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Now that the election is done, let's look at more of the important issues that the republican party decided to address by sticking its head in the sand, The world's fossil fuel reserves are petering out. Pollution is causing problems besides global warming. Our roads are crumbling. We can't afford to maintain them, and need to look at other ways to build an infrastructure that will give us a decent standard of living. Here's a tour of just how much anti-scientific craziness has gone into today's republican party.

Hello, everyone. Let's start with the excuses, shall we?  It's been a while since I wrote my last Laymen's Terms article. I have not been good about finishing these deliverables.  And I'm not sure how often I can bring these together. Since the last time, a little deliverable was delivered in a delivery room and then delivered into my life, delivering me from the urge (and ability) to think too much about many things. If you catch my drift.  It was a godsend, (literally so, for those whose faiths describe such events in those terms.) My mood about the issues behind this series was darkening because I saw the Republican party descending into rank denialism about America's environmental issues and infrastructure predicament., and rather than goading me to write more, it was afflicting me with despair. The sheer extent was too much. But, they lost. And I am relieved. And here I am writing.

As Rachel Maddow noticed, in the closing weeks of the campaign, Mitt Romney's retinue added a new press member, one by name of Jerome Corsi. This man is a peddler of much nonsense which I will not dignify by paraphrasing here (hold your nose and google, if you feel you must). Suffice it to say his drivel is so vile that Romney deserved to lose the election for this reason alone, even if for no other. But one particular item is all too relevant, so I'll hold it up: Jerome Corsi is a proponent of a warmed over Soviet crackpot theory: abiotic oil. Quoting Wikipedia:

"According to the abiogenic hypothesis, petroleum was formed from deep carbon deposits, perhaps dating to the formation of the Earth. Supporters of the abiogenic hypothesis suggest that a great deal more petroleum exists on Earth than commonly thought, and that petroleum may originate from carbon-bearing fluids that migrate upward from the mantle."
Corsi expanded this into a book accusing the world's governments of creating a false impression that the world is running out of oil for their own purposes, and that there is in fact lots more down there, with more being created all the time.  Again, the Wikipedians:
"Although the abiogenic hypothesis was accepted by many geologists in the former Soviet Union, it fell out of favor at the end of the 20th century because it never made any useful prediction for the discovery of oil deposits."
Ah, how I love the wry Wikipedian sense of humor. The author of this little gem deserves an award for understatement. The conventional theory on the origins of petroleum holds that only a small portion of the earth's surface is holding any oil. (Those places called "oil fields.") If the abiotic theory is true, there is oil to be found just about anywhere on the planet. You should be able to find a bubblin' crude any time you went shooting for some food, or at least come with oil every other time you drilled a water well. And since there are 193 countries in the UN, plus Taiwan, it is ridiculous to think every last one of them has been taking action to suppress the drilling of abiotic oil for the last umpteen decades. Testing this theory would be science brought to its simplest essence. To prove abiotic oil, all you have to do is pick a random place, one where geologists say there isn't any oil, and drill. Just one barrel,  gallon, even a teaspoon of oil would settle the matter. Not a teaspoonful has been found. And this crackpot had a spot on the Romney press corps.

Various republicans have been friendly with abiotic oil crackpottery. And that is just a small portion of the delusional arguments you will find coming from the right. I will now list the others, and close with some words on just why this is happening, and why it is no reason for progressives to get smug. I'll do this by listing things that the Republican party, or parts thereof, has either denied outright, (D) or tried to drown out with distracting political messages. (M)


1. Carbon dioxide is a strong greenhouse gas
.(D)  Other Kossacks continue to cover this issue in great depth, and I am writing this essay to show that republican denialism covers even more ground than that,. So I'll end this paragraph right here.

2. Oil is a fossil fuel.
(D) Millions of years ago, plankton and algae died and dropped to the sea bottom, where they became part of the seabed. Thanks to continental drift, those deposits of plant matter migrated to where they could be cooked by the earth's heat and turned into oil. The oil then seeped upwards, and if it ran up against an impermeable rock layer, it stayed there to wait for us to exploit it. There are no gnomes under the ground producing any more of it, and when it's consumed, it is not replaced.


3. Oil is getting scarce
. (D) Just about every nation out there has seen declining oil production. The reason is simple: all oil fields peter out. Therefore the planet's oil reserves are themselves bound to peter out, which is what appears to be happening today, all over the world. The only response to this coming from the Republicans is to speed up the exhaustion of what little oil we have today, and to engage in a propaganda campaign about how we somehow have miraculously large reserves still waiting to be exploited. We don't.

4. Sulfur dioxide is a bad pollutant too.  Soot, ozone, NOx, et cetera, aren't very good for you either.
(M) Those problems have only declined, not gone away, and only thanks to the Clean Air Act, which the Republicans are intent on dismantling.  Water pollution isn't nice. There are lots of ways to foul the drinking water. You can dump stuff in rivers, or inject it into aquifers. You can build roads into watersheds, and maybe salt them in the winter. You can cause deforestation in all sorts of ways, not least among them logging. That in turns makes the rainwater pick up more of the soil as it washes down to the river, and makes it turbid and less potable. This is bad.

So far as I could see, the GOP campaign teams haven't expressly engaged in denialism. They merely banged the drums to demand the EPA be abolished, as if there is no such thing as pollution.


5. Infrastructure is expensive to build and expensive maintain.
(M) This item gets to the crux of the Republican strategy for this election season, and it harks back to an offhand comment by former Vice President Dick Cheney: "the American way of life is non-negotiable."  He said this back in the early days of America's response to the 9/11 attack, to explain that as a matter of policy the administration would not ask for any kind of stateside sacrifice for the war effort.  And of course, it is a load of malarkey. The American way of life depends on the most expensive and ambitious infrastructure projects ever conceived, and as such it requires a never ending stream of natural resources and the ever ready vigilance of millions of workers keeping the power on, the water flowing, and the goods moving. Nothing like that could ever be non-negotiable.

That of course should come as no surprise to most Kossacks, who have spent the last 10 years logging in great detail the stories of Americans who can no longer live anything close to this mythical "American way of life." For the 2012 election, the Republican party decided to present the nation's current predicament as a struggle between a party that stands for the continued "American Way of Life" and a  party that wants to end it, motivated by "socialism" and "environmentalism."

To present this narrative, you have to deny that the passing of the American WOL might have anything to do with the declining availability of many natural resources, with the current recession and its diverse causes, or with the natural processes of decay attacking our overbuilt infrastructure while our communities struggle to come up with the money to keep it up.  And if you're going to deny this, you have to also stay in denial about other observations:


 A stitch in time saves nine.
The longer you take to maintain something, the more it costs you.
 Rust never votes, and never sleeps. Roads grow potholes. Pipes rust out. Dirt subsides. Concrete crumbles. What you do in response has very little to do with being a democrat or republican.

And deny they did. We've seen a propaganda campaign that spent literally billions of dollars to drown out discussion of the myriad problems threatening the ability of the American people to live in the comfort to which they have become accustomed.

6. Our infrastructure is more expensive than it needs to be. (M) The thing that left me the most infuriated with the Republican party is that their rhetoric has cast a pall on the most fundamentally important part of what engineers do: learn from each other. There are other countries out their whose people live in greater safety and comfort than we do, for far less cost, both financial and environmental. But to mention this is to become the worst enemy of the United States of America:  a Euroweenie.

Or worse, anyone who dares to speak up and say that we need to change our infrastructure so that we are not so dependent on oil, and on the automobile, is derided as an Agenda 21 conspirator. I mention this as a separate line item because it shows how the GOP has injected identity politics into something that should not be subject to any kind of politics.

7. Externalities matter. (M) An "externality" is an effect one person's actions have on another. I decide to drive to work every day, and someone living along my route has his asthma aggravated just a little bit, by the emissions from my tailpipe. I grow a beautiful garden, and my next door neighbor is able to sell his house for a little bit more money. Those are externalities. I mention this term because it encapsulates an infuriating aspect of republican denialism: so much of the work resolving our environmental challenges was done originally by conservatives.  Lots of trees have been killed by economists talking about ways to correct externalities like pollution, traffic and the like. That is, right of center economists, who 80 years ago proposed things like pollution taxes, cap & trade mechanisms, and the like.

Now in 2012, we have a liberal president being excoriated as a "socialist" for thinking about policies that were proposed by conservative economists and discussed for decades, reaching the pages of the National Review in the early 90's. This is yet more denialism, going far beyond "romneysia." Today's GOP denies the existence of a GOP that once was, one that was able to come up with constructive solutions to the problems facing the nation.

The GOP lost this year. I would like to think that they lost because they took all this craziness too far, but I don't know that. They indulged in this craziness because a consensus among Republican (and mercenary) K-Street douchebag strategic consultants told them that this was the way to go. They have not yet turned back from the strategy, and they are still on message. But at least they are not in charge of the country.

Originally posted to ocschwar on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 07:49 PM PST.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Going to bed in a minute. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sandino, se portland, Oh Mary Oh, bnasley

    But will dive into the comments in the morning.

    •  Oil is running out (0+ / 0-)

      this is a common theme that I have come across but I was wondering.  If proven oil reserves are accurate don't we have enough oil to last 45 years at current consumption levels?  

      and that these reserves do not include oil sands oil which is estimated to be more than current reserves.

      so, it seems that oil running out is not an issue and if we ever do get to the point that oil is going to run out then the global population will have already collapsed due to climate change (unless a mitigation strategy was used like massive co2 capture from smokestack emissions AND directly from the atmosphere.

      •  Let's go back to basics (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        noemie maxwell, rktect

        Oil is a finite, non-renewable resource.  Any finite, non-renewable resource will eventually run out.  As we make use of finite resources we can graph the yearly production.  The yearly production will show a ramping up, a peak production of the resource, and a ramping down of use of that resource.

        If you understand and accept these basic premises then you are a person that understands and accepts the theory known as peak oil.  (When we peak, how steep the decline rate will be and the effects of living in a world with declining oil resources should be the real debate but that can be discussed another day)

        So if the question is are we running out of oil in 20, 40 or 60 years, then the answer is likely no.  But if the question is do you love somebody that is alive today that will love somebody that will be alive when oil is a very scarce resource, then I believe the answer to that question is, yes.

        The basic facts of peak oil and AGW dictate that we take dramatic actions now and you don't have to be a left of center Democrat to understand this.   (I, myself call myself a "conservative" and I'm still a registered Republican)  Anyway, since this post is getting long I will also draw your attention to the current bait and switch that is going on in regards to oil.    Peak oil was historically about conventional oil.  Now that we basically passed peak conventional oil (or soon will be) we are developing unconventional sources and this is used to "prove" that Peak oil is false.  The more appropriate way to view it is that the fact that we are developing tar sands, shale oil, shale gas, etc is proof that conventional oil has or will soon peak and that we are getting pretty desperate.

        We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein

        by theotherside on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 05:54:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think this is oversimplified (0+ / 0-)

          The fact is that there is 560 gigatons of co2 in todays oil reserves  just oil, if this is burned then we will be experiencing a 40% decline in grain production worldwide and will rapidly experience catastrophic climate change.

          increased fuel efficiencies should prevent that from happening over th enext 20 years.

        •  Run the numbers (0+ / 0-)

          Total oil reserves are about 3 trillion barrels; perhaps a third of that is not economically recoverable because its too small and isolated to be worth going after or too hard to get to or both.

          Another third is in a form like tar sand or shale that requires both a lot of energy and a lot of fresh water to recover and or is polluted with sulfur or other impurities making it too expensive to refine to a form that meets present standards and regulations.

          Of the last third we have already used half. Half a trillion barrels of usable oil remains in the ground. We presently use 85 Million barrels a day. We have enough for 5882 days or about 16 years at the present rate of use.

          Lets allow demand goes up with population and population is increasing at an increasing rate adding 200 million people a year at present.

          With a billion more people every five years, and a population increasing from 7 to 10 billion people by 2027 its reasonable to allow the only source for oil in places like China and India will be coal, natural gas and methane hydrates by 2020.

          In 2020 fossil fuel prices will be at least double even as demands for plastics and lubricants; uses which don't require the combustion of petro chemicls take an increasing share of the available resource.

          Lets also allow that its cheap fossil fuel energy that has allowed us ti build our cities by the sea. Projected sea level rise of 6 m by the end of the century which was the IPCC's worst case analysis now looks probable.

          Levee's, sea walls, dikes and dams won't save the Bos Wash corridor.

          In 2020 when we run out of energy we will be faced with using much less convenient alternative energy (solar or wind powered bulldozers and cranes?) and  have less than 80 years to move our east coast cities  back somewhere close to the Appalachians or they will go the way of Atlantis.

          Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

          by rktect on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 04:17:09 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  "The American way of life is not negotiable" (6+ / 0-)

    George H. W. Bush (41) Earth Summit 1992. Although fewer would state it as forcefully today, I believe that the overwhelming majority of Americans, and our politicians in both parties, still agree 20 years later.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 07:57:43 PM PST

  •  The GOP oil fixation is about selling snake oil (5+ / 0-)

    The party is one giant con game in which the followers are being fed snake oil by the barrel while their leaders are picking their (and everyone else's) pockets.

    And when they're not making promises they can't keep, they're busy drumming up scary things to frighten people out of their senses - because frightened angry people are easy to fool, and easy to lead around by the nose.

    Meanwhile, real problems get worse as the con goes on.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 06:42:59 AM PST

  •  I've heard a proponent of the abiotic theory (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    se portland, Oh Mary Oh, Stude Dude

    scornfully call ours "the dead fish" theory. He also explained that God put the oil "there."

    The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. -- Judge Learned Hand, May 21, 1944

    by ybruti on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 07:40:30 AM PST

  •  LNG exports (5+ / 0-)

    Speaking of infrastructure, lately there has been talk of building liquefied natural gas export ports. This is something Republicans love. Through fracking, large amounts of LNG can be extracted and sold overseas. Ignoring the heath risks of fracking

    MORE THAN 100 LEADING MEDICAL, SCIENTIFIC EXPERTS URGE WHITE HOUSE TO HALT RUSH TO EXPANDED SHALE GAS FRACKING FOR EXPORT PURPOSES

    Seth B. Shonkoff, PhD, MPH, executive director, Physicians, Scientists, & Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE), and environmental researcher, University of California, Berkeley, said:  "The question here is very simple:  Why would the United States dramatically increase the use of an energy extraction method without first ensuring that the trade-off is not the health of Americans in exchange for the energy demands of foreign nations?   Health professionals are coming together today to urge the White House to make sure that we have the facts prior to making this decision.  The only prudent thing to do here is to conduct the needed research first."

    Adam Law, MD, physician, Cayuga Medical Center, Ithaca, NY, and Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers for Healthy Energy, said:  "Researchers are finding measurable levels of pollutants from this industry in air and water that are associated with the risk of illness. The first studies to describe this are entering the scientific literature and public health researchers are embarking on multiple approaches to study the associated adverse health effects."  

    There is also the ignored economic impact. First these ports do not exist and are expense to build. Undoubtedly, public money would be needed along with private investment to build them. And there is the rub. For our tax dollar investment in LNG we get lower wages for workers and higher energy cost domestically. Meanwhile, the investment class makes a killing.

    From the U.S. Department of Energy [pdf]

    Like other trade measures, LNG exports will cause shifts in industrial output and employment and in sources of income. Overall, both total labor compensation and income from investment are projected to decline and income to owners of natural gas resources will increase. Different socio-economic groups depend on different sources of income, though through retirement savings an increasingly large number of workers share in the benefits of higher income to natural resource companies whose shares they own. Nevertheless, impacts will not be positive for all groups in the economy. Households with income solely from wages or government transfers, in particular, might not participate in these benefits.
    So once again the Republicans want us to invest in a huge project that makes a handful of their donors very rich, while jeopardizing the heath of our citizens, lowers wages and increasing energy cost for the American public.

    [Speaking of denialism, while researching this, I found multiple references from the right to the Soviet Union or the 'former Soviet Union', which has not existed for over twenty years. Republican policies are stuck in a by gone day - that actually never existed when you look at it.]

    It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

    by se portland on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 08:16:13 AM PST

  •  My favorite abiotic oil belief is that (5+ / 0-)

    depleted oil fields recover.
      Seriously, I've run into people who believe every single conspiracy theory. They also don't believe in evolution.

  •  Denialism (4+ / 0-)

    goes, as you're aware, far beyond this. How about abstinence education? How about asserting that gay couples can't be good adoptive parents? How about asserting that fiscal regulation is ineffective? How about ...?  Being at odds with reality is a tenet of the Republican base and is reflected within the GOP's 'leading lights'.

    Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

    by A Siegel on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 09:24:00 AM PST

  •  This series is about engineering matters. (0+ / 0-)
    •  Always the good author (0+ / 0-)

      Implying that the reader will have to watch for future installments.  

      Actually, Republican denialism seems to be a completely renewable resource affliction.  As soon as scientific experiments are shown to support a hypothesis, be it about evolution or gay genes or Keynesian economics, Republican deniers coalesce and add inertia to the outmoded thinking.

  •  I wish we were running out of oil (0+ / 0-)

    My understanding is that Canadian shale oil and the petroleum now accessible in the Arctic will keep peak oil at bay for quite a while.

    I think that climate change represents a dire emergency and we will soon be faced with catastrophic positive feedback. For example, melting of the North Pole lets that ocean water soak up the sun's warmth instead of reflecting it. Some scientists predict that the ice cap will totally melt in the summer before 2020, others say it will take a bit longer. It is scary and the GOP refuses any serious discussion.

    Venus here we come! Wheee!

    Conservation is green energy

    by peggy on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 11:56:17 AM PST

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