The Crux of the Matter

Over at CA, Steve McIntyre has a post up about his trip to the PDAC.

Yakutia

The Prospectors and Developers Association Convention is a big deal in the world mineral exploration business. I’ll be going to it this week. It’s in Toronto every year around this time and started yesterday. Hundreds of exploration companies are in town, with presentations from all over the world. Yesterday, I chatted with a company with a gold prospect in Yakutia (Indigirka River), a district that we know from tree ring proxies.

I’ve been doing some mining business in the past few weeks and it’s taken time. I’ll likely do more this year for a variety of obvious reasons. One gold project, one zinc project. While gold mines are not exactly ground zero of climate change controversy, the Associated Press has observed in this connection that mining companies produce carbon dioxide. This characteristic of mining companies doesn’t seem particularly unique since even climate change research institutions produce carbon dioxide, but the AP seemed to think that it was worth reporting. Mining companies also produce the various materials that are required to transition to things like electric cars, solar panels, windmills, etc. (Some companies were promoting rare earth deposits, saying that every windmill uses a lot of rare earth in the windmill rotor.)[my emphasis]

It is worth reporting and good on the AP to do so. It’s worth reporting that  the mining industry does produce GHGs through its production process and will be affected by CO2 legislation. However that is not my interest in his post.

It’s the blithe little dismissal of this fact by pointing out how the production of wind turbines creates GHGs. It’s disingenuous even if it is factual.

The real crux of the issue isn’t that this or that production process creates GHGs — pretty much all production uses energy derived from the burning of fossil fuels, which are the main source of energy in our civilization. Pretty much everything that requires energy in industrial society uses fossil fuel in some part of the process and thus creates GHGs.

The crux is that those GHGs have to be accounted for because of their effect on climate and the environment.  The crux is that since the beginning of the fossil fuel era they simply haven’t.

This is a failure of governance, a failure of politics and a failure of economics, that most dismal of pseudosciences. It reflects the triumph of the corporation over the citizen and the triumph of money over democracy. Corporations have undue power in modern industrial globalized society such that their interests increasingly surpass and surmount those of the public. Governments are not so much of the people for the people — they are now, due to finances (especially in the US but elsewhere as well) and poor legislation, the lackeys of the corporation,increasingly doing its bidding and realizing its will rather than that of citizens.

I’ve known this for a while, but it came home to me most strongly today when reading about the history of the precautionary principle and how very often, all too often, governments have given undue weight to the concerns of corporations to use new technologies without proving their safety and only acting long after the negative effects have harmed the consumer or user of that technology. So many examples in the past century — benzene, asbestos, CFCs, PCBs, lead, DDT, BCE, DES, the Cod stocks — the list goes on.

In these cases, there were early warnings of potential harm to individuals and ecosystems, and over time, increasing consensus about it among scientists, but corporations, politicians and regulators ignored the science, favoring the rights of corporations to make a buck, pollute and pay, etc.

The result — citizens died, were maimed and harmed. Ecosystems were damaged, species were decimated.

This is not an anti-corporate rant — it is a rant against undue power of the corporation. This is not a rant against capitalism. I like it quite a lot because I live very well, thankyouverymuch. I like my technology. I like access to energy to power my world. I want to keep this wonderful technological level.

The problem is that there has been, until now and even now, no adequate accounting for CO2 and GHGs. They have been released into the atmosphere for free. None of us have paid the proper price for fossil fuels. The accounting has been abysmal. This has allowed us to develop way beyond the level and at the speed we would have if a true accounting of the full cost of fossil fuels had been included in the price. We would have had renewables and carbon-free technology a lot sooner if we had paid the real price because there would have been an incentive to develop alternatives.

The crux is that every production process, every job, pretty much every part of industrial society produces GHGs in some way and has a carbon footprint.

This has to be taken into account. Industries aren’t good or bad — they are more or less polluting, more or less emitters of GHGs, and we must start taking that into account. It must become factored into the equations and into our social, economic and political calculus and when we balance the books. We have to price it right in order to mitigate the damage it does. We have to find alternatives to prevent even worse damage in the future.

So, sure, producing wind turbines and solar panels and nuclear reactors and fuel cells and pretty much everything currently has a carbon footprint.

The crux is we have to do a full accounting so we get the real price — and the true cost — right. Only then will there be incentive to develop alternatives that have a smaller or no carbon footprint.

Glib dismissal of the carbon footprint of the minerals exploration industry and an indictment of alternatives is just that — glib. It betrays either a lack of understanding or full-out contempt. I’ll let the reader decide which.

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About Policy Lass

Exploring skeptic tales.

12 Responses to “The Crux of the Matter”

  1. The world consists of decentralized decision-making. Canada and other nations do not require every single economic decision to get approved by politicians, including measuring carbon footprints to “get the price right” for a non-problem.
    Lets face reality. AGW is psuedo-scientic religion and a way for high priest eco-scientists to pretend they have something socially useful to contribute.
    At least minors actually do useful things like make metals that society needs and will pay good money for. Eco-activists simply emit hot air. We cannot do without miners. Bravo to mining and miners.

  2. Here is an unrelated question. Some of the eco-lu-loo scientists are worried about being attacked. Though they have been busy attacking the world economy, they seem surprised to think they could themselves be attacked and to think they deserve immunity. Should they be surprised to be targeted, if they propose making energy more expensive, in the midst of a bad recession? If eco-scientists try to grab money from productive people by means of energy taxes (cap and trade), should not society defend itself against such charlatans, especially when they play tricks and knowingly brag to one another about hiding declines?

    • I must inform you that the world economy was attacked by the likes of Maddoff and by the failed economic theory and policy of Milton Friedman, and Bush era economic policy and legislation, not by climate scientists. Just in case you didn’t crawl out from under that rock until yesterday…

      Sent from my iPhone

  3. Speaking of hot air, have you offered anything else in these silly posts?

    Needless to say, not an iota of evidence, just assertions based in your beliefs.

    Worthless nonsense, and you deceive nobody, except perhaps yourself, by the word games. The pseudo-scientific religion is what you are expressing, not the scientific community that you are attacking. I guess you actually believe this stuff? Remarkable.

    • You might try reading a bit of Paul Krugman – Nobel winning Economist – on economics and global warming if you need some authority.

      Sent from my iPhone

  4. timeforachange :Here is an unrelated question. Some of the eco-lu-loo scientists are worried about being attacked. Though they have been busy attacking the world economy, they seem surprised to think they could themselves be attacked and to think they deserve immunity. Should they be surprised to be targeted, if they propose making energy more expensive, in the midst of a bad recession? If eco-scientists try to grab money from productive people by means of energy taxes (cap and trade), should not society defend itself against such charlatans, especially when they play tricks and knowingly brag to one another about hiding declines?

    Tell us where the cap-and-trade money is going? It sure as hell ain’t the “eco-scientists”!

    And many approaches to reduce CO2 emissions will actually SAVE you money. I’m not even talking about the costs of adaptation, I’m talking about direct money-savers. Buy a more fuel-efficient car and you’ll save loads of dollars in fuel costs every year. Take the bike whenever you can, and save loads of dollars every year. Share rides whenever you can can, and save loads of dollars every year.
    Switch off lights when they are not needed, and save tens of dollars every year. Put your heater a degree lower (and more whenever you leave your house), and save tens of dollars every year. Buy smart(er), throw away less, save money. Dry clothes, as much as possible, on a drying line, not in a drier, and save tens of dollars every year. Invest in isolation, and save over the long run.

    I could go on and on and on with small things that not only reduce CO2 emissions, but which also save you money. That it would cost the fossil fuel companies money is tough luck, you can spend your money elsewhere and ‘support’ those companies.

    Another small thing to think about: fossil fuel companies worldwide apparently get an estimated 500 billion (that’ll be a *b*) a year in subsidies. Guess what *that* does to the economy?

  5. Don’t feed the trolls … though if timeforachange continues to push the threat meme, consider passing his IP along to the police …

    • There have always been extremist nutjobs in the US. These young down and out trailer trash types are victims of the leaders, who are the real threat.

      Sent from my iPhone

  6. A new book is being published nowadays: Imperial Canada Inc. Legal Haven of Choice for the World’s Mining Industries. It asks a simple question: why is Canada home
    to more than 70% of the world’s mining companies? Here is the sale pitch:

    http://www.pgcbooks.ca/downloads/Talon_S10.pdf

    It seems that Barrick Gold is trying to SLAPP this book, yet another one, actually.

  7. An update:

    Barrick Gold, the largest gold company in the world, succeeded with their SLAPP. The publication has been cancelled:

    http://www.talonbooks.com/index.cfm?event=titleDetails&ISBN=0889226350

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Word wonk | CdExpo - March 5, 2011

    […] The Crux of the Matter « The Policy LassWorthless nonsense, and you deceive nobody, except perhaps yourself, by the word games. The pseudo-scientific religion is what you are expressing, not the scientific community that you are attacking. I guess you actually believe this stuff? […]

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