The New Politics is Steering Our Government into Oblivion

by Duane Nichols on August 10, 2017

Dominion Energy Service Area

Politics over Science is Very Troubling as It Spreds Thru Our Government

Essay by S. Tom Bond, Resident Farmer, Lewis County, WV, August 10, 2017

If you pay attention to the “news,” it is obvious that much government thrust in the United States is splitting from a worldview supported by science.

Florida is the most threatened state, due to its low elevation above sea level and the rise of the ocean, even more than predicted, perhaps due to the penetration of seawater into areas formerly occupied by fresh water draining into coastal areas. See here for a map (down the page, third illustration) of the effect of a two foot rise on Miami.

State officials objected to findings by scientists from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concerning the Everglades. The South Florida Water Management District wants to ignore climate change and treat it as if it was a matter of human err due to development only. Gov. Rick Scott’s administration has “ordered DEP employees, contractors and volunteers not to use the terms “climate change” and “global warming” in official communications. Bankers who loan for new construction know about it. Insurers know about it. But not official Florida.

The reason is economics, the necessity of installing protections, and the eventual loss of facilities at the edge of the sea and where storms will penetrate in the future.

This tactic is also used in the current Federal Government. As president Trump sets new priorities a lot of terminology is changing. Trump himself has famously called global warming “a Chinese Hoax.” The “conservatives” love it, of course. So many of them have spent their political lives serving the traditional energy industries, and want to continue drawing from their huge financial reserves. Where power lies, the bureaucracy follows. Other interests in areas as diverse as Agriculture and violence are affected. Policy reversal is the order of the day.

As Naomi Kline has said, “Climate change is the essence of a collective crisis, we need collective action and massive investments in the public sphere.” Things are going the other way. The U. S. has pulled out of the Paris Accord. Kline recently told a group of students President Trump “… embodies the extractivist mindset so perfectly,” she said. “He thinks he can grab anything, women, oil, land. The way he sees any relationship is for maximum extraction … the opposite of any kind of reciprocity or interconnection.” In other words, the view corporations are set up to follow.

This view ignores historical change both past and in the foreseeable future. For the past, it ignores the huge changes in the economy of the U. S. since its founding, the huge advantages due to our use of abundant energy after 1850, the advantages of abundant energy reserves and exports, which have now become much more costly to recover, the advantages we enjoyed after WWII having to do with world reserve currency and intact industry after the war and the advantages of a splendid educational system, not so distinguished now.

For the future, it ignores the rapidly improving technology of renewables, now cheaper than burning hydrocarbons in some places, and in batteries to carry over the times when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. It also ignores the devastating effects of climate change. Subsidies go to the old ways, when they could finance research that would bring in the new, clean and safe non-hydrocarbon technology.

Take the flurry of pipeline building as an example. What does it have going for it? One group lists these forces backing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline:

Corporate power. Dominion Energy, commonly referred to as Dominion, has service for natural gas and/or electricity in the areas shown in our illustration, a huge area. It is a power-house in Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia and other states. The company and it’s CEO have used this power to advance its interests.

Many revolving door lobbyists. These men and women go from Government to Dominion lobbyist, using their government background to advance company interests. Sometimes dominion people go into government.

Politicians can cash in. State politicians in Virginia and North Carolina who have been publicly vocal about their support for the pipeline have been some of the biggest recipients of donations from its corporate backers.

Conflict of interest in regulatory agencies. Members of regulatory boards responsible for approving the pipelines have backgrounds that raise conflict of interest issues. Should former employees of Dominion be in such sensitive positions?

Banks chose to invest in the pipeline. Nearly three dozen banks have loaned about $15 billion dollars on the project. That’s a lot of power, too. Several have also loaned for other big pipelines.

We have referred to these projects in this blog as a “lead pipe cinch” because the ultimate customer is bound to the utility by a cost-plus price arrangement, so no matter whether the pipelines raise or lower their cost, the utility, the pipeline company and ultimately the banks will get paid – all must make money!

Also the federal government ordains “rebranding” the order of the day, particularly with energy and environment. References to “climate change” and “clean energy” have disappeared. President Trump has very conspicuously pushed coal, in spite of its connection to disease, dirty air and water, and a declining work force. The Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns program find the coal industry employed 76,572 people in 2014, the latest year for which data is available. That number includes not just miners but also office workers, sales staff and all of the other individuals who work at coal-mining companies. Casinos employed 99,952, and museums 91,966 for comparison. And coal companies continue to decline. It is as though he was courting a corpse. The people affected deserve sympathy, of course, but so many more are affected negatively by coal, including death.

It isn’t just Trump. His appointees uniformly are on the same path. Rick Perry, the longest serving ex-governor of Texas, where oil and gas king, is Secretary of Energy. Of course the Secretary of Energy is not concerned with oil, gas and coal development – the Secretary of the Interior does that. The Department of Energy is responsible for maintaining and overseeing the nuclear weapons stockpile, which is why both Energy Secretaries under Obama were both physicists!

Trump’s Secretary of the Interior is Ryan Zinke, who was a Universtiy of Oregon football player, Navy SEAL and was the sole Montana congressman (and formerly a senator). His position on global warming was made clear when questioned by Bernie Saunders during confirmation hearings: “Climate is changing; man has had influence. I don’t believe it’s a hoax … I believe we must be prudent.” He doesn’t want to sell Public Land to states, but wants to expedite oil drilling. He favors government funding of renewable energy, but is against federal regulation of greenhouse gas.

Can the U. S. be independent of oil imports is another political football. The fact is that the U. S. began pumping early, has used huge quantities at home, and has exported a lot. The reason is that we have been technology leaders. The best stuff, what can be taken out easiest, with lowest technology, lies in pores and cracks, and is almost gone. Some can be flooded out with water, and some oil with gas.

What is left now is deeper and is an integral part of the rock. The rock must be crushed to recover even 6% of what is there, and there is no way available to get the rest. The cost is much greater to recover it, too. Far more energy is needed, so the production produces a lot of carbon dioxide and particulate matter for the same usable energy.

Our surface area is about 1.9 percent of the earth. Other areas have not progressed as rapidly in technology, especially in the interior of the Eurasian land mass. Russia, the ‘Stans, Iran. Currently, areas developed by the U. S. oil corporations in the Middle East, Africa, and Venezuela are capable of supplying vast quantities of oil, necessary for transportation to Europe, a major consumer without this resource.

Our oil imports were 65% of our daily demand for oil in 2005 and were reduced to 28 % by 2015, according to one business-oriented article with a bright outlook. Oil is ultimately a commodity. Will the price be right to allow the new fracking process? Authorities differ.

Here is an interesting letter:

The U.S. Geological Survey says a deposit in West Texas is the largest continuous oil and gas deposit ever discovered in the United States. Wolf-camp shale contains 20 billion barrels of oil and 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, reports NPR.

OK, here we go again: another “BIG” find. Read the fine print under those HUGE numbers. 20 billion barrels of oil = a 3 year supply for the US at current consumption rate. 16 trillion cubic feet of gas = 9 month supply for the US at current consumption rate. A few more finds like this and we could be fossil-fuel set for life, or at least a decade or so…

And, BTW, technically recoverable does not mean economically recoverable. To be the latter, we would need to put a BIG dent in the U.S. economy.

Best as always, Tony Ingraffea

>> A. R. Ingraffea, Ph.D., P.E. is the Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering Emeritus and Weiss Presidential Teaching Fellow at Cornell University.

Any debate concerning Global Climate Change involves a conflict between science and the current economic structure of the United States, as the author Naomi Kline has pointed out in a recent book of the title “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. Climate.”

What is right for you children and grandchildren and theirs beyond? At 83, I have lived through a golden age of oil. Wonder what my grandchildren can say when they are 83?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Joe Perebzak August 11, 2017 at 10:41 am

Well said Tom Bond,

Those of us people who live in the shale drilling area are being forgotten when it comes to regulations.

Joe Perebzak


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