Thursday, August 24, 2006

Oil fields the size of Greece

Speigel International has this fascinating story of Oil Sands in Canada. These Oil Sands contain the second largest petroleum reserves in the world.

It may not be the cheap, easily extracted stuff found in Saudi Arabia -- but geologists claim that Alberta could well match the Middle Eastern oil exporter as far as quantity is concerned. Experts believe the accessible oil reserves here could total as much as a whopping 174.5 billion barrels -- a volume greater than supplies in Iran and Libya combined. If the calculation is accurate, then Canada is number two in the global ranking for oil reserves.

There are political reasons for the run on the oil sands too. The Canadian government is fond of reminding people that this oil is located on the territory of one of the stablest democracies in the world and is not in the hands of petrocrats like Tehran, Caracas or Moscow.

But even the present ecological side effects of this latter-day alchemy are controversial. For every barrel of oil produced, up to five barrels of water are consumed. The toxic broth swashes about in giant lakes. Cannons constantly fire into the sky to scare migratory birds away from the poisonous mix.

But what is most worrying is that the Canadian government is no longer able to meet the targets for emissions reductions it set when it signed the Kyoto Protocol. Experts have calculated that emissions in areas with oil sands will continue to rise. By 2015, the area around Fort McMurray is expected to produce as much carbon dioxide as all of Denmark.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Marine Mining - The Wave of the Future

Natural capital fuels the world. It makes possible the creation of man-made capital. If natural capital was not available then it would then be impossible to create anykind of man-made capital. In turn, man-made capital provides the standard of living possible in the present world.

One of the principles of sustainability is the efficiency in the creation of man-made capital from natural capital. This would potentially extend the natural capital we have. One natural capital that is critical is minerals. Copper, Iron, Gold, Diamonds are all mined from the earth. Petrol and gas are mined from the ground and offshore locations.

The other issue is the abundance of natural capital on earth. In a discussion with Atanu Dey, he suggested that if the economics would work, there are immense minerals in the ocean which could be harnessed for the creation of man-made capital. This is important as it increases the potential natural resources available to human beings.

Reuters reports on a story of two small companies which are working on mining minerals from the ocean floor.

"Underwater mining is the future with the great demand from China and Asia making it possible, despite the higher costs," said Professor Anton Eisenhauer of the GEOMAR Research Center for Marine Geosciences at Germany's University of Kiel.

"Not many people realize that there is potentially another 200,000 tonnes of copper reaching the market in the next three and a half years," said David Heydon, president and CEO of Canada's Nautilus Minerals.

One of the main attractions is the high metal grades. "There is potential to find grades that haven't been seen for ages, the surface sampling from 2005 reached 12.5 percent on copper, 15 grams per tonne on gold per year," Heydon said.

"The technology is not that challenging," Mair said. But it all comes down to how viable it would be, he added.

Green by Necessity

Reuters on cleaner fuel in Armenia:

In countries like the Netherlands, switching from petrol to gas is seen as a green option.

In landlocked Armenia, it is not concerns over climate change or global warming that are driving growth in gas-powered vehicles. Instead, it is harsh necessity -- and an unresolved war with Azerbaijan, its neighbor to the east.

Most of the world's gas-powered vehicles run on Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), a by-product of crude oil and natural gas refining. Armenia uses the natural gas it has readily available.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Past is the Key to the Present

Ian Plimer a Professor of Geology in the School of Earth Sciences at The University of Melbourne presented the paper, "The Past is the Key to the Present:Greenhouse and Icehouse over Time" (PDF) at the Institute of Public Affairs in Australia.

He provides a good overview of the geological, climatic and in turn species and life changes on Earth for the past millions of years. He concludes the following:

On all scales of observation and measurement, sea level and climate are not constant. Change is normal and is driven by a large num-ber of natural forces. Change can be slow or very fast. However, we see political slogans such as Stop Climate Change or government publications such as Living with Climate Change, demonstrating that both the community and government believe that climate variability and change are not normal. By using the past as the key to the present, we are facing the next inevitable glaciation, yet the climate, economic, political and social models of today assess the impact of a very slight warming and do not evaluate the higher risk of yet another glaciation. Geology, archaeology and history show that during glaciation, famine, war, depopulation and extinction are the norm.
His simple conclusion that in the past Climate has been changing, hence, the present change is not to be worried. However, the issue at this point in time is "Is the present Climate Change induced by humans? and how does it effect the human and other life in the coming decades and centuries."

If possible, can we do something about it?

Global Warming: Pascal's Wager

PD Jonson, the founder of muses about Global Warming and Australia.

A highly respected Australian scientist said recently of global warming: "It’s like Pascal's wager. The consequences if we worry and take action about global warming will be minor if we are wrong. If we do not take action and we are wrong, the consequences will be devastating."

As I nodded off in the front of a blazing log fire, I mused about the future of Australian politics. I imagined bipartisan agreement on monetary and fiscal policy, virtual agreement about health and education and on the desirability of running a lean government with all activities that could be provided by private contractors so provided. The big future political divide is about the environment – one party wanting a greener, quieter, cleaner and if necessary materially poorer future and the other effectively advocating an Australia that is browner, noisier, dirtier but materially richer.

What of the debate about global warming? It seemed in my dream to be accepted as fact by both major parties, the evidence having become incontrovertible. Strenuous efforts were being made to restore water to the Mighty Murray, to protect endangered species and to clean up polluted streams and parks.

State of the World 2005: Redefining Global Security

Foreword by Mikhail S. Gorbachev State of the World 2005,

"I believe that today the world faces three interrelated challenges: the challenge of security, including the risks associated with weapons of mass destruction and terrorism; the challenge of poverty and underdevelopment; and the challenge of environmental sustainability."