- This is a seriously big idea from many sources that could solve our dilemmas over Keystone XL and the like…and enlist such pipelines themselves in the fight against our fossil fuel addiction and climate change. I must stress that no part of this idea is my own, but that the parts of this proposal have arisen independently all across the nation, as you’ll recognize below. Many thanks to Bill McKibben’s Rolling Stone Article for the swift kick in the pants (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719). I finally got the idea below organized into something simple, actionable and attainable. I hope it arrives in time to properly scope the new Keystone XL (http://www.transcanada.com/keystone.html) pipeline SEIS, as contracted to premier environmental firm ERM (http://www.keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov/). Finally, this communication is in no wise initiated, sponsored or connected with my employment as a professional planner at Harris County, Texas. I submit it to you with high hopes of avoiding the brewing showdown between big oil and coal interests and the American environmental movement, referenced in the 7 August 2012 letter from the 350 organization as included at the bottom of this post.
1. Strengthen all pipe before U. S. installation. I understand that steel piping stockpiled by TransCanada was too poor of quality to survive say, 7 years of bulking diluted bitumen cross-country. I'd suggest wrapping the existing stockpiled pipe with a high-tech multi-layer wrap as developed for Bigelow Aerospace inflatable spacecraft1 (see for background http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Bigelow_Aerospace). Such a wrap combines the ballistic protection and isolation envelope truly needed around this huge, hot and high pressure pipeline. It could well contain pipe failure spills and resist most damaging external attacks, even small meteorite strikes. Sure the stuff is expensive now, but a side benefit would be a massive expansion of Vectran (http://www.warwickmills.com/Vectran.aspx) production and possibly development of thinner and stronger carbon nano-tube fiber matting (http://www.owlnet.rice.edu/~rv4/Ajayan/book_springer.pdf). It may seem at first glance counter intuitive, but we in the environmental movement will embrace President Obama's "all the above" energy strategy, including the XL, when conditions 2 & 3 below LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD for the long term by phasing in charges to cover dirty energy’s true costs. In their seminal paper “” (http://arxiv.org/abs/0804.1126), Dr. James Hansen et. al. estimated the unadjusted current dollar cost of removing CO2 from the air at 200 per ton carbon ($54.54 per ton CO2) or possibly less. The US actually and desperately needs a large north-south2 pipeline capacity in its future, not so much for oil as for fresh water transport. Whether this leads us to empty Lake Michigan or (far better) import abundant Greenland melt water, it's too early to tell. But the south and southwest may come to depend on such a set of covered pipelines for continued access to fresh water, and we should have Keystone XL (and of course any that follow) built with that end in mind.
2. Condition construction of strong, long-lasting international pipeline(s) above upon a concomitant trillion dollar oil industry investment in a new Midwest electrical grid spine, possibly a buried high temperature superconducting bar
3. All of 1 & 2 above would prove useless unless the economic playing field for non-fossil-carbon energy sources is leveled, and soon4. Thus the third condition is a full phase-in BY the fossil fuel industry of a meaningful and predictable slowly-increasing carbon fee collected at the mine, wellhead or port and expeditiously disbursed in full and in equal measure to all taxpaying citizens as a rebate for their increased fossil fuel costs. Such a fee can be collected efficiently from on the order of 1,000 entities in the carbon fuels space. A carbon fee would net out the average citizen, punish those who will not adapt to the cold realities of a heating planet, and will reward those who make smarter non-carbon energy choices, thus enrolling the entire free market in a virtuous cycle toward conservation and alternatives. Because big oil has already invested in related heavy petroleum processing capacity, super-supertanker design and Panama Canal expansion (in violation of a strict interpretation of NEPA in my opinion), approval of the Keystone XL provides the best opportunity to negotiate the phase-in of such a carbon fee and rebate system in the US. Hillary should concentrate on enacting a parallel system in China concurrently, for all the rest of the world will come in line with a Sino-American Fee and Rebate system. A real benefit to a slowly climbing fee and rebate is that the better it performs its task of moving the markets and public to adapt and mitigate climate change, the faster such a system sunsets or retires itself without regulatory oversight or political intervention.
Sent: Tuesday, August 07, 2012 1:56 PM
To: Suckow, Paul (CSD)
Subject: Yes, it's a bit scary.
I have to admit, the last few emails we sent around -- the ones about Bill's article in Rolling Stone, about the 'scary new climate math' -- were, well, scary.
I think it's important to admit that sometimes. The fear is natural, and the arguments Bill laid out -- that the fossil fuel industry plans to burn five times more carbon than we can afford if we want to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius -- is particularly grim (It doesn't help that there's a massive drought on, and the weather keeps getting weirder). When I read Bill’s article, I found myself taking a whole lot of deep breaths.
Those deep breaths are important--we've got a lot of work to do in the months ahead and we're going to need stamina. As we laid out last week, we'll be launching a nationwide campaign to take on the fossil fuel industry head-on as soon as the election is over, building on the amazing organizing already underway around the globe.
Just last week, the US climate movement showed us just what it means to organize with courage, even when faced with foes like the fossil fuel industry. Across the country, protests rumbled the industry, and it looks like it's just the beginning.
In Washington DC, thousands of people marched to stop the dangerous gas drilling technique known as fracking. In West Virginia, 50 people marched on to the largest mountaintop removal coal mine in the U.S. and shut it down. And in Texas, 70 people trained and prepared for a blockade of construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Then, on Sunday, 500 people held a "human oil spill" in Vermont to protest a new tar sands pipeline proposed to run through New England.
That doesn't sound like a movement that is paralyzed by its fear. In fact, that sounds like a movement that is ready to end business as usual for the fossil fuel industry.
We put together a timeline that shows just how much our movement has been able to accomplish in a few short months this summer. It’s worth taking a moment to appreciate how far we’ve come -- even as we keep our eye on the tough road ahead. Click here for the Summer of Solidarity timeline: www.350.org/sos/
The amazing summer of actions will continue in Montana this weekend, where plans are in the works for very civil disobedience to stop a new coal mine the size of an entire city, and in Texas, for the Keystone XL pipeline blockade.
And of course, we're going to continue to do all we can to eliminate the industry's 113 billion dollars in taxpayer giveaways. Plans are underway to ask hard questions about fossil fuel subsidies at campaign events coast-to-coast, with much more to come. We are also looking in to how we can make sure that science and climate change are a key part of the national debate this fall.
The point is: yes, the math is very hard. But we still have a shot at beating it, as long as we keep building on the creativity and courage our movement is already showing -- and learning and having fun while doing it.
So, thank you for all you do to build this movement, and for all we will do together in the future.
-May for the whole 350.org team