Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Global Warming Links #4

Article: Replacing coal, oil with natural gas will not help fight global warming, expert argues

By Dr. Robert Howarth, a professor of ecology and environmental biology, and an advocate of eliminating all fossil fuels as energy sources.

His specialty is nutrient cycles, which includes studying traces gases in the atmosphere.

Sometimes, I know enough about the claims made in an article, or can follow the reasoning well enough, to judge whether or not the claims are valid. There are things that seem "off" about this article, but I would like to see an expert discuss this. There are some things that I have noted.

This is a review article. It reviews his original publication (from April 2011) and concludes he was right the first time. (ok, a little snarky; but why did the journal commission a review article to review the author? It is like saying that actors and directors should be the people who do reviews of their own movies.)
"While emissions of carbon dioxide are less from natural gas than from coal and oil, methane emissions are far greater. Methane is such a potent greenhouse gas that these emissions make natural gas a dangerous fuel from the standpoint of global warming over the next several decades," said Dr. Howarth. "Society should wean ourselves from all fossil fuels and not rely on the myth that natural gas is an acceptable bridge fuel to a sustainable future."
Another example of having the conclusions and then finding data to fit them.

Even if Dr. Howarth is correct, would not better control of the wells and their emissions decrease the leakage? Rather than just using this research to justify ending fracking? Or ending the use of fossil fuels? But to ask that question is to answer it.

He already has his conclusions. The data must fit them.

Dr. Howarth at the end of his article:

Society needs to wean itself from the addiction to fossil fuels as quickly as possible. But to replace some fossil fuels (coal, oil) with another (natural gas) will not suffice as an approach to take on global warming. Rather, we should embrace the technologies of the 21st Century, and convert our energy systems to ones that rely on wind, solar, and water power. 
First, no mention of nuclear energy. It is the least polluting energy source currently available. It releases virtually no carbon dioxide or methane. So why no mention?

Second, we are not going to increase reliance on water energy. Dams are environmentally incorrect. They are opposed everywhere. He is supposed to be an expert of rivers (as per his posted curriculum vita). Yet, he advocates water power?

Third, wind and solar are currently not economically viable. To be viable,energy prices would have to rise considerably, at the detriment to the poorest and the lower middle class. Wealthy people, or even upper middle class like Dr Howarth, would be less hurt. 

Odd note: He has lent his voice to accusations that Google helps the gas lobby support fracking. Google is rather left-wing, so this is a little far-fetched.

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