March 26. To borrow a word from the nuclear arms race the fossil fuel industry has achieved “overkill”. Companies have found several times more fuel than can safely be burned. By safe I mean without putting so much CO2 in the air that global warming will cause climate catastrophe.
The fight is to see that most of the fossil fuel stays in the ground On the one side are 350.org, Sierra Club, other such activist groups and many scientists. On the other are the fossil fuel companies (in many countries owned by governments) backed by most of the politicians. Not only does the industry want to burn all that its found, but its madly searching for more.
The most terrifying book I’ve ever read is by top climate scientist James Hansen. It’s called “Storms of my Grandchildren”. Near the end he says straight out that if mankind burns up all the fossil fuels including the tar sands and tar shale there will be runaway global warming that could raise daily temperatures by hundreds of degrees!
Much of his prediction is based on his thinking about the last time the earth’s temperature went up relatively quickly, around 55 million years ago. World temperatures rose over 6 degrees. (The relatively quick time was 20,000 years.) The cause he believes were changes in the ocean that warmed up methane hydrates. This released methane which turned into carbon dioxide and caused global warming (that over thousands of years was neutralized by other natural forces).
In 2008 the Independent (UK) reported that scientists were finding bubbling of methane from Arctic seabeds. They thought global warming has melted permafrost that had served as a shield and kept the methane hyrdates frozen.
As if that weren’t enough to worry about, a Japanese company has proudly announced it found a way to harvest the methane hydrates for energy! A test well in the sea bed a mere 1,000 feet down released a gusher of natural gas. Japan, which had so little fossil fuel that during World War II that some taxis burned coal to keep going and which is down on nuclear after undergoing 3 melt downs at Fukushima, may have found a way to energy independence. The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology thinks the hydrates might satisfy “100 years’ worth of Japan’s natural gas needs.” Hooray!
It’s as if someone heard about Hansen doomsday prediction, realized you could make big bucks from tapping the hydrates and decided to cash in.
So another vast new pool of energy is opening up and the overkill factor goes up several notches higher.