The Arctic & The Awl Bidness

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Desertrat, Feb 24, 2005.

  1. Desertrat macrumors newbie

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    #1
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/24/opinion/24doherty.html?th

    An OpEd from the NYT. The writer camped in the Refuge, and has some good points about protection of the wildlife and the overall ecosystem.

    My problem with his story is that the area about which he rhapsodizes is nowhere near where the proposed oil drilling would occur. He was not near the coastal plain. I disrecall its width: 100 miles? More? Anyway, I resent somebody trying to lay a snow job on me. It's no different from the TV "news" bites which show the interior of the Reserve when they do a segment about oil drilling.

    To me, based on many, many direct observations, is that much of the call for "Save the environment!" has to do with aesthetics--and not actual protection. For instance, clear-cutting on mountainsides leads to erosion of the little amount of topsoil thereon, and should be avoided. Regrowth of vegetation is problematic. Clear-cutting in gently rolling sand/clay/loam country is a problem only in aesthetics because within a few years there will be notable regrowth of all vegetation. The same holds for strip-mining for coal.

    But to say that drilling along the north coast will impact grizzly bears some 100+ miles to the south is nothing but a giant shuck.

    'Rat
     
  2. mischief macrumors 68030

    mischief

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    #2
    I agree. There's only one major species I can think of that would be directly effected. There's a breed of Cariboo that ruts exclusively on that tundra.
     
  3. mactastic macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #3
    So let me get this straight.... when the SBVT employs a little - shall we say exaggerated claims to further their cause (or say when USA-Next says the AARP hate the military and supports men marrying) it's ok, but when those bad-nasty enviro-commies do it it's a hangin' offense?

    I'm surprised that you're surprised that this happens. Ain't no use gettin all worked up, these tactics have been around forever and they won't go away anytime soon. Right? I mean, that's what you usually end up arguing when one of us gets off on a "Bush is bad because... " rant. Nothing I can do about it, so no reason to get all fluffy.

    So yeah, it's bad when someone lies to further their agenda. But how can you blame them for lying when they're learning from the government, not to mention corporate America, that lies wrapped up in a nice slick package are the way to get the public on your side?
     
  4. yellow Moderator emeritus

    yellow

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    #4
    I assume this means that you are an Environmental Engineer and fully understand the implications and impact of what drilling for oil does to the environment?
     
  5. mischief macrumors 68030

    mischief

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    #5
    I think 'Rat's point was more like:

    Bull****+Bull****= Bigger Pile

    as opposed to:

    (Bull**** from Left)+(Bull**** from Right)= Zero sum (Truth exposed)
     
  6. mactastic macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #6
    Maybe so, and it certainly wasn't my intention to say you could arrive at anything resembling truth by swallowing the ********* from both sides equally, but my larger point is, why is he surprised that lefty-enviro-commies employ the same tactics as those the right has used to sweep into power?

    To paraphrase: I'm surprised by the surprise.
     
  7. mischief macrumors 68030

    mischief

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    #7
    Because surprise is how we cover the horror of realizing that both sides play the same game by only slightly differing rules.
     
  8. Desertrat thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #8
    yellow, my degree was in Mechanical Engineering, although most of my professional career was spent in Civil Engineering. In 1975 I went to work on the Texas Coastal Zone Management Program. I spent four years in serious "brain picking" of environmental biologists and geologists. I worked with folks from NMF, USF&WS, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept's biologists and the "bug and bunny" guys on our staff. I won't claim I can go to court as an expert witness, but I did indeed learn a helluva lot.

    I've been around drilling rigs since 1952, out at Pecos--and watched the drilling operations at numerous other locations including my uncle's back pasture. I darned sure know the difference between Kelly tongs and a Christmas tree...

    I don't know how many times I've gotta repeat it, but I don't like shucking and jiving and spinning from left or right. I work pretty hard at being objective, and I don't try to give unintended meanings to what folks say in posts in this forum.

    mischief, I'm a bit rusty on the specific: Is that the "barren ground" caribou?

    I don't know if any of you have flown over well fields such as were common in the past. Horror shows. Bald circles, not all that far apart, and pumps seemingly everywhere. That's not the way it's done, nowadays. In critical areas--offshore comes to mind, as well as other places--one location provides the base for multiple wells. Instead of vertical-only drilling, they slant-hole drill a dozen or more holes from that one site. (In some areas, they get down-hole and turn 90 degrees and finish out with horizontal drilling across a formation.) Drilling mud is now contained in a steel tank, not in an open pit. In the producing phase, there is little above-ground equipment compared to the past.

    Were the edge of the coastal plain to be drilled, there would be more well-holes per site than back when Arco first started up there. Fewer total sites. There would be the pipeline, of course, which in the case of the Alyeska line has been shown to not inhibit movements of caribou during migration.

    Area? Figure a 50- or 100-foot strip for the pipeline. (I saw a map of the proposed route, years ago, but I don't remember the specifics.) Figure maybe ten acres, max, per production site; possibly less. At the end of the useful life, the pipeline would be removed. The long-term, quasi-permanent damage would be at the production sites. It's possible the pipeline route would be a long-term visual flaw; I don't know what mitigation/restoration is possible. Restoration in a desert is very difficult.

    What I do know is that all the Horribles predicted for the Arco/Alyeska project never materialized...

    'Rat
     
  9. blackfox macrumors 65816

    blackfox

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    #9
    You know, arguments about wildlife impact aside, what exactly is the purpose/benefits of this drilling operation?

    - Will it lessen US dependency on foreign oil? Extremely doubtful, as the amount(s) theorized to be in waiting are relatively small in relation to consumption needs. It will also be a while before you see a drop.

    - Are we not supposed to be moving away from oil-dependency and towards alternate energy sources? Does this not aid in delaying that (eventual) move?

    - Who primarily benefits from this? Does the average citizen? Will our gas prices decline? I don't see that. Who benefits from a National Park? Well, maybe not too many more (as I hardly vacation in Alaska), but at least it doesn't require doing anything to keep it as it is.

    - Will this aid the US, in terms of strategic reserves, should we lose our supply of ME oil? Again, in the short-term it will not be producing anything, in the long-term, it's output may buy us a few months. Alternately, we could invest in Canadian shale-oil reserves, which are vast, but then we have to play by the Canadians rules. Besides, China decided to fill the gap.

    I mean it's kind of like building a missile defense shield - an idea with limited utility, designed to deal with an outdated-problem, costing lots of money which goes to a few large contractors, with little real benefit to the citenzenry. Sure, it may not ruin anything per se, but that's hardly the point, is it? Why would we want to do something like that?...oh...
     
  10. Desertrat thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #10
    blackfox, I follow your arguments, and I don't totally disagree, but I think there's too much "either-or" in your line of reasoning.

    Even these hybrid cars and fuel cell cars need hydrocarbons--just less of them. Just as in the 1970s, there is a finite amount of time required for folks to get out of gas hogs and into truly economical cars. Just like the changing of light bulbs from 100-watt to 60-watt when electricity costs jumped in the early 1970s.

    the Arctic oil is no cure-all, but it's enough to act in the format of "balance of power". Oil price fluctuations vary with relatively small changes in production. A one-percent reduction in pumping can result in a five- or ten-percent change in the spot price.

    The primary goal is stability in the world price of oil, although long-term the price will continue to climb. Until there is more energy derived from nuclear and wind/solar, oil and gas will be important--nay, necessary--to all economies.

    Remember that only some 40% or so of a barrel of oil goes into transportation. That other 60% directly or indirectly puts food on a lot of tables. The quick-and-dirty example is "Plastic"--as in all that computer stuff we Internet hounds use. And, of course, in cars/trucks/planes/trains. Any product with "vinyl" or "ethlene" derives from oil and gas.

    And some folks like to stay warm in winter...

    'Rat
     
  11. pseudobrit macrumors 68040

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    #11
    I'm fairly certain the federal government would pick up the tab for the infrastructure required for the drilling as we currently pay such costs for logging companies to cut inside national forests.
     
  12. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

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    #12
    There's a certain built-in futility to this economics of oil question. Due mainly to the decline in the dollar, OPEC is determined to keep the price of oil above $40/barrel and it seems to me that Saudi Arabia at least is pumping flat out at the moment to keep it from going to $60. The point being, producing more oil in Alaska is going to have at best a negligible impact on world oil prices, because that price is controlled mainly by OPEC. If they want the price to remain above $40, in all probability, that's where it's going to stay.
     
  13. tristan macrumors 6502a

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    #13
    In one of my economics classes we calculated that if the US tapped the oil in ANWAR, that the price of oil on the world market would only go down pennies. However, there'd be a huge windfall for whichever company can drill and sell that oil.

    (For the economists here, the cost to drill vs world oil prices is quite large, so there's a profit opportunity, but the additional daily supply generated is minimal in comparison with existing world daily supply, just a fraction of a percent or so.)

    The only way i could support drilling in ANWAR is if the govt auctioned off the rights, and then put all that money (billions) towards alternative energy research. Since that'll never happen, then I'm against it.
     
  14. Desertrat thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #14
    "The only way i could support drilling in ANWAR is if the govt auctioned off the rights, and then put all that money (billions) towards alternative energy research"

    The standard operating procedure for exploration/development of oil/gas on federal property is to take bids. Been that way for forty forevers.

    But, tristan, why should your money go to alternative energy research? FoMoCo has already spent over a billion dollars, along with other carmakers; Toyota and Hnda immediately come to mind. Windpower units are now up to 3.2 MW each, from 1.2 MW. Existing research is finding more efficient methodology for solar panels, reducing the costs thereof. What's the point of giving grants to private sector companies that already are spending their own money in hopes of patents and profits?

    Funny-odd: The best fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, other than the way-out-there swordfish and marlin, is around the oil rigs. The legs of the rigs create habitat for an entire food chain. Yet, there's no offshore drilling along the west coast of the US or the west coast of Florida in areas where there is known to be oil and gas. And there is a furor every time anybody tries to get permitting to drill on federal lands in parts of New Mexico and other areas around the Rockies. Short-term aesthetics rule, I guess...

    'Rat
     
  15. blackfox macrumors 65816

    blackfox

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    #15
    hahahahaha...oh, it's our money now, eh? Tell us another...
    As opposed to short-term profiteering?
     
  16. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

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    #16
    The US automobile companies are years behind their Japanese counterparts in the development of alternative fuel vehicles. We're still waiting for the first US nameplate hybrid. Maybe it will finally arrive next year, four or more years after the first hybrids from Honda and Toyota. Sounds familiar? Does to me, so pardon me if I remain underwhelmed by the alternative fuel efforts of the US auto business.

    Some of the other alternate energy sources you mention were and are subsidized with investment tax credits and the like. California used to offer huge incentives to develop wind farms. The state can't afford this luxury anymore, but it made a big difference in kick-starting this industry in the state 25 years ago. So government investments can pay off, if they're targeted properly.

    Remember that "public trust" thing I keep mentioning? Maybe if protecting the public trust still meant something, we'd be talking more about promoting alternative energy technologies and less about opening more wilderness areas to mineral extraction. Those of us who are fans of the future instead of exploring old dead ends would cheer that development.

    I don't think there's anything particular funny or odd about the objections to offshore drilling. It's been going on for 35 years.
     
  17. Desertrat thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #17
    IJ, I have no objection to "jump start". A governmental problem is in knowing which technology(ies) to support. But NASA has shown how government actions can create tremendous benefits to the public at large.

    The FoMoCo CEO stated the $1 bilion number tow or three years ago, and added that the IC engine probably wouldn't be in the Ford lineup by 2010. He was focussed on fuel cells. Yes, the Japanese have made a hybrid work, but it's not the sole answer. I know there has been a lot of money spent on research--and some development--of lighter and more efficient batteries which can (are) being using in electrically powered vehicles.

    People say "wilderness" as though it's pristine and untouched by the hand of man. BS. Looking at the past history of burnoffs by early Americans, hard rock mines and overgrazing by livestock, oil drilling by comparison is benign. It's certainly easier insofar as restoration.

    People fuss against offshore drilling in the name of environmental protection, but when it's closely examined, the real issue is aesthetics.

    Stipulate that Honda, GM, Ford and Toyota, et al, could immediately begin to produce enough Prius-type critters for everybody to have one. Question: What percentage of the driving population can afford one? $30K a pop?

    The first real kubelwagens, the Model Ts, were available way back when. Yet, people still came into Austin, Texas, via wagons and buggies as late as around 1939/1940. I saw'em. Dead ends don't die overnight.

    'Rat
     
  18. zimv20 macrumors 601

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    #18
    then i'll ask, how would that percentage change if americans had to pay for gas what europeans pay for theirs?
     
  19. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

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    #19
    The government's been "jump starting" the nuclear power industry for over 50 years. No way would it be viable on its own merits, and not especially if they were forced to pay for all of their own research and development. A similar argument can be made for all of the mineral extraction industries, who rely for their livelihoods on using public lands and waters, which they then tend to treat as an entitlement. And don't get me started on the oil and automobile industries. Where would they be without huge public investments in roads and highways? You've got to look long and hard to find much evidence of a real free market in any of this.

    As far as Ford is concerned, I'll believe it when I see it. It's not like they aren't doing hybrids. They are -- just years behind the Japanese companies. To me, that's just too depressingly typical of a hidebound US automobile industry that doesn't really learn from past mistakes.

    I don't entirely agree with the aesthetics argument on offshore drilling. At least, it's not true here. Oil production in the Santa Barbara Channel, which is my coastline, is miles offshore. The rigs aren't more than shadows out there most of the time. The real objection goes back to the big Santa Barbara oil spill. It might have happened a long time ago, but so long as it's within living memory, offshore oil is a difficult proposition. Still, we had several new platforms installed in the channel during the '80s -- so it can be done. I don't think the oil companies have the appetite for it anymore.
     
  20. pseudobrit macrumors 68040

    pseudobrit

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    #20
    My car gets 50mpg and cost me $18,600 new two years ago.
     
  21. blackfox macrumors 65816

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    #21
    OT, but are you going to sell that before you move to Canada?

    There are some interesting models coming out for the Canadian market in the near-future (efficiency-wise), plus you'd get the cool Km/p/h on the speedo, instead of having to do math conversions as you drive (as I do when I'm in BC).

    Just curious.
     
  22. mactastic macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #22
    As IJ mentioned, many industries have been 'jump started' for lo these many years and they still can't seem to live without government handouts. Good old CEOs doing the 'waiting by the mailbox for the gummint check' that you hate so much when it's private citizens doing it.

    And the benefits from NASA can't be considered a subsidized investment, they are the side effects of the public funding of a larger goal, space exploration. NASA isn't around to spin off useful consumer products. As you like to say... apples and oranges.

    5 years 'till no more IC engines? Come on 'Rat, I may have been born at night, but it wasn't last night. The IC engine isn't going anywhere in that time frame. If Ford was even remotely telling the truth you'd be seeing a much different investment strategy by the Big Players for one thing, right?

    OK so because someone raped something already it's ok for us to pull our ****s out and do it again? I have a hard time buying the 'well they did it so it's ok if we do it too" argument.

    Aesthetics = money when you live in a tourist town like I do. Visible oil rigs would kill the local economy. Now, I know you'll just say to put them over the horizon, but as I recall most of the oil available nearby is near-shore. Not to mention the damage a spill could cause. You've talked many times about the effects of a long memory.

    Lordy I sure resent it when someone tries to lay a snow job on me. NTM, there are still tax credits available (small though they may be compared to the subsidies you don't seem to mind the nuk-u-lar industry getting).

    Ummm... I've seem people driving Model Ts as recently as last year. Saw a whole convoy of 'em driving down the 101.
     
  23. Desertrat thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #23
    A lot of the objections to what I've said above revolve around this concept of "corporate subsidies", in a way that I see as confusing the condept with the operation.

    The concept of the use of public lands is that the government is supposed to make money. The best example of bad operation within a (to me) good concept is the Forest Service: More tax dollars are spent on road building and administration than received from the sale of timber. I'm agin that BS.

    Until the late 1960s or the 1970s, highways were funded from the dedicated trust fund derived from motor fuel taxes. That's user-pay, not subsidy. Inflation or the decline in the buying power of the US $ meant that nowadays monies from general funds are added to the fuel taxes. (Recall the little signs on semis saying "I pay $4,400 a year in fuel tax."?)

    I think it's less important that FoMoCo might be unduly optimistic about the time rate of change than that they're striving for change. Has everything any of us have tried been perfect, on schedule and within budget? I don't think so...

    And while grumping about subsidies, where is the grumping about the tax-dollar subsidies going into bird killers? 'Scuse me, wind generators. :)

    Somewhat separately, it seems to me that a larger tax subsidy to individuals who retrofit their homes with both insulation and solar panels would help reduce the increasing demand for electricity, no matter what sort of source. I've looked at some of the numbers, and they don't provide enough economic incentive. I dunno. Maybe more tax break for the actual builders of new homes, if there's a very high level of energy efficiency built in?

    As far as "wilderness" lands despoliation, it seems to me that the important point is that what's proposed is less of an impact than what was done in the past. One of the reasons I don't get upset about drilling in New Mexico grasslands is that I've seen on my own land that a few years after the wells were capped, there's almost zero evidence that anything was ever done. I've said over and over, here on this forum, that there are some areas you stay out of; some it's not a long-term negative impact. I just don't have a knee-jerk "Evil! Evil!" notion about exploiting resources--farming, ranching, oil, coal...Area specific, site specific, methodology specific.

    'Rat
     
  24. tristan macrumors 6502a

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    #24
    desertrat - The money should go to alternative energy research because eventually you'll run out of places to drill. The government isn't going to discover another ANWAR in three years to auction off. So if it's a one-time thing, let's spend the money wisely. That doesn't even address the environmental cost.

    Yes, private companies do invest in alternative power, like hybrids and windmills, which is great. But private companies will only do what is cost-effective. Pure research is generally not cost-effective in the near term, which is why there is a role for government and universities. In economic terms, the market does not reward research to the extent that it benefits the participants, which is why there's a role for government.

    If all of the billions that came from auctioning off ANWAR found their way into university grants for alternative energy research, that would be great. Then maybe one of those university programs would jump start something in the private sector. If our government were more rational about things, that would be the way to do it.
     
  25. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

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    #25
    From where exactly do you get this idea? The government isn't a business. As I've said over and over again (to little effect, I guess), public lands are held in a public trust -- meaning, for everyone. Once you accept this proposition, it's much more difficult to justify industrial use of public lands as some sort of corporate entitlement. Allowed? Yes, in certain situations. But as an entitlement? No, certainly not.

    Gas taxes do not cover all road construction and maintenance. A great deal of this cost comes out of general funds. I'm not necessarily opposed to this, but we need to get real about it. It's a subsidy, just like airports and other transportation facilities are subsidized, and without these subsidies, the businesses that depend upon them are DOA.

    I don't grumble about public subsidies for alternative energy development because I think it's essential to get out in front on this issue, as a matter of general economic prosperity and national security.

    The word "wilderness" does not deserve to be placed in quotes. It's a term with a specific meaning within the classification of federal lands.
     

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