The Carbon Bubble

Read the whole of Bill McKibben’s excellent post at MoJo but this really jumped out at me.

If we spew 565 gigatons more carbon into the atmosphere, we’ll quite possibly go right past that reddest of red lines. But the oil companies, private and state-owned, have current reserves on the books equivalent to 2,795 gigatons””five times more than we can ever safely burn. It has to stay in the ground.

Put another way, in ecological terms it would be extremely prudent to write off $20 trillion worth of those reserves. In economic terms, of course, it would be a disaster, first and foremost for shareholders and executives of companies like ExxonMobil (and people in places like Venezuela).

If you run an oil company, this sort of write-off is the disastrous future staring you in the face as soon as climate change is taken as seriously as it should be, and that’s far scarier than drought and flood. It’s why you’ll do anything””including fund an endless campaigns of lies””to avoid coming to terms with its reality.

Thus the carbon bubble: “the business models at the center of our economy are in the deepest possible conflict with physics and chemistry”.

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Steve Hynd

Most recently I was Editor in Chief of The Agonist from Feb 2012 to Feb 2013. My blogging began at Newshoggers and I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with some great writers there and around the web ever since, including at Crooks & Liars. I'm a late 40′s, Scottish ex-pat, now married to a wonderful Texan, with Honours in Philosophy from Univ. of Stirling, UK 1986. I worked most of life in business insurance industry (fire, accident, liability) including 12 years as a broker/underwriter/correspondent at Lloyd’s of London. Being from the other side of the pond, my political interests tend to focus on how US foreign policy affects the rest of the planet. Other interests include early and dark-ages British history, literature and cognitive philosophy/science.

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I saw an example of this around somewhere, maybe MIT. What you need to do is just bubble the CO2 emissions from major plants up through clear tubes full of water and algae during the daytime. Then you pour off much of the algae at night (and presumably could store much of the CO2 emissions at night). The algae transform CO2 into O2 and gain mass. Depending on circumstance the algae might not get too full of the other nasty stuff found in many emissions, and could be used for other purposes. This would not solve the problem, but I think a series of mitigating setups could improve matters without a huge expense or scams like the GoldmanSachs-friendly Carbon Market Bubble.

  • We will burn everything we can get our hands on. If one government taxes carbon energy, it will move to where it is not taxed. It cannot be fixed until it runs out or becomes too expensive to produce.

    I hope I’m quite dead by then, because that is a world of miserable serfdom.

  • that accounts for externalities like pollution and climate change. The people profiting from poisoning us all have to pay the freight.

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