Carbon sequestering, bio-fuels are not solutions

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Last month Prime Minister Harper confirmed government support forcarbon capture technology and tossed $240 million into a generatingplant in Saskatchewan to convert it to a carbon capture and storageunit.

The plan is to generate power with coal, trap the emissions,then pipe it underground. Whether it will work or not is yet to bedetermined, and if it does there is the question of whether it couldhappen fast enough to significantly slow down our ballooning carbonemission problem.

Preventing carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere iscertainly a good thing, but technical fixes like carbon sequesteringalone do not address the critical issue that we face with theenvironment, and alone are little more than an expensive publicrelations stunt.

Another environmental scam is the current craze focused on socalled bio-fuel. Faced with a dwindling petroleum supply, vast tractsof land are now being dedicated to growing crops like corn and othersugar rich plants to be converted into ethanol. Royal Dutch Shell iseven claiming that they have a process to convert plant sugarsdirectly into gasoline.

So, ethanol may burn cleaner than fossil fuels, and it may be arenewable resource if produced within reasonable limits, but again,by itself it does not address the issue that needs dealing with if anyattempt at saving our environment is to succeed. Even worse, theswitch to bio-fuel has an ominous downside, hungry people becomecollateral damage in its production.

Bio-fuels like ethanol use up crops and crop land that could beproviding food, and that is a problem. Food reserves in the world aredropping while the number of people looking for something to eat areincreasing. The shift of crop land from food production to fuelproduction not only reduces food supply, it raises the cost of food.Last year alone, according to the UN Food and AgricultureOrganization, dairy prices have risen about 80 per cent, and grainprices about 40 per cent.

The problem with programs like carbon sequestering and bio-fuelproduction is that they are treatments for symptoms, not treatmentsfor the disease that caused the symptoms. When we go looking foralternative energy sources, and cleaner energy, withoutunderstanding why we need them, we will someday find out thateven with clean, alternative energy we still have the problem.

Cleaner and more renewable forms of energy are a good thing, as faras they go, but the question must be asked, why do we need somuch energy to start with. The real problem is that we are alreadyusing too much energy and making too many demands on an eco-system that can not support us indefinitely at our current rate ofconsumption.

We have used our energy to overfish our oceans, over-cut our forests,over-dam our rivers and commit other excesses as well as filling theatmosphere with carbon gasses at such a high rate the past 200years that our climate is changing and compounding our ability tocope with the crisis that we have created.

Our excesses have given us briefly the ability to overpopulate whichhas put us on a treadmill of needing more consumption to supportadditional people who will then increase consumption and populationeven more and so on. The problem is that the resources of theplanet are finite, as is its ability to sustainably renew itself in thestate which supports humans. That brief period of excess willsooner or later be ending.

The question for us is how do we solve the core problem that lies atthe heart of all of our environmental woes. Merely pumping carboninto the ground while expanding the production of energy that willenable us to tax the system even more is not a solution. Creating areplacement source of fuel for fossil fuel so that we can continue toconsume great amounts of energy and expand society is not asolution.

We can only solve the problem of over-consumption by reducingconsumption. More important than sequestering carbon gasses, andmore important than producing cleaner fuel is to relieve the wholesystem by producing less fuel and less energy.

Producing less, even though it is the only sane thing to do, of courseruns into some heavy opposition in a world controlled by people whowant more. Nobody wants to be told that they should expect less,and politicians wax effusively about growing economies and getelected for promising more. If our species is to survive, however, atleast in a recognizable form, less must become the goal, not more,until the planet's system has the ability once again to produce morethan we can demand of it.

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