Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com
Look at it any way you want, and if you're not a booster of fossil fuels on this overheating planet of ours, it doesn't look good. Hardly a month passes, it seems, without news about the development of some previously unimaginable way to extract fossil fuels from some thoroughly unexpected place.
The latest bit of "good" news: the Japanese government's announcement that natural gas has been successfully extracted from undersea methane hydrates. (Yippee!) Natural gas is gleefully touted as the "clean" fossil-fuel path to a green future, but evidence is mounting that the newest process for producing it also leaks unexpected amounts of methane, a devastating greenhouse gas.
The U.S. cheers and is cheered because the amount of carbon dioxide it is putting into the atmosphere is actually falling. Then Duncan Clark at the British Guardian does the figures and discovers that "there has been no decline in the amount of carbon the U.S. is taking out of the ground. In fact, the trend is upwards. The latest year for which full data is available -- 2011 -- is the highest level on record." It's just that some of it (coal, in particular) was exported abroad to be burned elsewhere.
In the meantime, the next set of articles come out of scientific circles suggesting that the results of all this are far from cheery. An example: a recent paper in the prestigious journal Science indicates that "climate change is now set to occur at a pace 'orders of magnitude more rapid' than at any other time in the last 65 million years," and we should prepare for a wave of species extinctions.
In other words, the much-ballyhooed coming of North American energy "independence" is an upbeat way of saying that we will continue to heat the planet till hell boils over. Of course, those who run the giant energy companies, the politicians in their pay, and their lobbyists and associated think tanks -- the real global "terrarists" for their urge to make historic profits off the heating of the planet -- will, of course, continue to cheer. Though it is notoriously hard to claim climate change as the author of any specific weather event, in the ever-hotter continental U.S., the experience of what's being called "extreme weather" -- from drought to record wildfires, record heat waves to devastating tornadoes -- is increasingly part of the warp and woof of everyday life.
In this context, energy expert Michael Klare's latest article, "The Third Carbon Age," is singularly important, if also singularly unnerving. Klare, who has long been ahead of the curve in his work on energy and resources, offers a clear-eyed look at the energy road chosen, and the view to the horizon is fossil fuels, this time of the "unconventional" kind, all the way. Don't put your money on a green, renewable future, not when tar sands, heavy oil, Arctic and deep sea oil, and hydro-fracked shale oil and gas are the coming thing.