Below the fold, you will find the slides and transcript from a presentation that I recently gave to the kind folks that comprise Sustainable West Seattle.
Thanks to fellow geographer, David Jensen (via Facebook), I am able to share this excellent 18 minute TED Talk given by climate scientist & oceanographer, Rob Dunbar. In his short presentation, Dunbar issues a compelling case for anthropogenic climate change via: 1) a very interesting analysis of sediments located beneath the Ross Ice Shelf, and 2) an equally interesting analysis of giant corals. He concludes with a discussion of ocean acidification, which is in my mind one of the horsemen of the apocalypse.
While I spend lots of time thinking about and explaining the evidence that we have reached the seventh fold of fossil fuel production – what I would call the gas tank side of the anthropogenic climate change issue – I spend comparatively little time thinking and writing about the exhaust side of the equation.
That said, Rob Dunbar does an excellent job of showing how the ability of oceans to support life in the face of rising atmospheric CO2 (which is absorbed by oceans causing them to acidify) has reached the seventh fold.
What Dunbar does not discuss is the fact that because we are reaching the seventh fold in fossil fuel production (oil, natural gas, and coal), we are collectively emitting more and more CO2 per unit of useful energy every day. This is due to the fact that EROEI is in irreversible decline.
As a consequence, the only solution to all of our seventh fold challenges is to be found in voluntary conservation and conscientious consumption.
Without further ado,
On the ninth of May, shortly after BP’s cofferdam experiment failed (but before I had heard these reports), I sent an email to a friend who enjoys ‘insider’ access to oil industry experts. Imagine, if you will, a mustached man wrapped in a black cloak with the collar raised, eyes hidden by the strategically cocked brim of a dark grey fedora. I was hoping that my mysterious friend might be able to ferret out an important piece of information: an estimate of the gas-oil ratio for the Tiber Oilfield which the Deepwater Horizon had penetrated before exploding and sinking to the black depths of the Gulf of Mexico.
I wanted this piece of information because the fiery collapse of the Deepwater Horizon left a ruptured, crumpled pipeline which continues to spew the mirky contents of the Tiber reservoir into the Gulf of Mexico. But oil is not the only dangerous substance erupting from the broken riser pipe.
To greater and lesser extents, gaseous hydrocarbons, like methane, are produced along with liquid hydrocarbons in nearly every oil field. Onshore, these gaseous hydrocarbons can be captured and carted off to gas-fired power plants or pumped back into the reservoir in order to maintain reservoir pressure and the flow of crude. These options simply do not exist for offshore production platforms. Consequently gasses produced offshore are ‘flared’, a process which resembles a giant Bunsen burner.
In the Niger Delta, the flaring of gas causes acid rain. The impacts are easy to see. Zinc rooftops rapidly deteriorate and fishing nets must be hidden from the rain. As an aside, it has been estimated that 564 million gallons of crude have been spilled in the Niger Delta over the last 50 years. That is equivalent to an Exxon Valdez disaster every year. At a constant flow rate of 40,000 barrels per day, it would take an entire year for the BP spill to leak as much oil into the Gulf. How’s that for perspective? Read more…