Coal Tattoo

I was just checking out a new article in Chemical and Engineering News about the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, when I stumbled upon the headline of a complete separate story:

Carbon Dioxide’s Unsettled Future: Technologies to reel in greenhouse gas emissions abound, but can’t move forward without policy actions.

Here’s how it started:

With world population climbing, and energy demand along with it, countries are trying to figure out how to minimize the global-warming consequences of carbon-based energy …

… The challenges are enormous: Because of the differences in energy resources, nations around the world have different abilities to shift away from fossil fuel and to adopt technologies that reduce CO2 emissions.

And many of those technologies are not moving as fast as they could be because of uncertainty in public policies to reduce CO2 emissions.

Among other things, the story quotes George A. Richards, focus area leader for energy system dynamics a the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory:

It’s not just a matter of solving technical issues.  It is a matter of cost and social acceptance. Cost remains a bottleneck for carbon-capture technology, and regulatory certainty is needed before investments will be made in large-scale sequestration.

That’s right … this story reminded me of West Virginia’s now-senior Senator, Jay Rockefeller, who is pushing a bill to boost CCS, despite a GAO report that says the bill won’t work absent binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

And, as we found out late last week, Sen. Rockefeller believes the death of a bill that would have put such limits in place was a “sound idea with bipartisan support.”

New York Times columnist Tom Friedman certainly didn’t agree, saying in his column titled, “We’re Gonna Be Sorry”:

I could blame Republicans for the fact that not one G.O.P. senator indicated a willingness to vote for a bill that would put the slightest price on carbon. I could blame the Democratic senators who were also waffling. I could blame President Obama for his disappearing act on energy and spending more time reading the polls than changing the polls. I could blame the Chamber of Commerce and the fossil-fuel lobby for spending bags of money to subvert this bill. But the truth is, the public, confused and stressed by the last two years, never got mobilized to press for this legislation. We will regret it.

We’ve basically decided to keep pumping greenhouse gases into Mother Nature’s operating system and take our chances that the results will be benign — even though a vast majority of scientists warn that this will not be so. Fasten your seat belts. As the environmentalist Rob Watson likes to say: “Mother Nature is just chemistry, biology and physics. That’s all she is.” You cannot sweet-talk her. You cannot spin her. You cannot tell her that the oil companies say climate change is a hoax. No, Mother Nature is going to do whatever chemistry, biology and physics dictate, and “Mother Nature always bats last, and she always bats 1.000,” says Watson. Do not mess with Mother Nature. But that is just what we’re doing.