Commentary: Methane Mendacity and Madness

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Radical green and government agitators slam methane in latest bid to terminate fossil fuel use

Quick: What is 17 cents out of $100,000? If you said 0.00017 percent, you win the jackpot.

That number, by sheer coincidence, is also the percentage of methane in Earth’s atmosphere. That’s a trivial amount, you say: 1.7 parts per million. There’s three times more helium and 230 times more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. You’re absolutely right, again.

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Equally relevant, only 19% of that global methane comes from oil, natural gas and coal production and use. Fully 33% comes from agriculture: 12% from rice growing and 21% from meat production. Still more comes from landfills and sewage treatment (11%) and burning wood and animal dung (8%). The remaining 29% comes from natural sources: oceans, wetlands, termites, forest fires and volcanoes.

The manmade portions are different for the USA: 39% energy use, 36% livestock, 18% landfills, and 8% sewage treatment and other sources. But it’s still a piddling contribution to a trivial amount in the air.

Of course, the Obama EPA and Climate Cataclysm Industry ignore these inconvenient facts. They insist that methane is “a far more potent greenhouse gas” than carbon dioxide, and that its emissions must be drastically reduced if we are to avoid “runaway global warming.” So EPA and other federal agencies are preparing to unleash a tsunami of new regulations to block natural gas drilling, fracking, flaring and production, while radical environmentalists orchestrate new assaults on petrochemical plants that create plastics, paints, fabrics, computer and vehicle components and countless other products for modern life.

They want us to believe that government regulators can decree Earth’s climate simply by controlling methane and carbon dioxide – regardless of what the sun, ocean circulation, recurrent planetary temperature cycles and other powerful natural forces might do. They say it’s pure coincidence that these two trace gases (CH4 and CO2) are the only climate-affecting mechanisms that are associated with the fossil fuels and industrialized economies they despise.

They also want us to believe reducing United States methane emissions will make a huge difference. But even if US manmade methane emissions are 20% of the worldwide total, the 39% US fossil fuel portion of that US portion means even totally eliminating US methane emissions would reduce global manmade methane output by a minuscule 7.8 percent. Under a best-case scenario, that might keep atmospheric methane below a still irrelevant 0.00020% (2.0 ppm; 20 cents out of $100,000) for a few more years.

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This smells like fraud. And as New York AG Eric Schneiderman so kindly reminded the climate skeptics he’s threatening with RICO, “The First Amendment does not give anyone the right to commit fraud.”

Perhaps EPA plans to go after America’s agricultural sector next. After all, as former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan intoned last year, red meat is bad for us (cancer) and for the climate (animal flatulence and manure). Moreover, “insects have a very good conversion rate from feed to meat,” there are 1,900 species of edible insects on Planet Earth, and more than a billion people already make bugs part of their diet. Perhaps the IPCC and White House will serve roasted roaches at their next state dinners?

That would reduce US methane emissions a bit more. But it gets even more deceitful, more barking mad.

The un-ratified 2015 Paris climate treaty obligates the United States, Australia, Canada and Europe to continue reducing their fossil fuel use and emissions – even though they can hardly afford to kill more millions of jobs and further roll back living standards for all but their ruling elites.

Meanwhile, developing countries will not and cannot afford to lock up their fossil fuels, shut down their economic growth, and leave billions of people mired in poverty, malnutrition and disease. Indeed, under the Paris treaty, they are not required to reduce their fossil fuel use or “greenhouse gas” emissions; they need only take voluntary steps to reduce them, when it is convenient for them to do so.

That means slashing US methane (and carbon dioxide) emissions – and the jobs, living standards, health and welfare that fossil fuels bring – will have no effect whatsoever on atmospheric greenhouse gas levels.

But that is irrelevant to Mr. Obama and his EPA. The fact is, this methane mendacity and madness has nothing to do with stabilizing Earth’s climate. It has everything to do with hogtying and bankrupting US fossil fuel companies, controlling industrial activities and people’s living standards – and mandating a costly transition to renewable energy, while rewarding the hordes of scientists, activists and industrialists who benefit from the $1.5-trillion-per-year Climate Crisis, Inc. money train.

That raises a critical question: Just where and how will we produce those “eco-friendly” biofuels?

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US ethanol production alone requires all the corn grown on an area the size of Iowa (36 million acres), and it makes up only 10% of the country’s E10 gasoline blends. Replacing all gasoline with ethanol from corn, sorghum or still-illusory switchgrass would therefore require ten Iowas: 360 million acres. But there is one other critical factor: ethanol has one-third less energy per gallon than pure gasoline.

That means we would need to plant an additional 120 million acres, 480 million acres in all, just to replace gasoline. That’s equal to Alaska, California and West Virginia combined!

Replacing all the liquid petroleum we use annually (291 billion gallons) would require twice as much land – some 45% of all the land in the United States: six times more land than we currently have under cultivation for all cereal crops – plowing even marginal croplands, deserts, forests and grasslands. 

We’d also need far more fuel to grow, harvest and convert those crops into “eco-friendly” fuel. That would likely mean turning southern Canada into a vast biofuel plantation – unless, of course, the ruling classes simply impose lower living standards and vehicle ownership restrictions on us commoners.

Growing biofuel crops also requires hundreds of times more water than is needed to conduct hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations to produce the same amount of energy from oil and gas, on a tiny fraction of the acreage. Where on this water-starved planet will that precious liquid come from?

Biofuel crops also require prodigious amounts of fertilizer and pesticides. And if organic and anti-GMO factions have their way, far more land would be needed, pest control would be minimal or done by hand, and fertilizer would come from human wastes and animal manure – raising even more complex issues.

To put it bluntly, a biofuel future would be totally and disastrously unsustainable.

There’s another deep, dark secret about biofuels. Somebody needs to tell Obama, McCarthy, Clinton, Sanders and their army of “green” supporters that biofuels are hydrocarbons! They are composed of carbon and hydrogen, though in less complex molecular structures than what we pull out of the ground – which means we get less energy per gallon. And when we burn them, they release carbon dioxide!

We have at least a century of untapped oil and natural gas (and of coal) right under our feet. To lock that up, based on unproven, illusory, fabricated, fraudulent climate chaos claims, is utter insanity.

Even crazier, most anti-fossil-fuel zealots also oppose nuclear and hydroelectric power – and want future electricity generated primarily or solely with wind turbines and solar panels. To blanket our scenic, crop and wildlife lands with wind farms, solar installations and biofuel plantations – and destroy economies, jobs, living standards, health and welfare in the process – is nothing short of criminal.

President Obama and presidential candidates Clinton and Sanders assure us we can have 30% renewables by 2030, 50% by 2050, 100% by 2100 – or some similar magic, catchy, sound bite concoction.

Voters should demand to know exactly how they will make this happen. If they cannot or will not answer satisfactorily, a strong case can be made for the proposition that they are too ignorant and dishonest to hold office – and that their supporters are too stupid and anti-environment to vote. 

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death.

About Author

PAUL DRIESSEN is senior policy adviser for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) and Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), public policy institutes that promote environmental stewardship, the enhancement of human health and welfare, and personal liberties and civil rights. He writes and speaks frequently on the environment, energy and economic development, malaria eradication, climate change, human rights, corporate social responsibility and sustainable development. His articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines and on news and opinion websites in the United States, Canada, Germany, Italy, Peru, Venezuela, South Africa, Uganda, Bangladesh and many other countries. Driessen’s book, Eco-Imperialism: Green Power - Black Death, documents the harm that restrictive environmental policies often have on poor people, especially in developing countries, by restricting their access to life-enhancing modern technologies. It is in its second US printing and has also been published in Argentina (Spanish), India (English), Germany (German) and Italy (Italian). He was editor for Energy Keepers - Energy Killers: The new civil rights battle, by CORE national chairman Roy Innis; Rules for Corporate Warriors: How to fight and survive attack group shakedowns, by Nick Nichols; and Creatures, Corals and Colors in North American Seas, by Ann Scarborough-Bull. His report, Responsible Progress in the Andes, examined ways that modern mining operations can bring jobs, infrastructure, and improved safety and pollution control practices to poor communities. Driessen’s studies and analyses have also appeared in Conserving the Environment (Doug Dupler, editor), Resurgent Diseases (Karen Miller, Editor) and Malnutrition (Margaret Haerens, editor), all part of the Thomson-Gale “Opposing Viewpoints” Series that is used in many high schools and colleges; Redefining Sovereignty: Will liberal democracies continue to determine their own laws and public policies, or yield these rights to transnational entities in search of universal order and justice? (Orin Judd, editor); and other publications. He played a lead role in the “Kill Malarial Mosquitoes Now” campaign, an international effort that restored the use of DDT to African and other malaria control programs, and served as an advisor to the film “3 Billion and Counting,” examining how environmentalist and EPA campaign against DDT had devastating impacts on families in poor developing countries. Paul received his BA in geology and field ecology from Lawrence University and a JD from the University of Denver College of Law, before embarking on a career that also included tenures with the United States Senate, U.S. Department of the Interior and an energy trade association. He has produced documentary films about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, immigration through Ellis Island, and marine habitats beneath offshore oil production platforms. Driessen is also a frequent guest on radio talk shows and college campuses, and at business and public policy forums. He participates in energy, health and environmental conferences, and was active in the Public Relations Society of America, where he served as Washington, DC chapter newsletter editor and in the Social Responsibility Section.

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