Environmental studies and Forestry

From the topics below, choose one that tickles your fancy and write a short paper that addresses the following points: Briefly define the item Frame it as an environmental issue –list pros, cons, reasons foror against, benefits, problems, etc.Give your thoughts on it, paying reference to our overlying knowledge of how natural systems function and our ultimate goal of sustainability.

1.Clean coal–oxymoronor reality?
2.“Fracking” (hydraulic fracturing) –what’s the big fracking deal?3.Oil shale extraction-aviable domestic petroleum supply solution?4.Community Based Energy Development(CBED)–why not?

Blowhards

The fabulous debate over wind power on Nantucket Sound.

 

For all the hype about the Bush Administration’s oil-and-gas energy bias, one of its last official acts was to give the go-ahead to what could be America’s first offshore wind farm — thus enraging more than a few self-deputized environmentalists. Such are the ironies of the wilderness of mirrors known as the Cape Wind project.

For the last seven years and counting, the green entrepreneur Jim Gordon has been trying to build a fleet of wind turbines in federal waters near the upscale seascapes of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The site seemed ideal, given the stiff ocean breezes and the eco-friendly politics in Massachusetts. The company says its 130 towers could meet 75% of the region’s electricity needs and reduce carbon emissions by some 734,000 tons every year.

The sort of people who can afford to use “summer” as a verb are in favor of all that. Completely in favor, really. But they did want to raise one quibble. Unfortunately, the wind farm would create “visual pollution” in Nantucket Sound, particularly the parts within sight of their beachfront vacation homes.

Mr. Gordon went ahead anyway, and the opposition rose to gale force. Supposedly the wind farm will lead to everything from the disruption of seabird habitats to “desecrating ancient American Native burial sites,” in the words of Glenn Wattley, the head of an antiwind outfit funded by the likes of Bunny Mellon. But what really upsets these well-to-do Don Quixotes is the thought of looking at windmills that would appear about as tall on the horizon as the thumbnail at the end of your outstretched arm.

Then there is the political saga, with the Kennedy family as the Hyannis Port Sopranos, supplying the muscle. While Ted Kennedy was castigating President Bush for destroying the environment, the Senator was working furiously behind the Congressional scenes to kill Cape Wind. He even had the inspiration of getting former GOP colleague Ted Stevens of Alaska to slip wording into a spending bill that would have handed a veto to then-Governor Mitt Romney, another aesthetically minded opponent. Robert Kennedy Jr., a Time magazine “hero of the planet,” tried to get the Sound designated as a national marine sanctuary to bar development.

Incredibly enough, this political sabotage has so far failed. And last week the Interior Department issued its long-awaited regulatory study, mostly finding “negligible” environmental impact — apart from a “moderate” impact on the scenery. If the Obama Administration signs off, construction could begin next year.

Mr. Kennedy blustered that the report was rushed out: amusing, considering it runs to 2,800 pages. Bill Delahunt, the windy Cape Democrat, also denounced the action as “a $2 billion project that depends on significant taxpayer subsidies while potentially doubling power costs for the region.”

Good to see the Congressman now recognizes the limitations of green tech, such as its tendency to boost consumer electricity prices — but his makeover as taxpayer champion is a bit belated. Green energy has been on the subsidy take for years, including in 2005 when Mr. Delahunt was calling for “an Apollo project for alternative energy sources, for hybrid engines, for biodiesel, for wind and solar and everything else.” The reality is that all such projects are only commercially viable because of political patronage.

Tufts economist Gilbert Metcalf ran the numbers and found that the effective tax rate for wind is minus-163.8%. In other words, every dollar a wind firm spends is subsidized to the tune of 64 cents from the government. The Energy Information Administration estimates that wind receives $23.37 in government benefits per megawatt hour — compared to, say, 44 cents for coal. Despite these taxpayer crutches, wind only provides a little under 1% of U.S. net electric generation.

We’d prefer an energy policy that allows markets to shape the sources that predominate — which would almost certainly put Cape Wind out of business. But President Obama seems determined to unload even more subsidies on green developers as he seeks to boost renewables to 10% of the U.S. electricity mix by the end of his first term and 25% by 2025; their share today is about 9% (5.8% of which is hydropower).

We wouldn’t be surprised to see the President’s green future wrestled to the ground by the likes of Mr. Delahunt, the Kennedys and other anticarbon Democrats. Environmentalists love the idea of milking Mother Nature for power, but they hate the hardware needed to make it work: huge windmills, acres of solar panels, high-voltage transmission lines to connect them to the places where people live. Of course, they still totally, absolutely, wholeheartedly support green energy — as long as it gets built where someone else goes yachting.

The Wall Street Journal  1-24-09

Op-Ed Columnist

Watching China Run

By Bob Hebert

Published: February 13, 2010

It was primarily a symbolic gesture. Way back in 1979, in the midst of an energy crisis, Jimmy Carter had solar panels installed on the roof of the White House. They were used to heat water for some White House staffers.

“A generation from now,” said Mr. Carter, “this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people, harnessing the power of the sun to enrich our lives as we move away from our crippling dependence on foreign oil.”

Ronald Reagan had the panels taken down.

We missed the boat then, and lord knows we’re missing it now. Two weeks ago, as I was getting ready to take off for Palo Alto, Calif., to cover a conference on the importance of energy and infrastructure for the next American economy, The Times’s Keith Bradsher was writing from Tianjin, China, about how the Chinese were sprinting past everybody else in the world, including the United States, in the race to develop clean energy.

That we are allowing this to happen is beyond stupid. China is a poor country with nothing comparable to the tremendous research, industrial and economic resources that the U.S. has been blessed with. Yet they’re blowing us away — at least for the moment — in the race to the future.

Our esteemed leaders in Washington can’t figure out how to do anything more difficult than line up for a group photo. Put Americans back to work? You must be kidding. Health care? We’ve been working on it for three-quarters of a century. Infrastructure? Don’t ask.

But, as Mr. Bradsher tells us, “China vaulted past competitors in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United States last year to become the world’s largest maker of wind turbines and is poised to expand even further this year.”

China also has become the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels and is pushing hard on other clean energy advances. As Mr. Bradsher wrote: “These efforts to dominate renewable energy technologies raise the prospect that the West may someday trade its dependence on oil from the Mideast for a reliance on solar panels, wind turbines and other gear manufactured in China.”

We’re in the throes of an awful and seemingly endless employment crisis, and China is the country moving full speed ahead on the development of the world’s most important new industries. I’d like one of the Washington suits to step away from the photo-op and explain the logic of that to me.

The truth, of course, is that there is no reason at all for this to be happening. The United States, in many ways, is very well prepared to move ahead on clean energy. It could and should be the world’s leader. Many, if not most, of the innovations in this area were developed right here. But much of that know-how, as we are seeing in China (and have been seeing in Germany and other places), is being implemented overseas.

The conference that I attended in Palo Alto spotlighted the need to move to a low-carbon economy in the U.S. and exemplified some of the resources available to make it happen. It was sponsored by the Brookings Institution and Lazard, the investment banking advisory firm. The participants included the leaders of — and major investors in — companies that are making great strides in the alternative energy industry. But much of their business is done overseas because right now in America’s wacky, dysfunctional public sector there is no clear vision of a viable clean-energy economy, and, thus, no clue about how to get there.

The network of world-class universities and advanced research institutions in the U.S. is by far the most impressive in the world: think Harvard and Stanford and Berkeley and M.I.T. and on and on. If you add to that the venture capital community in the U.S. with its vast experience and the willingness of investors to take risks, and the sheer entrepreneurial talent of the American business community, you end up with an array of resources fully capable of moving the U.S. into a low-carbon, high-growth and extraordinarily productive economy that would be the envy of the world.

But for that to happen — as Bruce Katz, a Brookings executive who was one of the organizers of the conference, pointed out — America’s corporate, civic and political leaders will have to “articulate what’s really at stake here.”

And what’s at stake is the future of the American economy. The low-carbon era is coming. We can be dragged into that newer, greener world by leading countries like China; or we can take up the challenge and become the world’s leader ourselves.

Charles Krauthammer: What we can do about energy now

29 January 2007
Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post

WASHINGTON – Is there anything more depressing than yet another promise of energy independence in yet another State of the Union address? By my count, 24 of the 34 State of the Union addresses since the oil embargo of 1973 have proposed solutions to our energy problem.

The result? In 1973 we imported 34.8 percent of our oil. Today we import 60.3 percent.

And what does this president propose? Another great technological fix. For Jimmy Carter, it was the magic of synfuels. For George W. Bush, it’s the wonders of ethanol. Our fuel will grow on trees. Well, stalks, with even fancier higher-tech variants to come from cellulose and other (literal) rubbish.

It is very American to believe that chemists! are going to discover the cure for geopolitical weakness. It is even more American to imagine that it can be done painlessly. Ethanol for everyone. Farmers get a huge cash crop. Consumers get more supply. And the country ends up more secure.

This is nonsense. As my colleague Robert Samuelson demonstrates, biofuels will barely keep up with the increase in gasoline demand over time. They are a huge government bet with goals and mandates and subsidies that will not cure our oil dependence or even make a significant dent in it.

Even worse, the happy talk displaces any discussion about here-and-now measures that would have a rapid and revolutionary effect on oil consumption and dependence. No one talks about them because they have unhidden costs. Politicians hate unhidden costs.

There are three serious things we can do now: Tax gas. Drill in the Arctic. Go nuclear.

First, tax gas. The president ostentatiously rolled out his 20-in-10 plan: reducing gasoline consumption by 20 percent in 10 years. This with Rube Goldberg regulation — fuel-efficiency standards, artificially mandated levels of “renewable and alternative fuels in 2017” and various bribes (er, incentives) for government-favored technologies — of the kind we have been trying for three decades.

Good grief. I can give you a 20-in-2: Tax gas at $4 a gallon. With oil prices having fallen to $55 a barrel, now is the time. The effect of a gas-tax hike will be seen in less than two years, and you don’t even have to go back to the 1970s and the subsequent radical reduction in consumption to see how. Just look at last summer. Gas prices spike to $3 — with the premium going to Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez and assorted sheiks, rather than the U.S. Treasury — and, presto, SUV sales plunge, the Prius is cool and car ads once again begin featuring miles per gallon ratings.

No regulator, no fuel-efficiency standards, no presidential exhortations, no grand experiments with switchgrass. Raise the price and people ch! ange their habits. It’s the essence of capitalism.

Second, immediate drilling to recover oil that is under U.S. control, namely in the Arctic and on the Outer Continental Shelf. No one pretends that this fixes everything. But a million barrels a day from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is 5 percent of our consumption. In tight markets, that makes a crucial difference.

We will always need some oil. And the more of it that is ours, the better. It is tautological that nothing more directly reduces dependence on foreign oil than substituting domestic for foreign production. Yet ANWR is now so politically dead that the president did not even mention it in the State of the Union, or his energy address the next day.

He did bring up, to enthusiastic congressional applause, global warming. No one has a remotely good idea about how to make any difference in global warming without enlisting China and India, and without destroying the carbon-based Weste! rn economy. The obvious first step, however, is an extremely p! owerful source of energy that produces not an ounce of carbon dioxide: nuclear.

What about nuclear waste? Well, coal produces toxic pollutants, as does oil. Both produce carbon dioxide that we are told is going to end civilization as we know it. These wastes are widely dispersed and almost impossible to recover once they get thrown into the atmosphere.

Nukes produce waste as well, but it comes out concentrated — very toxic and lasting nearly forever, but because it is packed into a small manageable volume, it is more controllable. And it doesn’t pollute the atmosphere. At all.

There is no free lunch. Producing energy is going to produce waste. You pick your poison and you find a way to manage it. Want to do something about global warming? How many global warming activists are willing to say the word nuclear?

So much easier to say ethanol. That it will do farcically little is beside the point. Our debates about oil consumption, energy dependence a! nd global warming are not meant to be serious. They are meant for show.

Charles Krauthammer’s column is distributed by the Washington Post Writers Group.

Utilities_Turn_Their_Customers_Green.doc Switchgrass_biofue_No_time_soon.doc SmartGrid.doc NYTimesCleanCoalMyth.pdf NucEnergyMar13.pdf No_Furnaces_but_Heat_Aplenty_in.doc Eric_UtneGreenCollarEconomy.doc EnergyFixesNow.doc BobHChina.doc Blowhards.doc

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