Alex Blumberg: ...and, [pipeline company] Enbridge says, stopping the pipeline won't stop the development of tar-sands oil. The oil will just travel in less safe ways, like by rail.
Ayana Elizabeth Johnson: But Tara says that argument is missing the entire point.
[Attorney and activist] Tara Houska: The idea is always like, you know, we're replacing old ones that are leaking. How about instead of replacing them and expanding them—which is what you're actually doing—you decommission the old one and pull it out of the ground and clean up the earth that you've contaminated?
Ayana: I like that option better.
Tara: And there's always, like, this premise of, well, it's gonna get shipped anyway. No, it's not. Like, that's the whole point. No, it's not. Your industry is on its way out. And that's the point. And we all know that. You can't sit there and say, "Oh, well, it's gonna go by rail or it's gonna go by ship anyway. No, it's not. The tar sands are on their way out. And that's the reality.
Fuck underpaying for carbon emissions. There need to be some current winners made into losers if we pretend to be humans that care about the future of humanity.
Blocking pipelines is not a logical way to achieve that cost increase. That would simply make oil more expensive because it's now less safe/efficient. That does not actually cause the externalities to be priced in like a tax could achieve.
Would be funnier to let them build the pipeline, and then not let them use it.
I think this is purposely confusing two different arguments.
Nobody can deny that oil use is becoming less and less attractive and that is a good thing for everyone.
But if it is "on the way out", what's the need for blocking the pipeline? The need is that actually there are still significant usages of oil remaining even though it's "on the way out".
So those significant remaining usages actually DO add validity to the argument that blocking the pipeline will cause additional demand for oil trains/tankers. Otherwise there wouldn't be a need to take any action at all.
Pushing the transportation demand to trains/tankers is a GOOD thing, it makes everything visible and obvious and it prevents the oil company from hiding the factors that make this reserve the pile of flaming dogshit we all know it to be.
It's economics. Shipping by pipeline is cheaper per gallon than shipping by rail/truck/ships. Even accounting for the huge capital costs to build the pipeline in the first place, once a pipeline is secured the marginal costs of shipping additional gallons is so much lower there would be more prices at which it would be profitable to extract tar sands oil versus if the tar sands extractors have to also account for the increased marginal costs of rail/truck/ships.
Tar sands extraction has already seen mass stoppages when the Saudis flooded the supply chain with oil and dropped the oil costs below what was profitable. (Tar sands extraction is worse for the environment than classic oil drilling and thankfully at least some [though never enough] of those externalities are at play in its costs versus oil drilling.)
Right now the price is up again and tar sands work probably is going back into place and it probably will still be shipped by rail/truck/ship. So the short term problem is the same.
But stopping a pipeline today keeps the pipeline from being a fully depreciated asset for oil sands five/ten/fifteen years from now when the supply/demand curve potentially invert and oil is super cheap again (because demand is way down). The higher marginal costs on shipping especially matter then, because potentially it stops tar sands extraction from again being profitable in far more frightening high supply/low demand periods. In that case it should mean less supply gets put onto the market, especially from high cost extraction techniques such as tar sands.
We do not need this oil in particular, there's more than enough other oil, so there's no foregone conclusion that we are going to extract these tar sands.
Further, the need for stopping this particular pipeline is that we are not transitioning quickly enough, and it's a bad capital allocation that hurts our ability to make the investments we do need.
The pipeline isn't being installed to lower the carbon load of bringing the oil to market, it's only there to reduce costs, which means that there will be greater amounts of that oil brought to market, versus cheaper oil from other sources that don't require as much energy intensity. The pipeline only exists for these particular oil investors to profit, instead of other ones in other parts of the world.
what is amazing about this decision is that there was no rush to the courts for an injunction, no reliant interests. the company doesn't even put up a fight. I wonder why that is?
The existence of a pipeline only proves 2 or 3, it doesn't necessitate 1.
"We were told or otherwise made to believe your industry should stop doing what it's doing. Therefore, you should stop doing what you're doing." ("I know the future. You don't exist. So you might as well stop existing now.")
The irony is this person has no idea of "the reality." If the reality was that the pipeline served no purpose, had no value, it would not have gone through the lengthy process it's already been through. And if tar sands oil had no value, it wouldn't be retrieved.
But it will be. It will be retrieved and it will be transported, somehow, for the simple fact that people and industries use it. And if you choose a costlier method of transport, then people will feel those costs. Simply saying "No, it's not gonna go by rail or go by ship. Because I said so." is blind arrogance.
The oil will still be extracted. It will still be transported to the entities who use it.
The point of the pipeline was to lower the cost of moving oil, which would have accordingly increased oil production.
The goal of environmentalists is to make oil production as expensive as possible. Increasing the costs of transportation is part of that.
If you don't like oil, there's an easy solution, stop buying it.
It would be there if we wanted to make the necessary infrastructure investment. Currently everyone's looking at amazing new battery technology to enable electric transportation, but that isn't the only way to get there. We could be electrifying the interstate highway system so that cars can get power directly from the roads, and only need batteries for short local trips.
If we had wanted to enable electric transportation, say, forty years ago that would have been the only option. It would have been expensive but we could have done it. Now, batteries are good enough that we have a choice, but I still think electrifying the highways ought to be something we're seriously thinking about doing.
Electric roadways aren’t mutually exclusive to a credit either. I think putting solar roofs over roadways might be interesting for energy use and keeping the roadway safer. On sensitive areas you might keep the roads from getting snow and ice buildup in the winter.
Right now, hardly anyone does conversions except well-motivated hobbyists because many of the parts have to be made from scratch and you have to do a lot of custom engineering per vehicle. Also the parts that are available tend to be expensive and produced in low volume.
So I agree that it would have made more ecological sense to say "sure, build your pipeline, but we'll take a steadily increasing cut for every gallon that goes through it, and we're going to spend it on developing solar/hydro/nuclear"
If the pipeline is still profitable, great! The net environmental impact will be positive. If not... tant pis
These have very tangible effects not only on wildlife but humans who say are getting their water from a contaminated water table.
"And yet you live in society and participate in its processes! Clearly this invalidates everything you have to say"
My criticism is not that people criticize things well failing to be paragons of virtues. My criticism is that i dont think removing pipelines will improve the situation (if anything it makes it worse). Reducing dependence on oil is the answer. That doesn't mean going cold turkey overnight, but it is the thing that should be concentrated on.
I feel like attacking the pipeline to fix climate change, is kind of like trying to fix the drug problem by attacking safe injection sites. It might feel like a victory in some sense but its not actually improving anything and is probably actually increasing harm.
A majority of Americans support the right to choose , a path to amnesty for undocumented persons , restrictions on firearm purchase and ownership , moving off of fossil fuels and treating climate change like the threat it is , a wealth tax on people with a net worth of over $50m , the expanded voting rights in HR 1 , etc. etc. etc.
Sorry I know I'm overreacting, but I think a lot of people are unaware of how dire the situation really is. If we truly lived in a democracy, we'd be moving towards at least some of these things.
Why do Americans use so much energy? Because it's cheap as a result of excluding the externality of pollution from the price.
Why do Americans generate so much waste? Because there's no reasonable way to avoid it other than to never purchase any goods that are:
- packaged in non-sustainable packaging
- created/manufactured in wasteful processes
...because the externality of waste generation isn't factored into the price.
Why do Americans ship such a huge percentage of goods using fossil-fuel-fueled transportation? Because for years we didn't build rail in service of propping up the automobile industry, and because the externality of pollution from car exhaust isn't factored into the transportation price.
There are plenty of people who diligently split their trash, compost, glass, paper, plastics. There are plenty of communities that charge by the pound of unrecyclable waste. There are plenty of subsidies for installing solar panels, and energy companies giving credits for green energy generation (and other programs, like offering to provide only green energy for a premium). After years of this, we still have a huge problem. Individual action isn't the answer. It was always a smokescreen pushed on us by fossil fuel energy companies to avoid taking responsibility themselves.
If someone can afford solar panels and an electric car (or don't need a car to get to work), more power to them, but that doesn't describe the vast majority of society.
But that is another discussion. The real point is in the first R of the hierachy of the three R's : Reduce, Re-use, Re-cycle. No need to compensate huge use of energy, if you're not using the energy in the first place.
Some of the things we do in our household to reduce energy / CO2 / oil footprint (by decreasing order of impact):
* own a house that is well insulated
* instead of heating it, put on a sweater
* instead of using an A/C, close shutters during hot parts of day during hot season
* go on holiday by train or car
* own a tiny car, that is 10 years old (we have two boys)
* use the car only for exceptions (I bring the boys to school in a bus, train for work)
* no red meat, very little other meat
* buy less stuff
* recycle packaging / paper
* when we buy stuff, take into account packaging (reusable bags for rice, pasta, nuts, chocolate, etc)
Does this eliminate our footprint? No. But we are using, by my account, 20% that of an average American household. Can everyone do all of this? No, probably not. Buying a well-insulated house is expensive. Not everyone can use public transport. But if everyone made an effort, the world would be a different place today.
It doesn't matter if only you reduce.
Big changes in society never come at once. Womens right, black rights, gay rights. Progress is made bit by bit.
And even if things don't budge, and it stays with just me. All human endeavour is pointless in the end. Each of us has to define what is important to him or her.
Nearly everyone can do something to reduce their footprint.
We need to encourage more small changes and avoid bashing people for not doing a complete lifestyle redesign straight away.
Just to keep it concrete, there’s huge benefit to reducing meat consumption - and you can still capture a lot of that benefit without going 100% vegan.
Rail can transport anything. Containers, tankers, even rocket booster segments.
Yes, we're absolutely taking a short term hit, but investing in general purpose infrastructure that can be adapted for new technology and demands is a good thing. The continental rail network started off with coal powered steam trains, then diesel, now diesel-electric and even some pure electric locomotives. Maybe this century it will evolve past fossil fuels as well.
So yes, cancel the pipeline, but in its place invest in the safety and reliability of rail networks.
There's a reason pipelines exist, and that is in their simplicity of transporting the product efficiently. Sure they can't transport anything else, but I don't think too many rocket boosters would be traveling to remote areas in Canada.
Nitpicking to make a point: Employing people and paying them well is not just an expense; it has some enormous benefits.
If the goal is to pay people, then just pay people, no need to do it in a roundabout way of forcing an inefficiency into the system.
Agreed, but that assumes perfect knowledge by business owners of what is most efficient.
I think business owners often lean much too far toward seeing labor as a commodity and an expense, to be minimized. Another approach is to see humans as the most powerful parts of the organization, and to invest in and empower them.
I'm speaking in the abstract; of course it's not always the case that more investment in labor is better. But there is a history of it: For example (and this is more a legend than something I have details on), back in the 1980s American auto companies had long treated workers as commodities. Toyota was far more successful by empowering them; famously, any worker could stop the assembly line.
Employing people is great gain only if they do something productive. If you can employ less people that is greater gain because those others can do something else useful.
A poorly paid person will have a smaller car, smaller house, use less electricity and gas, and throw away far less trash.
In fact, wealth is very strongly correlated to environmental impact. Sure, rich people might be buying electric cars and recyclable coffee cups, but it nowhere near offsets the bigger house with A/C...
Studies from a New Mexico mine ending in the 1970s estimated an extra 62.4 deaths per 100,000 miners. That’s a lot, but it doesn’t even hold a candle to coal mining in the same era. In 1970 the coal mining fatality rate in the US was 960 per 100,000 (1,388 fatalities for 144,480 miners).
Secondly, most uranium is leeched from the ground, not strip mined. This is far safer for the worker, although it does pose other safety considerations for the community.
Third, we can change these things. Coal mining has gone from ~900 per 100,000 workers to ~24 per 100,000 workers. Workplace health and safety standards are a choice we can make as a society. If we can make coal mining safer, there’s no reason we can’t make uranium mining safer.
The estimate is that nuclear kills 0.04 people per TWh produced. This includes mining, refining, and the construction and operation of nuclear power plants. Natural gas kills about 4 people per TWh produced, making it far more lethal than nuclear all considered.
Fascinating in a grim way, rooftop solar is actually more lethal than nuclear, at 0.44 per TWh. Quite literally more people have died falling off roofs installing solar panels than died at Chernobyl. With rooftop being such a minuscule percentage of global production, expect that number to change.
By and far the most lethal is coal. The world average is 161 per TWh. But that average is hiding a lot of nastiness, because the true range is between 15 (US) and 278 (China). Quite literally millions of people die each year due to pollution, most of them because of coal.
This is a classic case of how people don’t calculate risk correctly. Nuclear accidents are scary, rare things and so people focus in on them. But in trying to get rid of nuclear we’ve ended up shifting primarily to coal and natural gas, energy sources that kill multiple orders of magnitude more people than nuclear does. But because these people die one at a time in hospitals, we end up missing the scale of the tragedy as a society.
All numbers valid from 2008.
Now to be fair, oil pipelines are usually safer still. But the solution here is obvious; stop using oil.
Sure, but will we see rail transportation of oil blocked in a similar manner? Otherwise we might just be making our current uses of oil less safe and efficient for nothing.
I think this needs to be achieved some other way, like through carbon taxes, not by blocking pipelines.
> Sure, but will we see rail transportation of oil blocked in a similar manner? Otherwise we might just be making our current uses of oil less safe and efficient for nothing.
No, we won’t see our rail transit of oil blocked because it should not exist. The oil should be left in the ground.
Obviously if we could just snap our fingers and eliminate all dependence on oil, that would be fine since it would eliminate pipelines and oil trains together. But in lieu of that, we need to make choices about how to maximize the efficiency and safety of the oil we do use. Pipelines in some cases might actually be a good way to do that.
Pipelines make oil cheaper and safer, which is the exact opposite of what we need as a species. This both delays transition to cleaner technologies, and it causes even more consumption among those who already use it. People’s consumption of oil is primarily limited by their financial ability; making oil cheaper usually results in them spending the same amount to consume more.
If I had my druthers, I’d fight any expansion of oil exploration, drilling, and transit tooth and nail. At this point drilling for more of it is like continually ordering pizza and swearing that the diet starts tomorrow.
Blocking new technologies is a bad solution because it only achieves the second part, limiting increases in consumption. It doesn't allow us to take advantage of safety/efficiency improvements, unlike with carbon taxes where we could have both.
As it stands today, using local action and control to make new oil infrastructure painful and expensive to build is the best way for activists to raise the cost of oil and trim its consumption. This comes with obvious tradeoffs, rail transit is less safe, but it’s an available avenue given that the legislature is hopelessly corrupt and unwilling to do anything to curb oil consumption directly.
If you want to go back to a pre-industrial society, sure.
Ask the town in Quebec that had many people burned alive from a oil train derailment how safe it is.
The Lac-Mégantic rail disaster occurred in the town of Lac-Mégantic, in the Eastern Townships region of Quebec, Canada, at approximately 01:15 EDT, on July 6, 2013, when an unattended 73-car freight train carrying Bakken Formation crude oil rolled down a 1.2% grade from Nantes and derailed downtown, resulting in the fire and explosion of multiple tank cars. Forty-seven people were killed. More than 30 buildings in the town's centre, roughly half of the downtown area, were destroyed, and all but three of the thirty-nine remaining downtown buildings had to be demolished due to petroleum contamination of the townsite. Initial newspaper reports described a 1-kilometre (0.6 mi) blast radius.
The world’s poorest people won’t suddenly be able to afford all this oil infrastructure if the richer nations stop consuming it. Especially if doing so reduces economies of scale.
2. From a global warming perspective, there is no such thing as an ethical jurisdiction to emit carbon from. Carbon is carbon, and it affects us all whether or not it comes with other forms of pollution.
By ethical I mean human rights abuse, treatment of women and minorities. Why would you reward Saudi Arabia, Iran and so on and punish a place like Western Canada?
We should be decommissioning pipelines, not building new ones.
That doesn't seem to be correct. Maybe you mean spill incidence is higher when transported by rail? Table 9: https://imgur.com/a/3uIKVZc -- this makes it very clear that total volume spilled and volume spilled per incident is far greater from pipelines.
FWIW this table is from a paper that is trying to argue that pipelines are safer. But they quantify safety with the metric "how many people get hurt." In making that argument they make statements like: "The majority of incidents occur on road and rail." << duh, people are usually not around when pipelines spill. Also driving is hazardous.
Also rail cars and vehicles are monitored, whereas long pipelines are not so easily monitored; some spills may not even be detected for a long time. Related physics explaining a little bit of why long pipelines are hard to build: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msxMRwQyXI8
> Oil is spilled at a significantly higher rate when transported by rail.
> total volume spilled and volume spilled per incident is far greater from pipelines.
The oil pipelines can spill more per incident, or spill more total volume in aggregate, yet still spill at a lower _rate_ if they transport a yet-larger volume of oil compared to trains.
I've noticed this on arguments for/against the Keystone pipeline: the exact same underlying numbers can be framed in terms of rates or amounts, depending on the motivation of the speaker.
There's a rail line running right through the central business district of my town, and it's the primary route between Alberta and the Pacific ocean. I sure wish all that oil was travelling through a pipeline instead of my town.
if you build a dedicated oil railway that doesn't go anywhere populated and just goes from the oilfield to the refinery, then you've reinvented a pipeline, but worse.
If you’re only going to use oil, it’s worse. But rail is much more flexible than a pipeline, and it can easily move food, people, garbage, and other various products that a society needs.
The long tail risk is just higher when it comes to a pipeline.
The actual evolution process was wood-powered steam trains, then coal-powered steam, then electric, then diesel-electric.
Yes, in the US, several railroads electrified then deelectrified, because it turns out that (for freight at least) diesel-electrics get you most of the useful benefits of electric locomotives without all of the problems of having to string up electric catenary and worry about provisioning traction power stations for your 1000s of miles of mainline track.
India for example has been investing in this convertion last 2-3 years and are expecting 4-5 billion dollars savings every year by going full electric in the next 2 - 3 years.
The networks are very different , single public owner/lots of private owners , frieght/passenger ratios are different, Density is different etc,however there can be cost savings
Given the variations in solar generation and no mention of storage I am assuming it is equivalent green power to offset rather than actual used.
Some types of oil must be diluted with other types of oil can consume it, such as tar sands oil.
Can you give some reasons why you think that?
I think pipelines make sense as long as we are continuing to use oil. This particular pipeline project was pretty stupid though, and kenny's support of it was either gross incompetence or an indirect way to defraud tax payers.
I hypothesize that a hydrogen leak is less destructive than an oil leak, but that's still a problem.
Plus hydrogen burns much more easily and the flame is transparent.
That question isn't intended as rhetorical
While I get the idea and oppose oil infrastructure made possible by the greenhouse gas subsidy (i.e., that the gasses are dumped on the public), rail can't efficiently transport electricity. It's not infrastructure for low-carbon or zero-carbon energy (with some possible future exceptions).
Find a place with abundant electricity. Ship aluminium ore there by rail. Smelt the stuff there with the cheap electricity. Ship the resulting aluminium back.
The end result is more energy efficient than using a power line to move the electricity to the aluminium ore.
Forget about trains and build more planes.
If paywalled maybe you can still see https://s.wsj.net/public/resources/images/BN-FR879_expert_G_...
That's why the US for the most part uses trucks not trains.
Interestingly, the max-flow min-cut theorem was apparently developed as a way to find the best way to sabotage railroads (i.e.: how to cause to cause the most harm with the fewest "cuts" = sabotage).
Nope. The interstate highway system followed the railroad system. It also followed world war 2. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_Highway_System
Rail infra investment stopped after ww2 and never restarted. All of these railroad engine power train tech improvements may have happened, but the rails on ground infrastructure peaked in the 1950's .
Interstate highways also made most of the US accessable to heavy aircraft in case an emergency airport needed to be assembled on short notice. It's a network of runways. Interestingly, the German Autobahn has a lot more curves, but it's debatable if that is to make them harder to bomb or to keep drivers awake.
Also many US cities had full fledged local rail systems that were paved over to make way for roads and cars.
No, they were not.
> That's why the US for the most part uses trucks not trains.
Do you mean, that's why the U.S. built infrastructure around interstate highways and not rail? Why did European countries and other places conclude differently?
Is there anything you can recommend reading about it? The more scholarly the better.
Likewise, to learn to live without fossil fuels, shutting down supply will lead us to face the actual problems we have to solve, not theoretical. Obviously, don't shut everything all at once, and protect the helpless, hospitals, and necessary things.
Among the rest of us, no one will be injured. Entrepreneurs will innovate. Inconveniences will lead to learning and life improvement.
Russia, China, India, and Iran must be so happy with the ways we shoot ourselves in the arm. Fracking moved us closer to getting away from the Middle East, but the pipeline cancellation, the fracking fights, and the anti-nuke efforts is forcing us to get closer to them.
I disagree with this framing that "we shoot ourselves in the arm." As a US citizen I think a better way to think of it is that we insist on proceeding with caution when it comes to diversifying our energy supply, and while in the short term we do have a dependence on foreign fossil fuels, there are certainly many efforts being made to reduce that. And many of these efforts don't involve looking for more non-renewable oil.
If you think of our energy supply as a long-running software service that can't go down, replacing foreign oil with fracking+local pipelines is like replacing old short term dependencies on new short-term dependencies that we pay maintenance cost on. Negative externalities must be factored into those cost decisions. Similarly nuclear is like building a very complex internal service that, if done right, will pay huge dividends, but if done wrong, can be quite catastrophic and expensive.
As others have pointed out, this isn't going to stop the oil from being pumped, as it is still economical (though less so, and dirtier) to move by train.
The keystone pipeline project has been thoroughly studied. All we have done is make sure that the Canadian oil field externalities are now even higher.
It is not at all unfair to call it foolishness rather than caution.
You might say it's dirtier to move the oil by train, I'd say it's responsible and a price worth paying to protect sensitive ecologies from inevitable pipeline leaks. You say externalities are higher, I say your worst case summed externalities are lower.
First of all, if foreign fossil fuels are a dependence, and we are striving to remove that dependence, it is worth considering what our new dependence will be on. Is it going to be on local fossil fuels, extracted at great cost to our own quality of life? I'd hope not. The global economy is already interconnected as hell, we don't need to be in such a rush that we make a bad decision rewiring our supply chains. We should implement a superior replacement first, and we're definitely in the R&D phase of that.
Secondly, I'm certainly not against all ways of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and I resent that you present it as a binary. Fracking and nuclear are cool technologies, but it's pretty damn important to scrutinize how and when they're being deployed. Slow is good in this case. I'm very against using "oh no we're dependent on foreign fossil fuels" as a rallying cry to avoid environmental due diligence and to ignore all the negative environmental externalities that occur from the realities of dirty energy. Like, building a long oil pipeline is not externality free. The physics of such an endeavor make it so that spills are basically unavoidable, and often difficult to find before damage is done to the long term health of ecosystems and humans.
In terms of "how will we remove our dirty energy dependence" at large, I think it's fair that nobody has a real answer yet. The problem is not "the US depends on dirty foreign fossil fuels" -- the problem is that "everyone depends on dirty fossil fuels." Most countries understand at some level that they need to fix this.
My money is on a combination of fixing the issues that prevent renewables (including wind/solar/geothermal) from making up the better part of our energy budget (and sure intermittency/storage is part of that story, though if you're that aware you must know that tons of innovation is happening in this space too right), and renewable fuels (hydrogen, ethanol, etc).
For just rearranging the US energy dependence graph there are potential solutions to be had that are cleaner than fracking like leaning harder on natural gas which is relatively plentiful here. It seems likely that we could do more nuclear, but when you get into the weeds of suitable nuclear sites the story isn't as optimistic as you might naively think. And again, nuclear is not as clean as folks might imagine.
In general I think it's dangerous to look at the picture and be like "okay looks like X, Y, and Z are the only solutions" ignoring the timescale over which you have to solve the problem, the metric by which you measure the gravity of the problem, the total cost of potential solutions including all enumerable externalities, and potential / ongoing technological advancements.
For example, there is the “methanol economy”, in which solar or nuclear energy is used to create syngas from water and CO2. The syngas is then transformed into methanol or other higher energy density fuels. When they are burned, you get the CO2 and water back - it’s a closed cycle, like a battery in an electric car. But, it is practical for air transport propulsion.
It seems to me that the main outcome is that the same amount of fuel is transported with a costlier (environmentally, and financial) vehicle.
Transportation is 14% which is not insignificant. But EV transport still requires charging from the powerplant, materials, mining, disposal. I am hopeful we will overcome them but we will exchange pollution problems for new different pollution problems.
In contrast, we are scaling solar, wind, and storage production at a huge rate, and the increases in production capacity are huge each year.
It's been a few months since I've don the napkin math, but at the current rate of production increases, extrapolated to 2035, we will just barely be able to replace all fossil fuel energy with renewable electricity. Electrification of many primary fossil fuel uses, such as heat and transportation, will require 1/3 to 1/4 as much energy (see the amount of rejected energy in the top right here ). But at the same time, the developing world will be greatly increasing their use of energy services, and renewables will be the easiest way to do that. So even though developed countries' total energy use will go down as we electrify, developing countries' use will go up.
Energy production with out long-term, long-duration energy storage doesn't solve our current problems.
Q. Has longer-duration energy storage been solved with out my awareness?
There are several ways to provide energy during the worst sun and wind lulls, and though we will likely use all of the below to some extent, we won't know the full mix until the next 10-15 years of tech development show which is the cheapest mix of techniques.
1) overprovisioning solar and wind generation to provide more during the lulls, at the cost of providing extra most of the time
2) flow batteries, such as vanadium redox, are having ever increasing pilots. There are also long-duration startups with extremely experienced teams that are taking bets on completely novel chemistries that will give us more shots on goal.
3) As we decarbonize industry, we will end up with massive amounts of energy stored in chemicals. Industrial policy is creating massive electrolyzer capacity for hydrogen, which doesn't store super well, but which will be the base for transformation into other chemicals that can be used for fuels such as ammonia (primary use is fertilizer but might end up being used for ocean shipping too). Current fossil fuel tech for creating and breaking hydrogen chains may make synthetic kerosene economical, which would allow us to keep the current airline fleet flying without modification.
4) Demand response. Currently the electrical grid has very little price information, which will not be economically efficient as we switch to nearly all primary generation having zero marginal cost, and times of great excess of electricity supply. As we build time-based prices into electricity, we will find that demand for many large energy users is quite flexible, and we will discover the true demand elasticity. This will make the entire economy more efficient than our current utility pricing schemes (at least US utility pricing, I'm not as familiar with the rest of the world.)
We don't need to know everything right now, because the energy world will be unbelievably different within 10 years. After nearly a century of almost no change, the energy world is undergoing a tech revolution which will catch nearly all the old giants off guard. Which is why so many fossil fuel majors are having to write down so many assets, and have not read the writing on the wall that even their financiers have now seen. Utilities (again, at least in the US), are significantly less sophisticated than even the fossil fuel majors, and have no idea of the huge changes they will see in the coming decades.
I agree with most of what you have written. I have to disagree on nuclear though.
I think nuclear is no different than the other avenues to clean energy and will also go through the same new tech development to reduce costs, risks, and management overhead. At least that's what I hope!
I am an Albertan who lives in Calgary, where TC Energy is headquartered. I am by no means a shill for Big Oil and am thankful that I do not work in that industry.
Having said that, I do not think that blocking the supply side of the equation helps as much as certain parties believe that it does. As long as the demand for oil exists, the suppliers will find a way.
This also has side effects that some parties do not consider: Railroads have finite capacity, and when more of that capacity is absorbed by oil shipments, there is less capacity for the transportation of other goods, like grain.
There is demand for energy. Cheap oil is a great source. If oil gets more expensive because it now has to be shipped with more risk in smaller quantities via rail/truck, then renewables can compete even better.
I don't think there's any realistic policy option to reduce energy demand as a whole, but if we can reduce demand for certain types of energy we might have a shot.
I'm all for reducing oil company profits, but I think it would be better to do that through carbon taxes than by forcing operational inefficiencies.
Oil is fungible, but like any commodity it still obey's supply and demand.
but in general, i think it's better to allow a local oil industry, and properly tax and regulate it, than it is to allow all those profits to go offshore to less-regulated, less taxed foreign operations. people aren't going to stop using oil just because they can't get the locally-produced stuff.
Beyond that there's a lot of goverment effort that's needs to happen to "allow" it to be built. Securing right of ways or emininent domain on land it passes through.
I don't see this as an environmental move based on the political signalling it buys and other moves made by the US administration. If we agree that we want to reduce demand for certain types of energy than the first thing we should do is promote FF from Canada that are relatively clean, highly regulated and produced by a trusted democracy over the ones that will be used to fill this void from 3rd-world dictators with no environmental controls.
>Tar sands extraction emits up to three times more global warming pollution than does producing the same quantity of conventional crude. It also depletes and pollutes freshwater resources and creates giant ponds of toxic waste. Refining the sticky black substance produces piles of petroleum coke, a hazardous by-product. “This isn’t your grandfather’s typical oil,” [senior policy analyst for NRDC’s Canada project] says. “It’s nasty stuff.”
>If we agree that we want to reduce demand for certain types of energy than the first thing we should do is promote FF from Canada that are relatively clean, highly regulated and produced by a trusted democracy over the ones that will be used to fill this void from 3rd-world dictators with no environmental controls.
I was pointing out that tar-sands oil probably does not meet the "relatively clean" criteria.
If a big fat permanent pipeline makes it more cost effective to extract and sell even more tar-sand oil, then thats a loss for the environment.
I don't think demand reduction was an objective with Keystone.
A market-based acceleration in renewables energy use requires well funded energy companies to pivot. High priced oil doesn't get them to do that. Low priced oil doesn't either, but a sharp drop in oil prices can.
Some other incentive is still necessary.
Only if your costs are below the high price.
Blocking this pipeline raises their costs to transport the oil, eating into profits.
Of course in the end, the real solution is a carbon tax that factors the bad externalities of oil into its price (which would likely make it unprofitable for a lot of purposes regardless of the free market price). However, that seems unlikely in the near future due to one party denying that the problem even exists. In light of that, I could see a (grim) argument that really rough solutions like denying pipeline permits are the best we’ve got on hand at the moment.
This has never been true for consumers. The only “demand” it impacts are companies, who then move their jobs to China where they can use coal powered plants.
There is no world where this artificial increase in prices is good.
Green energy is improving, nuclear is improving. It’s improving because it has to compete with alternatives, like oil. Green energy is not cheap or widespread enough today for consumers or industry. So it’s only the people of the country that lose.
- Let's buy a smaller/more efficient car instead of the bigger/less efficient one
- Let's move closer to work
- Let's carpool
- Let's not buy our teenager a car just yet
Etc, etc. Cost of ownership effects all sorts of choices, always has, always will.
-Buy smaller/more efficient computers instead of the bigger/less efficient one
-let's move closer to work
-let's share computers
-let's not buy our teenagers a computer just yet
Feels strange to read. But ok, who knows, maybe compu, umm, smartphones fall out of favour some day as well.
I've run laptop cpu based desktops instead of desktop cpus (chromebox, nuc, lots of similar products with less known branding). It probably makes a difference, especially it you have a dedicated GPU in the desktop. Max power is certainly reduced, usually idle power too, for raw compute tasks there's a balance because the tasks will take longer and maybe end up using similar power. For games and stuff, you'll get way less fps (or lower settings, or realistically both), but use less power if you play the same amount of time.
> -let's move closer to work
I dunno how much power difference this makes.
> -let's share computers
I've done this, one at a time limits max power consumption, but may lead to higher utilization. Multiple monitors and keyboard/mice is an option too, but more fiddly. Maybe a little power savings vs two desktops, but it worked better with two gpus, so maybe not.
> -let's not buy our teenagers a computer just yet
This is kind of like the sharing one earlier.
> -Buy smaller/more efficient computers instead of the bigger/less efficient one
Smaller process size and better power management makes your mobile device have better battery life. 80 Plus, energy star, performance-per-watt benchmarks.
Hughesnet and dial-up are not good WFH options.
- Cheaper phones, they're just slower
- Lower resolution videos and images, less data, less cpu cost.
- Single shared desktop instead of everyone having a laptop
- Literally the same
From a business/software eng perspective
- Less compute, let things take longer.
- More efficient programming languages. Simplify problems (e.g. use aggregate statistics instead of working on the whole data set).
- Timesharing on servers
- Pen and paper for people who don't really need one? Don't buy the delivery driver a computer, just tell them where to go? This one is hard to make a business analogy out of.
I wonder why that happened????
At the same time, this forces jobs over seas and Biden lets Russia build a pipeline to Europe limiting the USAs ability to sell and compete. Literally none of this is helping the environment or the citizens he leads.
Whether impacting consumer demand is a net positive for the population (due to climate change) or net negative for the population (because it's preventing useful stuff) isn't something I really want to weigh in on on the internet, I don't hold strong enough or well supported enough opinions.
Well thats just not true. People make decisions about what to drive and how to drive it and how far to drive it based on the price of gas.
Also, revoking the permit can be done entirely by executive action, where a new tax would require cooperation from Congress, which the administration would never get.
Canada now has a federal carbon tax, BC has a carbon tax and Alberta did have one, but the previous government was thrown out in favour of a deeply conservative one (that is now woefully unpopular so the pro-carbon tax party is probably coming back).
You can see one possible issue with the case of the Albertan government changing. Easy to add/remove taxes, hard to add/remove pipelines. There's also even some question of whether the carbon tax will be effective. It arguably hasn't done that much in BC. This is probably because for political reasons it has been set low. A previous conservative government "froze" the tax at low rates. Scientists note the tax needs to be literally $100s more per ton of CO2 to be effective.
In my experience the carbon tax has seemed like a good idea, but has seemed in practice more of a political tool to generate the public acceptance of pipelines. The actual CO2 impact of the pipeline is absolutely in zero way mitigated by the carbon tax.
If new new oil demand makes the capacity go from 9% to 12% that is one thing, and quite another going from 68% to 98%...
Whether or not people want to think about it, Canada exports a lot of natural resources, and if they want to stop, which is fine, they better have a real plan for transitioning those industries, and have an idea of what they will do in lieu of a that huge chunk of their exports going away. Its really easy to say something like "just transition away from oil" but history has shown that it is very difficult to do, especially for a province beholden to federal policy.
These costs are massive but are largely being ignored, or just offloaded as only Alberta's problem. They are running the risk of hollowing out a huge portion of the economy without any real plan which has pretty severe consequences as seen in places like the rust belt, which will end up sowing the seeds of populist resentment amongst communities that will feel used and abandoned, especially in places that already feel largely ignored by federal politics like western Canada.
Do you have a moment to talk about Calgary? Canada is the fourth largest producer of crude oil in the world. Not bad for a county half the population of California over the same area as the USA.
They might talk a good talk, but they aren’t going to stop oil production until they run out. Same as anyone else.
Interesting take on "competitive". I guess we could encourage renewables or capture externalities, but why do that when we can rig the entire system "for fairness"?
It’s a climate emergency with all of the urgency of afternoon tea. You must destroy demand for the root cause of the situation, as soon as possible (hence my comment).
Obligatory “we should have carbon taxes and cap and trade to help make the transition fair and equitable”. I’m aware the wealthy are culpable for higher per capita CO2 emissions, and as such they should bear a greater burden in this regard. Life ain’t fair unfortunately.
... which is more expensive than transporting by pipeline, thus increasing the cost of oil, cutting the development of marginally-viable oil exploration projects, and hastening the point at which it is uncompetitive with renewables and killed. This is working exactly as intended.
That said, running a refinery also has local costs that are usually externalized, in terms of local pollution and populace movement. Canada itself though has a fairly large amount of space, but perhaps a surfeit of people. Why doesn't TC energy (or other Canada producers) build a refinery somewhere in Canada and transport to there?
The only real lever the government has is increasing fuel taxes, but that would result in roots from people who are barely making it before massive increases in transportation costs.
3% of oil goes towards residential uses.
> transportation of all those goods you buy
16% of oil goes to diesel for transportation
>plastic products, fertilizer that has allowed us to feed millions,
1.5% of oil goes to all petrochemicals combined
The vast plurality of oil goes to making gasoline which is used in motor vehicles.
You missed the point. The upthread poster made a gag about BNSF as a way of arguing that this was somehow a corrupt gift to the transportation industry (which... yeah, whatever).
I quipped about Tesla to indicate that, no, the market adapts along every available axis and renewable power is if anything more likely to benefit than some rail outfit that just happens to be owned by Warren Buffett.
I mean, putting aside the political & scientific issues around clean energy etc.
How does the government get to revoke a permit after significant work and money was already spent based on getting the permit in the first place? Does the government pay compensation? Does the company have to file a lawsuit?
I'm kind of fascinated that people see such a breezy permit as an important factor in the decision to build something or not. Of course they need the permit to construct the border facility, but they aren't going to make the investment decision just based on the existence of the permit.
This sort of scenario is precisely why private interests lobby so hard to add arbitration rules to international free-trade agreements, btw; they want to protect their investments against changes in political winds, by moving judgements on compensation to a dodgy world of ad-hoc pseudo-legal structures.
Edit (add NEPA info): https://www.epa.gov/nepa/what-national-environmental-policy-...
>In Thursday's ruling, Morris wrote that the State Department's analysis of potential environmental effects fell short of a "hard look" on the effects of current oil prices on the viability of Keystone, cumulative effects of greenhouse gas emissions, cultural resources and potential oil spills.
Yes it does.
> rather that the analysis wasn't as thorough as necessary.
It was revoked because it was illegally issued (in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and thr Administrative Procedure Act) because the analysis was not sufficient to meet the legal requirements for issuing it.
Section 6 doesn't say any of that. (b) talks about an exhaustive review, but it just says it would be bad for the climate and economy.
The text is the same in the Federal Register. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/01/25/2021-01...
Then-President Trump subsequently issued a permit himself using his presidential power: this one didn't require a NEPA environmental review because neither NEPA nor the APA apply to actions by the President. The whole thing is a little wonky because both the older and newer ones are "presidential" permits, but since the State Department had actually issued the prior one, the APA and NEPA applied.
The permit President Biden revoked was Trump's replacement one.
(I'm not supporting it, I'm curious as to how much of the process is really specified in law an how much of it relies on norms.)
This permit system arises from a series of executive orders that normally delegate authority to the State Department. By hooking in the State Department, the NEPA environmental review requirements (which apply to Federal agencies) get triggered.
While the Obama administration likely purposely slow-rolled many of these permits (including Keystone XL's) before ultimately denying them, the Trump administration as a matter of policy fast-tracked them for approval and also invited new applications where things had been previously denied. Keystone XL was one of these re-applications.
Trump's State Department did an environmental review, mostly relying on earlier work, and quickly issued the permit. The administration later lost in court with the court saying the review was insufficient. They probably could have done another one and just reissued it that way: courts saying "do more NEPA," agencies taking a long time to come to the same conclusion, and the result simply being delayed is not uncommon in these kinds of reviews.
But environmental impact statements take a long time, and instead of doing that they just had the President personally issue the permit and thereby sidestep the requirement to do the review at all.
Legal doesn't mean "criminal or not criminal", it is about adhering to legal processes. Even if these rules are set by executive-derived departments, they have to be followed or a court may block actions (via injunction) or otherwise the organization will not progress in pursuit of something like a permit request. Norms are a testament to historic quagmires (both legal and process-wise) that the organizations have experienced and try to avoid.
In the case of Trump's order, it was legal in the sense that it circumvented those rules altogether as it was outside most of the legal machinations. An order for the permit and was enacted directly by the executive head. This does not preclude a challenge in the judicial arenas (which is what happened). You can sue about anything in the US, even if the POTUS ordered it, and it gets a hearing if there's the slightest political support.
All that has happened here is more oil getting shipped by rail with a higher carbon footprint.
I think the better way would be to build the pipeline without subsidies at all and increase taxes on it. So we won't see a cheaper price and have a better mode of transport, but that's probably not politically feasible, so this is the next best option.
I think the comments declaring "oil will find a way" are completely wrong. This is not about eliminating oil and I think most supporters of the scrap will know this.
But trains and trucks will definitely be used. And will use more carbon.
It’s pretty similar arithmetic that this will result in more carbon released.
Comically, the way to stop production is to lower the price of oil so extraction no longer makes sense from these locations. If anything a higher price for oil means more extraction because it becomes more profitable. And more oil transported using dirtier means.
Oil spills from trucks and trains are much more detectable, meaning residents don’t need to worry about them secretly contaminating water supplies. Pipeline spills are harder to detect, so you don’t necessarily know until oil has already seeped into the ground.
There are a lot of good reasons to stop oil pipeline projects.
As to transportation options, boats and trains are extremely efficient to the point where pipelines don’t make that big of an environmental difference.
Also, quote from :
While long-haul oil and gas pipelines are also more economical and environmentally friendly than other modes of transport like rail or trucking (pipelines create 61 to 77% less greenhouse gas emissions than rail when moving crude over long distances, says one recent study), they also have a safe delivery rate of greater than 99.999%.
This is quoted from Enbridge's website, which is a pipeline company, which may be a bit biased, however I doubt they are lying.
As to being lower cost, again the lower cost isn’t a savings for the environment it’s a savings for the oil company.