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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Well, it only took about a month of cold weather: the huddled, shivering masses this cold winter are whispering that maybe global warming really is just a bunch of hot air. Crank those thermostats back up; let the car warm up in the driveway for as long as we want; we can’t collectively stop old man winter after all! But wait…

Global climate change, not global warming, is the more accurate term for the effects of increased carbon dioxide and other human-created additions to the atmosphere. Even more significantly, the effects will not be a slow steady increase in temperature over time. They will be exactly what we’re seeing, wild, unpredictable weather, increased storm intensity, and disruptions to ocean currents. One snowy winter does not mean global warming is all a bunch of hogwash.
Still, many Americans insist that we’re putting ourselves at economic risk by taking steps to avoid global warming. What if they’re right that global warming isn’t real? Is it an economic burden to try to fight global warming?

Cars and trucks using gasoline and coal burning power plants are responsible for the vast majority of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere. To replace these, the argument goes that these fossil fuels must be replaced with renewable, efficient energy sources, but that this will come at too great a cost, putting the U.S. at a distinct economic disadvantage.

During the last great oil crisis of the 1970’s, several nations chose to limit their dependence on fossil fuels. Through a combination of general conservation, taxes on gasoline, and diversification into nuclear power plants and other alternatives, those nations were able to level off and even cut their dependence on oil. In his book, A Thousand Barrels a Second, Peter Tertzakian creates an oil dependency factor to indicate how tied a nation’s GDP is to its oil consumption. The “dependency factor” for a nation like France, which aggressively worked from the 1970’s onward to untie itself from oil dependency, is 16. For Japan, it’s 0. For the U.S., the dependency factor is 45! The impact on the U.S. economy every time oil goes up a $1 a barrel is significant and painful. For Japan, it’s not even a blip.

Every investment we make in another wind turbine, in greater fuel economy, in hybrid technology, translates into oil we do not have to buy from unstable foreign governments. The economic rewards Japan is reaping by having developed hybrid technology first, and not only selling hybrid cars to U.S. consumers but also licensing hybrid technology to U.S. car manufacturers, is huge. Solar panels are being built in China and other nations that jumped on renewable technology.

We’re losing our technological edge in this area and are being hurt by it in two ways: 1) we must pay to import the technology, while 2) we’re still importing more oil at astronomical prices. The U.S. is economically disadvantaged by not doing everything in its power to untie itself from fossil fuel dependency.

Domestically produced coal is no solution, either, for power generation. Forget carbon dioxide, coal burning puts huge amounts of other pollutants into the air, causing a litany of undesirable effects, from acid rain to asthma. The real economic costs of continuing to rely on coal are astronomical.

The U.S., for its own non-altruistic economic survival, needs to stop arguing about theory and start weaning itself off the fossil fuel sauce now. The fact that we may prevent global warming by the effort will certainly be one of the most pleasant by-products of energy production ever known.

4 comments:

hahajohnnyb said...

Ever use Google Earth? Yeah we Americans use a lot of fuel, and if you go into Google Earth you can see why. Take a good look at Dallas/Ft. Worth, take a look at LA/San Diego. Then go ahead and look at any other major city outside of the US or Canada.

Our cities don't have the population density to support public transit. We are spread out all over the place. We live in large homes on one of the most extreme continents on Earth. We are colder than Europe in the Winter, and hotter than Hell in the summer.

Nuclear is fine, nuclear works, except that politically it is a pain in the ass, and people can sue to keep nuclear plants from being built, and prolong the construction process long enough to run their costs through the roof.

Wind, solar, bio-mass et al, will not work at all. So why waste the money.

With the babyboomers retiring, we cannot afford an econoic slowdown, already the burdon of supporting the boomers is going to crush the next generation. So there is no sense is pissing away what remains of American prosperity.

Damned thing is Global Warming is a hoax anyhow, and the fact of that hoax will soon become all too clear. The PDO has shifted into a cold phase as is evidenced by this latest La Nina, and with in a couple of year Global Warming will be a joke.

Before we waste all this money, we should see what the next few years bring instead of rushing in like fools, when a few eggheads say the sky is falling. There's been doomsayers for thousands of years, and we are still here.

Anonymous said...

Luckily more and more people are taking their head out of the sand and have realized that something must be done before it's too late. Although, so much has been destroyed due to global warming already. We can still try to slow it down or try to stop it. There is so much we can all do. Thanks to people like you who keep getting the message out there that this is a big problem for ALL of us and we ALL need to work together to stop it.

Minnie Davis said...

I don't think you actually read my blog. I didn't say anything in it about public transportation. Not that I don't think it's a good thing, but my point is there are economic benefits of behaving AS IF global warming is real. It is economically in our best interests to decouple our economic growth from oil.
And since you make the point that our population is disperse and our climate harsh, isn't that even more reason, not less, to try to find alternative energy sources?

Where is your evidence that things like wind, solar, etc. don't "work at all?" I would suggest reading the latest statistics on the dramatic increase in power generation from sources like wind, which is an industry being driven, not by government money, but by good old fashioned demand! It's one of the few places in the U.S. today that job growth is increasing dramatically. If that's not proof it works, I don't know what is!

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