The Climate Story You Don't Hear About

By Keith Kloor | January 5, 2012 7:38 am

So while American politicians and environmentalists slug it out over a proposed pipeline, China is stocking its rainy day shale and oil sands fund. Let’s start with the recent news out of Canada:

China will take over full ownership over a Canadian oil sands project for the first time after Athabasca Oil Sands Corp announced Tuesday it sold the remaining 40 percent of the MacKay River oil sands development to PetroChina for US $673 million.

The deal continues a trend that has seen China’s state-owned oil companies invest billions of dollars in exploration or production ventures in Canada, Africa, Latin America and elsewhere.

Elsewhere is another way of saying the United States, as this other bit of news suggests:

Showing that it isn’t worried about the upswell of angst over hydraulic fracking technology, the Chinese government, through state-controlled Sinopec, today struck a deal with Devon Energy to buy into five prospective new exploration areas in the U.S.

The deal, which includes $900 million in cash upfront and a promise of $1.6 billion in the years ahead to cover drilling and development, gives the Chinese a 33% stake in five of Devon’s fields, and a front row seat to what is effectively the second wave of development of U.S. shale assets. The areas in question include the Tuscaloosa in Louisiana, the Niobrara in Colorado, the Mississippian in Devon’s home state of Oklahoma, the Utica in Ohio and the Michigan basin.

The second wave? Does that mean it washes over us irrespective of the fight over the Keystone XL pipeline? Has anybody told environmentalists this? And what about climate activists? Who worries you more at this point: Mitt Romney or China? Oh, Never mind.

Back to that second wave, and how it’s being funded from Chinese cash, see this 2011 must-read from Jonathan Thompson. He writes that, over the last decade,

China has emerged as one of our biggest customers; U.S. exports to China have increased 460 percent since 2000. Compared to British, Canadian or Australian multinational corporations, Asian companies still have a minuscule investment in Western resources. But over the last year, as much of Asia scrambles out of the global recession unscathed and the U.S. continues to wallow, Chinese, Indian and even former Soviet-bloc companies have bought into American oil and gas fields, molybdenum mines and more.

The story of fossil fuels as a much sought after global commodity is the big climate story that climate-concerned activists and bloggers willfully ignore.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: China, climate change, Energy
  • kdk33

    I’m not sure what Keystone has to do with Shale Gas ??

    Anyway, welcome to the real world.  The Chinese could give a flying leap about alternative energy (scary stories that we are “losing ground” to Asia not withstanding).  Shale gas was a game changer – big time.

    The lives we lead are the direct result of readily available, low cost energy; and, for now, only fossil fuels can meet that description.

    Fossil fuel as a sought after commodity isn’t a story, it’s reality.  And reality isn’t something with which “environmentalist” or the “climate concerned” seem overly familiar.

    But, “climate” sure has been good entertainment these last few years.  Sadly, the party seems to be winding down.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    “The story of fossil fuels as a much sought after global commodity is the big climate story that climate-concerned activists and bloggers willfully ignore.”

    I’m going to assume that as per usual Keith won’t be providing any actual evidence to back up this rather ridiculous claim. 

  • Jeff Norris

    Marlowe
    I know you two have history, but before you and Keith start bickering again about not talking to each other.  Why don’t you post some references to various articles from climate-concerned activists and bloggers about the hunt for fossil fuels by other countries?  Granted Keith and you may have different standards on who is a “climate activist” or what they need to do to show they are concerned.  It is his place so he might respond or not, more likely others will look in to your references and engage in a civil debate.  Of course this is CC so it is just as likely to be a bunch of straw men and veiled insults.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    Jeff it’s a trivial exercise to show that climate ‘concerned’ and climate ‘activists’ are well aware of the global nature of fossil energy demand. To suggest that people are ‘willfully ignoring’ this fact is ludicrous.  In about 30 seconds I was able to find this post (posted YESTERDAY) from Keith’s favorite blogger which highlights warning from the IEA about the ‘lock-in’ effects of current investments in fossil energy and what this means for climate.  Now if Romm really was ‘willfully ignoring’ the global dimensions of the demand side of the equation would he have included this quote from Fatih Birol:

    “You, rich countries, yes, Europe, you have been using a lot of coal, oil, gas, and putting a lot of carbon in the atmosphere since 100 years, as you see in this picture. And now, we have very little responsibility there, and now you are telling us that we should have the same responsibility. This is not fair, by emerging countries, led by China.

    And to be honest with you, when you look at this picture, they have a point, definitely they have a point. But it is changing. When we look at the next few years, we see that the Chinese historical emissions are overtaking Europe very soon, around 2015, and coming very close to the United States. And I can tell you that our China numbers may well be on the conservative side here.

     
    So therefore, from a cumulative-emissions-perspective point of view, the argument coming from China and others may not be as strong as today and the next years to come.

    India, according to our analysis in the World Energy Outlook, became this year the third-largest emitter, following China and the United States, overtaking Japan and Russia.
     

    On a per-capita basis, another argument, China is overtaking Europe in the next four years, even on a per-capita basis. This is the other argument coming from the developing countries. Don’t look at volumes, but look at the per-capita basis, because we are 1 billion people, which is, again, a valid point.
    But in our per-capita basis, China is overtaking European Union very soon and OECD.
     

    So what I want to say here is that this is true that the U.S. and Europe has historical responsibilities, but the picture is changing very rapidly that even the historical responsibilities will be redefined again and discussed.”

  • Dean

    A couple of points.

    Shale gas has had an open and unregulated environment and that is not likely to last. I’m not saying it will stop, but it will slow. Note Republican Governor Kasich’s decision in Ohio to stop some after earthquakes. And if China ends up owning these, it will only make it easier politically to tighten the rules on fracking.

    As to tar sands in Alberta, my guess is that China would prefer a western pipe through BC to one through the US, but it is by no means guaranteed that a pipeline would be built going west would be built. The terrain is tougher and there is far more local opposition. I’ve heard that the deal in Congress over the payroll tax cut wrt Keystone actually makes it’s rejection more likely.

  • BillC

    Fascinating. At what point will the per-capita historical emissions from 1) China and 2) India overtake the “developed world average”?

  • grypo

    I agree with Marlowe.  While the business press has done a better job covering this than the climate from another angle, it has not been ignored.   As far as enviros and keystone and mountaintop removal, the reason the focus is there is because that is a fight that can actually be waged through political pressure and movement, and also brings several factions together for common purpose.  How do we redress grievances against multi-national corporations backed by totalitarian foreign governments?

  • harrywr2

    grypo Says:

    As far as enviros and keystone and mountaintop removal, the reason the focus is there is because that is a fight that can actually be waged through political pressure and movement
    Which is the point I took from Keith’s post. The ‘fights that are being fought’ are mice and ants compared to the ‘elephant in the room’.
    People protest coal mining in West Virginia even though coal production in West Virgina has been in decline for more then a decade.
    Anyone who looks at production costs/data in West Virgina can easily conclude that the coal industry in West Virgina is a ‘dying horse’.
    The problem with ‘symbolic victories’ is that they expend political capital.
    What’s better…adding 5 MPG to the national CAFE standard or stopping the Keystone XL pipeline.
    Choose one.
     

  • grypo

    “What’s better”¦adding 5 MPG to the national CAFE standard or stopping the Keystone XL pipeline.  Choose one.”

    Why?  They can fight both of these battles and do.  What they can’t always fight is the subject of this post.
     

  • Pascvaks

    Life is about many things; one of the BIG among the many is POWER.  While the WEST has been focusing on its belly button and smoking pot the EAST has been eating its Wheaties and building its mussles.  It doesn’t matter what your favorite diversion is, climate, carbs, cruilty to animals, organ transplants and 1st Class healthcare for the terminally ill, welfare, mental health, education, stamp collecting, and/or blogging, if you live in the WEST you’ve been lapped by the EAST and the race is nearly over.  Hello!  anybody listening?  Hello?…  (Everyone must be taking a siesta;-)

    Damn!  The WEST just has to wake up, and fast!  What we need is another Great Depression, I’m too old to learn Chinese.  Apples!  Apples!  Get yer five Yuan apples!  Hey Buddy, can ya spare a light?

    (SarcOff)

    It’s all over now.  It’s been over.  Free Healthcare?  I need an aspirin, a BIG aspirin. 

  • Keith Kloor

    I stand by what I said. @4, you misunderstand my point. The demand equation (that is the point) that is driving the Chinese investment in fossil fuel companies is not so they can make money, but so they can secure a supply of energy.

    Climate bloggers who cite the consequences of this don’t address the demand equation, and those that do (like the one you cited) are living in fantasy land about the potential of renewables to supplant fossil fuels.

    Yeah, people like him can keep blaming “deniers” and the media if it makes them feel better. Meanwhile, in the real world, you’ll keep reading news stories like the ones I cited in this post. 

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @8
    your argument  would be more persuasive if you could demonstrate that political capital in this context is a fixed quantity rather than something that waxes and wanes over time.  I suspect McKibben would argue that the Keystone victory builds political capital for further climate actions because it builds momentum.

    FWIW I’m not sure which view I find more compelling…

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @11
    “I stand by what I said. ”

    Big surprise there.   In any case, who said anything about making money? Birol is talking about implications of BAU consumption patterns not investments.  IOW the very subject that Keith claims climate ‘concerned’ people are ignoring.  Interesting strategy.

    “Yeah, people like him can keep blaming “deniers” and the media if it makes them feel better. ”

    And people like Keith can keep pretending that the media and deniers have played no role whatsoever in influencing the ambition of current climate policy options.

  • Keith Kloor

    Marlowe, are you arguing just to argue? Why are you ignoring the point I clarified I was making with this post? I’m not disputing the implications of the BAU consumption patterns Birol is talking about.  What I’m saying is that BAU will continue because the demand is there and there is nothing (at the moment) that can meet it, other than fossil fuels.

    That’s your big hurdle, not Anthony Watts or Marc Morano (though I’m not suggesting they be ignored–I don’t ignore them) In the absence of incontrovertible climate change impacts of a severe and lasting nature, your hurdle is contained in those news stories I cited. Why do you not see this?

  • Marlowe Johnson

    No Keith, I’m taking issue with your suggestion that mitigation advocates are somehow blind the reality of growing energy demand from BRIC countries. 

    “there is nothing (at the moment) that can meet it [demand], other than fossil fuels.”

    This is a very interesting, important, and debatable claim, and one that I’m fairly confident you are unqualified to evaluate.  Paging Harry and BBD…

  • kdk33

    the Chinese investment in fossil fuel companies is not so they can make money, but so they can secure a supply of energy.

    But, but, but… oh, nevermind.

  • BBD

    Marlowe Johnson

    Hello!

    I will leave detailed arguments about the US to Harry, Keith and yourself. All I will risk for now is the tired, but true, statement that the decisions that are most climate-relevant are about coal – not oil or gas.

    Decarbonisation of global baseload generation is the central task. This basically means displacing coal from global baseload to whatever extent we can, as rapidly as possible.

    The only available technology that can do this is nuclear. And we need to get on with the roll-out. Now.

  • Keith Kloor

    What I typically read and hear from climate concerned folk rarely touches on the reality of the world we live in. Instead, they focus on culpability of skeptics, the media, etc., which is fair game (I certainly discuss related issues), but it strikes me as a major misdirection to remain so focused on things that aren’t your real obstacles. 

    As for my “debatable claim,” I’m all ears. Tell me, based on the current and projected world demand, what clean energy sources will meet it and when? 

  • Marlowe Johnson

    speaking nuclear, you might find this paper interesting BBD:

    “Public attitudes towards nuclear power in the UK have historically been deeply divided, but as concern about climate change and energy security has exerted an increasing influence on British energy policy, nuclear power has been reframed as a low-carbon technology. Previous research has suggested that a significant proportion of people may “˜reluctantly accept’ nuclear power as a means of addressing the greater threat of climate change. Drawing on the results of a national British survey (n=1822), the current study found that attitudes towards nuclear remain divided, with only a minority expressing unconditional acceptance. In general, people who expressed greater concern about climate change and energy security and possessed higher environmental values were less likely to favour nuclear power. However, when nuclear power was given an explicit “˜reluctant acceptance’ framing ““ allowing people to express their dislike for nuclear power alongside their conditional support ““ concerns about climate change and energy security became positive predictors of support for nuclear power. These findings suggest that concern about climate change and energy security will only increase acceptance of nuclear power under limited circumstances””specifically once other (preferred) options have been exhausted.”

    It seems to me that one of the core disagreements between reasonable people at the mitigation table is the degree to which these ‘other preferred options’ have been exhausted and how one goes about making and communicating that judgement to the public.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @18

    try here for starters.

  • BBD

    MJ

    Yes – that’s what decades of anti-nuclear fearmongering by the greens has achieved. Isn’t it wonderful?

  • hunter

    “climate concerned”? Whaat a great euphemism for AGW true believers. The implication that those of us who are skeptical of the AGW hype are not concerned about the climate is a nice manipulation of the language. Orwell would be proud.
    Only the CO2 obsessed fantasists who think we are going to do without fossil fuels have ignored this growing story. Those of us who care about the climate but are not CO2 obsessed have been following this for lilterally years.
     So wake up and have a cup of coffee.   

  • Keith Kloor

    @20, I liked that report when it came out, and I still like it. Pretty ambitious, but yet realistic, too (emphasis added):

    “However,” Mr. Tanaka stressed “we should not forget that even with this low-carbon revolution, fossil fuels still account for 46% of primary energy demand in 2050, meaning that we still will need significant investment in these fields.”

  • Jarmo

    #14

    Two choices: BAU will continue or China, India and many others will intentionally cut down economic growth. My money is on BAU.

    Kyoto, or what’s left of it actually confirms BAU will take place. China, India and other developing countries have pledged to cut carbon intensity per GDP – which will happen anyway as their industries develop and old plants are replaced by newer technology. 

    Between 2000 and 2011, China built around 500 GW of coal power capacity. Equal to 312 EPR type nuclear power plants.

    The Chinese are building and planning to build about 280 GW more between 2012-2016.  

    http://www.netl.doe.gov/coal/refshelf/ncp.pdf
     

  • Marlowe Johnson

    Keith, keep in mind that the Blue Map scenario which Tanaka is referring to assumes a 50% cut relative to 2000 emissions not the 80-90% that most climate scientists think is required by then to avoid > 2C warming. Achieving those kinds of reductions would require an even larger outlay of all of the options outlined in the Blue Map scenario.  Obviously this would increase total costs but it would also lessen the need for investment in traditional fossil sources.

  • Keith Kloor

    Marlowe, I’m aware of that, which is why I’m surprised you cited this particular report (and why I pointed out Tanaka’s quote).

    So can you now give me another report that you believe realistically shows a path to that 80-90% reduction?

  • Nullius in Verba

    I agree with Keith – although I’m not sure he’ll be happy to hear it. But it’s a point that’s been made on the other side of the aisle for a long time, now.

    The basic problem, recognised very early on, is that we simply cannot afford to make the reductions in energy use/CO2 emission that would be required to have a significant effect on climate (assuming you believe the computer models) without massive (and politically unacceptable) hardship and suffering, both here and in the developing world. Many theorists have claimed you can, but the people actually running the show know you can’t. And it’s been quite apparent in all the negotiations and political moves made at the international level that nobody has ever had any intention of actually doing so. There have been any number of ‘gestures’, far too small to have any effect, but intended to ‘set an example’ or ‘get things moving’ or ‘take a first step’, but they all falter when it becomes obvious that nobody is following them. Developing countries like China have never had any intention of doing anything, only playing along to the extent they think they can extract wealth-for-free from guilt-ridden Western governments. They use the ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ formula to disguise its real meaning of ‘you cut back, we follow business as usual, you pay us for the privilege’.

    Nobody’s fooled. The US set it out it explicitly with the Byrd-Hagel resolution back in ’97, but the activists kept thinking that if they kept up the pressure they’d surely cave. But as the gestures have got increasingly weak and unconvincing, and the alarmism increasingly desperate, the public have lost interest/patience, and now the activists regard it as a minor victory to simply keep the whole thing going, let alone make any forward progress. Keystone, which they made so much of, was no victory for the environmentalists – they simply delayed the announcement of their decision to allow it for a year or two until the politics became easier. Durban was no more than an agreement to keep on talking.

    It’s not going to happen, not in the short term – and barring another couple of decades of extended and dramatic warming, not in the long term either. Everybody knows it, but nobody can admit it yet.

    And yes, none of this has anything to do with sceptics, who have had little effect, or the media, who have merely followed the fashions, or fossil fuel companies who were never all that interested. It’s simply that we can’t afford it, we’ve no intention of doing it, and nobody’s been fooled by the attempt to sneak wealth redistribution and world government through under cover of taking action on climate change. The prospects for concerted international action are dead.

    It’s obvious why the climate concerned don’t want to believe that, or acknowledge it. They acknowledge that there is a problem, but not that there is no hope. They’re still hoping to revive it; interpreting every twitch as signs of life.
    I’m sure they will continue to do so.

  • BBD

    Marlowe Johnson @ 25

    Which is why I get so exercised about those who claim that there’s nothing to worry about or ‘at most’ there will be ‘only’ 2C warming etc.

    Basically, it’s going to be at least 3C, probably more.

    I also worry about straight-faced assertions that renewables are going to displace coal from baseload generation.

    What with the pseudo-sceptics, the plausible emissions projections from BRIC over this century and the renewables lobby, I do occasionally worry about the future. When anyone mentions clathrates or carbon cycle feedbacks, I go and hide under the rug.

  • BBD

    NiV

    Skimming through I see ‘alarmism’ and ‘sneak wealth redistribution and one world government through under cover or taking action on climate change’.

    My crank alarm is sounding. Perhaps, given the rather fucking serious nature of the discussion, you could leave it to the grown-ups?

  • Keith Kloor

    BBD (29)

    Chill out. Both sides sneak in their own brand of snark. Let’s not get all exercised over that.

  • BBD

    Keith

    My apologies. When NiV does that peculiarly grotesque trick of being both organ grinder and monkey at the same time I should fall about laughing. But a humour pipe ruptured – replacement parts are being fitted as we speak.

  • kdk33

    My crank alarm is sounding

    Good.  Now you can…

    wake up and have a cup of coffee

    (I like the way that came together).

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @28
    Renewables can displace a significant portion of baseload coal under the right circumstances with the right policies. Whether or not the prospects of getting those stars to line up will be easier over the medium term relative to the prospects of aggressive nuke build-out remains to be seen.

    @26
    start with Dan Kamen’s work or blog 

  • BBD

    Marlowe Johnson

    Renewables can displace a significant portion of baseload coal under the right circumstances with the right policies.

    This is an engineering issue, not a policy bottleneck. Diffuse, variable, intermittent generation technologies are unsuitable for baseload applications. This is a fact – it is dangerously inadvisable to deny facts.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    BBD we’ve had this discussion before.   First of all, I think you’re a little too fixated on on-shore wind and solar PV.  HVDC lines, greater regional grid integration and investments in energy storage R&D will all help to address intermittency problem of some renewables. More importantly, not all renewables are intermittent.   Don’t forget geothermal, concentrated solar thermal, biomass fired power plants, tidal and my favorite — space-based solar ;-)

    I’d also add that your characterization that it’s an engineering rather than policy issue isn’t really accurate.  Sticking with the power sector, consider time of use pricing and other peak shaving policies.  These have tangible impacts on the economics various generating technologies that have nothing to do with engineering considerations.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #29,
    Your alarm is always going off. I think it might be broken.

    Perhaps you would have preferred it if I had said “Developed country Parties shall provide developing country Parties with new and additional finance, inter alia through a percentage of the gross domestic product of developed country Parties, for technology, insurance and capacity-building in order to enable and implement adaptation actions, plans, programmes and projects at all levels, in and across different economic and social sectors and ecosystems” and acknowledged “that the scale of financial flows to non-Annex I Parties shall be based on the assessments of the [sic] their needs to deal with climate change”, not to mention “The removal of all obstacles, including intellectual property rights and patents on climate-related technologies to ensure the transfer of technology to developing countries.” And then to make sure it happens, devloping “an International Climate Court of Justice in order to guarantee the compliance of Annex I Parties with all the provisions of this decision”. Not Annex II, you’ll note – only annex I. As influential people say: “Copenhagen was just the first step towards a New World Climate Order.”
    As the IPCC-reviewing professors would say: “Government in the future will be based upon (or incorporate, depending on the level of breakdown of civilization) a supreme office of the biosphere. The office will comprise specially trained philosopher/ecologists. These guardians will either rule themselves or advise an authoritarian government of policies based on their ecological training and philosophical sensitivities. These guardians will be specially trained for the task.”
    “As we have said, it is not too difficult to see how this will end: It will end through ecological necessity. Nature will take humanity by the throat and confront it with the biospherical damage that it has done. It is most unlikely in our opinion that some form of spontaneous, unorganized democratic groundswell will awaken the masses to their fates before it is too late. Rather any such resistance to the system must come from an organized vanguard, unafraid to ultimately rule in the name of the common good. These new philosopher kings feature what we call the “authoritarian alternative” discussed earlier.”

    And so on. Cranks, possibly, but not on my side…
    Plus, you misquoted me slightly – although I don’t mind. The thought of you classing yourself as one of “the grown-ups” at the same time as calling me a monkey made it all worth it.

    A pity your sense of humour is currently out of order; you don’t know what you’re missing. :-)

  • EdG

    Once again, China is proving that it is much smarter and far more pragmatic than the West.

    While China played ‘green’ at Durban, to harness the power of those useful idiots to their own ends, they continue to develop all possible energy sources bioth at home and abroad.

    They have played the greenies for the fools they are and must laugh at how the dumb US and dumber EU has been held hostage by hysterical environmentalists and their bogus causes.

    OK. I suppose we shall now hear about all the ‘green’ investments China has been making (while carefully ignoring all the coal-fired power plants they are building).

    China loves gullible herds of greens, when they can use them.

    Wake up.

  • EdG

    #22 hunter writes:

    “”climate concerned”? Whaat a great euphemism for AGW true believers.”

    I second that. This phrase is laughable. Keith needs a new buzzword that is more meaningful. This phrase would most accurately describe farmers – or wait, I guess that would be ‘weather concerned.’ Unless they looked more than a year in advance.

    For urban types I believe a more accurate term would be ‘climate media fixated’ due to their fixation on what the media tells them versus their actual reality.

    Or how about ‘climaphobic’? An irrational fear of the climate?

    Yes, 97% of climaphobes agree… 

     

  • BBD

    Marlowe Johnson @ 35

    I’m running late so please forgive the [short-form] response:

    “BBD we’ve had this discussion before.   First of all, I think you’re a little too fixated on on-shore wind and solar PV. [Installation and maintenance costs – and feasibility – of off-shore wind?] HVDC lines [energy security issues], greater regional grid integration [hand-waving] and investments in energy storage R&D [hand-waving] will all help to address intermittency problem of some [!!] renewables. More importantly, not all renewables are intermittent.   Don’t forget geothermal [highly geology-specific; not at all a universal option], concentrated solar thermal [water resource? HVDC energy security issues; physical footprint], biomass fired power plants [energy density too low to work], tidal [sea-floor turbines are unproven; installation and maintenance cost/feasibility likely prohibitive] and my favorite “” space-based solar [R&D; deployment and maintenance cost/feasibility prohibitive; energy security… just kinetic shower weapon…]”

    We haven’t got the money or the time to do all this. Nor will renewables reward investment with high-capacity, reliable generation suitable for meeting the projected rise in baseload demand over coming decades. Only nuclear can do this.

  • BBD

    NiV

    nobody’s been fooled by the attempt to sneak wealth redistribution and world government through under cover of taking action on climate change.

    Global problems require globally co-ordinated responses. But then of course you don’t believe there is a problem do you?

    Can you provide references for every quote above please? I know you’ve cherry-picked but I would like to know where from.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #40,
    “Global problems require globally co-ordinated responses.”
    Nobody believes a free market can operate efficiently to solve problems without centralised state control, either.

    “Can you provide references for every quote above”
    Yes. But I’m not going to.
    I’m following an excellent example in doing so, too. As top climate scientists say: why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?

    Funny, eh? Oh, sorry, I forgot about your ruptured pipe…

  • BBD

    NiV

    You do yourself no favours. As I said, organ-grinder and monkey both.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #42,
    BBD, you demonstrated last time round that there’s no point in attempting to talk to you seriously. So I’m not going to bother to try.

    Your attempts to dismiss people you disagree with as idiots, liars, monkeys, or whatever insulting denigration your fertile imagination supplies does you and your cause no favours either. It doesn’t seem to bother you, why should it bother me?

    If you find the quoted text genuinely concerning and you want to talk about it seriously, I can of course supply the sources for the quotes. (I’ll give you a clue: one was a certain German Chancellor…) If you just want to find a quick way to dismiss it, let’s take that as read and move on. You don’t agree; big surprise. It’s a well-worn topic elsewhere and not a particularly interesting aspect of the debate here – I’d be more interested in talking about why climate bloggers generally ignore the Byrd-Hagel issue, which is a lot more important.

  • Jack Hughes

    I’m hoping the “climate-concerned” can move on and pretend to “care” about something else.

    It’s a PoMo thing – pretending to care.

    Many people DO care about things – usually people they know like their family and friends, and local issues like their children’s school or the park.

    It’s hard to fake this – other people can see how much you care for your neighbours or the local park – or not.

    It’s also hard to boast about it – it’s very normal and widespread to care about your own family and your own neighbourhood.

    Step forward the idea of ostentatious “caring” about other people – maybe in a different part of town or in Africa. 

    Much more fun. Sanctimony a-go-go. How noble and generous. 

    The next move is “caring” about even more remote and abstract issues. The weather in Greenland in 2050. Oh me oh my. Big chance for hand-wringing.

    Or the fate of some Bolivian snail that nobody has ever seen and may not even exist. Priceless.

  • grypo

    I suppose not “caring” about Bolivian snails makes it simpler to not believe that there is a risk to their existence!

  • kdk33

    I for one care a great deal about bolivian snails.  In fact, I drove my suburban 2 mph slower on the way home  – to decrease my carbon footpring, of course.  I probably won’t do it again; I truly feel I’ve done my part.

    Now, if the “climate concerned” were to send me a dollar for every day I did my part, I think I would “care” much more.  Better yet, we could pass a law requiring all the people that don’t “care” to send me money in an amount proportional to how much I “care”.  In that case my “caring” would undoubtedly skyrocket – I might become positively activist.  Or maybe I could get a taxpayer funded government position to collect donations from those who “care”, in which case I would lobby breathlessly.

    See how it works.

  • Jack Hughes

    Do keep up – Bolivian snails are sooo last year.

    Biodiversity is the new black – it’s very abstract and an ideal thing to pretend to care about.

    Next up will be something even more remote and abstract like  missing prime numbers. I’m concerned already.

  • Gaythia

    The Financial Times had a more in depth story about this here: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/30c4c46e-35e2-11e1-9f98-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1iUTWf2V5
    In my opinion, there are several key points not covered in depth by @Keith Kloor above.
    First, unlike @KdK33 way back at #1 above, I believe that China does care about alternative energy also.  They have a long term interest in acquiring all sorts of technology.  Their companies are nationalized or nationalistic and have long term national goals.  One limitation on those in power is the deal that they have cut with their own populace, which is that all is well as long as the government can deliver an improving economy.
    A supply of cheap energy is important for developing and expanding their industrial base.
    The corporate entities formerly referred to as “ours” of which Devon  may be an example, are busy thinking about this quarters profits. and the impact of decisions on the well being of a current CEO.  FT points out that Devon has 6.8 Billion in cash, but investing in the US would mean having to repatriate profits and pay taxes on them.  Perhaps it is true that China has promised Devon access to China.  Perhaps it will actually work out that way.
    I’m a chemist so I think that oil, gas and coal are worthwhile for a lot of higher level products, and, long term much to valuable to simply burn up.
    After using our fossil fuel in the near term, China will in the meantime be developing such things as alternative energy and, later will still retain their own resources.
    We may end up as a third world country with a geologically and economically shattered foundation.

     

  • Jarmo

    #48

    I agree with the part that cheap energy is vital to China.
    in 24, the DoE report I linked showed that China is building and planning to build 280 GW of coal power in the next 5 years.

    I also agree that China is trying to get fossil fuel resources from elsewhere. China is getting into coal plays in Mongolia and Australia in a big way. The new 8 GW Shenhua coal power plant is built next to a port.

    About the renewables, I’m not so sure. Their scale is so huge that investments in solar and wind look impressive but when you compare them with coal, they are small. I think part of the Chinese plan is to capture the global solar cell and wind turbine market.

    China is also developing hydro, also in the neighboring countries but there’s only so many rivers.  The big push will be for nuclear. However, that will take place between 2020-2050 and in the meanwhile, coal is the biggest source for additional energy, next to gas.

  • Jarmo

    The developing countries’ war of two fronts:

    Bangladesh demands climate justice


    Naimul Haq

    23 November 2011


    Severe and frequent flooding, extended drought and growing salinity have forced millions to migrate for better life. Farmers, fishermen and women demand to be shielded from climate change effects lest they lose lives and livelihoods.

    Seven coal-based plants planned in Bangladesh 

     14/12/2011
    By Diarmaid Williams
    International Digital Editor

     The Bangladeshi government is planning to shift to coal as fuel for power generation by setting up seven coal-based plants with a total output of 4000 MW by 2014.
    Currently the nation’s daily power demand of 7000 MW exceeds daily production by nearly 2000 MW.The incumbent government targeted to hike power generation to 15000MW within 2016 immediately after taking over. Deals have already been struck to set up 48 power plants to meet the target, of which, 17 are quick rental plants, three are rental, 10 are independent power producers and 18 are state-run. As a result, around 2500 MW have been added to the national grid over the last three years, of which, 1581 MW is generation by 20 plants set up in this tenure and 825MW comes from power plants agreed on during the previous caretaker government.

  • Keith Kloor

    On a related note:

    “Unfortunately, the Obama administration has opened the coal floodgates even further in service to an industry that is eager to ship Wyoming coal to Asian markets.” 

  • kdk33

    I think part of the Chinese plan is to capture the global solar cell and wind turbine market.

    Yes.  I agree with Jarmo, so would revise and extend my remarks accordingly…

    I’m a chemist so I think that oil, gas and coal are worthwhile for a lot of higher level products,

    Gaythia has a point.  China is exploring Coal to chemicals (IMO, Chinese interest in nuclear is to some degree a hedge against this actually working out).  OTOH “worthwhile” has an economic meaning, and so far coal to chemicals isn’t.  As a chemist, I’m sure Gaythia also understands how the associated shale gas liquids move “worthwhile” even further into the future.

    Sadly, there is this:  One limitation on those in power is the deal that they have cut with their own populace. Yes, the good-doing of the wise visionary totalitarian leaders of China is only limited by the nefarious will of the people.  Please.

  • BBD

    kdk33

    You may be misreading Gaythia (48). I would agree that the Chinese people will rapidly and potentially violently become intolerant of any regime which tries to slow or halt the emergence of a consumer class.

  • BBD

    NiV @ 43

    BBD, you demonstrated last time round that there’s no point in attempting to talk to you seriously. So I’m not going to bother to try.


    Would that be the last time you were caught out bullshitting?

     

  • Jarmo

    IEA outlook for coal market in the next 5 years:

    “For all of the talk about removing carbon from the energy system, the IEA projects average coal demand to grow by 600,000 tonnes every day over the next five years,” IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said during the launch of the book. “Policy makers must be aware of this when designing strategies to enhance energy security while tackling climate change.”

     http://www.iea.org/press/pressdetail.asp?PRESS_REL_ID=430

     So that’s like over a million tons more co2 into the air every day for the next 5 years.

    The math behind Kyoto seems totally hopeless. Right now, 1 person out of 14 (EU) on this planet are trying to cut down emissions. Maybe 2 are staying on the same level for various reasons (the US, North Korea, some African countries etc.). The rest are increasing their emissions.

  • kdk33

    You may be misreading Gaythia (48).

    Perhaps.

  • BBD

    And Germany’s emissions will rise because it has decided (under intense pressure from the Greens) to phase out nuclear and so must now build new coal-fired capacity to meet projected baseload demand over coming decades. Because even Germany knows that renewables are not going to be up to the task. 

  • Jarmo

    #57

    Both China and Germany plan to lead the world in the electric car field. The first coal-powered cars in the world :)

    http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15077508,00.html

    Germany willing to pump billions into electric car industry

  • Nullius in Verba

    #52,
    So far as I know, Fischer-Tropsch type coal-to-chemicals has already been commercialised successfully in several isolated markets, and the Germans certainly found it worthwhile to do during WWII. The limits on ‘worthwhile’ are not because coal-to-chemicals is especially difficult, but because other sources are still even cheaper, and because the demand for energy is greater than the demand for chemicals. By the nature of the economics, it will become worthwhile to do it exactly when we really need it.

    The basic commodity is energy. With energy, we can make as many chemicals as we want.

    #53,
    Do you mean like they did during the Cultural Revolution?

    I think one of the reasons some (particularly lefty) Westerners seem so relaxed about totalitarianism is that they don’t understand what it really means to live in such a state. They seem to fondly imagine that we’d never stand for it, unless people agreed that the measures were necessary for the people’s own good (by their own standards, of course, as the sort of people who would naturally be in charge), and by implication, that places like China, Tibet and North Korea are only like that because the people really wanted it.

    You know, I once met a person who talked endlessly about Guantanamo – how many were in it, how many died there, what the conditions were like, etc. They thought it really important everyone should know about it. I asked them to visualise a line with one millimetre for every person who had been in Guantanamo. They held up their hands about so far apart. I then asked them to visualise the equivalent 1mm per person for every human who had been through the Laogai. They asked me, ‘what’s the Laogai?’

    That’s the fundamental problem with the modern Western vision of the world. They have lost all sense of historical proportion.

    #54,
    No, the last time you were, when you triumphantly quoted a passage that said exactly what I’d just been saying and that contradicted your own argument up until that point as a supposed rebuttal, evidently without understanding a word of it, and without having presented any valid physical counter-argument to mine. I gave up at that point – you were so determined that I somehow had to be wrong that you were seemingly blinded to the meaning of the words you yourself were using. How could I argue with that?

    While it can be mildly entertaining to provoke that sort of thing, to see what nonsense I could get you to come out with next, I had other things to do at the time, and had only extended the conversation because you had briefly shown some signs of maturity; an opportunity which I thought would be an unkindness to throw away. It was mildly annoying, having made the effort, to find out that I hadn’t misjudged you previously after all.

    You don’t understand the physics, or much of anything else. You can’t hold a sensible conversation about it that strays into areas off the authorised/orthodox script you parrot. The interminable demands for references follow a lame fallacy which is no substitute for argument. You try too hard to portray anyone who disagrees with you as an idiot or dishonest – which I can tell you is not at all convincing, which looks like over-defensive faux-arrogance, and which would put many people off agreeing with you anyway. (Vinegar rather than honey.) In short, you’re the perfect advert for scepticism about AGW activists and what they say. You and Joe Romm and those like you.

    Anyway, I don’t take you seriously, and soon enough, nobody else will either. The Chinese buying up all the oil sands and shale gas fields is just the start. I’m going to enjoy it.

  • kdk33

    So far as I know, Fischer-Tropsch type coal-to-chemicals has already been commercialised successfully in several isolated markets

    Isolated being the operative word.  Both Germany and South Africa were forced into it.  Qatar had a project – but I dont’ know it’s status – but they are drowning in ultra-cheap stranded gas,  

    The limits on “˜worthwhile’ are not because coal-to-chemicals is especially difficult, but because other sources are still even cheaper

    Yes, that’s what I said.

    and because the demand for energy is greater

    Indeed.  F-T is more typically a coal to liquid fuel technology (diesel mostly).  The route to chemicals probably goes via methanol, IMHO.  There are other ideas:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-10/celanese-says-ethanol-from-coal-process-is-a-game-changer-1-.html 

  • BBD

    NiV

    Ah, verbosity. Always diagnostic of the defensive BS-er.

    And this is the clincher:

    The interminable demands for references follow a lame fallacy which is no substitute for argument.


    TBC.

  • BBD

    Sorry, but still chortling:

    You can’t hold a sensible conversation about it that strays into areas off the authorised/orthodox script you parrot.


    Would this be the version that all the non-cranks agree on?

  • Sashka

    Don’t feed the troll.
     

  • BBD

    Sashka

    Are you serious? Or just astonishingly daft? (Hint: what is the name and purpose of this blog?)

  • Nullius in Verba

    #60,
    Apologies. I had read it as saying that Gaythia’s point was valid, because although China had explored coal-to-chemicals, it wasn’t economically viable yet. I see now you meant Gaythia potentially had a point, but coal-to-chemicals is already available as an answer, and it’s limited uptake showed that it wasn’t worthwhile yet. We are in agreement, I think.

  • BBD

    NiV

    Do you mean like they did during the Cultural Revolution?


    Tedious misrepresentation. I said:

    You may be misreading Gaythia (48). I would agree that the Chinese people will rapidly and potentially violently become intolerant of any regime which tries to slow or halt the emergence of a consumer class.


    And you make me out as an apologist for totalitarianism.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #66,
    On this occasion, I suggested you had failed to understand the nature of totalitarianism. That’s different.

    The Cultural Revolution represents a regime that tried to slow or halt the emergence of a consumer class. Many of the people objected, and it did them no good whatsoever. A totalitarian state is violently intolerant of dissent.

  • BBD

    NiV

    On this occasion, I suggested you had failed to understand the nature of totalitarianism. That’s different.

    First, I didn’t say anything about the nature of totalitarianism. Second, if you are suggesting that the rise of a Chinese consumer class in the C21st can be halted by the methods used to oppress the Chinese people during the C20th, I would differ.

  • kdk33

    NiV,

    well, it’s no fun agreeing  :-).

    Coal to chemiicals is available as a technology, but it isn’t economically viable.  Germany used and South Africa (SASOL) uses F-T technology only because they were denied oil for political reasons.  They are the exception that proves the rule – other technologies are cheaper. 

    The Qatar project – Shell joint venture at about $20B – is on-line using F-T route to liquids.  It is gas based (Qatar has lots; skips the messy gassification step) and makes AFAICT only fuels.

    The Chinese would love an economically viable coal to chemicals route as that is conceptually a better upgrade than liquid fuels.  I suspect they’ve given Celanese some “incentives”, but I’ve no inside information (What do the US and China have in common: crony capitalism). 

    The obvious route is coal -> syngas -> methanol -> olefins -> chemicals.  But, based on actual investments, the industry thinks that even less attractive the coal to liquid fuel.

    But waduino…

  • Nullius in Verba

    #68,
    First, what you said was in reply to a comment about “the wise visionary totalitarian leaders of China”, and I believe the “wise, visionary” part was sarcasm  – i.e. it was a statement on the nature of totalitarianism. This was therefore exactly what your comment was about.
    Second, I fully believe that you would differ – as would most of those other Westerners I mentioned who fail to understand what it means to live in such a state. Differing beliefs about such matters are at the heart of many of our political differences, and differing views on the virtues of the grand 20th century experiment with unconstrained left-wing government are a classic case. I wouldn’t expect you to agree with me, I was just expressing my own point of view.

    China’s populace has only as much power as its totalitarian leaders give it, and the consumer class will rise because that’s what its leaders want – the populace has no say in the matter. Not yet, anyway.
    And as I’m sure you’ll discover, environmentalists have no say in what they’ll do or don’t do, either.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #69,
    Your analysis sounds reasonable to me. Oil continues to be used in preference to converted coal because oil is cheaper.
    I would assume that, barring some major advance I don’t know about, development of the technology is purely a longer-term precaution. It’s a back-up against politically-based oil crises like the 1970s, and it’s preparation for the inevitable move away from oil over the next 50-100 years. Enough people foresee coming pressure on energy prices as the developing world develops, having a diverse and flexible capability seems like a good strategy.

  • BBD

    NiV

    China’s populace has only as much power as its totalitarian leaders give it, and the consumer class will rise because that’s what its leaders want ““ the populace has no say in the matter. Not yet, anyway.

    We may only differ about when, in that case. You say not yet; I suggest that the momentum is now unstoppable. The Chinese ‘administration’ (for want of a better word) knows it rides a tiger.

  • Jarmo

    Another story that has got little publicity is the zero sum game of emissions between Russia and Europe.

    Europe depends on Russian gas for electricity and heat and emission cuts.

    To supply the market, Russia plans to cut down subsidized domestic gas use and replace it with coal and nuclear power. Haven’t seen any news of new nuclear plants in Russia….

    http://www.ensec.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=207:dirty-hands-russia-coal-ghg-emissions-aamp-european-gas-demand&catid=98:issuecontent0809&Itemid=349
            

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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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