Of all the issues facing us as a nation president Biden has made fighting climate change number one; more important than fighting terrorism, national security, international relations or anything else. The theory is that because of man generated carbon dioxide the earth is warming and it will reach a “tipping point” and the earth will literally burn up. By building in great fear you can be conditioned to accept any “worthy” program or spend any amount of money to solve it. But just a few short years ago the Earth was actually cooling and politicians were concerned that we would become just a huge ball of ice. I remember at the time that Salt Lake was growing and there were plans to pump water to another basin to protect the city from flooding. Then the temperature trend changed and it became a little warmer and this was not necessary.
But is it true? Is our world truly in great danger? Will life as we know it end except for a few places in the arctic and Antarctic unless we take drastic measures against climate change?
No one has ever proved that there is a direct relationship between the use of fossil fuels and world temperatures. This is all based on computer models and though many different models have been produced over the last several decades none of them have even come close to predicting what the temperature turned out to be; they all predicted way too much warming.
Let’s face it. Politicians turned scientists have been predicting that the world would end in ten or twelve years for over thirty years, but it has not happened. The earth has continued just as always with winter and summer, day and night. Never-the-less, they have produced great fear in people the world over, much like “the sky is falling” in the children’s book Chicken Little.
Our climate continues to change. In fact the temperature has continued to rise since the end of the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago. But is man the main cause of that temperature rise? That would be hard to prove and even the curves that Mr. Gore has published got the science backward as rising carbon dioxide does not appear to precede temperature change but temperature change appears to happen before changes in carbon dioxide.
Changes in nature are the main cause of climate change. The Sun is the source of all our energy and changes in the energy from the Sun probably cause most of the changes in temperature on the earth. Changes in weather over several months are often hard to predict so what makes us think we can predict the weather in ten, twenty or even thirty years? Weather over time is what we call climate.
Think of it this way. There is fifty times more carbon dioxide dissolved in the ocean than there is in the atmosphere. As the Earth warms so does the ocean, and because the oceans are very deep it takes a long time for the oceans to completely warm. As the oceans warm they give up carbon dioxide.
The level of carbon dioxide has been measured for many years. It is presently at about 0.0415 percent, (415 parts per million, ppm). It has continued to rise at about the same rate for many years, even during times when the earth was not warming at all. It is more likely that nature controls the level of carbon dioxide and not man. Some of our heat may even come from deep in the Earth where it is very hot.
Though the level of carbon dioxide has an upward trend it is not an even trend, but looks something like a saw tooth. During the winter, when plants are not growing, the level of carbon dioxide rises and in the summer when plants are growing the level goes down.
All plants on Earth are composed of carbon and they get the carbon from the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It may be hard to believe but the tiny percentage of carbon dioxide that is in our atmosphere is the source of all the carbon the plants need in order to grow. Animals in turn get their carbon by eating the plants. There is no other source of carbon.
Carbon dioxide comes in for a bum rap. Our president and others are working on programs to reduce carbon dioxide. Yet the more carbon dioxide the better plants grow. Some greenhouses even increase the level of carbon dioxide so plants grow faster. Several experiments have shown that increased levels of carbon dioxide have made plants grow faster and stronger. With rising carbon dioxide plants also require less water. Not only that, but very high levels of carbon dioxide are permitted on submarines and spacecraft. It is evident from this that carbon dioxide, itself, is not a poison, but the source of all life.
Keep in mind that the exchange of carbon dioxide is a very natural phenomenon. Plants take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen, while animals take in oxygen and give off carbon dioxide. That is something we all learned in high school science class. It is the basis of all life.
Temperature change has very little meaning in life. Where we live the temperature can go from well over 100 degrees in summer to 30 below in winter. With that much change it is not likely that just one degree change in world temperatures will make much difference. If you walked into a room that was just one degree warmer it is doubtful that you would even notice it.
But the stated program is to fight temperature rise by the elimination of the use of all fossil fuels. This is folly. We are where we are as a nation today primarily because of the use of fossil fuels. Before that we lived a very primitive life. Do we want to go back to that?
Fossil fuels include methane (natural gas), oil and coal. We forget that we had electric cars in America in the early 20th century, but their use became very limited when the internal combustion engine became popular. It immediately proved much more practical.
There is more to fossil fuel than gasoline and diesel. Someone has calculated there are over 6,000 things that are made from fossil fuels. This includes things like carpeting, pavement, roofing, paint and paint thinner, plumbing pipes, pvc and other pipes, all plastic like siding, bottles, and cans, and there is even a lot of plastic in our cars. Most counter tops are made from plastic materials. Think about the lowly toothpaste tube, now made from plastic. Or how about your toothbrush? Want to use one with a wood handle and pig hair bristles? And don’t forget that fertilizer is made from natural gas, and where would we be without fertilizer? Just as important, steel production usually requires the use of coal and natural gas. And once you have switched from an electric range to gas, would you ever willingly go back to electric?
The stated goal is to be nearly fossil free by 2030, and completely free by 2050. Those are safe bets as few politicians alive today will even be here in 2050.
To get off fossil fuels we must eliminate all coal-fired power plants, then even power plants fired with natural gas. Then we must drive all electric cars, and even big trucks. What kind of batteries will be needed to run a truck across the country? This seems to be pretty unrealistic.
But is it practical to rely totally on wind and solar? Think about what happened to Texas last winter when they relied on a high percentage of wind and solar. How about running airplanes with no fossil fuel, and then ships? Ships can travel by sail, but burning fossil fuel is much more effective for ships, and there is little alternative for commercial aircraft; they must use fossil fuels. A solar aircraft may be fine for a hobby, but not practical otherwise.
Right now in order for wind and solar to function it is necessary to keep another power plant idling to take up the slack when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining. These devices produce almost as much carbon dioxide idling as when they carry a full load of electricity. Remember there are many times when the wind does not blow, or if it does blow it blows too hard. And of course the sun does not shine at night, or when it is cloudy. And what do you do when solar panels are covered with snow? Not only that, the farther north (or south) you get the less practical solar panels become. They work best near the equator, and become much less practical above the 45th parallel.
Wind and solar account for about 4% of our electrical power. You find these rather unsightly devices all over the country. Think about what the world will look like when we have actually gone to 100 percent. Wind and solar are not very practical and would not even exist without serious subsidies. And of course all this would require either pumping water to an alpine reservoir to run down again through a generator (pretty inefficient), or the use of huge batteries. Neither case is very realistic; possible but not likely. And, what would happen when it is cloudy for a week or more? You simply cannot build batteries that large.
Electric vehicles are supposed to be the answer. They are more a curiosity than anything else. Fine for running from home to the office; plugged in all night at home and plugged in at the office throughout the day. But what about longer trips? How many people will be content to wait for several hours at charging stations while the batteries recharge. And speaking of batteries remember that a lot of rare earth go into making electric cars and batteries, and what happens when you cannot find any more rare earths (because they are really very rare)?
I have known people who thought it would be neat to own an electric car only to trade it for a regular car the first chance they got. Both wind and solar are responsible for the death of many precious birds, especially bats and raptors, who seem to somehow not see wind turbines. These flying animals help keep the bugs out of our crops.
And what happens when wind machines wear out. If they catch on fire there is nothing you can do about it because they are simply too high. And very little of the material they are made of can be recycled so it must be buried somewhere, and these things are huge and it takes huge holes to bury them. Nothing lasts forever, so we have to be prepared to deal with them when they wear out.
Think about the billions and even trillions we plan to spend to support wind and solar. These projects would never survive if they had to survive on their own. Some companies have gone bankrupt, even with the subsidies.
Because it is believed that the burning of fossil fuels is causing our Earth to warm there is a move to eliminate all fossil fuels. Thus all drilling for oil must stop on federal lands. And the building of oil pipelines must stop. Progress on the Keystone XL pipeline was stopped by the administration, and some environmental groups want the existing pipeline removed and the land returned to a natural state. This mandate put over 11,000 out of work and affected many local economies.
Careful consideration must convince us that shipping oil by pipeline is much safer than hauling by truck or train, and both trucks and trains produce carbon dioxide. Even if you believed in the reduction of fossil fuels these programs make no sense. In fact the United States, because of fracking, became a net producer of petroleum, but now we are having to import oil again. And because our present policies are causing the price of oil to rise we are asking international vendors to produce more oil to help reduce the price. This all seems lacking of forethought.
What about ANWR (the Artic National Wildlife Refuge)? All the pictures you see are of very pristine areas of the Refuge with beautiful mountains and valleys, not where the actual drilling will take place on the coastal plain which is mostly permafrost and mud much of the year. This is an important project that would provide millions of barrels of oil, yet stopped for environmental reasons. They tried to stop the Alaska Oil Pipeline because it would affect the native animals. Well, it did affect the animals; they all gathered around the pipeline as it was warmer there.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is an oil well drilling process for extracting petroleum from deep in the Earth and from tight sediments containing oil. Wells are drilled very deep, often over a mile. Then the drill is turned horizontally through a very technical process, and then the well is extended for a long distance. Once the hole is drilled water, sand and certain chemicals are injected under high pressure. This opens up the layers and the sand is left behind to keep the strata open. This process made America a net producer of oil, rather than a net user. Under the present administration that condition has been reversed and we have to purchase oil abroad again.
Some have claimed that because of fracking oil is getting into ground water. But it has been demonstrated that this is not possible because of how the wells are drilled and sealed off. Not only that, but the wells are quite deep, far below the level of ground water.
The first oil well was drilled in 1859 by Edwin Drake who hit oil at 65 feet. This was in Cherrytree Township in Venango County, Pennsylvania. In just a few years American exploration found oil all over the world, most remarkably in the Middle East. Ultimately most of these early wells were nationalized and are owned by the governments of the various countries. Massive amounts of oil were discovered in Texas, Pennsylvania, California, the Dakotas, and even Alaska, one of the largest producers of our day.
Of course not all the history of oil production is rosy. In the largest oil spill of the time the Exxon Valdez, a commercial tanker hauling crude oil from Valdez Alaska to refineries in Long Beach California, went aground on the Bligh Reef, in Prince William Sound, about 1.5 miles west of Tatitlek, Alaska on March 24, 1989. Over the next several days it is estimated that it spilled about 10.8 million gallons of crude oil. The cause of the crash appears to be mainly a drunk captain who was not on the bridge at the time. It was in the middle of the night. The spill cost millions to clean up, and killed many birds and other sea animals.
Probably the worst oil spill in history happened on April 20, 2010. This was the Moncondo Prospect, or the Deepwater Horizon, floating drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico, about 52 miles southeast of Venice Louisiana. The platform was operated by BP, originally British Petroleum. This was a new well and natural gas and oil made it to the surface through the drilling pipe, and there was a huge explosion in which 11 men died 94 were rescued and 17 were injured. The drilling platform capsized and sank into the sea on April 22. This broke the well pipe at the base, which caused the oil to flow into the sea. Before the well was sealed off on July 15, 2010 it is variously estimated that between 134 and 210 million gallons of oil had escaped into the Gulf. Cleanup cost 65 billion and BP was fined 20.8 billion dollars. There was a huge environmental loss of sea birds, turtles, crabs, oysters and other sea creatures, and the coast was fouled for months afterward. This had a heavy cost on costal businesses as well as maritime operations.
Coal is another huge source of energy throughout the world. At first locomotive boilers were fired with wood, then later coal, which is much more practical with a higher hydrogen content. Coal was first used in England and history records much smog in London. Later, coal has mainly been used for electrical generation, and natural gas has taken the place of coal burning in homes and in electrical generation. Coal is still one of the cheapest sources of energy throughout the world. China and India and many third world countries are beginning to use much coal for electricity, though many environmentalists would have them do without and thus remain poor. Of course these countries want all the benefits the more advanced part of the world has.
Just an additional word about carbon dioxide. As mentioned above carbon dioxide is the gas of life; it is the substance from which all life is built. Plants grow from the carbon in carbon dioxide and animals get their carbon from the plants they eat. So everything depends on carbon dioxide. Not only that but the amount of carbon dioxide produced by man is very small compared to the amount from nature, so that all our great programs will probably not reduce carbon dioxide or the temperature significantly.
Our oceans have continued to rise since the end of the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago. They rise because of melting glaciers and because as water warms it expands. The oceans are rising at the rate of about seven (7) inches a century. In the natural scheme of things that is hardly noticed, and if a problem, barriers can be built to protect the land. We have recently had more seashore damage simply because many expensive buildings have been built along the sea coast everywhere.
It is good to have a proper perspective of history when considering climate change. We have not had more floods, more tornadoes, more hurricanes, more forest fires than in former years. Nor have we had more droughts. These things are all part of nature and they come and go.
Man is simply a temporary resident on this great planet and there is much we can do to protect it. We need to do those things, but spending trillions on attempting to overcome nature is simply folly.
Just a word about clouds. Clouds prevent the rays of the Sun reaching the Earth and clouds also help hold in heat like an insulator. So, which is the most important? This is something for further study and is unknown. Clouds also prevent the Sun’s rays from reaching the Earth, and solar panels. One thing that is known is that the energy coming from the Sun is equal to the energy radiated back to space. If this were not so, the Earth would either freeze up, or it would burn up. But the Earth is in a very careful balance, which is Nature’s way.
Also consider the Green New Deal. This is similar to the New Deal under FDR (President Franklin Delano Roosevelt). It includes some radical considerations, like replacing every building with new better built and insulated buildings. Most of the things are pretty impractical. Of course the Green New Deal would end all use of fossil fuels. See the following for more detail: What Is the Green New Deal? A Complete Guide (investopedia.com)