Thursday, March 23, 2006


Mexico's giant Cantarell oil field, in the Gulf of Mexico off the Yucatan, was supposedly discovered in 1976 after a fisherman named Cantarell reported an oil seep in the Campeche Bay. Last week, Mexico announced finding another giant oil field off Veracruz, the Noxal, estimated to hold more than 10 billion barrels of oil.

Exploration yielded surprising results. It turned out that Mexico's richest oil field complex was created 65 million years ago, when the huge Chicxulub meteor impacted the Earth at the end of the Mesozoic Era. Scientists now believe that the Chicxulub meteor impact was the catastrophe the killed the dinosaurs, as well as the cause for creating the Cantrell oil field.

The impact crater is massive, estimated to be 100 to 150 miles (160 to 240 kilometers) wide. The seismic shock of the meteor fractured the bedrock below the Gulf and set off a series of tsunami activity that caused a huge section of land to break off and fall back into the crater under water.

Proponents of the abiotic, deep-earth theory of the origin of oil point argue that the deep fracturing of the basement bedrock at Cantarell caused by the meteor's impact was responsible for allowing oil formed in the Earth's mantle to seep into the sedimentary rock that settled in the huge underwater crater. Geologists have documented that the bedrock underlying the crater shows "melt rock veinlets pointing to large megablock structures as well as a long thermal and fluid transport" as part of the post-impact history. In other words, the bedrock at Cantarell did suffer sufficiently severe fracturing to open the bedrock to flows of liquids and gases from the deep earth below.

An important, but neglected, study of the bedrock underlying the Saudi oil fields provided strong evidence that the oil fields resulted from fractures and faults in the basement rock, not from a disproportionately large number of dinosaurs having died for some reason or another uniquely on the Arabian Peninsula. The study published in 1992 by geologist H.S. Edgell argued that the Saudi oil fields, including the giant field at Ghawar, were "produced by extensional block faulting in the crystalline Precambrian basement along the predominantly N-S Arabian Trend which constitutes the 'old grain' of Arabia."

In other words, according to the abiotic, deep earth theory of oil's origin, we do not have to assume that all the dinosaurs herded like Elephants to Saudi Arabia at the end of the Mesozoic Era, where they died in a giant heap that produced oil. Bedrock cracks, whether or not due to meteor impacts, can serve to open the above sedimentary layers to trap oil deposits seeping upward.

Until the 1960s, geologists considered collisions of extraterrestrial objects with the Earth as interesting, but not necessarily important. Since Cantarell was discovered, geologists have come to realize that the intense shock waves generated in meteor impact events have significantly shaped Earth's surface, distributed its crust, and fractured its bedrock. Over 150 individual geological structures, many masked over by subsequent sedimentary deposits, have been identified as important, ranging from circular impact bowls measuring from only a few kilometers in diameter to as much as 200 kilometers (approximately 125 miles) in diameter. Moreover, Cantarell has stimulated interest in meteor impact structures as potential locations to explore in order to find oil producing sites.

In recent years, we have only begun exploring the Gulf of Mexico for oil. So far the results are impressive. Instead of imploring Congress to examine the oil producing potential of wood chips and switch grass, President Bush may be better advised to press ahead to extend oil exploration into the Gulf of Mexico to the limits current technology will permit.

Wouldn't the Bush administration and other "peak oil" advocates be surprised to find that a resource as close as the Gulf of Mexico might just rival the 260 billion barrels of oil reserves Saudi Arabia currently claims?

Human Events, 21 March 2006


A review of the findings from more than 100 peer-reviewed studies shows that although many aspects of the global water cycle have intensified, including precipitation and evaporation, this trend has not consistently resulted in an increase in the frequency or intensity of tropical storms or floods over the past century. The USGS findings, which have implications on the effect of global climate change, are published today in the Journal of Hydrology. "A key question in the global climate debate is if the climate warms in the future, will the water cycle intensify and what will be the nature of that intensification," said USGS scientist Thomas Huntington, who authored the study. "This is important because intensification of the water cycle could change water availability and increase the frequency of tropical storms, floods, and droughts, and increased water vapor in the atmosphere could amplify climate warming."

For the report, Huntington reviewed data presented in more than 100 scientific studies. Although data are not complete, and sometimes contradictory, the weight of evidence from past studies shows on a global scale that precipitation, runoff, atmospheric water vapor, soil moisture, evapotranspiration, growing season length, and wintertime mountain glacier mass are all increasing. The key point with the glaciers is that there is more snowfall resulting in more wintertime mass accumulation - another indication of intensification. "This intensification has been proposed and would logically seem to result in more flooding and more intense tropical storm seasons. But over the observational period, those effects are just not borne out by the data in a consistent way," said Huntington.

Huntington notes that the long term and global scale of this study could accommodate significant variability, for example, the last two Atlantic hurricane seasons. "We are talking about two possible overall responses to global climate warming: first an intensification of the water cycle being manifested by more moisture in the air, more precipitation, more runoff, more evapotranspiration, which we do see in this study; and second, the potential effects of the intensification that would include more flooding and more tropical storms which we don't see in this study," said Huntington.

Eurekalert, 15 March 2006

Gators and a Lot of Guff

Few experiences inspire awe like paddling a canoe through a Florida swamp filled with otters, turtles and tropical birds. Or spending the night on high ground surrounded by the subsonic thrumming of gators, harmonics dueling around you like a gigantic Aboriginal didgeridoo. As the resident of an island surrounded by Florida swampland, I understand the moral sentiment behind Michael Grunwald's "The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise." There is indeed such a thing as a swampy paradise. But I wouldn't go as far as Mr. Grunwald. His message, to quote one of his milder passages: "The Everglades is a test....If we pass it, we may get to keep the planet."

It is true that the disappearance of the Everglades, the wide, slow marsh river flowing seasonally from Lake Okeechobee (in the center of the state) south to Florida Bay, would be a great tragedy, but the "river of grass" isn't going to disappear, and it is decidedly not a test. It is too clearly sui generis to portend the fate of the planet. Nor can it exist in isolation from, you know, human beings.

For "pure" environmentalists, with whom Mr. Grunwald feels much sympathy, restoring the Everglades means re-establishing natural, rainy-season flooding from the Kissimmee River basin north of Lake Okeechobee to the southern end of the peninsula. Unfortunately, an Everglades that now stretches across four million acres and accommodates seven million people at its edges can never be "natural" in the sense that an unmanaged, self-sustaining ecosystem is natural. Nor should it be, at this point.

It is true that the original Everglades would be largely intact today if not for big, tax-subsidized drainage efforts. But those efforts began decades ago and cannot now be undone. And Florida would cease to exist if they were. Judged by wateriness alone, the state is closer to the Netherlands than Nebraska. Only a vast system of canals, pumphouses and banked-up rivers and lakes -- many begun under the New Deal and intensely elaborated in the early 1960s -- makes Florida habitable and farmable.

And makes cities possible. Without water management, there would be no Naples, Orlando, Miami and Fort Lauderdale -- no retirement and no spring break. The pure environmentalists are horrified by all this nonwatery activity. They haven't proposed a massive resident relocation yet, but it is implied by their Druidic vision of pristine nature. The population of the Orlando area has increased by millions since the early 1960s, when the nearby Kissimmee River was "channelized" to contain floods. Even more millions now live in the areas protected by the Okeechobee flood-control system to the south. Where are these people supposed to go if Florida is run by Gaia and not the state government's water authority?

Conservationists would prefer to "restore" the Everglades by first preserving what is still natural there -- by adjusting hundreds of small inefficiencies in damming and eco-management, even erecting new dikes for the sake of the Everglades themselves. Pure environmentalists, by contrast, want to expand the idea of restoration to "take back," at enormous cost, some of the most valuable real estate in the country.

A $9 billion Everglades restoration project, approved by Congress in 2000, has taken its cue from the pure environmentalists, dismantling various flood controls and de-channelizing various rivers. Mr. Grunwald doesn't like the project only because it does not go far enough. He would like statewide "sheet flow," letting water go where it will. That would include the front porch and cropland of many a contented Floridian.

A key problem for the restorers is that the environmental data they use to guide them come from 1960 and after. As it happens, the early 1960s ended a long (40-year) cycle of high-intensity, and frequent, hurricanes. The 40 years that followed -- true to pattern -- were less wet and windy. But we are now re-entering a peak-hurricane cycle, as Wilma declared last year and climatologists confirm. A lot of cheerful suggestions about dismantling flood controls are based on the wrong part of the sine curve.

Thus environmentalists are pushing to prevent the lowering of water levels in Lake Okeechobee in preparation for storms, because fresh-water releases from the second largest lake in America disrupt the ecosystem of the brackish Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries. Similarly, they attack the use of herbicides needed to keep canals clear of the weeds that clog pumps. But such resistance courts disaster. Dan Canfield, an aquatic ecologist at the University of Florida, warns that a "perfect storm" or even a series of smaller hurricanes could do as much damage to Orlando or south Florida as Katrina did to New Orleans.

Rather than accepting a compromise between humans and habitat, Mr. Grunwald radicalizes the process with coal-mine-canary metaphors. He cites the efflorescence of red-tide algal blooms, which are "massacring" Florida's "dolphins, oysters and manatees" by poisoning them. Yes, the algae are poisonous, but there are simply no data to show that they are more populous now because of manmade "runoff." They were spotted by the Spanish in colonial America and remarked upon by the scientist-explorer Angelo Heilprin in 1886, before a few thousand residents could affect Florida's waters. They are part of the state's natural ecosystem.

Similarly, Mr. Grunwald worries over phosphorus levels in the water, but he doesn't need to. Phosphorus is mined in Florida. The soil is full of it. Nature is responsible for most of the mineral's presence, runoff less so. In any case, Mr. Grunwald uses a pollution standard that has long been discredited: a phosphorus-to-water ratio of 10 parts per billion. Even the Clinton administration cast the standard aside. (A bottle of Evian water has 200 parts per billion.) Important scientists, too -- e.g., Prof. Curtis Richardson of the Duke University Wetland Center -- reject the ratio as evidence of pollution.

The Everglades debate, including such exaggerations, is reminiscent of the one that distorted forest management a decade ago. The fervor of environmental purists -- almost religious in its intensity -- has the effect of discrediting practical policies and leading to foolish ones. We had unnecessarily destructive forest fires a few years ago, until sanity returned to policy. Perhaps destructive floods will do the same in Florida. At some point, people must be seen as part of the nature we are trying to preserve.



Chancellor Gordon Brown has a chance in Wednesday's budget to put his money where his mouth is after campaigning by the government has helped put global warming on the world's political agenda. But if past experience is anything to go by, he will duck the issue, according to environmentalists who accuse the government of letting pro-green taxation slide and failing to promote clean technologies like microgeneration. "Green taxes have fallen under Labour, despite promises to increase them when they came to power," said Tony Juniper, head of Friends of the Earth. "At the same time, UK carbon dioxide emissions have risen."

The pressure is on Brown as the Conservative Party has decided the environment is a vote-winner. The green lobby underscores its case that Labour has consistently missed opportunities by noting that increases in fuel excise taxes have been frozen since 1999. As fuel prices remain high and volatile -- the reasons always given for the freeze -- there is no anticipation that Brown will bite the bullet on Wednesday. "The high level of petrol prices probably rules out any increases in excise duties on fuels," said Deloittes adviser Roger Bootle.

But with the surge in popularity of gas-guzzling sports utility vehicles designed for off-road use but more frequently now found in rich urban locations, environmentalists want Brown to bring in big road tax differentials. Friends of the Earth want a zero road tax on the most fuel efficient cars and up to 500 pounds on the least efficient. But Greenpeace -- noting that vehicle carbon dioxide emissions range from the Toyota Prius's 104 grammes per kilometre to the Range Rover's 389 grammes -- goes even further, calling for a top road tax rate of 1,800 pounds. "By rewarding energy efficiency and increasing taxes on dangerous and polluting forms of transport, Brown can help to combat climate change and end fuel poverty," said Greenpeace director Stephen Tindale.

The government has already announced that biofuels should make up five percent of road fuels by 2010 and Brown is expected to put flesh on the bones of the plan on Wednesday -- and possibly even take it further. Biofuels can be made using crops from grains to sugar and oilseeds as well as recycled cooking oils, and are a rapidly growing but hitherto neglected backwater of the green pantheon.

Also on the green wish list is a revamp of the tax system to penalise waste and promote efficiency in the battle against global warming that is blamed in large part on the burning of fossil fuels. The Green Alliance, a lobby group that counts academics, environmentalists and businessmen among its members, said in a recent report that energy efficient households should win tax benefits, and that water meters should become standard. It also proposed that environmentally unfriendly products like disposable batteries and high energy lightbulbs should likewise be penalised.

With the government in the throes of a study of how to meet future energy demand, Friends of the Earth called for major tax breaks and other incentives for household installations of micro-generation systems like solar cells and mini wind turbines. The government has said it will come up with a policy on micro-generation in the near future, although it is unclear whether Brown will announcement the first steps on Wednesday.

Reuters, 20 March 2006


Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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