Category Archives: Climate Change

Transporting Fossil Fuels: Rail vs. Pipeline is the Wrong Question

Repost from EcoWatch

Transporting Fossil Fuels: Rail vs. Pipeline is the Wrong Question

Dr. David Suzuki | January 21, 2014

Debating the best way to do something we shouldn’t be doing in the first place is a sure way to end up in the wrong place. That’s what’s happening with the “rail versus pipeline” discussion. Some say recent rail accidents mean we should build more pipelines to transport fossil fuels. Others argue that leaks, high construction costs, opposition and red tape surrounding pipelines are arguments in favour of using trains.

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But the recent spate of rail accidents and pipeline leaks and spills doesn’t provide arguments for one or the other; instead, it indicates that rapidly increasing oil and gas development and shipping ever greater amounts, by any method, will mean more accidents, spills, environmental damage—even death. The answer is to step back from this reckless plunder and consider ways to reduce our fossil fuel use.

If we were to slow down oil sands development, encourage conservation and invest in clean energy technology, we could save money, ecosystems and lives—and we’d still have valuable fossil fuel resources long into the future, perhaps until we’ve figured out ways to use them that aren’t so wasteful. We wouldn’t need to build more pipelines just to sell oil and gas as quickly as possible, mostly to foreign markets. We wouldn’t have to send so many unsafe rail tankers through wilderness areas and places people live.

We may forgo some of the short-term jobs and economic opportunities the fossil fuel industry provides, but surely we can find better ways to keep people employed and the economy humming. Gambling, selling guns and drugs and encouraging people to smoke all create jobs and economic benefits, to0—but we rightly try to limit those activities when the harms outweigh the benefits.

Both transportation methods come with significant risks. Shipping by rail leads to more accidents and spills, but pipeline leaks usually involve much larger volumes. One of the reasons we’re seeing more train accidents involving fossil fuels is the incredible boom in moving these products by rail. According to the American Association of Railroads, train shipment of crude oil in the U.S. grew from 9,500 carloads in 2008 to 234,000 in 2012—almost 25 times as many in only four years! That’s expected to rise to 400,000 this year.

As with pipelines, risks are increased because many rail cars are older and not built to standards that would reduce the chances of leaks and explosions when accidents occur. Some in the rail industry argue it would cost too much to replace all the tank cars as quickly as is needed to move the ever-increasing volumes of oil. We must improve rail safety and pipeline infrastructure for the oil and gas that we’ll continue to ship for the foreseeable future, but we must also find ways to transport less.

The economic arguments for massive oil sands and liquefied natural gas development and expansion aren’t great to begin with—at least with the way our federal and provincial governments are going about it. Despite a boom in oil sands growth and production, “Alberta has run consecutive budget deficits since 2008 and since then has burned through $15 billion of its sustainability fund,” according to an article on the Tyee website. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says Alberta’s debt is now $7 billion and growing by $11 million daily.

As for jobs, a 2012 report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives shows less than one percent of Canadian workers are employed in extraction and production of oil, coal and natural gas. Pipelines and fossil fuel development are not great long-term job creators, and pale in comparison to employment generated by the renewable energy sector.

Beyond the danger to the environment and human health, the worst risk from rapid expansion of oil sands, coal mines and gas fields and the infrastructure needed to transport the fuels is the carbon emissions from burning their products—regardless of whether that happens here, in China or elsewhere. Many climate scientists and energy experts, including the International Energy Agency, agree that to have any chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change, we must leave at least two-thirds of our remaining fossil fuels in the ground.

The question isn’t about whether to use rail or pipelines. It’s about how to reduce our need for both.

Visit EcoWatch’s PIPELINES  page for more related news on this topic.

10 Days to change course: Earth Day to May Day

Repost from Global Climate Convergence

People, Planet, Peace over Profit!

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Mission Statement

The Global Climate Convergence for People, Planet and Peace over Profit is an education and direct action campaign beginning this spring, with “10 days to change course,” running from Earth Day to May Day. It provides coordinated action and collaboration across fronts of struggle and national borders to harness the transformative power we already possess as a thousand separate movements. These grassroots justice movements are sweeping the globe, rising up against the global assault on our shared economy, ecology, peace and democracy. The accelerating climate disaster, which threatens to unravel civilization as soon as 2050, intensifies all of these struggles and creates new urgency for collaboration and unified action.

The Convergence creates a unifying call for a solution as big as the crisis barreling down on us – an emergency Green Economic Transformation through a Global Green New Deal including universal jobs, health care, education, food and housing security, economic and political democracy, demilitarization, an end to deportations, and 100% clean renewable energy by 2030.  Clearly the time for action is NOW.

Sign up here to begin organizing for the continuum of justice from Earth Day to May Day in your community.

Panel of experts – Martinez, Feb. 26

On Facebook: facebook.com/events/834097813284056/

Big Oil in our Midst: From Canada to the Carquinez Strait

BigOilInOurMidst_headerA forum about increased rail accidents, refinery dangers, and climate change.

A panel of experts and activists will educate residents of Benicia, Rodeo, Martinez, and nearby communities on Big Oil’s plans locally, regionally, and globally. How will refinery expansion and transportation of crude oil by rail affect your community?

Panelists, followed by Q&A:

  • Marilaine Savard: spokesperson for a citizens’ group in the region of Lac-Mégantic, Québec.  In 2013, a string of exploding petroleum rail cars destroyed the center of the town and claimed 47 lives.
  • Antonia Juhasz: oil industry analyst, journalist, and author of “The Tyranny of Oil: The World’s Most Powerful Industry and What We Must do to Stop It” and “Black Tide: the Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill”.
  • Diane Bailey, senior scientist at the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council).
  • Marilyn Bardet:  Valero refinery watchdog, activist, and founding member of Benicia’s Good Neighbor Steering Committee.
  • Nancy Rieser: spokesperson from the Crockett-Rodeo-Hercules Working Group, challenging Phillips 66 on its “propane recovery” project.
  • A member (TBD) of the Pittsburg Defense Council, fighting against the proposed WesPac oil terminal.

Forum sponsored by the Sunflower Alliance, in partnership with the Sierra Club, Pittsburg Defense Council, Communities for a Better Environment, ForestEthics, the Good Neighbor Steering Committee, and the Crockett-Rodeo-Hercules Working Group.

For those in other towns, we have related forums in Pittsburg and Richmond!

Leaked UN Climate Report Paints Bleak Picture For Humanity

Reposted from Daily Kos, reporting on article in the New York Times

THU JAN 16, 2014 AT 04:04 PM PST

Leaked UN Climate Report Paints Bleak Picture For Humanity

by Dartagnan                          climate change photo: climate change climate-change.jpg

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/17/science/earth/un-says-lag-in-confronting-climate-woes-will-be-costly.html

When Historians in 2100 look back at the events of the early 2000’s they will conclude that the most profound and far-reaching characteristic of the political gridlock in the United States during that era wasn’t either party’s position on taxes, Social Security, Medicare, immigration, guns, gay marriage or abortion, but rather the reflexive dismissal by the Republican Party of anything preceded by the letters “U.N.”

Writing on virtual, evanescent screens in their air-conditioned enclaves, situated well above saturated coastal regions teeming with desperate populations, they will ask themselves why any nation–let alone the world’s wealthiest–would permit a cabal so xenophobic, so vehemently anti-science to dictate climate policy at a time when the whole of human civilization stood dependent on concerted, cooperative action. They will ask why any nation would have empowered those whose sole objection to scientific truth boiled down to the fact that it was presented to them by an international organization, made up of folks with odd-sounding names and possibly even different skin colors than themselves.

They may call it a failure of democracy, a capitulation to overweening greed, an inherent flaw of Capitalism. But no one will seriously conclude that there was any shortage of warnings.

Nations have so dragged their feet in battling climate change that the situation has grown critical and the risk of severe economic disruption is rising, according to a draft United Nations report.  Another 15 years of failure to limit carbon emissions could make the problem virtually impossible to solve with current technologies, the experts found. Delay would likely force future generations to develop the capability to suck greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and store them underground to preserve the livability of the planet, the report found.  But it is not clear whether such technologies will ever exist at the necessary scale, and even if they do, the approach would likely be wildly expensive compared with taking steps now to slow emissions.

The findings are those contained within a draft of the Third Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report is the final of three installments and will be released for publication in April 2014. A final document synthesizing the three reports is scheduled for publication in October 2014.   As has been the case in the past, the report’s findings were “leaked’ to various news organizations, including Reuters and the New York Times.  The purpose of the report is to influence and inform the U.N. in its negotiations among 190 countries to achieve a treaty governing “greenhouse” emissions that cause global warming.However, the outlook is anything but optimistic.

The report says that the development of alternative energies is being outpaced by an acceleration in fossil fuel emissions in developing countries like China. As the Times article notes, the wealthiest countries are in effect “outsourcing” their greenhouse gas emissions to countries where the goods that the wealthy nations consume are manufactured. Further, not only are countries failing to develop alternative energies, they’re also failing in their efforts to adapt to what the Panel now sees as inevitable climate disruption.

According to the draft report, the cost of maintaining rising temperatures within “safe” levels will amount to 4% of the world’s GDP by 2030:

Most scenarios that meet the 2-degree Celsius (3.6-degree Fahrenheit) cap on global warming that world leaders endorse require a 40 percent to 70 percent reduction in heat-trapping gases by 2050 from 2010 levels, according to the third installment of the UN’s biggest-ever study of climate change. The world would need to triple the share of renewables, nuclear power and carbon-capture and storage to meet that.

But the problem in achieving those goals is as much a matter of political will as it is cost:

Efforts are underway to negotiate a new international treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, but it is not even supposed to take effect until 2020, and it is unclear whether countries will agree on ambitious goals to limit emissions. It is equally unclear how much political support a new treaty will gain in China and the United States, the world’s largest emitters.
The Obama administration is pushing for a deal, but any treaty would have to be ratified by the Senate; many Republicans and some coal-state Democrats are wary, fearing economic damage to the country.
The new report suggests, however, that the real question is whether to take some economic pain now, or more later.

As the quote above notes, the United States and China are the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. Not coincidentally, they are economic competitors as well, and it’s probably not too simplistic to conclude that neither will move appreciably on climate change unless the other does. In fact China’s reticence (and India’s) is usually trotted out as an excuse by those in this country who oppose meaningful efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.  But despite its refurbished image over the past two decades, China remains a totalitarian dictatorship that is not particularly moved by internal public opinion (even if it is beginning to comprehend the magnitude of its own environmental catastrophe). It is, however, responsive to economic self-interest and its standing in the eyes of the world. The effect of a concerted international effort that included the United States would be difficult to withstand. But the U.S. is unwilling to mount such an effort, due in large part to a climate denialist movement financed by the fossil fuel industry and enabled, for the most part, by its surrogates in the Republican Party.Some of the report’s other conclusions:

* Greenhouse gas emissions grew by an average 2.2 percent per year between 2000 and 2010. Global emissions since 1970 outstrip those for the preceding 220 years.* Just 10 nations accounted for 70 percent of emissions in 2010.

* Industrial emissions from developing nations now exceed those from industrialized ones, though high income nations are net importers of carbon dioxide emissions embedded in goods from abroad.

* Pledges for emissions cuts by 2020 that were made by the world’s biggest emitters in 2010 don’t correspond to the ‘‘lowest cost” emissions reduction trajectory and would lead to greenhouse gas concentrations of as much as 650 ppm by 2100.

But the most disturbing conclusion is that at the upper end of the IPCC’s potential estimates for CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, it will become more expensive to fight climate change than to deal with its effects.

Which is just another excuse for Republicans to continue to fiddle while the Earth burns.

ORIGINALLY POSTED TO DARTAGNAN ON THU JAN 16, 2014 AT 04:04 PM PST.