Welcome to the flow-zone layer! Dope rhyme-sayers spit diction about fossil fuel emissions.
Music & Audio, May 31, 2006
This video is funny. Unfortunately, the reality of global warming is not. One of the biggest threats to our environment is how much oil we consume. It’s also a threat to our economy and our national security.
Our planet is getting hot. Dangerously hot. The average global temperature has been increasing at the fastest rate in recorded history over the last 50 years, and the three hottest years on record have all occurred since 1998. Scientists say that unless we curb global warming emissions, average U.S. temperatures will rise 3 to 9 degrees in the next hundred years.
Even the Defense Department is worried about global climate change. In 2003, Pentagon consultants concluded that global warming could make large areas of the world uninhabitable and cause massive flooding, food and water shortages, widespread migration and even war.
What’s the number one cause of global warming? Pollution from burning fossil fuels like gasoline.
Our gas consumption has risen by 45 percent over the last half-century. We consume 20 million barrels of oil a day. The fact is, we’re dependent on oil. We all know it powers our cars and heats our homes. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Groceries, clothes, iPods – you name it, at some point it has to be transported from Point A to Point B, and the cost of the gas it takes to make that trip is built into the cost of the product. So the more a barrel of oil costs, the more everything else costs. And when prices jump due to things we can’t control, like Hurricane Katrina or a crisis in the Middle East, it’s a big deal for the American consumer.
But we’re not just talking about spending a few more bucks a week on gas and products. We’re talking about a major, fundamental vulnerability in our economic security. Both the 1973 and 1979-80 oil shocks led to lasting recessions, high inflation and dismal economic prospects that had far-reaching effects. Ominously enough, experts today are predicting that the oil shock currently rippling through our economy will probably slow our economic growth by as much as a full percentage point annually.
The fact that our economic stability is so vulnerable to forces we can’t control means our national security is at stake too. A country crippled by economic recession is a country that’s less able to defend itself and its allies. And a country that imports as much oil as we do is a country that’s forced to do a lot of business with the shady, unstable dictatorships that rule many major oil-producing nations. The result, according to a bipartisan group of former top government officials, is serious national security vulnerabilities that could result in widespread economic dislocation and increased global instability.
But for the sake of argument, let’s say that our prodigious oil consumption doesn’t harm our environment, our economy and our national security. There’s still a big problem: Soon there may not be enough supply to meet demand.
Conservatives argue that this is why we should open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, and in the process destroy more of our environment. But that won’t fix the problem. The shortage isn’t due to a lack of crude. It’s due to a lack of refining capacity for turning crude into gas.
Oil companies don’t like to build refineries because it’s bad business; historically, refining produces low returns. There hasn’t been a new refinery built in the United States since 1976. Over the last 50 years, the number of refineries has fallen by more than half. The result is that our refining capacity has declined by 10 percent, to 17 million barrels a day (remember that we consume 20 million). Today, experts say that our oil refining system is stretched to the breaking point. We have no reserves and no excess capacity, which means we have nothing to fall back on in the event of a crisis.
Pick your reason. It’s clear that our dependence on oil is dangerous. That’s why we need a strategy for moving away from it.
But don’t look to the Bush administration for answers. Just this year one of their cronies was caught deleting whole paragraphs from reports on global warming and adding the words “might” and “possible” to throw doubt onto things that scientists agree are harming our environment. (When he got found out, he left the White House to go work for ExxonMobil.)
Meanwhile, Bush and conservatives in Congress passed an energy bill that they admit fails to help consumers at the pump. It also fails to move us away from our dependence on foreign oil, fails to address the threat of global warming and fails to make any new investments in clean energy. Instead it provides tens of billions of dollars to the oil, gas, coal and nuclear industries, significantly weakens environmental protections such as the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts, and undermines numerous consumer protections.
Viable energy alternatives are out there. They could provide abundant energy, prevent pollution and create American jobs. They’re the wave of the future. But instead of developing them, our government is handing out sweetheart deals to oil companies, ignoring serious science and destroying our environment.
We can do better.
Organizations, Websites, and Ways to Take Action
Campus Climate Challenge – a project of 30 leading environmental and social justice organizations helping students and young progressive organize and educate about climate change.
U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) - a fantastic clearinghouse for information, ways to contact all the different state PIRGs and ways to take action.
Greenpeace is always ready to take a strong stand and expose bad behavior by governments and corporations.
Campus Progress’ coverage of climate change:
Student Climate Movement on the Rise
New Developments and Upcoming Events from EnergyAction.net.
Crib Sheet: Global Warming
It’s gettin’ hot in herre! Get the facts.
Ana Uruch Cohen, May 1, 2006
Crib Sheet: Clean Energy
Congress and industry aren’t taking it seriously. You should.
Aaron Tucker, Sierra Club, July 27, 2005
Where the Bush Administration fears to tread, college students are jumping in and pushing for clean energy on campus.
Ady Barkan, Columbia University, Feb. 16, 2005
Additional coverage from the Center for American Progress:
- Progressive Response to Higher Gasoline and Oil Prices
- State-by-state report on how your state stacks up on health, safety and the environment
- Jonathan Pershing and Robert Bradley on a climate solution concept
Books and Media Coverage
Peter Maas’ recent tour-de-force piece in the New York Times Magazine describes the problems we’re facing because refining capacity is declining relative to demand. It’s reprinted here, on Energy Bulletin, which is a great clearinghouse for all energy-related news.
Here’s Justin Blum of the Washington Post on how the new energy bill fails to decrease our dependence on foreign oil.
Frequent Daily Show and NPR guest Fareed Zakaria, who in his spare time is the editor of Newsweek International, writes in the Washington Post that our current dependence on foreign oil is “crippling” American foreign policy. He opines, “reducing our dependence on oil would be the single greatest multiplier of American power in the world.” We’re no experts but we think he’s onto something.
Campus Progress and Mr. Zakaria agree that you should read a new study by the hard-to-classify Rocky Mountain Institute. (Stop by if you’re ever in Colorado.) The study’s called “Winning the Oil Endgame.” As you can probably tell by the title it’s written not with flower children in mind, but rather captains of industry and military strategists. In fact it was co-funded by the Pentagon, which isn’t as backward-gazing on this issue as the rest of the Bush administration. Anyway, RMI presents a unique and compelling argument, which if nothing else is a prime example of how this issue resonates across the spectrum. Unfortunately you have to buy the book but you can download the executive summary here.
Daniel Yergin’s The Prize is an engaging, comprehensive history of, well, oil, and why it’s so darn important. In 2003 Yergin co-wrote an article with Michael Stoppard in Foreign Affairs on the great potential of natural gas. You can see a preview here and if you’re intrigued FA will be happy to exchange the full text for a small cash donation.
In The End of Oil, Paul Roberts argues that if you look at the geology of the situation, the plain fact is that there just might not be that much oil around for that much longer.
To see how the other side is thinking, check out the iconoclastic The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy, by Peter Huber and Mark Mills. True, Campus Progress is at best apprehensive about the idea of basing our national energy strategy on two dudes’ hunches about human nature. Although truth is, our government has been known to make major decisions on little more evidence than that. Don’t tell anyone, but Campus Progress in currently engaged in secret negotiations with publishers on a book entitled, Three Dudes’ Hunches About Human Nature: Wolfowitz, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Why We Thought There’d be No Insurgency in Iraq. But we digress. At the very least, Huber and Mills will make you think, which is something we should all do now and then.