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U.S. Biofuel Boom Running on Empty

As nations around the world begin to plan for Copenhagen to discuss the next generation Kyoto treaty, it is increasingly obvious that they will be ineffective.

Chief among the reasons for this ineffectiveness is that with the price of oil at its current state, it is simply not cost effective to use alternative fuels that will dump less CO2 into the atmosphere. The oil producing nations are probably not maintaining crude at this level to doom the planet to disaster, they are simply smart business people that are providing their “drugs” to the “addicts” at a price and in a way that will insure that no one can ever move off.

New Priorities For Our Energy Future

Boone Pickens and Ted Turner are well respected businessmen (the former a big  investor and the latter a media mogul and founder of CNN). Both have a history of speaking their mind on public issues and both have a history of making huge sums of money.

While I certainly do not begrudge this gentlemen the right to speak their mind, I wonder if this message (that may be good for America) also is good for their business interests. Mr. Pickens is renown in the energy sector and a large scale switch to natural gas would likely help his wallet. Mr. Turner is a very large landowner in the western States and my gut is that he has found large deposits of natural gas under some of his holdings.

All that being said, I tend to agree with the core of their opinion. The United States should concentrate more on natural gas. It would most likely help the environment and it would help to lessen the choke hold that foreign interests have on our economy.

The following parts of their opinion appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

Renewable energy and clean-burning natural gas are the basis of a new strategy the world needs to create a cleaner and more secure future. And the global transformation to a clean-energy economy may be the greatest economic opportunity of the 21st century. According to the authoritative Potential Gas Committee (administered by the Colorado School of Mines), the U.S. sits on top of massive reservoirs of natural gasan estimated 2,000 trillion cubic feetthat contain more energy than all the oil in Saudi Arabia.

Harnessing this large supplyplus developing wind, solar and biofuel energy sourcesis essential to achieve three strategic national priorities:

Energy security: The internal combustion engine makes us dependent on oil that’s concentrated in a handful of countries in some of the world’s most volatile regions. In June, we imported 374 million barrels of oil, nearly two-thirds of what we used, at a cost of $24.7 billion. With 70% of imported oil going into cars and trucks, our transportation system is perilously at risk to shaky oil markets and even shakier regimes.

Economic security: Last year more than $155 billion was invested in clean energy technologies such as wind and solar, and China and India plan to invest hundreds of billions in renewable energy sources. The annual market for clean energy may escalate in the next decade to between $1 trillion and $2 trillion. The race is on.

Climate security: Likewise, the clock is ticking on potentially devastating climate changes. We already are witnessing the disintegration of polar ice, melting glaciers, rising sea levels and altered weather patterns. But if we act now, we can prevent catastrophic human and economic impacts.

Are the glaciers our fault?

I am often asked if the reduction of the size of glaciers is the fault of global warming. My standard answer is that I don’t know as the evidence is far from conclusive.

A case in point is a graph from the USGS fact sheet:

Two conclusions are fairly obvious from the above graph.  First, the size of glacier recession has been occurring almost since the time when we started measuring the size back in the late 50s.  The second is that the reduction seemed to increase rather rapidly in the late 80s and early 90s. If we draw a straight line to average the reduction from 1960 to 1975, we will see a totally different rate as compared to the line that averages 1980 to 2005.

Atmospheric Pattern Promoted Rapid Melt of Sea Ice in July has an excellent update on the status of the Arctic ice last month – July 2009.  Looks like the melting was pretty bad.

And here is an image from NSIDC (National Science and Ice Data Center) showing the current ice coverage and the median.

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