Guest geology by David Middleton
I spent the past couple of days in Austin, Texas attending the annual meeting of the Applied Geodynamics Laboratory (AGL). The AGL is part of the Bureau of Economic Geology (BEG) in the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin. The AGL was established to study salt tectonics. Salt tectonics (AKA halokinesis) is particularly relevant to oil & gas exploration because many of the most prolific hydrocarbon basins also happen to be salt basins. The AGL is sponsored by numerous oil companies and geophysical contractors, including my employer. I’ve previously written about one of AGL’s founders, the late Martin Jackson.
The first session yesterday was kicked off by Dr. Scott Tinker, Texas State Geologist and Director of the BEG, whose presentation centered on climate change. Since UT and Austin are deep in the heart of the Peoples Republic on Travis County, this wasn’t surprising. What many people may find surprising is that Dr. Tinker’s position was that energy, economics and environment were inextricably linked. Without energy, a society cannot have the means to protect the environment. I wish I had a transcript of his talk or had thought to record it. Dr. Tinker is undoubtedly a “lukewarmer” (as am I)… But he clearly gets the fact that energy poverty is far more dangerous than climate change. He stated that our industry is “getting killed on social media” and that it was our job as geologists to set the record straight. He closed his remarks by saying, “When someone asks you what you do, reply with ‘I work in the oil & gas industry, I lift people out of poverty. What do you do?'”
Dr. Tinker is an advocate of N2N (natural gas to nuclear) and chairman of the Switch Energy Alliance. He recently authored an OpEd on carbon pricng in UT News…
Aug 23, 2019
Carbon Pricing Is Not a Fix for Climate Change
By: Scott Tinker
There is much talk today about carbon pricing to reduce CO2 emissions and address climate change. Unlike many environmental pollutants that have a local or regional impact, carbon dioxide (CO2) is global — there is only one atmosphere. If actions taken to reduce atmospheric emissions in one region result in increased emissions elsewhere, then the one atmosphere suffers.
Some form of carbon pricing — carbon tax, carbon trading, carbon credits — is favored by many politicians, NGOs, academics and even some in industry. But the reality is that a price on carbon will not be imposed by developing and emerging economies because it makes their energy more expensive, and they are too busy trying to build their economies and lift themselves from poverty.
In the developed world, carbon pricing increases the cost of manufacturing and products, which in turn drives manufacturing to developing nations where it is more affordable because of lower labor costs and less stringent environmental regulations and emissions standards. Global emissions rise in the one atmosphere.
Said differently, the good intentions of carbon pricing have an unintended negative impact on climate change. This is not hypothetical. It is happening.
If carbon pricing won’t work, what will? Energy science tells us how to actually lower CO2 emissions into the one atmosphere in the time frame needed. Unfortunately, those who are the most passionate about addressing climate change seem to not like the answers from the energy experts.
So what options does energy science suggest will have a major impact on climate change?
Natural gas and nuclear replacing coal for power generation in major developing nations such as India, China and Vietnam would have a major impact. Carbon capture, utilization and storage; direct carbon capture from the atmosphere; and perhaps nature-based solutions such as increasing the size of forests would help, especially in fossil fuel producing regions such as the U.S., Russia, China and the Middle East.
These scientifically sound and economically underpinned energy solutions present a problem. Many are not favored by people who are the most concerned about climate change. Thus, politicians seeking climate votes continue to passionately promote programs and policies that won’t actually address climate change.
But we have a remarkable opportunity. The right can acknowledge the need to tackle climate change. The left can acknowledge the energy science needed to accomplish real global emissions reductions into the one atmosphere. And developing and emerging nations can continue to climb out of energy poverty.
Unfortunately, this appears to be far from happening. Climate politics seems to trump energy solutions in Europe and the U.S., and the developing world continues to burn coal.
Scott Tinker is the Allday Endowed Chair of Subsurface Geology and director of the Bureau of Economic Geology at The University of Texas at Austin.UT News
While the “need to tackle climate change” is debatable, the only effective methods of reducing carbon emissions, while maintaining our liberty and prosperity, while also lifting about 3 billion people out of energy poverty are:
- Natural Gas
- Nuclear Power
- Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS)
This is a far bigger problem than climate change will ever be…
And this is the most cost-effective solution to both the real problem of energy poverty and the potential mild annoyance of climate change…
It is also undeniable that “those who are the most passionate about addressing climate change seem to not like the answers” and “politicians seeking climate votes continue to passionately promote programs and policies that won’t actually address climate change.”
It truly is a Bizarro World… Those who consider climate change to be an existential threat are least likely to support natural gas, nuclear power and CCUS. Instead they support Green New Deals that would destroy our economy and have no affect at all on the weather. Through increased use of natural gas, nuclear power and CCUS, we could actually make a serious dent in carbon emissions and help lift billions of people out of poverty without any self-inflicted economic damage.