed,
If it didn't exist!


Thank you, Piet Hein.

~ FreeThinke

Jersey McJones said...

I notice you did not include my criticism of more domestic production on oil, which has to do with the economics of it. We could drill and extract and frack all we like - what impact will it have on prices?

The answer? Almost none.

There seems to be a disconnect between the "drill baby drill" crowd and any even parochial understanding of oil economics.

Oil is a GLOBALLY TRADED COMMODITY. Prices are set by the commodities exchanges based on global demand.

Then there's refining capacity.

We have a small bunch of refiners in this country and there is no will to increase refining capacity as it would relinquish control of prices from these interests.

So we could produce all the oil we like, but between the refiners and the commodities market, let alone exponentially growing global demand, the positive impact on our lives would be almost nil, meanwhile we would be doing some the of the dirtiest, most polluting extraction imaginable.

Where's the cost/benefit analysis coming from the Right? I have yet to see one.

Then, finally, of course, there's the fact that we by far in a long ways consume more oil than we could ever keep up with ourselves, even if there was no global exchange, even if oil were a purely domestic market.

What don't you guys get about all this?

JMJ

Silverfiddle said...

Jersey: Thank you for repeating for the umpteenth time, "Oil is a GLOBALLY TRADED COMMODITY"

The ALLCAPS is an especially nice touch. And as usual, you are wrong about output affecting price. More supply lowers prices, unless there is an excess of demand to absorb the extra output. I recommend you read "Basic Economics" by Dr Sowell.

Simple question: Would you rather buy oil from people who hate us, or would you rather buy oil produced by hard working Americans?

The issue of price aside, that is the real difference. Domestically produced energy provides jobs for Americans and keeps more of the money here at home.

And speaking of refining capacity, have you seen that we are exporting refined fuel?

But all of this is off-topic, because you, as usual, are off topic.

Did you even read the post? This is about trade-offs. Did you notice that unlike you, I did not stake out a dogmatic position, but rather provide information for people to make up their own minds and provide their opinions?

Do you think before you type?

Fredd said...

It's all economics/physics, really. Whichever way you want to go, there are actions and their countervailing equal and opposite reactions. Drilling, fracking, driving, whatever. To cave to the demands of the Luddites among us is madness.

It's an economic certainty that we need a little pollution in order to have a decent standard of living. The only question that we should be discussing is 'how much is a little pollution,' and never consider zero pollution.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Jersey, you are right. I get it. In fact I've "gotten" it for a long time.

But, do you understand that we are not controlled either by Republicans or Democrats but by a self-appointed, or self-evolved, de facto Oligarchy comprised of of the Owners and Suppliers of Raw Materials, International Industrialists, International Bankers and Financiers none of whom have a shred of loyalty to The United States of America, her Constitution, her Heritage, her Traditions or her People?

An understanding of the degree of control and endless exploitation by this hideously evolved "community" of powerful vested interests and the lackeys who serve them in exchange for prestige, a modicum of power, and a small-but-significant share of their gargantuan supply of wealth is never acknowledged, and is in fact routinely denigrated and dismissed as "Conspiracy Theory" -- i.e. mere poppycock-- thus enabling The Oligarchs -- the unnamed, uncounted, unaccountable group of titans who effectively pull all the strings that determine our fate behind the scenes -- to remain perfectly free to work their wiles unencumbered by any meaningful interference.

It works in the best interests of this group of super-powerful control freaks to maintain the pretense that true competition in a "free marketplace of ideas" still exists in the farcical imitations of "war" between the extremes of left and right.

That this classic polarity lives on only in the minds of the Deluded and the Damned, and has is in fact become outmoded and irrelevant in the face of the unpleasant reality of our true form of governance is probably the best kept Open Secret in all of human history.

Alas! We now live in a PLUTOCRACY, and unlike the plutocrats of a hundred years ago -- falsely-labelled "Robber Barons" of the derisively named "Gilded Age" -- who by their courage as individuals, and their extraordinary, far-seeing vision, daring, and perseverance made this country the greatest, most powerful on earth with the highest standard of living ever achieved in human history -- the Plutocrats today are nothing but a cynically motivated, utterly ruthless bunch of brigands.

They are the Destroyers of Civilization determined to bring about a renascence of The Dark Ages -- but this time, instead of crenelated castles surrounded by moats defended against the catapult by bows, arrows and cauldrons of boiling oil, the arch-fiends will have nuclear warheads at their disposal.

"... then shall the warlike Harry assume the port of Mars, and at his heels leashed in like hounds should Famine, Sword and Fire crouch for employment. ..."

If there be any hope of ever defeating our enemies, surely it is imperative to know who -- and what -- they are.

Confusing mere knowledge with Wisdom and facts with Truth has probably been the root cause of every civilization's downfall. Complacency, Smugness and undeserved Pride results in stagnation, which in turn causes death.

~ FreeThinke

Hugh Farnham said...

While most of my work is in the aerospace sector, I do some engineering in the petrochemical world as well.

The common story I am getting is that there is plenty of oil and petrochemicals to go around for many decades to come. Even if we have to cook coal into liquid fuels we have enough in Wyoming alone for 200 year's worth.

And what is Wyoming, really? A huge lump of coal covered in dirt and cattle, just waiting to be dug up!

America is truly the new Saudi Arabia, as Silver pointed out.

All this "energy crisis" talk smells of East Anglia and Phil Jones types. A manufactured crisis to sell an agenda.

Even if the amount of petrochemicals ware as low as they say, enough energy and water fall on the average household to have a lavish lifestyle. I know; my home is powered by solar panels, a wind turbine and a huge 1,200 lb. chunk of lead acid batteries.

I went down the path of renewable energy not because I'm some maggot infested liberal, but because the power company in this area has a reputation of being monopolistic and predatory. I don't support that behavior.

Anonymous said...

If anyone's the least bit interested, the quotation imperfectly given above is from the Prologue of Shakespeare's Henry V. -- a jolly good read, if you develop some patience with richness and complexity of Shakespeare's language.

SilverFiddle, I think you are right in your conclusions about the relative effects of production on price, but I question whether so-called "American" oil companies are in fact "American" in spirit and not so much interested in serving this nation well as fattening up the figure at their bottom line -- which they would do without qualm to the detriment of their countrymen I have no doubt.

As I keep saying we living in an INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY controlled by super-rich, super-powerful Oligarchs who control the supply of essential goods and services from a great height.

But yes, more Americans would be employed and doubtless well paid if we started to harvest and develop our own resources once again and built more domestic refineries.

Unlike most "knee-jerk" Conservatives, however, I am sincerely concerned about the permanently destructive effect drilling, fracking -- and especially strip-mining -- would likely have on the beauty of our national landscape and the health of our environment.

There are lots of things more important than money, and lots of things worth sacrificing at least some of our creature comforts for.

Man does not live by bread alone -- and certainly not by over-dependence on fossil fuel either.

I'm much in favor of trying to achieve Zero Population Growth. As it stands there are just too many of us to share equitably in the world's ever-diminishing resources.

~ FreeThinke

Anonymous said...

"I went down the path of renewable energy not because I'm some maggot infested liberal, but because the power company in this area has a reputation of being monopolistic and predatory. I don't support that behavior."

BRAVO! Good for you. Glad it works well for you.

Your brand of thinking and motivation is the only kind that could ever hope to sell the idea of new-fangled sources of renewable energy to the general public.

Resistance to tyranny -- and finding ways to out maneuver greedy, power-mad, megalomaniacs could revive The Spirit of '76.

Keep on keeping on.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

~ FreeThinke

PS: Do you know if there is any truth to the theory that all of Yellowstone Park -- and countless square miles beyond -- are merely a thin veneer of natural beauty that cap an enormous subterranean volcano that could in fact erupt one day and blow half the North American continent to Kingdom Come? A friend who earned a PhD in Anthropology from Harvard -- 45 years ago -- believes this to be true. He's very smart, but also very weird, as you might expect from most Harvard grads. What do you think, Hugh? - FT

Mark Adams said...

"What impact will it have on prices?"
You just answered your own question, Jersey "Prices are set by the commodities exchanges based on global demand"
You take the 3rd largest consumer out of the world oil market by self- reliance, the demand drops dramatically.

"We have a small bunch of refiners in this country and there is no will to increase refining capacity "
There is absolute will by American oil companies. Problem is, the EPA has made it very difficult to get a new refinery on-line anymore.

Silverfiddle said...

FreeThinke: I vest not special trust in "American Oil Companies," which is why I don't make a case for them. We should contract out with whoever can do the job, with American labor.

Jersey McJones said...

Silver, I suggest you read about economics from more sources than just rightwing halfasses.

"More supply lowers prices, unless there is an excess of demand to absorb the extra output."

Again, demand is growing far faster than any increase in our output could keep up with. Any increase in production from us (and we do increase production all the time) has very little impact on prices.

"Simple question: Would you rather buy oil from people who hate us, or would you rather buy oil produced by hard working Americans?"

Yes, it's a very simple question.

We "buy" oil from that same market that everyone else buys it from. Most of our oil comes from Canada, Mexico and Venezuela, because they happen to be the closest exporters to us. If Saudi Arabia or Indonesia were closer, we'd probably get more from them. It's just geography and shipping.

But again, we can not produce enough to make more than blip in all that.

"And speaking of refining capacity, have you seen that we are exporting refined fuel?"

Yes, we do export some refined gasoline. But that's because some of our nearby neighbors do not have refining capacity, nor it is worth it for them to have it. And this further goes to show how the refiners have us all by the balls. If that gasoline was staying here, it would decrease prices. But cozy trade relations with Latin America have made exporting it an even more lucrative business, and so the refiners say to hack with us and make more money where they can get away with it.

"Did you even read the post? This is about trade-offs."

Yes, but you never defined them. You are pretending that America could produce so much oil as to make worth the mess. It's a lie. We can't, and the mess isn't worth the tiny drop in price increased production creates.

It's a stupid, moot argument, utterly ignorant of oil economics.

JMJ

Silverfiddle said...

Again, demand is growing far faster than any increase in our output could keep up with. Any increase in production from us (and we do increase production all the time) has very little impact on prices.

Now you're starting to make a little sense, but you assume demand would grow faster than out output, an assertion unsubstantiated by fact.

Sowell is far from a "rightwing halfass," but it is amusing to hear leftwing halfasses insult him. Kinda like watching aa monkey throwing poop at a statue.

Glad to see you're on the record rejecting petroleum industry jobs for Americans. And I'm also glad to see you've admitted the stupidity of your earlier comments about "no will to increase capacity," contradicting yourself with the facts in your second post because you cannot escape them.

You are an ideological slave, and as such you will continue to twist yourself in knots when confronted with an adult debate.

The trade-off (if you really are so illiterate and mentally-challenged to have not picked up on it) is between environmental damage and energy extraction. It's a fundamental economic concept, like reading.

Z said...

Man, Jersey, no one can accuse you of lack of ego, huh?
You're like DUcky "if you don't agree with ME, you're stupid, utterly ignorant"

Infidel's right...no pollution isn't going to happen. THIS is the huge divide between Lefties and the Right much of the time: Impossible Dreams versus Viable SOlutions.

Your image of the Dachsund cracked me UP! xx

Silverfiddle said...

Z: At least Ducky can marshal a coherent argument...

Hugh Farnham said...

Jersey:

A very good point was made by Mark Adams and it slipped by you like truth past a democrat.

The EPA has killed off domestic oil refining. No new refining plants have been built for over a decade now - all the work done on existing ones have been to upgrade.

Let me illustrate the evil and tyrannical nature of the EPA in a thought experiment:

Imagine that I opened my own refinery. Call it Farnham's Freehold Fuel. Gas would go for $2.50 a gallon, diesel a bit more. I would almost give away propane, butane, and bunker oil.

Silver, I think, could vouch for the fact I actually could design such a plant. It wouldn't be efficient, but it would work safely.

So... some local busybody would drop a dime to the EPA, which would sent out some greasy bureaucrat to verify some guy had the sheer BALLS to run his own NEW refinery - without the blessing and bribes to the DNC. This is despite the plant has never spilled a drop of oil onto Mother Earth.

About 24 hours later a heavily armed SWAT team would show up, along with the press (who had been alerted beforehand by the EPA). I would be lucky to not be murdered by these thugs as they shut down my plant.

That's the truth behind the regulatory regime our oil producers find themselves today.

Ducky's here said...

Tim Worstall is an economics blogger not a hydrologist so I'd temper that opinion a bit.

Ducky's here said...

No new refining plants have been built for over a decade now

-----------

And the majors are raking in the dough hand over fist. Why would the free market (LMFAO) want that situation to change?

Remember my Libertarian friends, Kapital loves a monopoly.

Leticia said...

My boss and I did an extensive study on the damage of fracking and we came to the same conclusion, in the areas that fracking was being done, we noticed a rise in earthquakes.

AND...remember the thousands of birds that were found dead? Fracking was done in close proximity of where all the dead birds were found, we believe it released toxic gases that killed the birds, while in flight.

There is a correlation.

Hugh Farnham said...

Ducky:

You bring up a good point. Big business now works hand-in-glove with big government. It's crony krapitalism by the highest bidder.

If government didn't have the power to assist monopolies then this behavior would not happen.

FreeThinke: Yes. Yellowstone will destroy everything people hold dear and life itself.

The good news: it most likely won't happen in your lifetime.

As you travel through Wyoming you will see cuts through the hills, either by natural forces or by man. You will see layer after layer of ash laid down by Yellowstone over the eons.

Where I live I would expect over a foot of ash, according to the geological record. Most of America would be covered to some degree.

I'm not worried about Yellowstone. Here's why: In case it does go, there most likely be precursors to warn us of impending doom, weeks in advance. If it suddenly blows you most likely will hear it if you are in the immediate affected areas like Wyoming or Colorado. You will have many hours to get out of dodge if it comes to that.

Ducky's here said...

Ducky:

You bring up a good point. Big business now works hand-in-glove with big government. It's crony krapitalism by the highest bidder.

---------

Yes, and on this board there is near unanimity about the situation. It sucks.

What I fear is that removing regulation and letting them run free is just what corporations want. Eliminate the middle man. I doubt Libertarianism would do much of anything to resolve the growing wealth differential.

Why resolve it? My belief is that if it becomes too large the society is seriously weakened.

Ho do you know it's too large?
Constant equity bubbles.

liberaldude said...

The research has been done and the evidence of the dangers are proven and all you can say is "Nothing in Life is Certain"

Lol!!!!

Silverfiddle said...

@Ducky: Tim Worstall is an economics blogger not a hydrologist so I'd temper that opinion a bit.

I picked that article exactly for that reason. I wanted to take people through the process as an economist would, vice how a corporation or a knee-jerk activist would.

Silverfiddle said...

LibDude: Thank you for your characteristically simple-minded comment. Driving cars and generating electricity cause environmental danger, yet we do them because it's an acceptable trade-off.

Finntann said...

OIL IS A GLOBALLY TRADED COMMODITY

Price of a Gallon Gas April 2011

1. Iran = $0.37
2. Saudi Arabia = $0.61
3. Qatar = $0.72
4. Bahrain = $0.79
5. Turkmenistan = $0.83
6. Kuwait = $0.87
7. Oman = $1.17
8. Yemen = $1.32
9. Brunei = $1.47
10. UAE = $1.78

And Jersey, your point is?

So, what did you pay for gas in April? $3.50? $3.75? For a globally traded commodity?

http://www.dnewsglobal.com/10-cheapest-gas-prices-countries/4279.html

98ZJUSMC said...

JMJ says: rightwing halfasses.

I can fully understand where you would assume anyone light years more intelligent than yourself would be right wing.

I'm fairly certain that the factually bereft, actual halfass Catman Krugman shares your belief. You're in good company, then.

98ZJUSMC said...

Finntann said...
OIL IS A GLOBALLY TRADED COMMODITY

Price of a Gallon Gas April 2011

1. Iran = $0.37
2. Saudi Arabia = $0.61
3. Qatar = $0.72
4. Bahrain = $0.79
5. Turkmenistan = $0.83
6. Kuwait = $0.87
7. Oman = $1.17
8. Yemen = $1.32
9. Brunei = $1.47
10. UAE = $1.78

And Jersey, your point is?


Whoops......

98ZJUSMC said...

Leticia said...
My boss and I did an extensive study on the damage of fracking and we came to the same conclusion, in the areas that fracking was being done, we noticed a rise in earthquakes.

AND...remember the thousands of birds that were found dead? Fracking was done in close proximity of where all the dead birds were found, we believe it released toxic gases that killed the birds, while in flight.

There is a correlation.


Interesting. Is there anything published on that?

Anonymous said...

Great point in quoting all those gas prices, Finntann, but -- speaking of tradeoffs -- I'd rather pay $4.00 a gallon to drive in these United States -- even the ten or twelve dollars I hear it costs in Europe and Britain -- than get it absolutely free in one of those shitty gritty Arab stinkpot countries, wouldn't you?

Maybe we get to pay more, because everything in The West is so much better than it is anywhere else?

We always have to pay more for quality -- at least I've never known that not to be the case.

But I see how you crushed poor Jersey by sowing that domestically produced oil COULD cost us much less than the imported kind.

Thanks.

~ FreeThinke

bunkerville said...

The last two remaining refineries in the Philadelphia area are closing soon. Once the hub of the East Coast. If you check it out, a good percentage of the rest are now in foreign hands and have been sold -- one to China in California.

Leticia said...

98, we searched several websites that talked about the damaging results on fracking and one documentary, in Arkansas, about the birds and several small towns where water being toxic, due to fracking. I believe it was on youtube. It was fascinating and frightening at the same time.

Silverfiddle said...

Leticia: You've got to be sure you know the source of the information. Almost all of it is advocacy work, for one side or the other. A disinterested observer doesn't have the motivation to put that stuff together.

Finn: Way to go! You scared Jersey off with all those facts. You'd think a guy who is so consistently proven wrong would learn from it...

Anonymous said...

I suspect the only "disinterested" observers live six feet underground under marble monuments.

As the Scottish philosopher said, "Reason is but the slave of passion."

When you know you're right, you'll stoop to anything to "prove" it.

Look what happened to the "Scientific Community" over the issue of Global Warming, if you don't believe that.

The right wing tells you one thing. The left wing tells you something entirely different. Both are discussing the same topic. Whom can you believe? Both sides marshall their own set of facts. Both use "facts" to "rove" their position. So whom can you believe?

ANSWER: We believe whoever puts forth views with which we can sympathize.

Find me a wingless bird, and we might be able to get at the Truth.

I tend to believe that only God knows "The Truth." People only "know" what they want to believe.

~ FreeThinke

Trestin said...

Our largest challenge is not as much a lack of oil as it is the lack of refineries. If we started building refineries you would see prices drop fast. As far as franking, I thing we should use caution. I'm not a believer in the peak oil nonsense, I think abiotic makes far more sense.

dmarks said...

Frack using non-toxic chemicals. Problem solved.