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Sat Dec 20, 2014, 10:18 AM

Are low prices a crude awakening for climate activists?

Some think the sudden drop in prices of oil and natural gas deals a serious blow to curbing climate change.

“The issue just disappears off the political radar screen,” said Henry Lee, director of the environment and natural resources program at Harvard University’s Belfer Center. “Energy is not considered a problem, with low prices and plenty available. Climate is an issue, but it’s one that [people feel they] can worry about it in the future.”

He said cheap oil also makes it less likely U.S. lawmakers will institute a carbon tax or incentivize the development of renewable energy technologies.

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/12/19/oil-bubble-burst.html

21 replies, 1244 views

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Reply Are low prices a crude awakening for climate activists? (Original post)
ellenrr Dec 2014 OP
truebluegreen Dec 2014 #1
ellenrr Dec 2014 #2
truebluegreen Dec 2014 #4
BootinUp Dec 2014 #3
davidn3600 Dec 2014 #5
on point Dec 2014 #6
ellenrr Dec 2014 #7
Fred Sanders Dec 2014 #8
ellenrr Dec 2014 #9
Fred Sanders Dec 2014 #10
dumbcat Dec 2014 #13
ellenrr Dec 2014 #15
NickB79 Dec 2014 #14
Fred Sanders Dec 2014 #17
Jesus Malverde Dec 2014 #11
True Blue Door Dec 2014 #12
NickB79 Dec 2014 #16
True Blue Door Dec 2014 #20
Fred Sanders Dec 2014 #18
True Blue Door Dec 2014 #21
99Forever Dec 2014 #19

Response to ellenrr (Original post)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 10:41 AM

1. Of course.

 

OPEC is targeting both fracking and renewables with their price war. And as always, it is working. SUV sales are already up.

Unfortunately for them, the climate is already changing and is seen to be changing, so maybe enough people won't bury their heads in the sand.

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Response to truebluegreen (Reply #1)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 10:56 AM

2. speaking of seen to be changing:

"As The Planet Warms, A Remote Alaskan Town Shows Just How Unprepared We Are"

storms are washing away the land under this village.
the article concludes:
"If you believe the grim predictions of the latest climate science, Shishmaref is just the beginning. Towns in low-lying coastal plains and flood-prone river basins in the lower 48 may be next. A study from the U.S. Geological Survey warns that 50 percent of the U.S. coastline is at high or very high risk of impacts due to sea level rise; according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 16.4 million Americans live in the coastal flood plain. If we can't figure out how to save a village with fewer than 600 people from falling into the sea, what hope is there for everyone else?"

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/14/shishmaref-alaska-climate-change-relocation_n_6296516.html?ir=Politics&ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000010

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Response to ellenrr (Reply #2)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 11:12 AM

4. Yes, I saw that.

 

Part of the problem is asking a subsistence community to come up with the wherewithal to relocate. I may have missed it but I don't think the federal or state governments are involved in the effort; so in essence "we" aren't trying to figure it out. I read recently about a real estate agent in low-lying beach front areas in Florida who asked how much time before it gets bad there. The answer was 3 ft sea level rise by the end of the century, and responded that that meant there were still a more mortgage cycles.

Our grandchildren will despise us, and rightfully so.

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Response to ellenrr (Original post)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 10:59 AM

3. Depends on how long the lower prices hold probably

are we talking 1 year or 5 years? It will take a long time to reverse folks thinking on these issues. If 5 years from now prices are still this low, it will start to affect policy decisions.

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Response to BootinUp (Reply #3)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 11:16 AM

5. Kuwait says prices should recover somewhat in 2nd half of 2015

 

But they and the Saudis are not going to allow prices to get to a point where it becomes more economical to develop energy that hurts their market.

There are several other factors causing low prices too.

Demand has gone down recently in India and China, and the United States. And Russia is in desperation mode so they are throwing all the energy they can on the market and looking for more in the Arctic.

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Response to ellenrr (Original post)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 11:23 AM

6. This is exactly why we need carbon taxes and severe tariffs against polluting countries

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Response to ellenrr (Original post)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 11:25 AM

7. well, I beieve it is somewhat a moot point,

bec. I think climate change is irreversible at this point.

Unfortunately it will be the less fortunate who suffer first (and who are already victims of climate change).

Maybe the very very very wealthy think that a new planet will be discovered in time. For them.

for the rest of us - it is 'so long, it's been good to know ya.'

I only hope that the humans disappear before ALL life becomes extinct. There will be some species that even humans can't kill off- ticks and cockroaches eg.
But humans are having a pretty good go at killing off most of the rest of the animal kingdom.

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Response to ellenrr (Reply #7)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 11:44 AM

8. Climate change is now built into the system, but climate catastrophe, that can be prevented.

You are being a tad pessimistic.

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Response to Fred Sanders (Reply #8)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 11:55 AM

9. I'm not being a pessimist, I'm listening to scientists...

but if you disagree, that's fine.
I wouldn't argue the point.

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Response to ellenrr (Reply #9)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 11:58 AM

10. OK, we are listening to different scientists, that is fine.

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Response to Fred Sanders (Reply #10)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 12:04 PM

13. Are you saying scientists can disagree?

That's troubling. I thought science was science.

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Response to Fred Sanders (Reply #10)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 12:08 PM

15. gosh - a reasonable person! :)

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Response to Fred Sanders (Reply #8)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 12:05 PM

14. I'd say he's not being pessimistic at all

http://www.democraticunderground.com/112779194

63 Scientists Of 13 Nations Publish 2014 Arctic Report Card; Relentless, Long-Term Decline


And that's with only 0.8C of warming so far over 150 years. Current carbon trends make it appear very unlikely we can stay below the arbitrary "safe" limit of 2C warming this century.

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Response to NickB79 (Reply #14)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 12:11 PM

17. "Current carbon trends". Change the trends, maybe?

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Response to ellenrr (Original post)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 11:58 AM

11. Peak oil and CO2

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Response to ellenrr (Original post)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 12:02 PM

12. There is no low price oil can possibly reach that will stop the Solarpocalypse.

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Since solar is a technology rather than a fuel, it begins to approach Moore's Law - so that near-vertical downward line will not smooth out much in coming years. It'll be a long time before it starts behaving asymptotically. There is no economically meaningful, inherent limit to the efficiency with which a photon can be harvested to generate an electron. And where the power goes, the storage and transportation technology follow.

OPEC can open its spigots as wide as they please, and all it will do is mean they hit the ground at Mach 5 rather than Mach 20. Oil rigs will be a form of archaeological ruin before the last WW2 veteran is dead.

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Response to True Blue Door (Reply #12)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 12:10 PM

16. Oil and solar compete for entirely different niches and uses

Oil is primarily a transportation fuel and raw material for industry; solar provides electricity.

The only way oil rigs will be "archaeological ruin before the last WW2 veteran is dead" is if we DRAMATICALLY ramped up electric car production. And I mean REALLY dramatically. There are over 1 billion cars globally. Electric vehicle sales are projected to reach 1.8 million per year by 2023: http://cleantechnica.com/2014/08/12/electric-vehicle-sales-expected-grow-globally-1-8-million-2023/

We need to do far, far better than that.

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Response to NickB79 (Reply #16)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 12:38 PM

20. Solar, storage, and EVs are mutually-reinforcing sectors.

And because solar and semiconductors are also mutually reinforcing, the gargantuan semiconductor industry and all of its many tentacles are also driving storage and EVs. This whole thing is one huge beating heart that just gets bigger and louder with each beat.

Fossil fuels are a much more barren ecosystem. They depend on their scarcity and geographic concentration to be valuable. So when producers do something like this, lowering prices temporarily to try to slow down competition, they're also hurting themselves in the process. These prices are nowhere near profit-optimized for them.

The fact that it's also (in fact, mainly) targeted at undermining the fracking industry is also good news for solar.

Plus, those projections for EV sales figures are always with conservative technology assumptions - i.e., basically just projecting trendlines with current technology, as if nobody achieves any progress in the ensuing years. I don't think such conservative assumptions apply in this sector. This is the computer industry in the 1970s. Or even more explosive than that.

This statement in the cited article says it all about its assumptions: "...as befits the electric vehicle with its limited-range." Range issues are far from inherent to EV technology - in fact, they whittle away consistently the more effort is put into expanding range. It won't be a real issue by 2030 or sooner.

Tesla Motors is far ahead of all other EV-makers on range, continually advances its technology, continually pushes down its costs, and has made its patents open-source. In other words, that study is pretty much already obsolete. It was obsolete last year.

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Response to True Blue Door (Reply #12)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 12:12 PM

18. Improve the battery, improve the solar cell - viola. Who needs oil?

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Response to Fred Sanders (Reply #18)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 12:56 PM

21. Yup. Or coal, or gas.

It's obvious when you think about it - the Sun is a giant ball of free fusion energy hanging in the sky half the time. We already burn its energy in the form of fossilized organisms either fed directly by it or fed by things that are (or that fed on those), so why not cut out the Middlesaurus Tex and just go straight to the source?

The amount of economic activity that will flow from solar is unimaginable in human history. Neither oil nor coal has ever been cheap or ubiquitous enough to provide a meaningful analogy for what's going to happen.

And because - and this is an important fact that has to be stressed again - solar is a technology rather than a fuel, any bottlenecks anywhere in its feedstock supply chain can be sidestepped with innovation. There are so many different variously efficient configurations; and the elements that go into any given type of panel are so uniformly distributed around the world; that long-term monopolism is impossible.

There will never be a solar OPEC. If China overplays its current rare metals dominance, everyone else on Earth would simply dig into their own ground to get them, or innovate ways to use less of them, or both.

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Response to ellenrr (Original post)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 12:22 PM

19. Personally...

... we won't change our habits back to using more, just because it's less expensive for now. We've got better places for that money to go and I suspect that there are many like us. It's a win for us and not a loss for our carbon footprint.

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