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Fred Singer Promotes Fossil Fuels through Myths and Misinformation

Posted on 8 June 2012 by dana1981

Climate contrarians have been busy lately.  In the past few weeks we've seen two Gish Gallops from Australian geologists (one of which was extremely politically-charged), a gross distortion of reality from another geologist (this one an American), and now we have yet another politically-charged article from another climate contrarian - Fred Singer, who John Mashey documented was linked to the Climate Research 'pal review' scandal through his connections with the 'pal review' authors via various fossil fuel-funded political think tanks.

In this case, Singer has written a pro-Mitt Romney (the US Republican Party 2012 presidential nominee) editorial, essentially pleading with Romney to pursue an exclusively fossil fuel-based energy policy.  As we will see here, Singer's arguments are based on a number of energy-related myths, as well as climate-related conspiracies.

Singer Invokes Inhofe of all People

Although it was somewhat buried in his editorial, we should start off by highlighting Singer's lone science-related statement, which invoked Senator James Inhofe of all people:

"Romney should speak out on the “hoax” (to use Senator Inhofe’s term) of climate catastrophes from rising CO2 levels."

As we noted when discussing Ian Plimer's Gish Gallop and John Mashey's pal review research, conspiracy theories are one of the five characteristics of scientific denialism, and few people embody the climate conspiracy theory better than James Inhofe.  Thus it's puzzling why Singer would defer to Inhofe on his only science-related comment in this article. 

Regardless, as with his climate contrarian colleagues, Singer is displaying the characteristics of scientific denial here.  Catastrophic climate change consequences are an entirely plausible scenario, and even a highly probable one if we follow Singer's advice and rely exclusively on fossil fuels to meet our energy needs.

Oil and Gas Prices - Singer Myths vs. Reality

Singer began his letter by arguing that Romney should try to persuade Americans to vote for him by promising low, low prices.

"He should pledge specific goals: Lower gasoline prices; cheaper household electricity; cheaper fertilizer for farmers and lower food prices for everybody; cheaper transport fuels for aviation and for the trucking industry; lower raw material costs for the chemical industry."

Telling people you will lower their bills is of course a great way to win an election, but in reality the president of the United States has very little control over gasoline prices, which are dictated by international oil market prices.  Singer does not seem to grasp this concept, however:

"It’s a winning situation for Romney; Obama has already provided him most of the ammunition:

**Under Obama, the price of gasoline has more than doubled, from $1.80 (US average), and is approaching $5 a gallon."

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) provides gasoline price data as far back as 1990, so we can check Singer's claims.  As Figure 1 shows, Singer has displayed a second characteristic of scientific denial - cherrypicking.

US gas prices

Figure 1: US national average price for regular gasoline over time, according to EIA data.

The last time US gasoline prices were at $1.80 was in January of 2009, when President Obama took office, but before any of his policies had taken effect.  The price had already risen to $2.00 per gallon within two months and to $2.50 within about five months.

More importantly, the exact same argument could be made about his predecessor, President George W. Bush.  Gasoline prices were around $1.40 when Bush took office, and had spiked to over $4.00 per gallon towards the end of his second term in 2008 - higher even than the peak during President Obama's term.  President Bush was an oil man, so surely his policies can't be blamed for the skyrocketing gasoline prices?

Indeed, a Congressional Research Service (CRS) paper discussed the causes behind the recent rising gasoline prices.

"The primary determinant of gasoline price changes is changes in the price of crude oil....That [oil price] increase was due at least in part to unrest in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa. In early 2012, developments around Iran and their implications for global oil supply have been a key factor in recent oil and gasoline price changes. Sustained demand growth in emerging economies and several other factors have also played a role....global demand has reached new highs."

In short, as noted above, domestic gasoline prices are primarily dictated by the international crude oil market (as illustrated by the EIA data in Figure 2) which is influenced by factors around the globe and is not controlled by the actions of the US President. 

oil vs gasoline prices

Figure 2: US gasoline spot price, average New York Harbor and Gulf Coast vs. brent crude oil price data from EIA (hat tip to AndyS)

Nevertheless, Singer continues with his misconceptions about gasoline prices:

"His Secretary of Energy, Dr. Chu, wanted the price to rise to “European levels of $8 to $10.”

FactCheck.org has done the work for us in debunking this particular myth.  In 2008, before he became Energy Secretary, Chu was interviewed by The Wall Street Journal (emphasis added):

Mr. Chu has called for gradually ramping up gasoline taxes over 15 years to coax consumers into buying more-efficient cars and living in neighborhoods closer to work.

"Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe"

However, Chu was asked about these statements by Representative Cliff Stern in  a hearing April 2009, after he was appointed Secretary of Energy, and said:

"As secretary of energy, I think especially now in today’s economic climate it would be completely unwise to want to increase the price of gasoline. And so we are looking forward to reducing the price of transportation in the American family. And this is done by encouraging fuel-efficient cars. This is done by developing alternative forms of fuel like biofuels that can lead to a separate source, an independent source of transportation fuel."

Additionally, presidential re-election chances are correlated with gasoline prices.  Higher gasoline prices reduce Obama's chances of being re-elected, so are we really expected to believe he wants higher gas prices?  Singer seems to think so.

"...everything Obama has done or is doing is making the [gas prices] situation worse.

**He has vetoed the Keystone pipeline, which would have brought increasing amounts of oil from Canada to Gulf-Coast refineries, created ‘shovel-ready’ jobs, and improved energy security."

Here Singer has confused employment with gas prices.  In fact, a Natural Resources Defense Council report concluded that the Keystone pipeline would actually cause gasoline prices in the USA to rise.

"The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would divert oil from the Midwest to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas. Midwestern refineries produce more gasoline per barrel than refineries in any other region in the United States.  That gasoline is then sold to U.S. consumers. In contrast, refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas produce as much diesel as possible, much of which is exported internationally. By taking oil from Midwestern gasoline refineries to Gulf Coast diesel refineries, Keystone XL will decrease the amount of gasoline available to American consumers."

As for jobs, a TransCanada executive admitted that permanent jobs in the USA from the Keystone pipeline would only number “in the hundreds, certainly not in the thousands,” so Singer is incorrect on that issue as well.

"[President Obama] has kept much federal land off limits for oil and gas production — particularly in Alaska and offshore. The Alaska pipeline is in danger of running dry. Even where exploration is permitted, drilling permits are hard to obtain because of bureaucratic opposition."

The EIA also keeps track of US domestic oil and natural gas production, so we can fact-check Singer's claims on this issue as well.  When we do, we find yet more misrepresentations (Figures 3 and 4).

US oil production

Figure 3: US domestic oil production data from the EIA.

US natural gas production

Figure 4: US domestic natural gas production data from the EIA.

While US oil production is not as high as during the mid-1990s, it has risen steadily during President Obama's tenure, and is currently at its highest since 1998.  This means that US domestic oil production is higher under President Obama than it was at any time under President George W. Bush.  Natural gas production is at its highest levels ever.  Yet Singer would have us believe that President Obama is hamstringing oil and gas production?

A new Department of the Interior report also found that the majority of the offshore land leased to oil companies in the USA is sitting idle.

"Out of nearly 36 million acres leased offshore, only about 10 million acres are active – leaving nearly 72 percent of the offshore leased area idle."

This finding also debunks Singer's claim that the remaining off-limits land is causing gasoline prices to rise.  Singer's claims regarding oil and natural gas production do not have a leg to stand on - they are entirely baseless and easily debunked by examining the data.

Algae Oil

Singer followed his oil and gas-related myths with an attack on a very promising biofuel technology, algae oil.

"He’s looking to put algae in their gas tanks – the latest bio-fuel scheme!"

Algae oil is a very promising innovative technology which may or may not eventually supply a significant portion of our transportation fuel needs.  There is no reason we should be afraid of pursuing this innovative technology, especially since unlike corn-based ethanol, algae oil does not rely on food crops or require large land areas for cultivation - facts which Singer does not seem to comprehend: 

"True environmentalists are well aware of the many drawbacks of bio-fuels, the damage they do to crop lands and forests in the US and overseas, and to the vast areas they require that could be devoted to natural habitats."

Apparently those who Singer considers "true environmentalists" don't understand how algae oil production works.  Climate Progress has informative pieces on algae oil here and here, which we recommend that Singer should watch.

Singer's Renewable Energy Myths

"In his 2008 campaign, Obama promised that under his regime electricity prices would “skyrocket.” He seems to have kept his promise — with help from the misguided ‘Renewable Electricity Standard'"

Obama had said that under a carbon cap and trade system electricity rates would skyrocket, but he was incorrect to say so.  Under proposed cap and trade systems in the USA, while electricity rates would increase modestly (not "skyrocket"), electricity bills would remain essentially unchanged due to the implementation of energy efficiency measures.

Regarding renewable energy standards, the Center for American Progress examined EIA data on electricity rates and found:

"the presence of a state-level renewable energy standard has a virtually zero statistically-significant impact on how much electric rates changed from 2000 to 2010"

There seems to be a pattern emerging between what Singer claims and what the EIA data actually show.

Natural Gas as the Magical Solution to Gasoline Prices

Ultimately Singer proposes that natural gas production can bring gasoline prices down, but he's missing a key piece of information.

"Romney can confidently promise to reduce the price of gasoline to $2.50 a gallon or less....Natural gas currently sells for less than 15% of the average price of crude oil, on an energy/BTU basis. This means that it pays to replace oil-based fuels, such as diesel and gasoline, with either liquefied natural gas (LNG) or compressed natural gas (CNG). This may be the most economical and quickest replacement for heavy road-vehicles, earth movers. diesel-electric trains, buses, and fleet vehicles."

The problem with Singer's proposal is that as shown in Figure 3, natural gas production is already at a record high, and natural gas prices are already very low.  So what else is the president supposed to do to make this large vehicle conversion from gasoline to natural gas happen?  This is the key piece of information Singer is missing - he simply doesn't say how Romney is to make this large-scale conversion happen, despite the fact that it's the basis of his entire proposal.  There simply is no substance to Singer's argument.

Singer's Fossil Fuel Motivation

Singer includes one statement which seems to sum up his editorial.

"[Romney] should also make it clear that there is no need for large-scale wind energy or solar electricity....There’s absolutely no need for bio-fuels either"

In short, Singer believes fossil fuels can provide all the energy we need, climate be damned, because climate change is all just a hoax anyway - Senator Inhofe said so.  Ultimately his editorial is quite bizarre, riddled with energy-based myths in a seemingly desperate attempt to keep renewable energy and new innovative technologies from displacing the fossil fuel industries.  We can only hope that no US president is influenced by Singer's anti-climate, anti-innovation misinformation.

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Comments

Comments 1 to 27:

  1. Is the "'hoax' of climate catastrophes from rising CO2 levels" the only statement related to climate science Singer has uttered?

    As the atmospheric physicist, Singer should do much better, shouldn't he? At least try to justify that statement with some arguments (valid or not) but he didn't say any supporting word?

    Instead he's chosen to talk about the market of fossil fuels, where he is not an expert (I cannot find anything related in his CV), so no wonder the talk does not make sense.

    That's an indication how far from reality this man has departed.
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  2. The evidence suggests that, with limited exceptions such as the Keystone decision, President Obama has been pretty pro-fossil fuel in deed.

    That said, given Singer's history on climate science and the policy imperatives it reveals I'm not surprised he has so baldly misrepresented the activity of the first-term Obama administration.
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  3. Let me apologize ahead of time, because what I'm about to say is only tangentially related to this column in that both are dealing with WUWT, but I didn't know where else to post.

    Having unfortunately clicked on the link to Singer's editorial, I stumbled across this brilliant Watts piece in which he basically claims that CO2 is nothing to worry about because James Hansen, in one paper from 12 years ago, said that focusing on non-CO2 GHG reduction would be a wise strategy.

    While the paper does say that, Watts (as usual) is horribly distorting the true message of it, which was that, at that point in time, the warming associated with CO2 was responsible for 50% of the increased energy, but was roughly cancelled out by the other cooling pollutants that were emitted along with CO2 when burning coal. In other words, the Earth would be twice as hot if not for air pollution. But that's apparently a positive in Watts' book.

    Great news! The pollution that is killing us is also acting to cool the planet, so we should keep on burning away!
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  4. chriskoz @1 - indeed, other than the Inhofe hoax comment the editorial did not touch on climate science at all. Singer entirely focused on telling Romney that he should focus on fossil fuels in order to win the 2012 presidential election. I have to say it was a little strange to read such a blatant political piece on a purported climate science blog, which claims to have won various science blog awards (those awards being based entirely on popularity, not quality, of course).

    BWTrainer @3 - I saw that post on WUWT. I didn't really like the way Hansen et al. had phrased the problem, because since CO2 is a long-lived greenhouse gas, we can't solve the problem without addressing CO2 emissions, and I think they focused too much on non-CO2 emissions. Watts exploited the somewhat poor phrasing in that 12-year-old paper.

    That being said, their point was simply that non-CO2 GHGs and black carbon have caused roughly as much warming as CO2 thus far, so we should also address those other anthropogenic forcings. I also found it rather amusing that Watts admitted that non-CO2 GHGs are "pollutants". I'm not sure why methane qualifies and CO2 doesn't. Bit of a slip of the tongue from Watts there.
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  5. Re: "...electricity bills would remain essentially unchanged due to the implementation of energy efficiency measures."

    This sounds a bit like pushing the cost from the use of electricity to the cost of more efficient equipment. Generally, more efficient equipment is more expensive; else, no one would buy the less efficient models. Not that there isn't savings in the long-term.

    We might as well admit that the reason that we are using fossil fuels is that they are cheaper, at least in direct cost, than any alternative, and that switching to alternatives will increase the cost of energy. There will be knock-on savings in less pollution and improved health. However, I don't think those are easy to quantify. My impression (sorry, no time to look up references at the moment) is that estimates of cost to quit using fossil fuels range from 'It will wreck the economy and throw us back into the stone age.' to 'It it can be done for next to no cost.' I don't think either of these is terribly realistic.

    The general pattern seems to be that the former conclusions are reached by those with ties to the FF industry, and the latter reached by green groups. Speaking in very round numbers, and blurring distinctions that maybe ought not to be, the FF industry makes up about 7% of the U.S. GDP. If alternatives cost about 1.5x what fossil fuels cost, and using that as a ballpark proxy for energy production in general, energy production might go to 10% of GDP. That somewhat jives with the estimates I recall that came in around the switch costing 3% of GDP (but I can't recall the time-frame.)

    There really isn't any argument against continued BAU causing devastation and catastrophe sooner or later. So, in a nutshell, the choice comes down to a 3% inhibition in GDP growth or a bottleneck in the human population. It's just really hard to convince people that is the choice before them, and postponing the decision is actually choosing the latter.
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  6. Dana (#4),
    IIRC, the Bush administration was the original propagator of this misrepresentation of Hansen's work regarding non-CO2 forcings. Dr. Hansen was somewhat surprised that they were so interested in what he had said as to want to hear more, until he learned that they had taken away only the part that other forcings matter, and not with the overall conclusion.
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  7. Climate Progress has a good post today showing that green energy leads to more job creation than fossil fuel energy, which is relevant to this post.
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  8. Chris G @5 - we've got several posts on the true cost of coal power (for example here) which show that when externalities are accounted for, many renewable energy technologies are already cheaper.

    The claim about energy bills in this post was specific to US legislation, in which I believe some of the funds from carbon permitting were to be used to offset the costs to individuals for various energy efficiency measures. In other words while there is an up-front cost, much of that cost is paid for through the carbon pricing system. Effectively electricity prices go up to pay for electricity consumption to go down, and in the end the prices approximately offset.

    The net impact on GDP is generally estimated at closer to 1% than 3% as well.
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  9. BWTrainer - A non-CO2 strategy is certainly part of a reasonable approach - the Montreal Protocol and the ensuing CFC reductions have had significant effect. But I would consider those simply a few of the "wedges" (see this thread) that can be used to address the issue.

    And yes, Watts' inconsistencies re: pollution/not pollution, sun/albedo vs ENSO vs cosmic rays, etc., are quite amusing. Denial isn't about a consistent picture, but rather about lots and lots of noise confusing the issue.

    This particular Singer post was, however, really out of place, as it's not even bad science - it's not a discussion of the science at all.
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  10. Well, although I try not to read WUWT frequently, I do often see posts there devoted exclusively to attacking renewable energy solutions. So in that sense this post wasn't out of character, but the explicit endorsement of Mitt Romney did seem rather out of place.
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  11. I'm not convinced that this post is does much other than help publicise the American election campaign. It is a bit reactionary and is Singer/Watts really worth so much effort?

    Recent surveys support renewables and even higher energy prices.

    Public (UK) back wind farm subsidies, survey suggests:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-17783604

    Willingness to pay and political support for a US national clean energy standard:
    http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate1527.html
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  12. Paul - I think it's important to dispel these sorts of energy-related myths, as they're integral to climate solutions. If people think our problems are tied to insufficient fossil fuel production, then we're in trouble, because in reality we need to be transitioning away from fossil fuels rapidly to achieve the necessary emissions reductions.
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  13. With a worldwide shortage of jobs and the fact that it takes more labor to get energy from renewable sources - this supposed 1% reduction in GDP may not come to pass. That reduction is based on the premise of full employment.

    In that case, you have to take people from doing productive things into doing less productive (strictly economic sense here). So if it takes 1.5 as many people per unit of energy, and you have full employment - then GDP suffers.

    If you have a long-term underemployment situation, and you can switch people into productive work and raise employment, you actually end up growing the economy, not sacrificing growth.

    Renewables, in practice, usually have unintended consequences on the positive side. My solar thermal space heating customers enjoy warmer homes in the fall and spring (at zero extra cost/carbon) - because the system is sized for maximum production in the winter (with the least sunshine) - so it overproduces in the winter and fall. What is the catastrophic consequence of this? The GDP bashing fallout? Warmer, more comfortable people.

    (these systems are paying for themselves in about a decade. Then they funding a notable portion of my customer's retirement after that).

    The switch to renewables growing the economy is yet another unintended positive consequence of renewable energy.
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  14. Re: "... a pro-Mitt Romney (the US Republican Party 2012 presidential nominee) editorial ..."

    Romney is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee because of the delegates he's accumulated in state primary elections, but cannot be the official nominee until the Republican National Convention, at the end of August, makes him so.
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  15. actually thoughtful @13 - it's a good point that right now when unemployment is high is exactly the right time to be funding infrastructure projects like the transition to renewable energy for the overall benefit of the economy.
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  16. Slightly off-topic, but related to the post, how can the increase in crude oil price from $35 a barrel in 2004 to $144 a barrel in 2008 have anything to do with "unrest in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East" which began in December 2010? The price and future (and future price!) of oil is inextricably linked to the fate of our climate. I have not yet seen a satisfactory explanation from any government report of the behavior of the price of oil over the past decade. Someone somewhere is obfuscating.
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  17. NSherrard, most of the (very large) volatility in the price of the oil barrel is owed to speculation. "Pure" oil speculation consists of buying and selling oil without ever taking possession of a single drop of it.

    It does, in fact, represent a problem for the purpose of working our way out of oil dependence. Right now there is no political will to regulate the parasites cashing in on the system without adding any value to anything. As push comes to shove, which will inevitably happen, low-hanging fruits for easing oil prices will be picked first and the enormous speculation will be eliminated, giving everybody the impression that oil is cheap and pllentiful again, for a little while.

    As with other kinds of speculation, it is a far greater threat to economies than any large scale action to curb GH gas emissions. As a matter of fact, it is easy to demonstrate that the behaviors of the important actors of Wall Street and other big markets are largely responsible for every major depression or recession that has happened since, and including, the Great Depression.
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  18. One of the biggest problems with acceptance of alternative fuels and energy is that so-called man-made global warming has been lumped together with it. If man-made global warming is real and if the use of non-fossil fuels would impact the effects of global warming then there would be a reason to put the two issues together. But, even if man-made global warming is happening, there is nothing but conjecture to support the theory that alt-fuels can mitigate it.

    However, there are sufficient good reasons to support the wide-spread use of alt fuels without taking into account man-made climate change. In fact, because man-made global warming is at best an unproven theory, tying the two issues together drastically hurts alt-fuel acceptance.

    The issues should stand on their own, which I believe would make arguing for alternative fuels much easier and more palatable for the vast majority of people who believe that man-made global warming is a fraud.

    On the other hand, if man-made global warming is real, and if the production and use of non-fossil fuels are a helpful solution, then fine, both issues are addressed. But if we can get alt-fuels accepted then everyone wins.

    Marc J. Rauch
    Exec. Vice President
    THE AUTO CHANNEL
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  19. Mr. Rauch, first of all, all scientific theories are unproven because theories cannot be proven. Saying "unproven theory" is redundant. It's also no different than saying "evolution by natural selection is just an unproven theory."

    Secondly, the best case for supporting alternative fuels is that they are a key solution to human-caused global warming, which is one of the greatest threats humanity has ever faced. Bringing up absurd conspiracy theories of 'fraud' and the like only harms the case for alternative fuels.

    While you might prefer that the two issues be treated separately, that's not going to happen. Most of the people who oppose alternative fuels oppose climate science for the exact same reasons.
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  20. Mr Rauch, I certainly do not want to impinge on SkS comments policy that precludes "dogpiling."

    However, I have to point out, seconding Dana, that "unproven theory" in the context used in your post indicates a lack of understanding of what a scientific theory is.

    Quantum theory is also an "unproven" theory, whose implications are at odds with the General Relativity theory. Yet both of them are very successfully applied together in GPS, where electronics put Quantum to use, and where General Relativity allows for the accuracy that newtonian physics would not permit, considering the velocities and distances involved.

    It should be noted, however, that Relativity did not disprove Newtonian physics, only changed its domain of application.

    A scientific theory is not a hypothesis. This misunderstanding appears to be common in the US because of the pervasive deceitful argument made by creationists that "Evolution is only a theory." It works well with that part of the public that does not understand the difference between theory and hypothesis.

    The consensus model of Earth climate as it has been experienced by Humans is a well supported theory, not a hypothesis.
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  21. I think Marc Rauch is right, that there are myriad reasons to begin adopting alternative energy resources. There are national security issues, domestic jobs issues and many other fantastic and meaningful reasons. But I believe he is misguided in his desire to see AGW and alternative energy sources to be separate issues. The science for man-made warming is overwhelming, and very often it's very difficult to convince people in his position of this.

    I think there is extreme exasperation within the scientific community to find ways to explain to people like Mr Rauch exactly how overwhelming the research is. There is no doubt at all that man-made greenhouse gases are warming the planet. There is no doubt that reduction of those gases is absolutely necessary. There are uncertainties with regards to how severely the planet will respond but even the lower estimations are very concerning. How to make this clear to people like Mr Rauch is an issue that is keeping lots of scientists awake nights.
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  22. "there are myriad reasons to begin adopting alternative energy resources"

    Most definitely. It is plain that fossil fuels of all kinds will be exhausted if mined to, well, exhaustion. Then what?

    This question by itself is enough reason to do all the work we need to do to get away from fossil fuels, now that we are enjoying the unprecedented comfort and ease of living that these same fuels have allowed and that we can afford to do that work.

    We have a small window of opportunity; with billions of people wanting to enjoy the good life like we do in the West, it will not last very long, and the aftermaths of the big carbon release will call for some serious flexibility on our part.
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  23. Dana and Phillippe,

    I think arguing the semantics of "theory" and "proof" is the wrong approach to take with Mr. Rauch, and will probably just leave him rolling his eyes in exasperation, feeling that you are missing the point.

    The fact is that he said that global warming was "at best" an unproven theory, suggesting that he dismisses all aspects of the science, not merely its certitude.

    In that event, I would suggest that a better approach with Mr. Rauch would be to point him towards the wealth of information available here, along with the fact that the only people who contradict the position of every major national science academy in the world is a small, loud, vocal cadre of outliers and an equally loud cadre of PR firms and personalities (Forbes writers, not-exactly-lobbyists, weathermen, not-exactly-Lords, etc.).

    Just because they have his attention, and keep hammering their misinformation at everyone who will listen, does not make what they are saying true.
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  24. NSherrard - while speculation is big on volatility in oil pricing, the line that the price wriggles around is dependent on production versus demand. Production can be producer whim but also under-investment in new production as older production peters out which is certainly a problem in Middle-East/North Africa at moment. Of course, getting new production on stream gets harder all the time.

    However, since problems with production/demand in oil will only get worse, and since there is only so much damage we can do to climate via petroleum, the real issue for climate is coal.
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  25. Thanks for the response. I admit to being slightly disingenuous in my question. I think the recent and unprecedented (at least since the late 70s) extreme volatility in oil price is directly linked to the first stages of peaking production. So I guess I'm with scaddenp more on this one - "problems with production/demand in oil will only get worse." Speculation may account for some of what's going on, but as I understand it there is evidence that speculation may actually have a stabilizing effect on oil price as we approach the peak. I guess I am just amazed at the blathering about an oil boom. I just wonder if people ever stop to think WHY there is a sudden oil boom, and WHY prices are fluctuating wildly, and WHY economic growth worldwide is sputtering. I mean, my god, look at that graph of gas prices. But I expect, just as we have done nothing to address climate change, we will do nothing to address this problem either until we are looking back at the top of the curve. Interesting times.
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  26. I disagree that the real issue for climate is coal, because (as scaddenp & NSherrard seem to argue) we run out of oil very soon and there'll be no petroleum.
    Tar sands & shales will no doubt provide very large of domestic (CAN & US) reserves for potential petroleum production. And that's a very sad prospect for future generations, because shale is one of the dirtiest fuels: it produced the most CO2 per unit of usable energy. When we run out of oil, then tars & shales can become economically viable and will be exploited if no better alternatives are developped.

    The prospect of exploiting resources with big CO2 footprint is very tempting for environmental and scientific ignorants and certaqinly very possible by policy makers like Romney, if they listen to (-snip-) individuals like Singer. Therefore I totally understand Jim Hansen who turned to activism by joining the rally against Keystone pipeline & got himself arrested. And he succeeded with thisaction: Obama vetoed it later. IMO, that was a very impotant decision with respect of US economy's cabron footprint.
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Inflammatory snipped.
  27. My basis for worrying about coal is the very large volume of it available and very cheap price of it. Tar sand oil is very expensive. I think it is likely that technological advance and increasing oil price will move us away from petroleum and leave tar sands behind as well. However, this is also likely massively increase demand for electricity and in many places, coal is the cheap way to do create it - especially if you have subsidies.
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