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Here’s oil in your eye

Mark Morford, San Francisco Chronicle
Bush lifts drilling ban, oil execs leer, nation cringes, Obama sighs

I admit to bafflement. I admit to a bit of total confusion mixed with a certain level of stupefied awe and teeth-rattling frustration as to why anyone with the mental acuity of more than a housefly would think that stabbing more holes into Alaska and the eastern seaboard in the search for a few remaining precious drops of oil is a good idea, would solve anything at all, is anything more than the equivalent of hurling matches at the devil.

… Oh, I fully understand the corporate arguments, even the political ones. Asking why the oil companies are eager as rabbits on meth to gouge further into the planet is a bit like asking a surgeon why she wants to operate, or a lawyer why he wants to sue, or a snake why he wants to sink his fangs into a nice juicy rat and swallow it whole and smile for a week. It is, quite simply, what they do.

And politicos, well, they’re of course generally terrified of their own shadows, merely following what the people scream, and enough misinformed people scream about high gas prices and demand some sort of relief and, well, politicos from both sides of the aisle will say just about anything to mollify and deflect and pretend to care, even if it means lying, even if it means feigning total ignorance and blaming the oil speculators, even (or rather, especially) if it means an utter and complete shunning of the facts at hand.

… Where is the tipping point, that line where the mass populace begins to dial in, when even the most cold-hearted lib-loathing conservative — like those who are, right now, hating on poor little “Wall-E,” sneering that Pixar’s sweet little movie is nothing more than a typical liberal fascist fantasy of overconsumption and gluttony — even they begin to say, you know what? We might have this energy thing all wrong.

Maybe it’s actually not liberal claptrap to want to move toward alternative, sustainable, less pollutive energy sources, to upend the ultimately fatal petroleum economy.
(18 July 2008)

The Southwest desert’s real estate boom

Todd Woody, Fortune
From California to Arizona, demand for sites for solar power projects has ignited a land grab.

… A solar land rush is rolling across the desert Southwest. Goldman Sachs, utilities PG&E and FPL, Silicon Valley startups, Israeli and German solar firms, Chevron, speculators – all are scrambling to lock up hundreds of thousands of acres of long-worthless land now coveted as sites for solar power plants.

The race has barely begun – finished plants are years away – but it’s blazing fastest in the Mojave, where the federal government controls immense stretches of some of the world’s best solar real estate right next to the nation’s biggest electricity markets.
(11 July 2008)

Los Angeles is home to new rush of oil drilling
As energy prices surge, hidden rigs trap fertile fields under city

Jane Wells, CNBC
Remember how Jed Clampett and his family struck “black gold” and moved to Beverly Hills? Today the black gold is IN Beverly Hills.

Beverly Hills is one of the most fertile oil fields in Los Angeles, producing nearly a million barrels a year. Many wells are camouflaged or hidden inside buildings. One on the property of Beverly Hills High School is covered in quilt-like floral blankets.

Not far from here, in Wilmington, they churn out far more oil — in fact, the Department of Energy calls Wilmington the third largest oil field in the 48 contiguous states. Who knew?
(18 July 2008)

Former U.S. Officials Call for an Earth Systems Science Agency
A group of former U.S. senior officials called for the establishment of an independent Earth Systems Science Agency (ESSA) in an article published last week in the journal Science.

They suggested that a single organization, formed by merging the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) would be better equipped to meet the unprecedented environmental and economic challenges facing the nation…

…Groat points to the breadth of capabilities the agency would possess. “The USGS, in bringing not only its geologic, biologic, hydrologic and geospatial expertise to the understanding of natural systems, but also its research capabilities in energy, mineral, water, and biologic resources, gives the new organization a comprehensive perspective on both environmental and resource systems. If we effectively link these capabilities with those of NOAA, we will have a powerful research institution,” he says.
(14 July 2008)

Carbon capture can break the old energy equation

Steve Snyder, The Globe and Mail
Since the dawn of the industrial revolution, society has lived with a simple but problematic equation: Economic growth = energy use = environmental impact. Our ability to meet the climate challenge and sustain our quality of life depends on our ability to break that equation.

To do so, we must use all of the tools and technologies available, from conservation to carbon credits and nuclear power to renewables.

This week, the Alberta government announced a historic $2-billion initiative to help lead the development of carbon capture and storage technology. Along with large-scale renewables and nuclear energy, CCS is essential if Canada and the world are to address the carbon challenge. CO2 emissions can be separated from the exhaust of industrial facilities – such as coal-fired power plants – then compressed and injected underground to be permanently stored back in the same geological formations that held hydrocarbons for millions of years before we extracted them.
(13 July 2008)
Contributor Scott Chisholm Lamont writes:
Another techno-fix that doesn’t directly address energy scarcity and production rates, but nonetheless very desperately needed if there is any hope of slowing anthropogenic climate change. I really hope they can come up with a working scalable demo.

Both candidates talk the talk on green issues but who can deliver?

Ed Pilkington, The Guardian
“I speak to you tonight as a citizen of the world, because the outcome of this election will affect the future of the planet.”

The words are those of Al Gore, the greatest green president that America never had. He spoke them not during his own campaign for the White House in 2000 – he remained strangely silent then on climate despite his long-held convictions – but last month as he endorsed Barack Obama…

…Obama has established his environmental credentials in the past four years in the Senate. McCain was the only Republican candidate in the primaries speaking about global warming. As Gore generously noted in his endorsement speech, McCain was one of the first to flag up climate change in Congress – he introduced legislation in 2003, 2005 and 2007 to curb emissions – in contrast to most Republicans from Bush down who simply refused to acknowledge the problem.

Whichever candidate becomes the 44th president, he will enter the White House with a commitment on global warming that will go far beyond anything attempted by Bush, whose resistance to government action is blamed by many scientists for setting back the fight on global warming by a decade. But there the similarities end. When it comes to how to get the job done, they are starkly divided.
(17 July 2008)