Sunday, December 14, 2008

change you can't believe in

I'm really not enjoying this you know. Again and again I'm finding that Obama is not living up to the hopes people have ladelled onto him. Finding that, even before he gets through the door of the Oval Office, he's firmly placed himself as a continuance of all the important things that are wrong with the American government.

It's not just the war or Israel/Palestine. The big shiny hope - his position on climate change - is terrifying.

As president, I will tap our natural-gas reserves, invest in clean-coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power.

Oh, a safe way to use nuclear power you say? Why has nobody thought of looking for that before? And will you refrain from building any nukes and close down existing ones until this safe way is found? Yeah right.

Burning more gas, emitting more carbon. Great.

Then there's clean coal. What exactly is 'clean coal'?

As the esteemed Jim Bliss observes, it's what the people who make money from burning coal are calling coal these days.

How is it clean? Well, they've a theory that they could develop some technology to capture some of the emissions.

They conveniently ignore the fact that mining releases huge quantities of uncapturable methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times a potent as CO2.

They discount the way their plan to pump carbon dioxide down old oil wells would release huge amounts of oil that would otherwise have stayed in the ground.

They ignore the fact that these capture and storage systems don't exist anywhere on earth, let alone have they been tested to see if they work and how we'd discover any leaks and what we might do to plug them. Or how much it would cost to monitor for the millennia that we want it safely stored.

No, they advise we just plough on and build new coal stations that will be 'capture ready'.

Bliss says

It makes me wonder whether bioterrorists could escape prosecution by insisting in court that they’d filled the envelopes with “Clean Anthrax”.

- Do you deny sending packages filled with anthrax to politicians?
- No your honour, we do not deny this, however we’d like to point out that we used Clean Anthrax.
- But did the politicians not die?
- They did, your honour, but you must understand that our anthrax was “Antidote Ready”.
- Antidote Ready? Please explain this…
- Well, we sent the anthrax secure in the knowledge that at some unspecified future date we would be able to develop an antidote.

America's programme of building coal power stations barely gets mentioned, yet there's hundreds scheduled. Will Obama halt it all until genuine clean coal technology exists? If he doesn't, his talk of 'clean coal' is an active part of the coal industry's lies.

Obama hangs his big reductions on an emissions 'cap and trade' system. Like the one we have in Europe that's seen our emissions actually increase, like the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism that delivers social injustice but no substantive carbon cuts.

Companies keep on emitting and when they go over their limit, they buy someone else's. Carbon credits are basically carbon offsets on a grand scale. It is in the interests of both those buying and selling the credits to exaggerate the amount of carbon involved. It's fraudulent and a deliberate delay to tackling the overconsumption that drives climate change.

Carbon trading is not just too little too late. Like clean coal it is the promise of doing something elsewhere and in future, it is actually a decoy, a distraction so the high-emitting industries can continue. It is Obama's commitment to runaway climate change.


Anonymous said...

Spot on, as ever.
Did you notice Monbiot name-checked you in today's Grauniad?

Have a cool Yule, mate! Hope to see you in '09.

merrick said...

Hey Cat, yes I did see Monbiot's mention of my piece. It's always good when someone as informed and brilliant as him spots your stuff.

It is, however, a bit of a misquote. I describe why in the comments at the post he cites.

Have a funkacious festive season yerself and yeah, hope we get to chinwag in the flesh in the new year.

Anonymous said...

Hi Merrick i was solving the world energy crisis whilst i was building my model of the solar system from various cheeses of central europe when i came accross this article (not literally although cheese is very sensual) on modern plastic polymer solar panelling. Hope you find it interesting...perhaps we may have fake plastic trees after all