Revisiting the question anti-pipeline activists can’t answer about the Trans Mountain pipeline

“Pragmatic”, “hyper-rational”, “reductionist”, “positivist” these are the “insults” sent my way in the last month as I have discussed the Trans Mountain pipeline on my social media feeds. As a scientist, none off those descriptions would be considered terribly nasty, but for left-wing political scientists out there, those words are considered curses. While not all the “insults” apply in my case (I am not “hyper-rational” as defined by political scientists) I do admit to viewing the world with a pragmatic lens. So you may ask what brought on this bout of vitriol? Well I have repeatedly asked a fairly simple question:

Show me a safer way than @a to get the fossil fuels we need to run our society on the West Coast What is your alternative to ?

In the rest of this post I want to revisit that question and address some of the replies.

Let’s start with a critical consideration. The Trans Mountain pipeline is about moving liquid refined fuels and crude oils including diluted bitumen. We are talking about liquid fuels here. I can’t repeat this enough: liquid fuels. This means any response to my question that includes renewables (solar, wind, tidal or geothermal energy systems) is not answering the question. I have to make this absolutely clear because I cannot count the number of times Mike Hudema (of Greenpeace) has posted a story about a solar facility somewhere and written something like:

In just one hour, our planet receives enough solar energy to power society for an entire year: Panels not pipelines.

Well solar energy cannot replace the liquid fuels to be transported in the pipeline. It is a red herring.

Don’t imagine for a moment this is only a Greenpeace thing. I had a long Twitter discussion yesterday with Mark Worthing from the Sierra Club. When I asked him this question he posted five different links and every one dealt with electricity or natural gas and not liquid fuels. He was unable to present a single way the Wilderness Committee would address our needs for liquid fuels.

Having established that liquid fuels differ from electricity we have to ask ourselves: how are liquid fuels used in BC? Well 80% of the crude oil used in BC is used for transportation purposes. That 80% is made up of gasoline (44%), diesel (29%) and aviation fuel (7%). 96% of the energy used for transportation in BC comes from liquid fossil fuels. Most importantly, there are no non-fossil fuel options for most of those uses. Think about how liquid fuels are used: in aviation (aviation gasoline and jet fuels), in rail (diesel) in heavy commercial trucks (diesel) and in private and fleet motor vehicles (predominantly gasoline).

So let’s look at the alternatives for these sources:

Aviation: there are no viable options for electric transport planes or passenger jets. Certainly there are a number of projects to develop electric planes but none are even in the prototype stage.  If we want to continue to rely on modern aviation we have no alternatives to liquid fuels.

Rail: While electric rail is being proposed for some commuter routes, the main use of rail in BC is to transport goods. There are no viable alternatives to diesel for that purpose. The cost to electrify transport rail would leave no funds for any other activities.

Heavy Commercial Trucks: Sure everyone is talking about the Tesla Semi, now for a cold dose of reality. The first prototype is still only starting its road testing and the number that will be available in the foreseeable future is tiny. There were over 61,000 heavy commercial trucks on BC roads in 2013. Tesla is not going to make 61,000+ semis  in the next 20+ years especially since there are 447,500 heavy commercial trucks in Canada and many tens of millions world-wide. There is simply no alternative out there, for the foreseeable future commercial trucks will need diesel and without diesel Canadians don’t get the food they need to put on their tables.

Fleet Vehicles: While range anxiety is no longer a huge concern for electric cars, it is still a serious consideration for fleet vehicles. Firstly there are no fully electric pick-up trucks nor are there vehicles capable of carrying the tools and supplies needed in most fleet vehicles. Weight restrictions are a common issue with electric vehicles and even Tesla hasn’t been able to figure out how to make an electric pick-up capable of going off-road. No we aren’t talking of 4×4 driving but simply moving on muddy work roads and in places where a pick-up is needed to get the job done. Absent some new manufacturer there is no alternative for most fleet vehicles, they will rely on gasoline.

Personal Automobiles: personal autos are the obvious place where we can reduce our reliance on liquid fuels but even there we are nowhere near ready to carry out a full EV transition. Right now electric vehicles are primarily used as commuter vehicles. They are typically the second vehicle in a household that is used to commute. Why is this? Because right now the electric market is made up of small and very small cars. I have a wife, three kids and a dog. As a low-carbon family we have a single vehicle and that vehicle has an internal combustion engine because no EV model out there fits our needs. I can’t go visit my family on the island and fit everyone into an electric car. Until they have full-sized, family vehicles that don’t cost $60,000+ we will still need gasoline for cars. Let’s not even get into the issues with regards to availability. In 2017, 235,000 new cars were sold in BC, 2194 of those were electric. A friend tried to buy an electric VW and was told the wait list was 18-36 months. Put simply, car makers aren’t even making enough cars to make a dent on the market in BC we will need that gasoline.

Now I know that all sorts of European countries have talked about moratoriums on the sale of non-EV vehicles by 2030, 2035 or 2040. Well I will tell you a secret. The car manufacturers don’t have the infrastructure to meet those requirements. There is exactly zero chance that every vehicle sold in the UK will be electric in 2030 when the worldwide production capacity wouldn’t even replace BC’s auto needs.

Now we have looked at the numbers what have the activists argued? As I mentioned above, they have three approaches so far:

1) Distraction – as discussed above, this is where they talk about electricity and distract from the fact that electricity cannot replace liquid fuels.

2) Arm-waving: this is where they wave their arms claiming that we should “drive less” or that government will create politically impossible mandates. The problem with their arm-waving is that it is not supported by anything. The government mandating EV vehicles by 2030 means nothing if the car manufacturers can’t build the cars needed to meet the mandate. What will happen is what has happened every time this was done in the past. The government will either extend the deadline or simply eliminate the mandate. The only mandates that have worked in the past are the types that call for incremental improvements and provide detailed timelines. California has been great at doing this but this is not the approach anyone has used to date for electric vehicles.

3) Expand Transit: This is the only legitimate approach, but one that is simply a drop in the bucket. Listen to what Climate_Pete had to say in the most recent “report” from the Wilderness Committee

A massive investment in public transit, revitalization of local manufacturing & tempered expectations about your ability to cross the planet in less than a day would be a good start. Thankfully we’ve produced a paper with somewhat more detailed proposals.https://www.wildernesscommittee.org/publications/zero-carbon-or-bust

The problem is when you read the “report” you get a small section saying we should increase transit availability, that’s it with the policies. As I have written in the past, improving transit will create incremental improvements on our fuel use but are only reasonable in our city cores. This is a classic example of the urban nature of the modern NGOs.They appear to be completely unaware of what life is like outside of the city centers. No government has the money to eliminate the need for private vehicles in Chilliwack, Enderby or Cranbrook. Even in a community like my own (Langley) the density is not there to warrant the level of transit necessary to allow myself (or my neighbors) to forego our personal vehicles.

Now As I have written before, as described by Business in Vancouver: B.C. consumed 192,000 barrels a day (bpd) of refined fuels in 2015. The Puget Sound Refineries need about 630,000 bpd and California needs to import heavy oil. As I have written repeatedly, the Trans Mountain is safer for BC, it is safer for Washington State and it is safer for the Salish Sea than the alternatives. It provides the liquid fossil fuels in the safest means possible and if we use Canadian fuels in the process the profits have the benefits of funding our government, our medical system and any transit expansion the NGOs want to see.

I also don’t want to get into the climate change argument at this time because the truth is that the pipeline is a necessary part of our battle against climate change. In this case real climate leaders DO build pipelines. But that is just another distraction (see above). The simple question I want answered is what is the alternative to the Trans Mountain?

I can’t say it enough, our society is completely reliant on fossil fuels. Every scrap of food we eat and every drop of water we drink has a carbon footprint. I can’t think of a single part of my life that doesn’t rely in one way or another on fossil fuels. Now I recognize that we, as a society, must wean ourselves off fossil fuels, but that is not a simple task. As I have explained if we undertake herculean efforts and dedicate a historically unprecedented percent of our national gross domestic product to the task we have a reasonable chance of weaning ourselves off fossil fuels in 30-50 years. Even then it is likely closer to the 50-year than the 30-year timeline. What this means is that British Columbia and Washington have, and will have, an ongoing need for fossil fuels for the foreseeable future. So please answer me this simple question:

Show me a safer way than @a to get the fossil fuels we need to run our society on the West Coast What is your alternative to ?

 

 

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28 Responses to Revisiting the question anti-pipeline activists can’t answer about the Trans Mountain pipeline

  1. mdander says:

    Hi Blair.

    To some degree, I agree with you. We will be exploiting the oil sands for a long time to come. Exploiting the oil sands generates considerably more GHGs (well to wheels) than other fossil fuels, so ideally Canada would rapidly transition away from oil sands extraction in favour of less damaging energy production. But we won’t. There is too much money and power invested in the extraction, so it is not realistic to expect extraction to end soon.

    Pipelines are not without risk, but they are the safest and, in some respect, greenest, means available to transport diluted bitumen, so the Trans Mountain project should probably go ahead – I’m no expert, so I don’t say that with your level of confidence.

    I did laugh a bit that you characterized yourself as a “scientist”, but your detractors were described as “left-wing political scientists”.

    Sure, there are many people that roughly understand the science of climate change and are very concerned about our continued use of fossil fuels. You would call them climate alarmists and some probably use one-sided arguments, cherry-picked data and prejudicial graphics to energize a grass-roots activist community.

    However, some financially conservative scientists (as you describe yourself in your post on Lukewarmism) are doing exactly the same thing (no shortage of those strategies appear elsewhere in your blog). Instead of stoking fear of an apocalyptic future, they are stoking fear of higher taxes and less economic opportunity. Their grass-roots activist community consists mostly of older people with lots of money. This strategy has proved very effective at getting populist leaders (who are often bordering on scientific illiteracy) elected on low-tax, free-market platforms (e.g. Trump, Doug Ford, Stephen Harper).

    Even when they have less popular support, conservative political parties are out-fund-raising the left by a wide margin.

    I am not an economist. The science of climate change does not express an opinion on how we go about reducing our CO2 emissions. A well-functioning free market is almost certainly an important part of any mitigation strategy.

    Here’s the sad part: When conservative soap-boxers like Black Press’ Tom Fletcher, read and use your posts in their own writing, it helps them foster ideas like he expresses in the sentence “The arrogance of university climate experts would be easier to take if they were right once in a while.”, taken from his May 20th column: “Making sense of climate policy”.

    That doesn’t just help get conservatives elected, it bolsers the idea in his readership (largely older people with money to spend and invest) that they should not trust scientists. How can the free market function well when it is ill-informed?

    The free market is currently driving innovation (as evidenced for example by higher energy density, lower social/environmental impact batteries for EVs, higher EV sales, better solar panels — to the point that a new solar farm is more cost-effective than a new coal fired energy plant, watt-for-watt), but it is happening slower than it should because the promotion of false controversies in climate change science is translating into misinformation and divisiveness in the market.

    And it is being done for money and/or power and/or prestige.

    How about writing a post that praises some actual, hard working climate scientists once in a while. You know, the ones who check their political and economic beliefs at the door before they start work in the morning. If you truly have respect for science, this perspective would show up on your blog. You often portray yourself as the victim of insults from your detractors, but it is your blog and we see what you write. You could choose to write something positive instead of more mud-slinging.

    Like

    • Blair says:

      As a quick response, the latest oil sands projects have essentially the same GHG profile as the average US crudes so that argument really doesn’t hold water; and the reason I used “left-wing political scientists” was because the actual human beings who used those words describing me were literally left-wing political science types. I wasn’t being generic I was describing the three individuals who called me those things.

      As for the climate scientists concerned about fossil fuel use, until they speak up and acknowledge that we can’t simply give up on fossil fuels I will keep writing blog posts that do so. I’d love to highlight a climate scientist who presented a balanced view on this topic but they are few and far in between. I have highlighted some in the past but haven’t heard a single one speak up on the pipeline file.

      Finally, evidence-based decision making requires that good information be made available for use by all parties. If the data I produce is valid then I expect conservatives, progressives and liberals to use my data. Sadly, to date only a select few have chosen to use the data, rather than blind rhetoric, in their discussions.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mdander says:

        Blair,

        I know that you care about scientific literacy. That guy Robert is just the kind of oil fanboy that reads your blog and leaves thinking that he is an expert on climate science. I can’t tell if he’s saying that Alberta oil sands oil has something special about it (other than being difficult to extract) or if he is just waving pom-poms for his favourite team.

        You are a scientist and you have an informed opinion about climate science, but do you actually conduct any climate science yourself (i.e. data collection/analysis, modeling)? Aside from highlighting your own opinions, shouldn’t you also be pointing your readers to the current climate change scientific consensus (probably best encapsulated here: http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/AR5_SYR_FINAL_SPM.pdf), which is based on a review, conducted by climate scientists, of huge amounts of data, analysis and many different models? Even if you disagree with it a bit?

        Robert would be better served if you did.

        You: “the latest oil sands projects have essentially the same GHG profile as the average US crudes” — I should have included a reference: http://oci.carnegieendowment.org/#total-emissions?ratioSelect=perBarrel. Those latest oil sands projects apparently hadn’t shown up yet when these numbers were compiled last year. But I still actually agree with you that the pipeline should probably be built.

        You: “I’d love to highlight a climate scientist who presented a balanced view on this topic but they are few and far in between.” — When you say “balanced view”, do you really mean “a view that agrees with mine”? Remember what you tweeted about echo chambers? There are lots and lots of climate scientists and they are not all left-wing and political.

        Here’s the thing: everyone that casts doubt on the climate change scientific consensus is a financial conservative. I include you in this group because of your post: “Looking at the science linking BC forest fires to climate change” — see my comment there (still in moderation it seems). It doesn’t seem to matter what aspect of climate change the doubt is cast upon:
        – the very existance of climate change
        – the role GHG emissions have in causing climate change
        – whether humans are generating enough GHGs to be part of the effect
        – whether effects are already occuring
        – how severe the effects will be the more we delay reducing global GHG emissions.

        I can’t find a single person casting doubt that’s not a financial conservative.

        Climate science is not financially conservative or financially anything, but I don’t want to accuse you of bias without some evidence, so help me out. I’m looking for counter-examples — scientists don’t like to say “that’s just a coincidence”.

        Like

      • Blair says:

        Honestly you have no clue. You make assumptions and make unfounded claims. “Financial Conservative”? Please define the term.

        As for what happens on this blog, I mostly leave the comments alone and let others discuss it out. As for you expecting me to highlight other scientists that is a weird thing to ask. I look at science and post info that I find interesting. That is it. You are welcome to read as you will but I don’t take requests.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ruud Hommel says:

        Hi mdander, please note that the ipcc report dates from 2014 and does not include any data/conclusions with regard to thawing of permafrost. This omission, in my opinion, disregards one of the large and progressively growing, larger contribuant to global temperature rise. This thawing apparently hadn’t shown up yet when the report was compiled 🙂
        Sure, you might call us “financial conservatives”, but I would rather classify us as environmental realists.

        Have fun.

        Liked by 1 person

      • mdander says:

        Hi Ruud. I like that your comments are short, informative and to the point.

        Re: Your comment on the thawing of the permafrost contributing to global temperature rise. I am going to infer your meaning: Global temperature rise is at about 0.8C (https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/WorldOfChange/decadaltemp.php). If permafrost thawing (a feedback effect of climate change) is contributing significantly, then the 0.8C cannot entirely be attributed to GHG forcing, despite the fact that GHG concentrations are at 410ppm vs. pre-industry 280ppm. Are you suggesting that this supports concern for feedback effects or that it supports lower GHG sensitivity?

        It is definitely interesting, but as you know, the consensus is a middle-of-the-road analysis of many, many data sets and models. I am not a climate scientist, so I have no idea how that bit of data would weight the consensus were it to be included.

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      • mdander says:

        Sorry, clarification: CO2 concentrations are at 410ppm vs. pre-industry 280ppm.

        Like

  2. Andrew Tattersfield says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful and reasoned approach, if only our leaders and the media could follow such an approach instead of blathering on about the “new normal”.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. robert says:

    …”Exploiting the oil sands generates considerably more GHGs (well to wheels) than other fossil fuels”…
    It bears noting here, ‘other fossil fuels’, have no relationship to oil, from the oil sands. They do not perform the same tasks because…they can’t. There is no alternative to ‘oil from the oil sands’ unless you want to add oil from the oil sands too, ‘sweet oil’.
    …”There is too much money and power invested in the extraction, so it is not realistic to expect extraction to end soon”…
    Think of a small jerry can full of gasoline. There is no other energy equivalent on earth, which is why billions of people gravitate to oil so readily. Economists call that…demand. By the way, there are money and power invested in renewable energies of all kinds because energy makes the world go round. The ‘god’, of the anti-oil movement, is renewable energy. Guess who the big investors are in renewable energy research. The anti-oil movement is going to be really peeved when they learn that fact.

    Like

  4. robert says:

    …”The free market is currently driving innovation (as evidenced for example by higher energy density, lower social/environmental impact batteries for EVs, higher EV sales—–
    Batteries you refer to are aka lithium batteries. There are only a few years of lithium supply left in the world. ‘ev’s’, are already an energy sink and Tesla (damn them for running a good man’s name) is doomed (mostly because of incompetence… for the moment).

    …”…better solar panels — to the point that a new solar farm is more cost-effective than a new coal-fired energy plant, watt-for-watt)—-
    until you put your hand on top of the solar panel…or it’s night…or a rainy day….or a snowy day, etc.

    , but it is happening slower than it should because the promotion of false controversies in climate change science is translating into misinformation and divisiveness in the market….”—
    Huh? Are you a climate scientist?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ruud Hommel says:

      robert, you have to revisit your opinion concerning how much lithium is commercially available in the world. Brine, hard rock and now even the clay deposits will suffice for the next few centuries.
      You might consider your opinion in the same way you would consider my answer to Blair’s main question, “use teleportation”.
      Why don’t we start looking for a better alternative? Can’t find one? Huh.

      Have fun.

      Like

  5. Peter Sommerville says:

    An interesting article, spelling out the realities rather imaginings. The International Energy Agency routinely summarises the big picture of what is actually going on world wide regarding all sources of energy. Leave it to others to draw their own conclusions.

    https://www.iea.org/weo/

    Like

  6. mdander says:

    You, from “https://achemistinlangley.net/2016/09/26/on-lukewarmism-denial-and-a-look-at-the-state-of-the-environmental-movement/”: “I am conservative on financial issues. I believe in the power of a free market that is overseen by, but not controlled by, a functioning regulatory regime.”

    Note: I am not criticizing you for this. I commend you for being upfront.

    I just highlighted the correlation between financial conservatism and casting doubt on consensus climate change to help you be aware that this represents a possible bias. It didn’t intend to say that your blog is without merit. There is lots of useful information here. We will be using liquid fuels for decades to come (re: pipeline building). We are going to need all the clean energy we can get (re: building Site C; your stance on nuclear) as the growth of energy use is still generally outpacing the growth of renewables.

    You (Lukewarmism post again): “I agree with consensus (as presented by the IPCC) on the topic of climate change. As a Lukewarmer my primary difference with the alarmists is that I believe that the climate’s sensitivity to carbon dioxide is on the lower end of the consensus scale presented by the IPCC. The basis for this belief is a combination of my graduate-level education in global biogeochemical cycles and my personal knowledge of the early global climate models used to generate the original sensitivity numbers.”

    It is the statement “I agree with consensus…” that I do not believe. I wrote a comment on your post “https://achemistinlangley.net/2018/08/15/looking-at-the-science-linking-forest-fires-to-climate-change-in-b-c/” (which did not make it past moderation) that I think shows that you take an unscientific approach when reality hits your bias. Your frequent use of the derisive term “climate alarmists”, generalizing people that disagree with you is also a red flag.

    I am not making requests. I offer a little constructive criticism. You speak of a “balanced view”. If you are, indeed, presenting one, it should include a firm representation of the consensus science along with where and how your analysis differs.

    Note: I am not a climate scientist. I have a bachelor of applied mathematics and a MSc in physics. I go where the consensus science takes me because it is backed up by the work of many climate scientists working together.

    There are many political policy discussions that stray right and left of the consensus. I am here reading because those discussions are interesting and (almost always) biased by stuff outside the science. Of these, your willingness to engage differing voices makes your blog one of the better ones.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. that robert guy says:

    Whoa! I got someone’s nighty in a knot! Let me clear the air: I believe in science and critically here, climate science. I’m aware of the possibility of oil spills along the Salish Sea and believe it would be catastrophic if it happens…there is no doubt the subject of oil raises ire amongst the ‘no’, crowd but I trust our scientists who reviewed the entire matter of an oil port expansion and OK’d it…I trust them because they are scientists first, using real science.
    As for the merits of oil, you can’t have gas or diesel without the components found in heavy oil. Educating one’s self on scientific fact, even heavy oil, is important if for no other reason than to keep the spittle from flying out of the mouths of losers.
    As for Rudd’s last comment/suggestions to me…
    Sorry. I’m late to respond. …I’m a tad demented but I should be able to communicate with you Rudd, by creating paragraph’s that don’t line up with the former or the following.
    Scale matters: There are 800 million cars in the world and enough lithium to build 200 EV’s. That’s a number that gets distorted when you throw in Australians that bought the ‘power wall’, from Tesla, or, Everready and, all your neighbors that want to plug into a grid to charge their cars. By the by, the folks that make the cables leading into that plug-in are going to have a problem as well keeping up with demand because of that raw material supply thing, too.
    Truth be told, EV’s are destined to be paperweights to hold down drawings for the hydrogen vehicles that will replace EV’s in the near future.
    There’s an outfit in the greater Vcr area that produces bus-sized batteries for BC Ferries (who get 35 million Fed tax $, free to…amongst other things, buy bus-sized batteries). BC Ferries continue to use diesel engines to ply the heavy coastal waters off CANADA’s west coast because (guess!).
    Diesel provides EFFICIENCY…something lacking in EV’s. Efficiency is the reason we…most of us…yet…drive gasoline-powered vehicles and will opt for hydrogen vehicles but…the fly in the ointment is characterized by the car buying situation in China…we’ll need permission via a winning lottery draw.
    With respect; decide what your end game is and also …read the Wikipedia article “references”, because that’s where the science lies. Better also read Vaclav Smil and, the guy at https://dothemath.ucsd.edu/2011/07/galactic-scale-energy/
    informed science usually involves science which in turn can’t help but enlighten all about the *r*e*a*l *i*s*s*u*e*…SCALE.

    Like

  8. Bob Lyman says:

    What an eminently sensible article. Thank you for your contribution to the clarification of the issue. I have only one question. How do you put up with the endless nonsense the environmentalists spew back at you?

    Like

  9. mdander says:

    Hi Bob.

    I’m not sure if you were referring to my posts or not. I am quite happy to acknowledge that I have become better informed from reading Dr. King’s blog.

    I also do not agree with everything he writes.

    What’s better for the author, some constructive criticism, or knowing he is doing a fine job preaching to his choir?

    You may be surprised to note that Dr. King is a self-described “environmentalist” and I would not describe his posts as nonsensical spew.

    Okay, he calls himself a environmental “pragmatist” or “realist”, but those descriptors are pretty much meaningless because “realism” is defined however you want.

    For instance, a person who feels like the signs of climate change are already all around us and is struck by the correlation to human population growth and human industrialization, might claim, without providing any scientific evidence to quantify it, that acting on this correlation is “environmental realism”.

    Another person may acknowledge that climate change is happening, but that, when deciding how best to act we must consider the economic fallout that may make it more difficult to address climate change over the long term. For them, this is “environmental realism”.

    Yet another person may see the all the partisan bickering going on, that social media is filled to the brim with divisive blowhards that pepper their opinions with lazy insults for people that disagree with them. “Environmental realism” for this person is that no effective mitigation of climate change is forthcoming, and that they should prepare their kids for some really bad weather.

    So you are just an environmentalist or you’re not. And if you’re not, what are you exactly?

    Like

    • Bob Lyman says:

      mdander, I am an economist and a (retired) policy advisor. If you do not know to whom I was referring when I accused some environmentalists who criticize Blair King’s posts of spewing endless nonsense, you have not read the reactions he has received to many articles in the past. I might add to your list of “realists” the person who sees evidence of climate change but not of pending catastrophe related to human actions, and who examines the actions that the countries of the world have taken since “global warming” became a major political issue in 1988. I would submit that, despite almost two dozen “Conferences of the Parties” to deal with the alleged impending catastrophe, and several global targets being set for emissions reduction, not one single target has been met and global emissions continue to rise significantly. In such a world, the proposition that Canadians should accept significant economic costs to reduce GHG emissions seems to me to be empty, pernicious symbolism.

      Like

      • mdander says:

        Bob, a “lukewarmist” (or as you put it “the person who sees evidence of climate change but not of pending catastrophe related to human actions”) can be seen as a “realist” as much as anyone else. My point is that what constitutes “realism” is just another label based on an opinion.

        This blog, achemistinlangley.net, is science opinion. The author has opinions and uses science to back them up. Saying it is “realism” doesn’t make the opinions any more or less valid. However, there is good science opinion writing and bad and there are examples of both here in this blog.

        Good example: “Black Carbon, a Climate Change Topic We Should all be able to Agree on” was very informative and, yes, I agree. To be specific, useful scientific references were provided and those references directly supported the blog post.

        Bad example: “Looking at the science linking BC forest fires to climate change” also provides references, but the results of analysis discussed in this reference (“https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms8537”) do not directly support the conclusion of the blog post. Another referenced paper (“https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-015-1521-0”) is used along with some yearly precipitation data to support the statement “Given the current increase in precipitation compared to the current amount of heating, the precipitation exceeds the values necessary to avoid the increase in fire risk associated with warming”, but the analytical methods used to support that statement are not supplied in the post. Furthermore, the thesis of the report again does not directly support the conclusion of Dr. King’s post, that climate change “is NOT responsible for this year’s forest fires”.

        What do I mean by “directly support” and why does it matter? There is science (scientists clearly show their data/analysis and how it supports their results, conclusions and discussions) and there is science reporting (in which a writer highlights some science by explaining the results, conclusions and discussions). Science writing that doesn’t fit into either of these categories is science opinion. The difference between the good and bad examples of science opinion is in the “direct support” of the referenced material. Direct support means that someone with relevant scientific credentials has already done the analytical work required. If an article does not do any science and it does not have the direct support of any referenced science, then it looks a lot like science, but it isn’t. That is pretty much the definition of pseudo-science.

        This is why we need advocates for science literacy. Pseudo-science is a plague among climate sceptics, lukewarmists and climate alarmists alike. It pollutes otherwise useful discussions.

        We indeed live in a world of missed targets and rising emissions. The stakes are high. As an economist and retired policy advisor, how would you rate your collegues in terms of their scientific literacy? Are they capable of spotting fakes and do you think that it matters?

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  10. Larry Woodruff says:

    While your comments show common sense and in some ways merit let me say the real question here—NOT A SAFER WAY TO TRANSPORT DILBIT——BUT WHY TRANSPORT IT AT ALL? What so more profit can come to big oil companies—why not build refineries in the already polluted tar sands? No new refineries have been built in Canada in the past twenty years thanks to the federal government. Shipping poison in pipelines is not the answer it is the profit center for big oil. Refineries in the tar sands could be legislated in “THE NATIONAL INTEREST” to employ Canadians and supply Canadian natural resources to Canadians first at a reasonable price. People are against shipping poison that cannot be cleaned up in pipelines so this fact is being misdirected to other things yet common sense says why allow and fight so hard to save big oil profit? This is the reality of this situation nothing else.

    Like

    • Kelly says:

      There is a new refinery in Alberta called the Stergeon creek refinery which was supposed to send more refined product to BC via Transmountain. We don’t build refineries because they are hugely expensive and take decades to build plus are more difficult to get through the regulatory process than pipelines PLUS we still need pipelines to move the refined product anyway. Many refined products also have a short shelf life so it is better to refine closer to the location where it is to be used. It is also better to refine closer to the place of use as then it can be refined into several end products according to local demand. When we talk about transporting oil products and the potential for spills the easiest to clean up are the very light products as the volitize into the air (these aslo have the shortest shelf life). The second easiest to clean up is the heavy crudes such as the oil sands because the heavy crudes do not flow as easily and do not dissipate into the environment very quickly. The clean up is essentially removing all the soil in the affected area. The more refined products are more difficult to clean up because they dissipate further into the environment creating a larger area in need of clean-up.

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  11. Malcolm McColl says:

    Reblogged this on McColl Magazine and commented:
    My favorite scientist talks about the inevitable usage of ‘fossil’ fuels

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  12. Pingback: Revisiting the question anti-pipeline activists can’t answer about the Trans Mountain pipeline – McColl Magazine

  13. Kelly says:

    Hi Blair,
    I would like to add agriculture to your list of industries for which no alternatives exist. Agriculture mostly runs on diesel. I am not aware of suitable electric or solar replacement even in a prototype stage.

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  14. Bob Lyman says:

    Blair, I have only one quibble with your article, most of which I heartedly agree with. You say that British Columbia is poorly served in terms of oil spill response. The Western Canada Marine Response Corporation has the capability to handle spills of up to 16,000 tons. That is sixty per cent above the requirements imposed by Transport Canada on response corporations across the country. The largest spill in B.C. history was 240 tones (fuel oil from a ferry, not crude oil), so the current capability is 67 times higher than the largest spill in B.C. history. Aren’t you asking for too much?

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    • Blair says:

      WCMRC only has reasonable capacity in the immediate vicinity of the port. This leaves the rest of the coast is under served especially the northwest coast.

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      • Bob Lyman says:

        It has more capacity relative to the risk and the geographical area to be covered than any other response organization in Canada. WCMRC’s bases are located close to where the vessel traffic is – at Burnaby, Duncan and Prince Rupert. New satellite and hub bases are being added at Vancouver Harbour, Beecher Bay, Port Alberni, Fraser River, Nanaimo, Saanich Peninsula, and Uclelet. That is a far higher level of capacity and geographic coverage than in Atlantic Canada where most of the vessel traffic and the largest vessels are. One wonders whether the test of adequacy on the west coast is far more related to politics and perception than to genuine risk and readiness.

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