Unstoppable Global Warming

The Facts Behind the 1,500-year Climate Cycle
Authors' Blog by Dr. S. Fred Singer and Dennis T. Avery

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Big Oil Strike Could Save 100 Million Acres of U.S. Forests

Chevron’s big new Gulf of Mexico oil strike could save 100 million acres of U.S. forests from being plowed down to grow inefficient biofuels. Does that spark your eco-interest in off-shore oil drilling?

It should.

Right now, those are our choices for increased energy independence.

Chevron and its partners gambled $100 million on a pioneering well into an older strata of rock than we’ve ever drilled before. New seismic technology helped the oil companies find the oil deposit far beneath a massive salt dome. The gamble, that the well would flow strongly enough to be economically viable, was a big winner.

The betting right now seems to be that Chevron’s new Jack field will produce a total of 10–15 billion barrels of oil. By itself, that could increase U.S. proven oil reserves by 50 percent! Other oil companies aren’t saying how much oil they might have in the region’s still untapped fields, but oil analyst Wood McKenzie says the older rock strata potentially represent a “world-class success story.” And, America has not only the Gulf of Mexico but also massive un-drilled oil-bearing formations off both our Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and gas-bearing formations under federal lands.

Contrast the Jack field success with the sad tale of corn ethanol. U.S. gasoline consumption was 134 billion gallons in 2003. America’s cornfields produce only 244 gallons worth of gasoline per acre per year. Each bushel of corn is worth 2.7 gallons of ethanol, and U. S. corn crops have lately averaged 138 bushels per acre. That’s an average per-acre yield of about 375 gallons of ethanol—which we must then discount for ethanol’s 35 percent lower energy content.

It would thus take more than 546 million acres of U.S. cropland to replace our current gasoline use with corn ethanol. Total U.S. crop plantings have recently been about 440 million acres—and that land has produced all our food and fiber, plus billions of dollars in farm exports that also help feed the world. Soybeans represent an even worse return, as acre of U.S. soybeans is worth only 52 gallons of biodiesel per year.

Neither biofuel is profitable without huge government subsidies.

Most importantly, America just doesn’t have enough farming acres to produce both food and biofuels. The Conservation Reserve land is too dry. We’d have to denude huge tracts of forestland somewhere in the country—steep, wet or rough land that might yield only half as much corn per acre as current corn acres. That’s why it might take more than 100 million acres of forest to match the Jack’s oilfield’s energy production over the next 20 years.

Complicating things further, corn needs lots of energy-intensive nitrogen fertilizer, lots of fossil-derived pesticide protection, and fuel for the fermentation. Corn ethanol delivers only 25 percent more energy than it takes to make it. With ethanol’s energy discount, we’d have to produce six gallons of ethanol for each gallon of imported gasoline we displace.

If we are sacrificing our forests to avoid more CO2 out of fear of global warming, understand that the Modern Warming looks like another of the moderate, erratic, natural 1500-year climate cycles. The ice cores and seabed sediments tell us those have been going on for the last one million years.

Should we chainsaw 100 million acres of forest for corn ethanol before we have proof that the Modern Warming is caused by human-emitted CO2 and not by Mother Nature? Or should we lease more offshore drilling?


At 5:26 PM, Blogger Biofuelsimon said...

By Geoge, but I’d like to sit next to you at the dinner table. I’ve recently started blogging myself on the subject of biofuels http://www.icis.com/blogs/biofuels/ and I’ve got doubts about just how realistic it is to replace all of the fuel that the US alone produces using biofuels http://www.icis.com/blogs/biofuels/archives/2006/10/can-crops-replace-oil.html#more.

Your book’s premise, I believe, is that Global warming is a long-term cyclical thing and that it’s a natural process and there’s little enough that mankind can do about it.

If you are certain that that is the case, and you seem to be, then fine go ahead use all the oil that it is possible to use because the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere doesn’t matter.

I am never as certain as that. History does not repeat itself exactly. Go and buy two identical, good quality cut-glass ash trays. Throw one against the wall and collect the pieces carefully, then repeat with the second one. Now try and put the ash trays back together. If history repeats itself then the pieces of the ashtrays should be interchangeable and the repaired ashtrays should be identical.

The truth is that they wouldn’t be anything like interchangeable or identical after the process. The only thing we can say with certainty is that the ashtrays were smashed and put back together. That’s why I am doubtful about following the lessons of history too closely.

As your view on oil seems to be use all the oil you can get your hands on until it runs out, do you believe that it is wasteful to leave whales in the ocean?

Lets link,lets talk.


At 8:13 AM, Blogger Dennis Avery said...

Dr. Stefan Rahmstorf of Potsdam University in Germany tells us that the 1500-year climate cycle is so regular during the Ice Ages that it varies between 1460-1480 years. The evidence for this has been found in long ice and seabed sediment cores found all over the world. For a natural event, you will agree that’s remarkable regularity. During the interglacials like our own, the variations have been much greater—often several centuries, but still remarkable in their long-term pattern—600 global warmings in the last 1 million years. I haven’t time to break and reglue ash trays, but then, I don’t smoke. Nor do I think we should harvest whales for biofuels, or cut 50 million acres of U.S. forest to grow corn ethanol. Nor would I force Indian rural people to spend their days cutting and carrying firewood from declining public forests (and creating health-threatening indoor pollution) rather than buy the available kerosene.

Dennis Avery


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