The price of staying on carbon: Increasing oil spills, then a long ride down

This is a simple piece that makes a simple point that is nonetheless lost, thanks to Carbon Industry advertising.

1. The only solution to global warming is an immediate, crash conversion to non-carbon energy sources. That’s discussed here — the Zero Carbon economy.

2. Crash conversion means energy discontinuity — rationing — while coal-, gas- and oil-burning plants are taken offline at the fastest possible rate and replacement sources are built. All carbon consumption puts greenhouse gases (GHG), like CO2 and methane, into the air. We have already dumped enough GHG to guarantee global warming of +2°C from the pre-Industrial norm. That means, we must take carbon-burning sources offline faster than their replacements go online.

Extreme rationing — there’s no other way. Any carbon indulgence means we risk, as a species, going over the carbon cliff. The planet will be fine, but it’s Thelma and Louise for us.

3. Carbon companies know this. That’s why all of their advertising these days emphasizes continuity — “That TV of yours; know where its energy comes from?” Subtle appeal to maintaining energy continuity. (Translation: “That TV-electronics lifestyle of yours; you’d be sad if something happened to it.”) Then the “mix” of energy sources, the good ones and the … carbon … that keeps everything in your current life in place.

Bottom line for these ads: They’re selling you continuity, and the price is carbon, CO2 and methane, as a (large) part of the “mix.”

4. The price of continuity is high. It not only includes our Thelma and Louise ride, something today’s 15-year-olds will take part in, but also an ungodly amount of pollution.

And there you have it. Four talking points that tells you all you need to know. If there’s a fifth, know that buying the BS in those carbon ads is making David Koch very very happy — and much more rich. His hubris drips like a bad runny nose, which the whole planet is forcing itself to share.

The price of energy continuity is massive pollution

That last point, number 4, isn’t made much. We see the pollution, but we don’t see it as the price of energy continuity, of our slavish dependence of the carbon industry and their advertising.

To her credit, Rachel Maddow has been making that point lately. Here’s one fine instance, from a recent show. Do watch; it’s only six minutes long:

Just so you know. Wouldn’t want your children to say you weren’t informed, right? (Click for the full scene.)

Thelma & Louise, taking a dive for the Kochs.

Thelma & Louise, taking a dive for the Kochs.

Just saying.


Twitter: @Gaius_Publius. Facebook: Gaius Publi.

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Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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21 Responses to “The price of staying on carbon: Increasing oil spills, then a long ride down”

  1. Dan Pangburn says:

    I never expected to need to explain this to anyone but ‘since before 1900’
    includes ‘after 1900’.

    CO2 is a transparent, odorless gas that is absolutely mandatory for all
    life on earth. The federal standard for the safe level of CO2 is more than 10
    times the current atmospheric level of about 400 ppmv. Some greenhouses
    artificially increase the level to 1500 ppmv to enhance plant growth. I wonder
    what level is a concern to you.

    I also wonder what makes you think that climate has anything to do with
    politics or religion.

  2. Badgerite says:

    I’ve never seen so many sub zero days in one string in my life. It seemed pretty extreme to me, whatever caused it.

  3. 4th Turning says:

    Coal plants are the nation’s top source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the primary cause of global warming.

    In 2011, utility coal plants in the United States emitted a total of 1.7 billion tons of CO21. A typical coal plant generates 3.5 million tons of CO2 per year2.

    Burning coal is also a leading cause of smog, acid rain, and toxic air pollution. Some emissions can be significantly reduced with readily available pollution controls, but most U.S. coal plants have not installed these technologies.Sulfur dioxide (SO2): Coal plants are the United States’ leading source of SO2 pollution, which takes a major toll on public health, including by contributing to the formation of small acidic particulates that can penetrate into human lungs and be absorbed by the bloodstream. SO2 also causes acid rain, which damages crops, forests, and soils, and acidifies lakes and streams. A typical uncontrolled coal plant emits 14,100 tons of SO2 per year. A typical coal plant with emissions controls, including flue gas desulfurization (smokestack scrubbers), emits 7,000 tons of SO2 per year.

    Nitrogen oxides (NOx): NOx pollution causes ground level ozone, or smog, which can burn lung tissue, exacerbate asthma, and make people more susceptible to chronic respiratory diseases. A typical uncontrolled coal plant emits 10,300 tons of NOx per year. A typical coal plant with emissions controls, including selective catalytic reduction technology, emits 3,300 tons of NOx per year.

    Particulate matter: Particulate matter (also referred to as soot or fly ash) can cause chronic bronchitis, aggravated asthma, and premature death, as well as haze obstructing visibility. A typical uncontrolled plan emits 500 tons of small airborne particles each year. Baghouses installed inside coal plant smokestacks can capture as much as 99 percent of the particulates.

    Mercury: Coal plants are responsible for more than half of the U.S. human-caused emissions of mercury, a toxic heavy metal that causes brain damage and heart problems. Just 1/70th of a teaspoon of mercury deposited on a 25-acre lake can make the fish unsafe to eat. A typical uncontrolled coal plants emits approximately 170 pounds of mercury each year. Activated carbon injection technology can reduce mercury emissions by up to 90 percent when combined with baghouses. ACI technology is currently found on just 8 percent of the U.S. coal fleet.

    Other harmful pollutants emitted annually from a typical, uncontrolled coal plant include approximately:

    114 pounds of lead, 4 pounds of cadmium, other toxic heavy metals, and trace amounts of uranium. Baghouses can reduce heavy metal emissions by up to 90 percent3.

    720 tons of carbon monoxide, which causes headaches and places additional stress on people with heart disease.

    220 tons of hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds (VOC), which form ozone.

    225 pounds of arsenic, which will cause cancer in one out of 100 people who drink water containing 50 parts per billion.

    1 EIA Data
    2 Typical plant assumptions: Capacity=600 MW; Capacity Factor=69%; Heat Rate=10,415; CO2 Emissions Rate=206 pounds of CO2/Million Btu
    3 Nescaum. “Control Technologies to Reduce Conventional and Hazardous Air Pollutants from Coal-Fired Power Plants.” March 31, 2011.

  4. 4th Turning says:

    I’d say a lot of something is already hitting the fan? Make friends with
    their latino staff-these are the ones who know about survival…

  5. BillFromDover says:

    We also cannot survive without water, can we?

    However, let me insert a firehose in your mouth and open it full-bore.

    When in heaven, would you consider this reality of physics scientific incompetence?

    I realize that most deniers are conservative, fine, fine Christians, so just consider this a parable.

    BTW, which end of a turd is the cleanest?

  6. BillFromDover says:

    When push comes to shove, perhaps because of our own greed and willing ignorance, we’ll get what we deserve.

    It’s just too bad that it will be our progeny paying the ultimate price.

    Then again, ain’t the Rapture supposed to happen well before this predictable, obvious, oncoming tragedy?

  7. BillFromDover says:

    Pursuing this matter I discovered it was something called the arctic oscillation that forced the Polar vortex southward (think of a big plunger at times pushing and sucking on the cold air around the North Pole… this time pushing harder than normal).

    Try explaining this simple physics phenomena to a denier and watch his jaw drop.

  8. BillFromDover says:

    And when the shit hits the fan, you can rest assured that conservatives will blame it all on progressives for not fighting hard enough to stop them from their greedy road to suicide.

  9. Dan Pangburn says:

    Carbon dioxide is plant food. Calling it a pollutant is scientific
    incompetence and distracts from attending to real pollutants such as mercury,
    particulates, NOX, and sulfur.

    Search keywords AGW unveiled to discover the two drivers of climate change
    since before 1900.

    CO2 is not one of them.

  10. 4th Turning says:

    Hey, emjayay. This is in reply to your comment lower down. I am one of those endangered species
    that actually tries to do the necessary homework. I don’t think I would’ve bought the snake oil deal
    this “developer” had to be offering. And If I had owned a house there (or on the coast now) and
    been made aware of the potential for catastrophic failure I like to think I would’ve walked away without tricking some sucker in to taking it off my hands.
    Your reply arrived 20 minutes after the Orion article. A rather brilliant coincidence as I suspect
    we and other readers are in need of a hopeful straw to grab onto. I am an outdoorsy gardening
    type who started planting trees just because I’m in love with them and realized I’d used up more
    than my fair share in toilet paper alone. (Also had read The Man Who Planted Trees) Feeding my
    birds, I also welcomed squirrels. As their numbers grew, I happened to notice one year walking
    in nearby scrub woods an amazing number of little oak seedlings-and no parent trees around.
    Made me smile.
    So now the climate change warnings.
    If i lived in the NY/NJ area where all this activity is going on I’d be out there on weekends sticking
    whatever in the ground. And even if wheelchair bound, I’d be out distributing artisan bread
    sandwiches and iced tea and maybe some old fashion brownies. It doesn’t really matter to
    me now whether or not we’ve passed the point of no return. I suspect a fair number of experts in
    Japan and elsewhere are pretty sure we have. The point of any restoration effort is metaphorical,
    metaphysical and familial. My way of expressing gratitude to Father Sky and Mother Earth for clean
    air, pure water, fruits and vegs. and this stupid computer. And it just feels nice (productive)
    planting stuff. The “big one” in Calif. (no-the other big one) will likely occur before this century
    is out. And Yellowstone is due to blow any day now so no real need to nuke a couple of volcanoes.

    Daniel Miller, a geomorph­ologist, also documented the hill’s landslide conditions in a report written in 1997 for the Washington Department of Ecology and the Tulalip Tribes. He knows the hill’s history, having collected reports and memos from the 1950s, 1960s, 1980s and 1990s. He has a half-dozen manila folders stuffed with maps, slides, models and drawings, all telling the story of an unstable hillside that has defied efforts to shore it up.
    That’s why he could not believe what he saw in 2006, when he returned to the hill within weeks of a landslide that crashed into and plugged the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, creating a new channel that threatened homes on a street called Steelhead Drive. Instead of seeing homes being vacated, he saw carpenters building new ones.
    His perspective stands in contrast to what John Pennington, head of Snohomish County’s Department of Emergency Management, said at a news conference Monday. “It was considered very safe,” Pennington said. “This was a completely unforeseen slide. This came out of nowhere.”

    The process of reimagining New York City’s infrastructure with climate change in mind was underway before Sandy, but the storm’s devastation underscored the urgency of learning from nature and then planning and designing with her machinations in mind. There will be some managed retreat—some withdrawal from coastal areas that one hopes will be graceful—but there are also ways to stay along our shorelines safely. It demands rethinking the meaning of edge, redefining it as something more fluid and less rigid than the single hard line conveyed by a cartographer’s pen. To get there will require an era of collaboration and partnership, from government-level climate change panels to grassroots citizen efforts, from design competitions to smart-phone apps to gatherings of engineers, city planners, and scientists. It will take people stepping out to meet their neighbors—before the high waters come.

  11. pappyvet says:

    Just read an interesting article Gaius. Apparently several people in the GOP want to stop a request for scientist to disclose financial conflicts in their research.

  12. emjayay says:

    Sometimes it’s too bad we don’t have a benevolent dictator running the place, if any such thing ever existed. For example if I was Philosopher King I would do all the Gaius stuff already. I would have turned the lower parts of New Orleans into a wetland. If they didn’t have Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras the crime ridden place would be history. It’s not only a sinkhole, but a sinkhole of your tax dollars. I would have kicked everyone off the Jersey barrier islands and the Rockaways too. These are all totally futile uneconomic subsidized places with no future which should never have been built on in the first place and would not be today. Most expensive beach to maintain your tax dollars in the country? Rock rock Rockaway Beach.

  13. emjayay says:

    It doesn’t matter if a million scientists from a thousand countries put out a massive report. A large segment of Americans will refuse to believe it. Once again, just check out the comments at Yahoo!News for a sample of the opinions of the common folk. Complete denial. One authoritative sounding claim about something refuting all climate science after another. And besides that, God.

    As I’ve said many times and comments here also are saying, it won’t be until its obvious that Florida is going underwater and we are forced to start abandoning Manhattan that anything serious will happen. Then we’ll do everything Gaius thinks we should already be doing, plus maybe nuke a few volcanoes to make them go off, blow little shreds of mylar into the atmosphere to reduce sunlight (I just made that up) , use half our wind and hydro and nuke power to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, bomb coal generation plants China insists on keeping going, whatever. Almost definitely military solutions will be used.

  14. pappyvet says:

    We are basically screwed. Even if we stopped production today the brakes on climate change would not stop what’s coming. The meltdown will arrive and my only hope is that the humans after much destruction will at last wise up. The only entity that we can point to who has actual godlike attributes is the one we are all standing on. She gives us life ,food , heals the sick, and She is who we return to after we pass. But we continue to destroy the beauty we have been given at a break neck pace.

  15. draghnfly says:

    60 here. And, sadly, I agree with you. Given my age and where I live (upper Midwest) I think I’ll miss the most dire consequences. But our children and grandchildren … I weep.

    You’re on the right tract with a Manhattan style project but it’s too late for that. If we, the whole world, went to zero CO2 emissions tomorrow, heating would continue from the load already in the atmosphere. We need to start thinking remediation which comes with the danger of unintended consequences.

    It’s too late and grows more too late every day. By the time rich white people are adversely affected we’ll already be far beyond the point of no return.

  16. Badgerite says:

    I think that they believe that. But I think they are wrong. Certainly they are wrong if they plan to have kids and grand kids.

  17. 4th Turning says:

    When their only reason to run for congress is to sabotage Obamacare, there’s not much
    else to hang around wash. for on the weekends-might as well private jet home to texas for
    a gluttonous bbq at southfork.

    Curious to think the entire country’s infrastructure could very well collapse simultaneously during one of the next extreme weather events.

  18. BeccaM says:

    All I can say is that after 51 years on this planet and in this country, that ‘Manhattan Project’ commitment to move from a carbon-burning based economy won’t happen in America.

    This country is defined now by what we can’t do. Unless it involves a giveaway to the 1% or an increased military budget or finding a lawyer who’ll say the abominable is perfectly legal.

    But to get us off oil? That’ll happen elsewhere first.

  19. TheOriginalLiz says:

    The policy makers and their handlers are quite confident that they have the resources to be insulated from any “inconveniences” caused by having trashed the planet.

  20. Houndentenor says:

    Even when we briefly had Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress and the White House we couldn’t get anything at all done on climate change. This proposal is dead in the water. Start preparing for whatever calamities are coming are way, and they are coming, because this is America and the political class (with a few notable exceptions) do not acknowledge problems until after the disaster has already happened. Why did we not have better levies in New Orleans in spite of the fact that a Katrina like event was known to be inevitable? Because we don’t deal with potential or future catastrophes in this country. We cross our fingers and hope for the best and then shake our fists and rant when the disaster we should have prepared for or acted to prevent actually happened. We are fucked and I think most of us have know this for quite some time. This proposal is poison to anyone running for office. We can’t even pass a carbon tax and you think we can get people to give up fossil fuels entirely and immediately?

  21. 4th Turning says:

    “The hundreds of scientists from 100 countries meeting in this Japanese port city are putting finishing touches on a massive report emphasising the gravity of the threat the changing climate poses for communities from the polar regions to the tropics.”

    Read more:

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