climate destabilization

Carbon Emissions Overload, by the Numbers

Coal requires 83 pounds of fuel to generate 1 million BTU, which produces 227 pounds of CO2 emissions.

Wood requires 156 pounds of fuel to generate 1 million BTU, which produces 195 pounds of CO2 emissions.

Oil requires 52 pounds of fuel to generate 1 million BTU, which produces 164 pounds of CO2 emissions.

Natural gas requires 50 pounds of fuel to generate 1 million BTU, which produces 117 pounds of CO2 emissions.

According to the Energy Information Administration, the US economy produced/consumed 100.1 QUADRILLION BTU in 2008. (1 quadrillion is 1 billion times 1 million. That 0.1 is 100 TRILLION BTU.)

There are roughly 3,400 BTU to one kiloWatt-hour, in case you’re counting…

Keystone XL: Designed to Undermine American Economy

The Keystone XL Pipeline project is designed to carry tar sands oil—by far the dirtiest form of petroleum—from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Along the Gulf coast, the oil would then be refined into products for sale—overseas. The most destructive aspects of the pipeline project—astonishing in their hubris and their potential for catastrophic degradation of the human condition—are the climate destabilizing effects we know will ensue and the potential for irreversible contamination of the Ogallala fossil aquifer, on which the Great Plains depend for their world-leading agricultural output. 

The last time the Great Plains agricultural economy underwent sudden, pervasive collapse, the United States experienced what became known as the “Dust Bowl”, millions of people emigrated to the coasts, and the subsequent ripple effect through the global food economy deepened and prolonged the Great Depression across much of the world. There is no plan for clean-up if a spill occurs in the underground Keystone XL that would pass through the Ogallala aquifer. There is no known technology that would allow for clean-up of such a spill. No entity—corporate, governmental or otherwise—has ever conducted such a clean-up. 

What we do know is that TransCanada, the company that would be administering the pipeline has a record of pipeline spills. In 2011 alone, there were 12 serious spills from just one pipeline with a similar construction to the planned Keystone XL pipeline. When politicians or commercial interests talk about the “urgent need” for the Keystone XL pipeline, they are talking about the profit-making needs of specific interests that plan to profit from selling Canadian tar sands oil to foreign markets, most likely China, which is escalating its consumption of petroleum and other fossil fuels more rapidly than anywhere else on Earth. 

Here is a simple message that must accompany any and every mention of the Keystone XL pipeline project, if we are to reach an informed and responsible decision (not to build it): Anyone who argues for building this pipeline is arguing for doing something that will contribute to the irreversible destabilization of global climate patterns, destabilizing dozens of nations’ national economies, and may lead to the collapse of the American agricultural economy, which would send food-price shocks throughout the US and global economies, all in order to make a few bucks for a few years selling an unnecessary resource to foreign countries. 

We can power our entire economy from wind, solar and hydro power, by 2030:

  • We have the stock of raw energy, and far more than we could possibly consume. 
  • We have the technology (as of 2009, existing technology was already capable of providing all energy needs from clean sources). 
  • We will spend the same amount to build fossil fuel infrastructure that will contribute to the corrosion of our environment and our long-term economic wellbeing as we would spend to build the clean-energy infrastructure we need. 
  • In a clean-energy economy, everyone is empowered; in a fossil fuel economy, the powerful concentrate their power to the detriment of democracy and local communities. 
  • Keystone XL will impose huge externalized costs on society that will push back the onset of the true clean-energy economy. 

We can do better than Keystone XL; we are already doing better than Keystone XL. Now, all we have to do is build a smart-grid-enabled clean-energy economy suited to the complexities of the 21st century and capable of providing for our needs without destroying our future.