Environmental concerns and conflicts have surfaced throughout human history, from the earliest settlements to the latest headlines. This comes as a surprise to many people because our emphasis in history has all too often been on war and politics, rather than environment, culture and development.
The evidence for a longstanding concern for environmental issues has been readily available in manuscripts, publications
When you pull up to the gas pump and find the cost is going down, you can thank Ali al-Naimi, Saudi Arabia’s petroleum minister. By producing more oil than the world markets can consume, the Saudis have cut the price of oil in half in the past year. But why?
The Saudis plan to extend the age of petroleum, and protect their markets, Peter Waldman explains in a Bloomberg Markets article.
Environmental protection had enormous bipartisan support in the US during the 1970s, says former EPA administrator William Ruckelhaus in a February 2015 interview with the Public Integrity Project. Has that support changed? “Oh, yes, quite a bit,” Ruckelshaus says. “The Reagan Administration was less sympathetic than the Nixon Administration to environmental regulation, environmental laws, but nowhere near where the Republican Party has come today.”
Some day soon, an oil & gas industry representative will probably tell a journalist, or a politician, or a concerned parent: “Fracking water is as safe as dish soap. Check out the 2014 University of Colorado study.”
And of course that will be horribly wrong, but very few people will know why.
This is particularly important in light of New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement that a state health department study found that fracking is too dangerous for New York state (as reported in the NY Times Dec. 17, 2014.)
At best, people will chalk the difference up to the old adage: For every PhD, there is an equal and opposite PhD. But nothing could be further from the truth.
The energy ladder: Developing nations first use firewood, then move “up” to coal, then kerosene, then a select few might get oil and gas. Eventually, lucky developing nations may work their way “up” to nuclear power.
RECENTLY, Barack Obama stopped US government financing of most overseas coal projects due to climate concerns. The predictable reaction from the energy industry and its friends was expressed in an opinion by Ken Silverstein in the Christian Science Monitor:
“Sorry, Mr. Obama; Africa needs coal.”
The underlying philosophy here is that if a developing country is going to move “up” the energy ladder, it needs to develop basic cheap energy sources first, use them to fuel development, then move “up” to more complex fuels, and then finally move “up” to nuclear power.
If Mr. Silverstein had been talking about communications in this same vein, he would have said: “Sorry, Mr. Obama; never mind the cell phones — Africa needs its telegraphs.” Continue reading
You will observe with concern, Ben Franklin wrote in 1786, how long a useful truth may be known known and exist, before it is generally received and practiced on.
Franklin mentioned lead poisoning as an occupational hazard for printing. Yet 228 years later, we are still grappling with the issue.
The latest event sparking concerns is the conviction of four Associated Octel managers for bribery and conspiring to sell leaded gasoline despite bans. (Octel is now Innospec).
According to the Serious Fraud Office of the UK government: Continue reading
By Peter Dykstra
The Daily Climate
Thirty-five years ago this evening,* Jimmy Carter stared America in the eye, and invoking his promise that “I will never lie to you,” gave us all a royal scolding.
It ran just over a half-hour, back in the day when such speeches were carried by all three of the commercial TV networks, in prime time, before tens of millions of viewers. Every one of those viewers had likely spent some recent time in a gasoline line, paying inflated prices for scarce fuel.
“Why have we not been able to get together as a nation to solve our serious energy problem?” asked the president, with an earnest gaze and several chopping, pounding motions with his right hand. It was a second sortie for a president who two years earlier had told us that our energy woes were “the moral equivalent of war.”
* July 5, 1979 / MORE -> The Daily Climate
The oil octopus – a 19th century cartoon.
By Bill Kovarik
Information about world oil reserves has been skewed for political purposes. Until very recently, everyone believed the Middle East has 2/3 of all the world’s oil. But in fact, the Middle East has only 2/3 of a narrow politically defined category called “proven” reserves. How is it that we were so badly misinformed?
As a very young news reporter in Washington DC in 1979, I was invited to one of those think tank “luncheons” where the speakers chat amiably about the next imminent disaster. This one was about world oil reserves and the possible collapse of the Persian Gulf.
Not surprisingly, all the speakers agreed that a shut-down of the Persian Gulf would be catastrophic and must be prevented at all costs. All the speakers, that is, except one smiling Venezuelan named Alirio Parra, who was then the country’s oil minister. The bottom line of his talk was this: Don’t worry. Venezuela has more oil in the eastern Orinoco region than all the Middle East. And if this seems surprising, he said, your petroleum geologists should be more honest with you.
I remember the shouts of outrage from the assembled policy wonks, one of whom yelled that there was “a journalist here” in the same tone that a Victorian preacher might caution: “ladies present.”
These are slides for a lecture to students and faculty at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, May 14, 2014. Additional notes will be posted.
by Peter Dykstra
The Daily Climate
There’s an adorably naïve tendency among many who live and breathe environmental issues – journalists, scientists, advocates – to presume that reason, backed by science, will rule the day, any day now.
I recommend either one of two easy cures for this: Watch an hour of Fox News, America’s most-watched cable news network by a long shot. Or do what I did earlier this week: Watch the White House press corps.
By the time Carney closed the briefing 68 minutes later, the final score was climate, 26 minutes of press corps interest, Benghazi 34.
Climate change was ostensibly the Story of the Day for Monday’s daily briefing: White House Counselor John Podesta, the administration’s climate point man, headlined the affair. He showed slides and took questions for 24 minutes before being whisked away, with reporters invited to continue the dialogue with Press Secretary Jay Carney. Continue reading