B.S. … more “bad science”
This past week there has been a bit of buzz because of a CBC episode of “Land and Sea” that is to air soon. It is produced by Jeff D’Eon and deals with energy from algae and illustrates a number of things quite well. The first is that a little information can be a dangerous thing. The second is the media’s predilection for airing “BS…Bad Science.” The third thing is the feeding process of the media, how one story and PR becomes an affirmation of the subject, something called manufacturing consent.
The gist of the matter is that according to the interviews and the press about the upcoming episode, algae used to produce a substitute for gasoline, diesel and other fossil fuel derivatives is going to stop climate change and is the panacea of the world. My response? Hmmmm. It’s the best I can muster. Why? Well, it’s because of the science. I would say the same thing if told that ESP had been discovered, or that an engineer had manufactured a device that proves perpetual motion is a fact, or that yet another sighting of aliens has happened over Shag Harbour. It’s a funny thing this thing science, but it really does cut the B.S.
So let me begin. We have a carbon problem. Any time we burn carbon from gasoline, oil, diesel, coal, wood, alcohol, propane, butane etc. we get CO2. It is part of something called the carbon cycle. Carbon plus oxygen equals CO2. And we are burning WAY too much; 30 trillions tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere every year, increasing the CO2 levels by 2-3 ppm each year. In 2010, we topped out at 390 ppm. Why is this bad? Well it’s called AGW, anthropogenic global warming, human induced GW. You’ve heard me talk about it before.
Andrew Weaver, our best climate researcher and Nobel recipient for his work with the IPCC, and 97 per cent of all the folks who research AGW in the world tell us that we do not want to get to 450 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere. Just take it from me, all the science says nasty things will happen if we do. And it’s not just because they SAY it will happen. More than 1,000 climate change papers are published by climatologists each and every year and the RESEARCH says so. Back to the science.
So, we are at 390 ppm today and 450 ppm is very bad and we are increasing at 2-3 ppm each year. Jeff, take out your calculator. (450-390)/2 (Not as bad case) or (450-390)/3 (worse case) is 20-30 years. Oh, and by the way the increase of 2-3 ppm is increasing each year by about 10%. So let’s say we have 20 years before we to get to 450 ppm. Pretty short on time isn’t it?
So what will algae fuel do? Right now we use between 3-4 billion barrels of oil per year globally and that rate is increasing. That’s about one trillion litres, ballpark. Let’s say that we can totally replace all the fuel derivatives of oil with algae tomorrow, and that is an incredible stretch and that the energy from alcohol is equivalent to gas and diesel, not so much a stretch.
The algae grow opt is not so far off the corn/alcohol debacle that G.W. Bush came up with, or the wood for alcohol schemes of the past. It is the same chemistry. This time algae does the heavy lifting and not the fermented corn. But, our global needs are so great, that in order to do that we would over burden the planets natural ecosystem with the area and volume of algae necessary to grow the stuff. It’s either millions of acres of corn or pretty much the equivalent in the ocean, either disenfranchising our food or our natural ocean ecosystem. Take your pick. Then there is the energy use in order to make all the stuff from algae compatible without major refits. None of our cars,planes and trains run on alcohol. And that is just the logistics of our tech world. In terms of the CO2 here is the really bad B.S. news.
Number one: even if the fuel is grown from our waste, that is a problem. The waste means that we continue to consume, trees, food, everything on the planet, to produce the food for the algae fuel.
Number two: the consumption of atmospheric CO2 by the algae will be immediately returned to the atmosphere as soon as we burn it. It only reduces CO2 if we don’t burn it. And quite frankly I don’t see Exxon-Mobile or Koch industries or the HarperCons being that altruistic!
Number three: we will have taken a substantial part of the natural ecosystem out of nature’s mandate and put it to work to make stuff for us to burn. Think oil from sperm whales to burn in our lamps. Same idea. Something like farmland vs natural wilderness. What is used to produce algae fuel will subtract from the natural ecosystem. And the scale that is needed is just too ridiculous to imagine.
The algae fuel mandates waste/consumption and as long as well continue to march on our merry ways, it will increase not decrease the problem. Plenty of history on that. The more we have the more we consume.
Finally, and this is just on first blush, at a first glance it will dent the INCREASE of CO2 30% at best and make no decrease. So entertaining this is worse than the status quo because it makes you feel like we are doing something when in fact we are NOT.
So back to the doc. What astounds me is that even after all our best scientists and brightest minds have concluded that we must defacto get OFF the carbon cycle, here is yet another clown advocating through a duplicitous media, that we have a carbon based fuel that will “save us.” Shame on CBC, the Chronicle Herald and Jeff D’Eon.
Add New Comment