Thongchai Thailand

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPLAINS FOSSIL FUELS

Posted on: July 27, 2020

THIS POST IS A CRITICAL REVIEW OF A NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE ARTICLE ON FOSSIL FUELS PUBLISHED IN APRIL 2019 [LINK]  

 

 

CRITICAL EVALUATION OF WHAT THE NATGEO ARTICLE SAYS

  1. CLAIM: WHAT ARE FOSSIL FUELS? Decomposing plants and other organisms, buried beneath layers of sediment and rock, have taken millennia to become the carbon-rich deposits we now call fossil fuels.  RESPONSE: The word millennia sounds a lot like millions of years but it means thousands of years. Organic matter does not turn into fossil fuels in thousands of years. It takes millions of years.
  2. CLAIM: These non-renewable fuels, which include coal, oil, and natural gas, supply about 80 percent of the world’s energy. They provide electricity, heat, and transportation, while also feeding the processes that make a huge range of products, from steel to plastics. RESPONSE: It is a popular misinformation fed by climate science that fossil fuel is non-renewable such that it can be made only once and once made it can only be depleted. This was the failed model that led to the now discredited assessment by the Club of Rome back in the 1970s of its imminent depletion in terms of peak oil and end oil forecasts. These forecasts have been proven false but the “non-renewable” idea lingers even in esteemed magazines like the NatGeo. The process that turns organic matter into fossil fuel is a continuous feature of nature in which large stores of organic matter are continually being recycled back to the surface as fossil fuels. The more important issue is the assumption but not the evidence that what we call fossil fuels are not geological carbon. In terms of geological carbon one should note that the middle of the planet contains a relatively infinite source carbon. 99.8% of the planet’s carbon is in the mantle and core and what we are dealing with up here on the surface, fossil fuels, carbon life forms and all, represents about 0.2% of the planet’s carbon. It is not likely that our use of carbon fuels stored under the ground will run out any time soon as they are replenished by geological carbon flows.
  3. CLAIM;  When fossil fuels are burned, they release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which in turn trap heat in our atmosphere, making them the primary contributors to global warming and climate change.  RESPONSE: What climate science actually says is that the burning of fossil fuels changes atmospheric composition by increasing its carbon dioxide content. In that context, if the global mean temperature of earth is understood as a logarithmic function of atmospheric CO2 concentration, as the CO2 concentration of the atmosphere goes up, global mean surface temperature will respond by also going up. In other words, rising atmospheric CO2 concentration causes warming – and if the rise in atmospheric CO2 is attributable to fossil fuel emissions of humans, then the warming can be described as human caused or “anthropogenic”. However, the crucial step in this logic, that the observed rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration is attributable to fossil fuel emissions and that it can be attenuated by reducing or eliminating the use of fossil fuels, is an assumption without empirical evidence as shown in these related posts: [LINK] [LINK] [LINK] .
  4. CLAIM: FOSSIL FUEL TYPES: There are several main groups of fossil fuels, including: (1) Coal: coal supplies a third of all energy worldwide, with the top coal consumers and producers in 2018 being China, India, and the United States. Coal is classified into four categories—anthracite, bituminous, sub-bituminous, and lignite–depending on its carbon content. (2)  Oil: Crude oil, a liquid composed mainly of carbon and hydrogen, is often black, but exists in a variety of colors and viscosities depending on its chemical composition. Much of it formed during the Mesozoic period, between 252 and 66 million years ago, as plankton, algae, and other matter sank to the bottom of ancient seas and was eventually buried. Extracted from onshore and offshore wells, crude oil is refined into a variety of petroleum products, including gasoline, diesel, and heating oil. The top oil-producing countries are the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Russia, which together account for nearly 40 percent of the world’s supply. Petroleum use accounts for nearly half the carbon emissions in the U.S. and about a third of the global total. In addition to the air pollution released when oil is burned, drilling and transport have led to several major accidents, such as the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, the devastating Lac Megantic oil train derailment in 2013, and thousands of pipeline incidents. Nonetheless, oil demand continues to rise, driven not only by our thirst for mobility, but for the many products—including plastics—made using petrochemicals, which are generally derived from oil and gas.  (3) Natural gas: An odorless gas composed primarily of methane, natural gas often lies in deposits that, like those for coal and oil, formed millions of years ago from decaying plant matter and organisms. Both natural gas and oil production have surged in the U.S. over the past two decades because of advances in the drilling technique most people know as fracking. By combining fracking—or hydraulic fracturing—with horizontal drilling and other innovations, the fossil-fuel industry has managed to extract resources that were previously too costly to reach. As a result, natural gas has surpassed coal to become the top fuel for U.S. electricity production, and the U.S. leads the world in natural gas production, followed by Russia and Iran. Natural gas is cleaner than coal and oil in terms of emissions, but nonetheless accounts for a fifth of the world’s total emissions, not counting the so-called fugitive emissions that escape from the industry, which can be significant. Not all of the world’s natural gas sources are being actively mined. Undersea methane hydrates, for example, where gas is trapped in frozen water, are being eyed as a potential gas resourceRESPONSE: Good summary of fossil fuels although the assumption about their creation from biological decay (i.e. fossils) is unproven. There is no way to tell fossil fuel carbon apart from geological carbon.
  5. CLAIM:  Reducing emissions from fossil fuels:  Governments around the world are now engaged in efforts to ramp down greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels to prevent the worst effects of climate change. At the international level, countries have committed to emissions reduction targets as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement, while other entities—including cities, states, and businesses—have made their own commitments. These efforts generally focus on replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources, increasing energy efficiency, and electrifying sectors such as transportation and buildings. However, many sources of carbon emissions, such as existing power plants that run on natural gas and coal, are already locked in. Considering the world’s continuing dependence on fossil fuels, many argue that in addition to efforts aimed at replacing them, we also need to suck carbon from the air with technologies such as carbon capture, in which emissions are diverted to underground storage or recycled before they reach the atmosphere. A handful of commercial-scale projects around the world already capture carbon dioxide from the smokestacks of fossil fuel-fired plants, and while its high costs have prevented wider adoption, advocates hope advances in the technology will eventually make it more affordable.  RESPONSE: The so called Paris Agreement of 2015 was an agreement to submit intended nationally determined contributions (INDC) that were independently composed by the participating nations to express their intention and to independently determine what their contribution might be with no commitment to actually deliver on that “intention”. The logical fallacy of treating the collection of INDCs that don’t agree as an agreement is a puzzling contradiction as described in a related post [LINK] . What is called the Paris Agreement, is more accurately understood as a desperate attempt by the United Nations, that is credited with the success of the Montreal Protocol in solving the ozone depletion problem and was expected to repeat that success in the Kyoto Protocol to solve the climate change problem. The UN bureaucrats could not fathom the enormous difference between changing refrigerants and overhauling the world’s energy infrastructure.  After 20 attempts in Conference of Parties (COP) to repeat the Montreal Protocol success, they simply gave up and in the 21st meeting they were desperate to produce something they could claim to be a repeat of the Montreal Protocol. So they asked the delegates to sign whatever they wanted to sign. This mishmash collection of INDCs is called an Agreement but its treatment as such leads to gross conceptual errors as seen in a related post here [LINK] . The truth about the Paris Agreement is that it was in Paris in 2015 at the COP21 that the UN bureaucrats gave up on the idea of a global agreement for global emission reduction targets and changed their language to words such as “ambition” and “momentum” to goad individual nation states to pursue climate action, not as a global agreement, but as national goals [LINK] . And so it was in Paris where the idea of a global agreement on global emission reduction was finally written off as a failed effort. Paris is where Montreal died.
  6. POSTSCRIPT: Even as nation states are being goaded to pursue their own national emission reduction plans based on “ambition” and “momentum” calls by UN cheerleaders, economists have pointed out a fatal flaw in this emission reduction effort as described in a related post [LINK] . The heroic climate action nations being cheered on by UN bureaucrats are up against an economics trap created by the non-global nature of the emission reduction program because although the world of humans is separated into nation states, the nation states are connected by economics. This connection is vast and complex and involves cross border investments, stocks, bonds, monetary policy, technology, intellectual property rights, and so on and so forth but most importantly in this respect, the nations of the world are connected by trade. International trade is so important, that even though we think of our civilization in terms of the nation states, we are really one huge global economy tied together by trade. Because nation states are independent nations in some respects but global in terms of trade, a climate action decision by an individual nation state will not lead to global emission reduction. This is because any national climate action plan by a single nation state will increase the economic cost of production and make that nation state less competitive in international trade and hand over a cost advantage to nations that do not have a national climate action plan. The cost advantage of non-climate-action takers will cause their production and exports to rise by virtue of demand from climate action taking nations. The net result will be that economic activity {and fossil fuel emissions} will decline in climate action taking nations but with a corresponding rise in economic activity {and fossil fuel emissions} in non-climate-action taking nations. In the net there may be no emission reduction. This is the Catch-22 of national level emission reduction plans being cheered on by UN bureaucrats with buzzwords like ambition and momentum.

GUTERRES

INDC ภารกิจต่อไป บนเส้นทางลดโลกร้อน :: TGO | องค์การบริหารจัดการ ...

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