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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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  • by ShakaUVM ( 157947 ) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @04:59PM (#38183966) Homepage Journal

    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. The baseline CO2 levels were set at 1990 levels, which was right before the collapse of the USSR and the resultant massive decrease in their CO2 output levels. (Likewise, our CO2 production has decreased since 2007 since our economy has tanked.)

    The various carbon markets and carbon trading schemes have likewise been plagued with fraud. It comes as absolutely no surprise that Alberta's emissions trading scheme has run into identical problems.

    While carbon trading schemes are admirable in their attempt to internalize external costs, in practice they're just not a very good idea.

  • Re:Of course... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @05:14PM (#38184096) Homepage

    That fact remains that the air is completely horrible in China. Sure it is not a permanent or perfect solution to move pollution to china but in the short term, at least, it greatly improves our quality of life.

  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom ( 2244874 ) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @05:15PM (#38184102)
    I wouldn't classify myself as a climate change denier, but I don't believe the world as we know it can get a political fix for it. In order for the world to terraform itself(Yes, the solution is a form of terraforming, and could be useful for Mars in hundreds of years), we must get enough of the countries agreeing with each other. Right now we have problems just agreeing not to kill each other. Even some of the best governments have corruption in them too. Do we want to go,"More power to the governments!"? To me it is no surprise that the guy who rose awareness to the issue is a politician himself because it is a power grab move.
  • Re:It's Alberta... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 27, 2011 @06:20PM (#38184520)

    "Techniques for extracting these reserves are being developed that ..."
    That just raises costs even more. Funny thing is, without those really really heavy subsidies fossil fuels wouldn't be so cheap as they are today. Think about it for a moment, when it was first used, the oil came from wells so close to the surface, that drilling was so simple and could be done with that "ancient" technology. Nowadays we have oil platforms, underwater pipes and transcontinental pipes, gargantuan ships travelling from one side of the globe to the other. Costs are incredibly higher now, than 100 years ago. Fossil fuels will stop being used long before we run out.

    You might argue that the technology doesn't exist. Well, you might find it shocking, but people don't invent things just because they "had an idea". There has to be a need for something, before it's invented. Oil is already becoming expensive, not expensive enough to ground aircraft and force ships to switch back to steam power, but enough to make people take another look at alternatives.

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

    by dr2chase ( 653338 ) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @08:33PM (#38185394) Homepage

    You seem to ignore the role of demand and scarcity; if the price of oil rises to $200/barrel, there are extraction methods that would be profitable, that are not profitable now. The technology does not "cause" the price, that is true, but in this case it only lowers the price from a very high level to one that is somewhat more tolerable -- the energy return on energy invested is not nearly as good. I assume, unless we get some really nasty climate-related bite in the ass, that we will eventually get all the oil that can be gotten, but not necessarily at anything we would call a "low" price.

    And if that price exceeds the cost of alternatives for obtaining transportation (non-oil electricity + batteries; bicycles for short trips; robot-assisted taxi/carpooling), then we might leave it in the ground after all.

  • Re:Alberta tar sands (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 28, 2011 @01:06AM (#38186906)

    I live about 4km from where oil was first drilled in Alberta. The oilfield is a shadow of what it once was, and there are serious environmental concerns at the closed gas plant on the edge of town. Rest assured that *I* care very much cutting carbon emissions and the impact the oil sands will have on the north. We're smart enough to realize that the environmental impact of these energy mega projects will be felt for centuries after production ceases and the money dries up.

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

    by Bob the Super Hamste ( 1152367 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @10:49AM (#38190412) Homepage

    Well, for some values of "evenutally," maybe. But we still have something like two-thirds of all discovered fossil fuels left to burn, and we've not begun to investigate the arctic circle, the antarctic basin, some deeper reservoirs, methane clathrates on the ocean floors, permafrost hydrocarbons, limestone catalysis, and some other things I forget.

    I was curious about this a while back and one of my wife's uncles worked in the oil industry for years as a geologist so I asked him shortly after he retired, about 10 year ago. At that time I got the following numbers as the best estimates of the total oil that the world held:
    6 trillion barrels as the estimated total oil the world ever held
    4 trillion barrels as the maximum recoverable amount of oil at any cost
    3 trillion barrels as the actual recoverable amount of oil at a profit
    1 trillion barrels as the total so far consumed of the initial 6 trillion, thus 2 trillion are still recoverable at a profit

    These number may vary but seem to be reasonable based off of things I have read in other sources

Recent investments will yield a slight profit.