Paradoxes on Climate Change and Energy Production

mercator.jpgWhat happens when climate change policy intersects with the war on terror? Here is a sampling of what we’ve been saying to the world.
‘The Kyoto Convention is fundamentally flawed because developing nations don’t have to do their part’.
‘Developing nations can’t be trusted to enrich uranium to produce their own carbon free energy. They might use it to produce weapons of mass destruction’.
‘It’s OK for India to use nuclear technology to produce electricity because that will free up oil to meet transportation demand in the US’ (hint that something is amiss: oil is little used to generate electricity; natural gas is).
‘China can’t buy a US oil company but they can buy all the oil and gas they want from Iran, so that it [China] can make the goodies we want’.
‘American industries can sell nuclear generating station equipment to China and India: a good thing for balance of trade and because nuclear energy is carbon-free’.
Is your head spinning yet?

Now lets ask different sort of question, focused on resource depletion. — How might energy intensive organizations respond to tight supplies and rapidly escalating prices for fossil fuels or electricity? Could we imagine that?
Utilities would lobby for permission to cut off gas and electricity to people unable to pay their bills: a.k.a a “Reverse Robin Hood” move.
Highly natural gas dependent industries would lobby for Congress to promote natural gas exploration on public lands, and offshore in formerly protected zones that lie in the paths of future hurricanes. Paul Bunyan with a drill bit instead of an axe..
An aluminum supplier would make plans to expand benefaction and smelting operations in Greenland to take advantage of greenhouse gas-free, readily accessible, and infinitely sustainable geothermal energy. No lightweight at finding first-in advantage.
The Federal government would propose a budget that takes part of the revenue stream from taxpayer supported hydroelectric dams in one region of the country to pay down a portion of the national debt. Until climate change induced drought takes it all away.
And finally the most difficult question of all:
What will businesses do when their customers realize that Climate Change is a real and immediate threat: sink into despair or innovate with a manic fervor?

6 responses

  1. This post seems very cryptic.
    I posted recently on the subject of whether or not the UK government should be commissioning new nuclear power stations. I feel they will have to in order to avoid a possible shortfall in supply.
    As for climate change: we’re obviously gonna burn all the oil & gas we’ve got, and if there’s still a world left after that we’ll have lots of efficient green energy techniques developed by then. It’s a roll of the dice, so to speak.
    Of course, the smart companies are already greening themselves because they know it will improve their chances of long-term survival.

  2. John – I think I see where this is going, but not 100%. There’s a lot going on in the second part – I can’t quite tell if it’s pessimistic or optimistic. So… what’s the prognosis here, or warning?

  3. Some days I focus on how many Megawatts of new wind power will be added this year; other days I think mainly at the business administratiive and political level. One the day this was written I was focused on what is going on with strategic planning in US owned big businesses. With US foreign policy clearly in a state of climate anarchy and resource depletion taking a heavy toll on “variable margins”, self-defeating short term strategies like lobbying to locally “drill our way out” of peak oil or funding astroturf blog sites are acts of ineffective despair. Only one of the business examples cited comes close to breaking out of that mindset. WIth global aluminum demand rising several percent a year, Alcoa (my opinion) has made a logical move toward sustainability. It’s not perfect of course. But optimism comes from bold risk taking and vision. For all energy intensive businesses, it’s time to call off the Hatfield – McCoy type Beltway fueding over ANWR and look into the geothermal energy dividends that could come from the Aleutians. Plenty of foreign policy positives could come from working on it with Russia. The Federal government could more properly leave the development of fuel cells and fuel cell propulsion possibilities to the private sector and get on with making electricity in the Aleutians just as the Icelanders have done. The policy choices of what to do with that energy could engage a broad range of public interests: e.g. hydrogen synthesis versus smelting. Hopefully the geothermal reserves would be viewed as a national rather than just an Alaskan resource.
    To recap: there is indeed no optimism for foreign policy direction that would help a US business executive justify a strategic change to his/her stockholders. Conversely, there are plenty of oportunities for “corporatism” to do good, should they be so inclined.

  4. Making electricity cascades to any electricity intensive operation (like H2). It would be possible to line a cable to mainland Alaska incidentally.
    One thing I forgot to mention but that stands out in retrospect is that the people setting foreign policy these days (in all the nations I mentioned) are x-cold warriors. The mental model for grasping climate change is absent. All nuclear development is seen in terms of electricity and weapons. This situation is a setup for youth rebellion on the scale last seen in the 60’s. It will stay that way a long as these follks and their intellectual progeny stay in power.

  5. John, cool stuff. Out of curiosity, if we tapped the Aleutians’ geothermal potential would that be for electricity production? They seem way too far away for that, or would it be to put manufacturting, perhaps hydrogen production there?

  6. Great post, If Aleutian geothermal potential ofprospective donors This would be the production of electricity? They seem to be far away or there is, perhaps, would make the production of hydrogen manufacturting.

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