Heat: Global Warming Still Simmers


While the issue of global warming has been on the back burner, the physical reality of excessive emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses continues to endanger us all. I believe it is fortunate that we chose a President who seems to have a handle on the reality of climate change. It was disconcerting during the campaign that McCain and Palin spoke freely about “burning all kinds of fuels” in their proposed energy policy. Policy makers are missing the point when the see the fuel as the problem not the burning. For science novices: burning anything produces carbon dioxide gas, the most significant global warming pollutant (well- except Hydrogen, but H2 has its own problems).

Fortunately, not everyone has forgotten. PBS produced a Frontline special entitled “Heat°” which addresses several barriers to battling this elusive threat, focusing, wisely, on the misconceptions about potential remedies and technology. This documentary is an excellent overview of the technological, corporate, and economic barriers we currently face to keeping the planet habitable.

Many government officials, Members of Congress, energy companies, automobile manufacturers, and agricultural special interests have deliberately distorted the dialog about the actions we can or should take to curtail CO2 emissions. Several of these are addressed succinctly in the PBS special.

Topics include:

THE MYTH OF CLEAN COAL Clean Coal doesn’t exist, yet the idea is tossed around loosely as a key element of any future energy policy. No proposed or experimental strategy for reducing emissions from coal would be considered, by any definition, CLEAN. Burning coal is the leading cause of many kinds of pollutants in much of the world, including CO2, mercury, Sulfur and nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter. If clean coal (and they’re only talking about capturing the CO2 here) is possible, it may be prohibitively expensive, and only possible in certain geologic and geographic areas.

THE MYTH OF ETHANOL Corn based ethanol is not a valid energy strategy for reducing CO2 emissions. Without extensive agribusiness lobbying and huge government incentives and legal support, ethanol probably wouldn’t exist as a transportation fuel at all. The ethanol dream is over.

THE MYTH OF THE CHEVY VOLT There is an absolutely classic and depressing (Michael Moore-type) scene where GM gives the film crew a demo of the Chevy Volt, and it doesn’t work at all. They are pushing it in front of a moving truck that says “Reliable”. This car is the answer to Toyota’s car of YESTERDAY! The auto manufacturers have done everything they possibly can to twist, turn, distort, and manipulate the transportation free market, ironically, to make money (possibly motivated to draw profits from their financing divisions, not in the sales of durable goods!). Ford, GM, and Chrysler have destroyed themselves. Bailouts will be forthcoming.

Issues that were not adequately addressed: The myth and boondoggle of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars, and the mythical new 4th generation nuclear reactors.

Here are some pics of my family at a climate change rally in DC in 2007. We’re in the top right corner of the big ‘O’.


My family engaging in activism as a carbon offset. Me, Yvonne, Maximus, and Odessa on the front lawn of the U.S. Capitol.


80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. Is it possible?


One Response

  1. Do you remember, during the election, when Obama and Biden got some heat (no pun intended) for saying that there was no such thing as “clean coal” and how Biden quickly backed away from that statement? I was quite disappointed by that. The coal industry still has a stranglehold on our policymakers, unfortunately.

    Smart environmental policy is not only beneficial to the environment, but it also has huge potential for job creation. Whether or not Obama will succeed, in terms of environmental policy, has yet to be seen. So far, he has shown an unwillingness to be tough or firm. That could change, but as of now it seems unlikely that he will have the stomach for the much needed “arm-twisting” to affect the neccessary environmental changes that are required, not only as a nation, but as a species. I think he will certainly be more open to the advice of the scientific community, and will heed their warnings, but it will be a matter of ramming change through a system that is slow (even beligerent) to change.

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