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Canada Earth Science

The Problem With Carbon-Cutting Programs 219

Med-trump writes "Alberta's $60 million carbon-cutting program is failing, according to the latest report from the Canadian province's auditor-general, Merwan Saher. A news article in Nature adds: 'the province, despite earlier warnings, has not improved its regulatory structure — and calls the emissions estimates and the offsets themselves into question.'"
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The Problem With Carbon-Cutting Programs

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  • It's Alberta... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 27, 2011 @04:54PM (#38183924)

    What? Do you really think the tarsands province has an interest in putting carbon emissions on its beloved oil? Or that the federal Conservative government of the corporate elite wants them to either?

  • Re:It's Alberta... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by masternerdguy ( 2468142 ) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @04:56PM (#38183948)
    I'm not concerned. We're going to run out of fossil fuels eventually and then we'll be dragged kicking and screaming into the future.
  • Alberta tar sands (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @04:59PM (#38183968)
    Alberta is the home of the tar sands... the dirtiest source of petroleum. Do you actually think they are interested in cutting carbon emissions?
  • by compro01 ( 777531 ) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @05:01PM (#38183978)

    Like the Alberta government is going to do anything effective when almost their entire economy rides on the oil and gas industry. And like the Conservative Federal government is going to call their heartland to task.

  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @05:02PM (#38183992)

    The various carbon markets and carbon trading schemes have likewise been plagued with fraud

    Equally true statement for all other markets if you cut out the word "carbon"

    The various markets and trading schemes have likewise been plagued with fraud

    Its just another crooked tax and intermediary scheme to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. What a huge surprise.

  • Re:It's Alberta... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 27, 2011 @05:16PM (#38184104)

    Oh, we'll run out of fossil fuels but it won't be for a long time yet. Canada and the US both contain so much oil in the form of tar sands and oil shale that they could become the world's premier oil exporters. Techniques for extracting these reserves are being developed that would not require strip mining so you wouldn't even know there was an oil operation going on. Sorry, but the age of oil is not over yet unless you can find another source of energy and methods of storage and transportation that are as cheap, convenient and energy dense as plain old oil, gasoline or other hydrocarbon fuels.

  • by guises ( 2423402 ) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @05:49PM (#38184284)

    It's not much of a surprise. Kyoto was designed (intentionally or not) as a subsidy that would allow business as usual while just writing a check to Eastern Europe.

    Because Eastern European countries have such great international bargaining clout? Come on. It's not a subsidy, it's not a conspiracy, it's an effort to do something good about something bad. They picked a year with a target that they thought they could hit. Obviously some places would be effected by this to a greater degree than others.

    Doubtless there was some weedling and self-centered manipulation going on, so what? Whenever you have a broad and painful treaty like this there will always be someone hurting more than others - you make it as fair as you can and then you suck it up, because it has to be done regardless. My own country, the United States, pollutes far more by every metric than any of the signatories of the Kyoto treaty so we, to my chagrin, decided to take our ball and go home. Hopefully we'll step up and own to some of the problems that we've caused with the next one.

  • by JWW ( 79176 ) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @06:02PM (#38184394)

    Dirtiest source??! I'd say they'd have to work really hard to be dirtier than deep sea drilling has been.

  • Re:It's Alberta... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rtfa-troll ( 1340807 ) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @06:07PM (#38184412)

    Solar Panels....

    It's not a substitute. Oil products are incredibly convenient. They concentrate energy into a small space (compare energy density for jet fule with Li batteries one day) doen't spontaneously burn (compare with hydrogen) but it burn easily when you want it to (compare with coal / wood etc).

    However, oil is even more valuable as the base material for things such as plastics. Burning it is a true sin and our descendants are likely going to hate us for it.

    To make solar panels a direct oil substitute, fundamentally we need processes for turning electricity (+CO2 from the atmosphere and H from water) into hydrocarbons. These do exist, but most are in early research stages and/or quite inefficient. Getting them going at large scale, together with much cheaper solar panels would be great.

  • Re:It's Alberta... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chudnall ( 514856 ) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @06:24PM (#38184552) Homepage Journal

    This is exactly the line of reasoning that explains why every government program inevitably gets bigger and bigger.

  • by Livius ( 318358 ) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @07:25PM (#38184950)

    The program may be failing...

    and that may mean the policy is succeeding.

  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @08:38PM (#38185428) Journal

    Why not simply REQUIRE the reductions where technically possible (forget about 'cost efficiency') and update the requirements as new technology arrives.

    1. Because it is disconnected from the physical limits of the environment.
    2. Because it would require a myriad of standards, each one of which will be twisted by it's fight with industry. (ie: it makes "divide and conquer" an obvious strategy for industry)

    I'm not saying that standards enforced by law are a bad thing, I just don't think they're the best solution to such a broad problem. In the early 90's Reagan was proud to be a leading supporter of the international cap and trade treaty that is now in place for sulphur emission. As usual, economic alarmists of the day all started screaming about an economic apocalypse. The treaty was signed by most industrial nations, the economic apocalypse failed to materialise and acid rain has gone away as a major environmental problem. As you say this is how it always goes, at least it has been in the 50yrs I've been watching. Some other examples are, lead in petrol, asbestos, clean air act(s), DDT, tobacco health warnings, the list is long and the propaganda on every one of these issues from industry has been without exception utterly immoral.

    International cap and trade treaties are by far the best long term solution to AGW and many other tragedies of the commons (such as overfishing)...
    Cap - Because there is time dependent physical limit to the resource.
    Trade - Because capitalist markets are the most efficient way to distribute a finite resource.

    The size of the cap is the only detail that is rightfully determined by science, the rest of the detail is politics and accounting. Will greed and fraud occur? - Of course, it does everywhere else.

  • by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @11:39PM (#38186470) Journal
    Manhattan is far more of an environmental hazard zone than a tailings pond.
  • Re:It's Alberta... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by khallow ( 566160 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @12:43AM (#38186784)

    Energy is king.

    Can't emphasize this enough. For example, if you need the elements carbon and hydrogen (basic building blocks of hydrocarbon chemistry) and you have a vast amount of cheap electricity available, then you can pull both from atmosphere. Electrolysis gets you water and heating wood in a reducing atmosphere (the trees which you can light up with LEDs) gets you carbon. Running hot hydrogen over carbon gets you methane. I don't know electricity-based tricks for going from methane to ethene (but they're there), but the latter is apparently the building block for most plastics.

  • Re:It's Alberta... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SnarfQuest ( 469614 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @12:56AM (#38186870)

    There's only 20 years of fossil fuel left in the ground. At least, that's what we were told in the '70s, the 80's, and the 90's. With oil usage increasing as much as it has been lately, mostly because of China, I'd guess that we're now down to 20 years left.

  • Re:It's Alberta... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by russotto ( 537200 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @01:20PM (#38192140) Journal

    oil subsidies? wtf? oil is fucking cheap. it's TAXED to a level where some other sources make seemingly sense if those are not taxed as highly.

    For politically incorrect sources of energy, you take all the direct costs. Then you add in the costs of regulation (never mind that they're largely already included in the price). Then you add in some amount you made up to cover conventional pollution. Then you add a bunch more to cover CO2. Then you add in the cost of any military presence you can, by logic chains strong or tenuous, connect to oil. Then you add in the cost of road congestion, lung disease, oil worker pensions, and anything else you can come up with. Then you double all this to provide a margin of error.

    For politically correct sources of energy, you take the current costs (ignoring the huge direct subsidies and the fact that the providers are losing money anyway), and project them downward for technological improvement.

    And still it's a close call.

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