Saturday, December 21, 2013

Oil, Power, And Three Books

A story on NPR Friday talked about petcoke dust from refining tar sands crude oil.
Crude oil from Canada's tar sands is providing a booming business for American refineries, but residents of one Chicago neighborhood complain that a byproduct of that business has become a health hazard. They want towering mounds of a dusty substance known as petroleum coke, or petcoke, moved out of the city. And as NPR's Cheryl Corley reports, Chicago is now requiring one company storing the substance to do just that.
I'd note that it mentioned that the plants were owned by the Koch brothers - a good reason for them to try to make people believe that global warming isn't caused by human use of carbon based fuel.

I posted the other day about Keystone pipeline protesters in Oklahoma City against bringing tar sands oil through their state and being arrested on anti-terrorists grounds.sting

I also checked out the new books section at the UAA library this week.  There are lots of interesting books on important subjects.  But too many folks get all they know these days from sound bites and sketchy internet posts.  Good books that focus on a topic can give someone a reasonably comprehensive understanding of an issue.  Good books that is.  Or a couple, just to make sure the book is reasonably balanced.

Here are three I found that are related to these stories.

The first, Cold, Hungry, and In The Dark,  challenges 'common knowledge' about fracking and the belief that our oil shortage days are over. Keystone and fracking are different things, but they are brought to you by the same industry.  From Art Berman's forward to the book:
"When something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  This is particularly true about shale gas.  Shale gas is a commercial failure.  That is not what the exploration and production companies that produce gas or the mainstream media and sell-side brokerage companies that help promote the plays tell the public.
Over the past 5 years, I have evaluated, published and spoken about shale gas plays.  I am a petroleum geologist and I make my living evaluating prospects and plays based on fundamental geology and economics.  Shale gas does not pass the test.
I have written about a phenomenon that I cal "magical thinking."  Magical thinking focuses on gas production volumes but does not consider cost.  This is its catechism:  because the volume of shale gas production is great, it must therefore be a commercial success;"
Author Bill Powers is a Canadian investment manager.  Is he badmouthing shale oil to promote Canadian tar sands?  I couldn't find evidence either way, though it seems like his bias is finding good investments, in which case he should be seeking 'truth.'

Putting things into another context is From Enron to Evo:  Pipeline Politics, Global Environmentalism, and Indigenous Rights in Bolivia.   Evo refers to the indigenous Bolivian president.  Derrick Hindery argues that despite the green and indigenous rights image, Evo has sold out to big oil.

Watching how oil takes over a place like Bolivia gives us a sense of what they are doing in Alaska and other places.  And the influence they have on our officials.  But we know that already. 

 Putting things into an even bigger perspective is this huge book that looks at our modern day issues as they played on in the 17th Century.  This book is huge - 902 pages - which means not too many are likely to read much of it.  The publisher's blurb says:

Revolutions, droughts, famines, invasions, wars, regicides – the calamities of the mid-seventeenth century were not only unprecedented, they were agonisingly widespread.  A global crisis extended from England to Japan, and from the Russian Empire to sub-Saharan Africa. North and South America, too, suffered turbulence. The distinguished historian Geoffrey Parker examines first-hand accounts of men and women throughout the world describing what they saw and suffered during a sequence of political, economic and social crises that stretched from 1618 to the 1680s. Parker also deploys scientific evidence concerning climate conditions of the period, and his use of ‘natural’ as well as ‘human’ archives transforms our understanding of the World Crisis. Changes in the prevailing weather patterns during the 1640s and 1650s – longer and harsher winters, and cooler and wetter summers – disrupted growing seasons, causing dearth, malnutrition, and disease, along with more deaths and fewer births. Some contemporaries estimated that one-third of the world died, and much of the surviving historical evidence supports their pessimism.
Parker’s demonstration of the link between climate change and worldwide catastrophe 350 years ago stands as an extraordinary historical achievement.  And the contemporary implications of his study are equally important: are we at all prepared today for the catastrophes that climate change could bring tomorrow?  [emphasis added] 

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