A few days ago some GOP nutcase in Texas tweeted about oil and gas (see articles here and here).
In addition to saying a few wacky things, it seems like a good time to write up some of the notes I have been accumulating.
The main tweet that got attention was “The best thing about the Earth is if you poke holes in it oil and gas come out.”
Unless you happen to be George W Bush, who poked a lot of holes in West Texas and managed to not find any oil.
He also made a few cracks about liberals and environmentalists being against science and technology. And human progress.
Let’s start with human progress. A lot of conservatives think that atheists should have fewer rights than Christians. And that other races should have less rights than white people. And that woman should have less rights than men. And that homosexuals should have less rights than straight people. And of course that actual people (human beings) should have less rights than paper people (corporations). Liberals think that the powerless should have the same rights as the powerful. That all people should have the right to vote. That everyone should have a say in their lives and their community. I like all the things that oil allows us to do, but “finding more places to drill more oil” is a pretty narrow definition of human progress.
But then again, conservatives seem to love narrow definitions.
He thinks that liberals and environmentalists hate technology? What about solar panels? They may not be much good at night, but they have come a long way in the past decade. And who has been for them? Liberals and environmentalists. And a lot of liberals are for nuclear power. Listen to “The Atomic Show” with Rod Adams. He has had quite a few pro-nuclear liberals on his show. I would say if you are pro-nuclear, you are pro-science. He’s a Navy man from the southeast, but he sounds pretty liberal to me sometimes. He thinks that we should build more nuclear power plants because he has been to poor countries and seen how people live without electricity. He also thinks it is the best solution for climate change.
Yes, climate change. That thing that a lot of conservatives say is not happening. (I love the fact that a scientist funded by the Koch Brothers to refute climate change came to the conclusion that it is happening. Recently, Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House requested hearings on climate change, but were denied by the Renutlican leadership. If conservatives love science, what’s the problem?
Conservatives have been wrong/lying about evolution for a long long long time. And let’s not forget about all the comments about sexual assault and pregnancy that were spoken by Republicans in the 2012 election. (I am thinking of the original comments, and the douibling down by many others in the conservative community.)
The only science and technology that conservatives seem to love is science and technology that helps the fossil fuel industries.
A lot of conservatives seem to think that oil, gas and coal are the only worthwhile forms of energy. I also see this in the media. A lot of people are still part of the “Drill, baby, drill” crowd. That is fine, as long as there is something left to drill. But for how long will that be the case? Yes, the earth is still producing oil,but we are using it faster than the earth is making it.
The DBD crowd says it makes no sense to drill out in the middle of the ocean when we have plenty of oil on federal land. I say: Go ahead, drill on that federal land. You will wind up back in the middle of the ocean in a few decades. If the DBD crowd isn’t thinking about non-fossil fuel energy sources now, why would they starting thinking about it in their Alternative Yellowstone Derrick Future?
Even with all the advances in shale oil and fracking, I still only see predictions about our oil and gas supply for about 150 years. The nuclear industry says we have enough uranium for 6,500 years. Apparently there is a lot of uranium in sea water. I am not a math genius, but 6,500 is a lot more than 150. Plus, I don’t think we should use oil and gas for cars or electricity. Let’s save them for fertilizer and plastic. I guess on a finite planet, eventually everything goes to zero. But some things are much closer to zero than others.
I don’t think we should put too much faith in fracking. People say that thanks to fracking, the peak oil debate is over. That might be a hasty conclusion. The depletion rates for these wells are pretty high. And they have high environmental costs. A lot of pro-oil people say that we will never hit peak oil because “technology and the market will find new ways to get more oil.”
I have two responses to that. First off, we cannot be so sure that there will always be new ways of extracting oil which get discovered when we need them to. A lot of the people raving about fracking did not see it coming ten years ago. If fracking and horizontal drilling were not around today, all that oil would still be in the ground, and our oil supplies would be in decline. Where would we be then? We may reach a point where the market does not find a way. This is related to a post by Tom Murphy, an associate professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego. He has a post on his blog “Do The Math” detailing a conversation he had with an economics professor about the fact that there are real physical limits to the amount of energy this planet can produce.
Secondly, there may very well be limits oil extraction. There may be technological limits, and there may be societal limits. Fracking and the Canadian tar sands are pretty controversial. Even if the petroleum industry finds more ways to extract oil, we may be reaching the limit of society’s tolerance for the environmental costs of oil extraction.
Image from Disney movie John Carter. Copyright owned by Disney, assumed allowed under fair use. John Carter is the name of my representative.