And other words from readers
The article implies that storing carbon in air pockets under the sea floor is the definition of carbon sequestration. However, the technique is just one of many ways to sequester carbon. Carbon sequestration refers to any way that carbon is removed from the atmosphere.
A common carbon sequestration technique for soils is reduced tillage, which keeps carbon from being lost from the soil and emitted into the atmosphere. In soil, extra carbon is almost always a good thing, leading to increased ecosystem functioning (such as efficient nutrient cycling, better water retention, and reduced erosion). In the ocean, there is some fear that elevated carbon levels could cause acidification, which in turn could cause species loss. This might also be a concern for the technique described in your article, depending on the leakiness of the air pocket. Of course, as you imply, all of these measures are just thinly veiled attempts to shift the focus from the real culprit in global warming — human consumption of fossil fuels.
I am a bit perplexed by one point made and one not made in the review of Jeremy Rifkin’s book. First, why does the energy grid have to be “revamped” to allow decentralized micro-power stations to feed power back into the grid? This is already being done in Europe and some parts of the U.S.; it is called net-metering.
Second, hydrogen will not be the energy source of the future, but it may be the energy carrier of the future. As an energy carrier, hydrogen has to be made from an energy source; it does not occur naturally in its pure form in sufficient quantities. If we use coal to create electricity to create pure hydrogen, we are not moving forward at all. We could use wind, solar, or biomass to create hydrogen, but hydrogen cannot replace coal or nuclear power. Rather, it may replace batteries.
Those who think fuel cells will replace fuel in cars should keep in mind that in the short run they may also be used to generate electricity from gasoline for large campers, etc. That would increase gas consumption. This example also illustrates the confusion: Gasoline is a source of energy; hydrogen is not.
Re: Mushroom Cloud
While touring the Soviet Union more than 10 years ago with a group of environmental professionals, I had the opportunity to have an off-the-record conversation with a Soviet agent regarding the distribution of contaminated food grown in the Ukraine. After looking over his shoulder multiple times to see who might be listening, he told me that the party line was that contaminated food was being destroyed, but the reality was that the government could not afford to get rid of food grown in the Ukraine, the “bread basket” of what was then the Soviet Union. Instead, the government was trying to equally distribute the food so that no one sector of the population got the majority of the contamination. From your story, the “party line” seems to be as strong as ever.
Relating to your article about the possible connection between sprawl and draught: One consideration becoming evident here in Portland, Ore., is that infill housing is not the antidote to the problem of sprawl that it’s cracked up to be.
In Portland, there are typically three infill row houses per standard 5,000-square-foot lot; together, they often cover more than 90 percent of permeable ground and block sun to their own and neighboring properties, making gardening practically impossible. Each of the three houses has a paved (not gravel) driveway, and the resulting runoff from properties is three to six times as great as it was from the former single-family dwelling — which probably did have a garden. There are typically three to six cars inhabiting the same space formerly occupied by one or two cars; that means three to six times as much runoff from oil, gas, and antifreeze in the same area.
The only true benefit to infill housing is the lack of new road surface for runoff. This may or may not be a worthwhile gain when compared to the environmental problems created by infill — not to mention the social problems of crowding people together. Add to this the reality that not even die-hard environmentalists do their shopping for a family of four on public transportation, and you can see the absurdity of the notion that infill means we’ll all shop and work locally and won’t have to drive anywhere.
By the way, did I mention that over half of the trees in the Portland metro area have been cut down over the past 10 years to make space for infill housing?
Voting for infill is not the solution people think it is. The only real solution is to lessen the number of people; then it won’t matter where or how they live.
Renee Daphne Kimball
Re: Locke and Key
So nice to see the comments in today’s Daily Grist about Washington Gov. Gary Locke’s (D) exemplary record on environmental awareness — a record only slightly tarnished by his giving the go-ahead last month on the Sumas 2 power plant, to be built a half-mile south of the Canadian border. Once it’s up and running, the plant will pump three tons of airborne crud into British Columbia’s Fraser Valley each day.
It is easy for Locke (and apparently for Grist) to pat himself on the back for an eco-aware attitude when the negative effects transpire outside beautiful Washington state. It shouldn’t be a big jump for you to understand why America is resoundingly hated by 95.5 percent of the world’s people.
Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada