Thursday, January 20, 2011

Land fizzing like soda pop: farmer says CO2 injected underground is leaking

Another stupid Greenie idea becoming unglued

A Saskatchewan farm couple whose land lies over the world's largest carbon capture and storage project says greenhouse gases seeping from the soil are killing animals and sending groundwater foaming to the surface like shaken soda pop. The gases were supposed to have been injected permanently underground.

Cameron and Jane Kerr own nine quarter-sections of land above the Weyburn oilfield in eastern Saskatchewan. They released a consultant's report Tuesday that links high concentrations of carbon dioxide in their soil to 6,000 tonnes of the gas injected underground every day by energy giant Cenovus (TSX:CVE) in an attempt to enhance oil recovery and fight climate change.

"We knew, obviously, there was something wrong," said Jane Kerr.

A Cenovus spokeswoman said the company doubts those findings. She pointed out they contradict years of research from other scientists. "It's not what we believe," said Rhona Delfrari.

Since 2000, Cenovus has injected about 16 million tonnes of carbon dioxide underground to force more oil from an aging field and safely store greenhouse gases that would otherwise contribute to climate change.

But in 2005, the Kerrs began noticing algae blooms, clots of foam and multicoloured scum in two ponds at the bottom of a gravel quarry on their land. Sometimes, the ponds bubbled. Small animals — cats, rabbits and goats — were regularly found dead a few metres away.

Then there were the explosions. "At night we could hear this sort of bang like a cannon going off," said Jane Kerr, 58. "We'd go out and check the gravel pit and, in the walls, it (had) blown a hole in the side and there would be all this foaming coming out of this hole." "Just like you shook up a bottle of Coke and had your finger over it and let it spray," added her husband.

The water, said Jane Kerr, came out of the ground carbonated. "It would fizz and foam."

Alarmed, the couple left their farm and moved to Regina. "It was getting too dangerous to live there," Cameron Kerr said.

He said provincial inspectors did a one-time check of air quality. Eventually, the Kerrs paid a consultant for a study. Paul Lafleur of Petro-Find Geochem found carbon dioxide concentrations in the soil last summer that averaged about 23,000 parts per million — several times those typically found in field soils. Concentrations peaked at 110,607 parts per million.

Lafleur also used the mix of carbon isotopes he found in the gas to trace its source. "The ... source of the high concentrations of CO2 in the soils of the Kerr property is clearly the anthropogenic CO2 injected into the Weyburn reservoir," he wrote.

"The survey also demonstrates that the overlying thick cap rock of anhydrite over the Weyburn reservoir is not an impermeable barrier to the upward movement of light hydrocarbons and CO2 as is generally thought."

Delfrari said Cenovus has hired three independent consultants to evaluate Lafleur's work. She pointed to a 2004 report on the project by Saskatchewan's Petroleum Training and Research Centre, an agency bringing together government, academics and industry. That report found that after four years of injection, there was no indication carbon dioxide was making its way up through 1,400 metres of rock. "There is no evidence so far for escape of injected CO2 from depth," the report said. It also found the area "highly suitable" for long-term carbon dioxide storage.

Centre director Malcolm Wilson said Lafleur's report wasn't enough on its own to conclude carbon dioxide is leaking. "I will never say that it couldn't happen, but at the moment I think it's very premature to make that linkage," he said. "There are a lot of other potential sources of the CO2." He added, however, that Lafleur has raised some significant questions. "We do have to take into account some of the carbon isotope analysis."

Delfrari said the nearest injection well is about two kilometres from the Kerr property and no other farmers in the area have complained. "We're confident that none of (the carbon dioxide) is making its way back to the Kerr property." She said the Kerrs have suggested that Cenovus buy them out.

Lafleur said there's no way the heavy concentrations of the gas he found could have been naturally generated. "Biogeneic gas is simply not the source of this tremendous amount of CO2, both from a volume point of view and from the isotope point of view. "All reservoirs leak. Every one of them."

Lafleur emphasized that most of the carbon dioxide stays underground. But so much is injected that even small leaks can have health impacts. He said environmental monitoring of the Weyburn project virtually ceased in 2005.

Carbon dioxide is not poisonous, but it does have health effects and can cause asphyxiation in heavy concentrations.

Saskatchewan Energy and Resource Minister Bill Boyd said his government is prepared to take another look at the situation, but said he wouldn't order the project to stop or slow down. "We're prepared to take a very serious look at this situation," he said. "In the meantime, we feel that things are handled appropriately."

The suggestion that the Weyburn capture and storage project might be leaking could have implications far beyond one rural neighbourhood. The Alberta government has committed $2 billion to similar pilot projects. The United States has committed $3.4 billion for carbon capture and storage.

Norway has been injecting carbon dioxide into the sea floor since 1996. There are carbon capture and storage tests planned in Australia, Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom, China and Japan.


The Global Warming Battle: Conservatives vs. 'Academics'?

Wednesday's Washington Post features a story from Richmond by reporter Rosalind Helderman on how the state's Democrats are going to introducing a bill trying to curb the powers of conservative Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to subpoena public universities for information. Taxpayer-funded universities should be spared any public accountability?

The topic here is controversial Climategate scientist Michael Mann, and his tendency to "hide the decline" in temperature records when it's politically convenient. But the Post suggests the conflict is between conservative and "academics," between politicians and "honest" researchers:

Cuccinelli's demand has pleased conservatives, who say that global warming is a hoax, but has outraged many academics, who say he is smearing an honest researcher because he does not approve of his findings.

Why can't liberals ever just be liberals? The Post lets left-wing radicals like the Union of Concerned Scientists pose merely as "academics." Let's recall what Brent Bozell noted was revealed in the Climategate e-mails: these global-warming scientist/activists are politicians just as much as Cuccinelli is:

"It's also important to note that these folks play a rough game of hardball. This isn't about science. It's politics — the brass-knuckles sort. In another e-mail from [Phil] Jones to Mann, reported in The Washington Post, there's talk of cutting skeptical scientists out of the official United Nations report: "I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report," Jones writes. "Kevin and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!"

In another, Jones and Mann discuss how they can pressure an academic journal to reject the work of climate skeptics, perhaps with a boycott: "Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal," Mann writes. "I will be emailing the journal to tell them I'm having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor," Jones replies.

The Post has editorialized very harshly against Cuccinelli investigating Mann's work while he was at the University of Virginia. They're not offended when scientists act like liberal politicians -- they certainly don't believe "objective journalists" should refrain from acting like politicians. Helderman noted these Democrat bills will go nowhere -- except to undermine Cuccinelli's appeal to "moderate voters" at the polls:

If the bills pass the Democratic-led Senate, they are unlikely to be approved by the House of Delegates, where the GOP holds a strong majority.

Still, they afford Democrats a forum for hammering the controversial attorney general over the U-Va. subpoena, which they consider an area of vulnerability with moderate voters.

Mann is an "honest researcher," and Cuccinelli is a "controversial attorney general." Before they assess the politics of environmentalism, perhaps the Post should go ask the working-class miners in southern Virginia which side of the global-warming debate is "moderate" and which is "controversial." But the Post finds it plausible for the Democrats claim Cuccinelli (and not power-hungry "climate change" bureaucrats) would offend Thomas Jefferson:

"Jefferson would be turning in his grave to see what was coming from Richmond because of Attorney General Cuccinelli's efforts to capture private correspondence within faculty and staff at the University of Virginia," said Del. David J. Toscano (D-Charlottesville), who is co-sponsoring the bill and whose district includes the university, which was founded by Thomas Jefferson. "If people are concerned about government intrusion into your private life, you ought to be very concerned about what the attorney general is attempting to do in this case."


Labor Department awards millions of dollars in college grants for 'green jobs' that don't exist

The Department of Labor has issued several million dollars in grants to community colleges and specialized universities around the country to train students for “green jobs” in renewable energy fields. While the grants are supposed to fund the future “rank and file” workers of the renewable energy industry, there’s a glaring problem the DOL seemingly overlooked — those jobs are either non-existent or scarce.

A former college official who has applied for these grants and has in-depth experience working with the Department of Labor and the Department of Education told The Daily Caller that colleges will often fudge expected job placement numbers just to get extra government cash.

“On ground level – it’s a real struggle – my grant writers came to me and honestly said, ‘I don’t have any job projections, what do I tell them?’ You do your best to make up job numbers,” said the former college official, who wished to remain anonymous to prevent jeopardizing future job opportunities. “But it’s not like lying – it’s just guessing what we might be able to do in a best case scenario, but you don’t say it’s not likely for many jobs.”

The former college official told TheDC that, though his college received five different “green jobs” grants from the Department of Labor to train students, no program has been set up yet.

“I can tell you, one, at least at my college, we’ve been very slow to get these grants underway,” he said. “In terms of those programs going, what’s the rate of success on these programs? I don’t think the DOL could produce very strong job numbers on these programs.”

Bill Wilson of not-for-profit group Americans for Limited Government told TheDC these programs and grants are nothing more than a collection of buzzwords, as they don’t serve any practical purpose.

“Congress needs to cut these vanity ‘green job’ promotion projects out of the budget, it is a waste of money and an insult to the American taxpayer to fund these thinly veiled environmental political rallies,” Wilson said in an e-mail.

It’s not like these grants are being given to research and development programs at big name schools focusing on developing new renewable energy technology, either. They’re being given to universities and community colleges to train students in technical or associate degree programs to work in yet-to-be-developed fields. Many of the grants are promised to colleges that pledged to push “green jobs” or “new energy technology,” but don’t go into much more detail about how they plan to go about doing that.

For instance, Calhoun Community College in Decatur, Ala., received more than $3.4 million to help train 175 people, both those who are unemployed and high school students, in “energy-efficiency technology.” That translates into more than $20,000 per person, and many of the trainees likely won’t be able to secure jobs simply because there aren’t very many companies in the U.S. hiring for what they are being trained to do.

Then, there’s Kern Community College District in Bakersfield, Calif., which was granted about $2.7 million for similar training programs for 650 people. There’s also the Shenandoah Valley Workforce Investment Board, Inc., in Harrisonburg, Va., which got about $5 million to help 1,010 “unemployed and dislocated workers” learn “current and future employer needs” in green technology manufacturing, solar and wind energy support and efficiency assessment and retrofitting for existing energy consumers.

The former college official told TheDC that, though solar and wind are emerging energy sources and though some people around the country are interested in making their homes or businesses “greener,” he thinks there isn’t enough business to support the people being trained to go into these industries. Colleges, he said, are simply incapable of turning down free government money.


Hundreds hospitalised in Vietnam cold snap

Hundreds of children and old people have been hospitalised and thousands of animals killed in a cold snap in north Vietnam, media and officials said Thursday, as temperatures fell to 36-year lows.

People from various provinces needed medical treatment for respiratory and other ailments in recent days, reports said, while the agriculture ministry said more than 4,000 buffalo and cows have died in the cold.

In the capital Hanoi, crowds gathered outside clothing shops as chilly customers rushed to buy thick jackets.

DTiNews website showed pictures of plants encased in ice on O Quy Ho, a mountain pass in Lao Cai province that is popular with tourists.

On Wednesday, Mau Son mountain in Lang Son province bordering China dropped to minus 3.6 C (25.5 F), the lowest temperature since a 1975 record of minus 3.2 C (26 F), the province's weather bureau said.

Hanoi saw a January low of 7 C (44.6 F) on Tuesday night. A woman and her grandson died that evening in a blast on their boat on the city's Red River after they lit a fire to warm themselves, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported. "It is cold but the cold spell in 2008 was worse because it lasted 38 days," said a forecaster at the national weather bureau.

The forecaster, who declined to be named, said Vietnam is influenced by weather systems from the northern hemisphere, Europe and China but the exact cause of the current cold snap was unclear.


Ritter’s “new energy economy” based on old fallacies

If you think corporate welfare “creates jobs,” you might be an outgoing Colorado governor.

As governor, Bill Ritter signed “an unprecedented 57 clean-energy bills into law,” a January 5 release from Colorado State University reviews. Now Ritter will join the university’s Center for the New Energy Economy, drawing a privately funded $300,000 annual salary.

Whether wind and solar energy actually can significantly reduce carbon emissions remains debatable. The online news source Face the State recently reported that an $11 million “new energy” project in Fort Collins actually relies partly on dirty diesel. The irregularity and wide dispersion of wind and solar energy make them difficult to harness.

But advocates of the “new energy economy” do not merely claim that alternative energy reduces carbon emissions. They claim it benefits the economy as well. Such claims about the alleged economic benefits of “new energy” rest on basic economic fallacies.

In a free market, consumers turn to new energy sources when they offer lower costs and better quality than the competition. For example, in the late 1800s consumers turned from whale oil to the “new energy” of petroleum. Advances in nuclear power or some other energy source may in turn largely replace coal and oil without political interference.

Political interference in the market is precisely what Ritter advocates, and that is why his policies harm the economy rather than help it. Ritter’s “new energy economy” relies on a combination of political controls and corporate welfare that raise your energy bills and your taxes.

Last year Ritter signed a bill “requiring that 30 percent of electricity be generated from renewable sources by 2020,” a release from the governor’s office notes. The fallacy is that the bill “will create thousands of new jobs.”

Ritter’s claims about jobs rest on what 19th Century French economist Frederic Bastiat called the “childish illusion” that such measures do anything other than reallocate wealth and wages. Bastiat urges us to consider the unseen as well as the politically obvious. Ritter’s controls will destroy jobs in the oil and coal industries, and they will destroy jobs that consumers would otherwise finance, if they weren’t paying higher energy costs.

Another document from the governor’s office claims, “Ritter’s vision and strategies are helping to create and save jobs, support small businesses, increase manufacturing and spur innovation.” The document lists various businesses subsidized by the state, including Vestas Blades, IBM, and Abound Solar. Ritter conveniently neglects to mention the costs.

Corporate welfare does not just fall from the sky. It comes from taxpayers. That money is no longer available to those who earned it to create jobs and support businesses in other sectors. While Ritter creates jobs with one hand, he destroys them with the other. The difference is that the jobs Ritter creates serve political interests rather than the interests of consumers.

Consider, as Bastiat might do, the logical absurdities of Ritter’s position. If mandating “new” energy creates jobs, then why stop at 30 percent? Why not 100 percent? Why not expand subsidies 1,000 fold? Why not outlaw all coal, oil, and natural gas in Colorado, and force every property owner to install solar panels and windmills? Think of all the new jobs that would require!

Of course, Ritter could argue that, insofar as he has attracted federal funding for “new energy,” he has helped forcibly transfer wealth and jobs from citizens in other states to citizens in Colorado.

But that would seem to be a losing game. Last year the Denver Business Journal noted that “Colorado ranked 33rd among the 50 states in the amount of per-capita federal spending.” If Ritter can “create jobs” in Colorado by bilking the citizens of other states, then politicians elsewhere can do the same to us. The net result is not more jobs, but more political favoritism and more economic waste.

Ritter’s “new energy economy” is built on old economic fallacies about the alleged benefits of central planning and corporate welfare. For productive employment, we should instead turn to a subsidy-free New Liberty Economy that favors free-markets and rewards companies that seek to please customers instead of politicians.


Australia's chief Greenie a racist

But Greenies don't like anyone much so a bit of xenophobia should be no surprise. Note: I use "racist" and "xenophobia" above in the customary Leftist way

With the fires still underway and the death toll rising, Senator Bob Brown commented at the time that the extent and ferocity of the fires was a pointer to the reality of global warming. Maybe so - not being a scientist I couldn't say - but the more pressing issue was one of time and place. On both counts, Bob Brown failed the taste test, and quite spectacularly.

With the flood crisis now turning to Victoria, and the death toll expected to increase in Queensland as the recovery continues, Senator Brown has now decided to use this latest national tragedy to launch an attack on the coal industry. Unlike the bushfires, it's difficult to identify any precise link between burning coal and the re-occurrence of a flood pattern which has been with Australia since well before white settlement, but the Greens Leader clearly didn't want to let the opportunity pass him by. As Queensland Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce pointed out in a moment of lucidity, in 1893 the Brisbane River flood gauge reached 8.35m. "Was the coal industry responsible for that as well?" Joyce asked.

Brown's overstatements are such that they test the patience of those of us who believe in climate change. Global warming aside, there was one aspect to his comments about the coal industry which exposed the strange jingoism which underpins his world view and that of many on his flank of politics. It's the kind of sentiment which has been heard most commonly from supporters of Pauline Hanson's old One Nation Party, and it exposes how on both the far left and far right of politics there's this quaint "Stop the world I want to get off" nonsense which sees globalisation as the root cause of all known social evil.

When such views are expressed by Hansonites they'll face accusations of racism, which is something which you would think Bob Brown abhors, but this is what he had to say anyway:

"Burning coal is a major cause of global warming. This industry, which is 75 per cent owned outside Australia, should help pay the cost of the predicted more severe and more frequent floods, droughts and bushfires in the coming decades. It is unfair that the cost is put on all taxpayers, not the culprits."

Setting aside the fact that this flood is less severe than others which have occurred in the past in terms of its size, Brown's comments could so easily have emanated from the mouth of someone such as Hanson. The fact that we are now living in a global economy is presented not as the basis of our increased national prosperity, but the source of our apparent ruination.

This is a recurring theme in public life in Australia. Groups and individuals often cloak their arguments in this absurdly retro dinki-di rhetoric to capitalise on a misplaced sense of national sentiment.

Dick Smith built a company out of it, the big retailers tried it on last month when they attacked our right to shop online, ignoring the fact that it's their own pricing policies, and their support for protectionist racketeering such as parallel import restrictions which artificially inflates the cost of products such as books. Those factors play as big a part as the fluctuation of the dollar in encouraging consumers to buy offshore, but it doesn't sit with the Buy Aussie sentiment they're using to bolster their self-interested arguments.

One of the best expos‚s of this protectionist nonsense came on the floor of the NSW Labor State Conference in 2007 when the rambunctious former treasurer Michael Costa took on the labour movement and the parliamentary left over electricity privatisation.

The unions and their backers in Caucus had done a very passable impersonation of Hanson by peddling the line that if NSW sold its power industry it could end up being bought by the Chinese. No evidence for that, but invoking the prospect of those inscrutable Orientals buying Energy Australia was too good a PR opportunity to ignore. In a passionate and ranting speech at the conference, which was so abusive that it probably helped ensure the failure of the power sale, Costa pointed out that the bright yellow protest T-shirts being worn by the anti-privatisation delegates had themselves been made in China.

Surely if the delegates were consistent and pure they would have paid five times as much to get them from a local manufacturer.

The simple economic reality is that for everything we now import there are plenty of locally grown or locally made products and services which are now able to enter markets overseas which have also reduced protections as world trade becomes freer.

The irony with Brown's attack on the coal industry is exposed by the estimated damages bill from the floods themselves. Canberra is putting the cost at between $5 billion and $8 billion but the Reserve Bank believes it could top $15 billion. Much of the cost would come from the fact that large sections of the coal industry have been shut down by the floods, or the roads which are used to transport coal are now inoperable. Which means fewer exports to China. Which means less money to Treasury.

Which means less money for public schools, bike lanes and community arts grants, all the things which people such as Bob Brown apparently adore.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


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