Thursday, March 20, 2008

Benefiting from Global Warming

Billionaire Richard Branson is on mission to save the planet—and he is not alone. He has asked some of his billionaire friends, such as Larry Page of Google, Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia, and Tony Blair (who is one of the few people in this effort who is not incredibly rich) whether the “planet is on fire”, and they all seem to agree that it either is, or might as well be. His group of associates are now, according to Richard Stromback (another billionaire), plotting to save the planet.

Some of their efforts are a little impractical. Larry Page proudly jet-pools in from Silicon Valley, which I’m pretty sure doesn’t save all that much carbon dioxide in the long run. They don’t seem to have things together just yet, which is evidenced by Tony Blair’s statement that “we have an agreement that there should be an agreement. But there's no agreement on what that agreement should be.”

The plan is, these people will invest in “green” technologies. Some of these individuals, such as Stromback and billionaire (another one) venture capitalist Vinod Khosla have already dumped millions of dollars into green technologies. Others have projects in the works. If these billionaires make a significant investment in green technology, the industry will get a tremendous boost.

The idea of a bunch of billionaires partying in the Caribbean congratulating themselves on their ability and intent to save the earth is silly. But what they are doing is important and beneficial.

Global warming may or may not exist. If it does, it may or may not be caused by humans. If it is, we really cannot do anything about it. The sheer of amount of carbon dioxide produced by humans makes any attempt to limit it in a meaningful way hopeless. Even Al Gore’s more improbable plans (such as the idea that the U.S. accept the Kyoto Protocols) would do literally nothing to stop any global warming. Branson’s efforts to stop global warming are a little bit like investing money in a program to stop giant asteroids from hitting earth—it’s a nice thought, but the threat is remote and there isn’t anything we can do anyway.

Branson and Company won’t save the earth. However, they will do some good. Alternate energy really is a good idea. (I believe that if the solar energy people advertised their product as a source of practically free energy, instead of touting environmental benefits, solar energy would be a practical reality today). Oil won’t last much longer—we are starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel. Oil prices are now over $100 a barrel, and could easily go up.

Coal is a good source of energy, and is plentiful, but it does ruin the environment and is dangerous to those who mine it. Nuclear energy is plentiful, safe, and clean. However, even if the Left would allow the construction of nuclear power plants, it would not be the answer to all of earth’s energy problems. For example, it wouldn’t do much to power automobiles, and couldn’t be used in Third World countries (unless you want to stick a nuclear plant in, say, Sudan).

Alternate technologies have a great deal of promise. If they get funding from entrepreneurs who are looking to make money, as opposed to simply trying to make a gesture, they could become incredibly useful. Branson, Stromback, and the rest may be environmentalists—but they are also incredibly successful businessmen. There has never been as good a time to develop alternate technologies—and if these billionaires are successful, they will finally free us from expensive Middle Eastern oil, and they will also make incredible amounts of money. And if they can do the former, they deserve the latter.


At March 21, 2008 at 11:46 AM , Blogger Name: Soapboxgod said...

"Oil won’t last much longer—we are starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel."

Daniel, define "much". While it is true that it likely will not last forever, it's a fallacy to think that we're "scraping the bottom of the barrel".

Good information here:

A quote from the above link:

"Conclusion and Bibliography (Part VI)

As we have seen, there is far more oil in the rest of the world than there is in Middle East. If the Venezuelans are right, there is enough oil in Venezuela alone to power the world for 44 years (at 27.3 billion barrels of world consumption per year). Similar or greater reserves exist in the Athabasca tar sands and other unconventional reserves that push actual world reserve life well out into the 22nd century. These are not as cheap as Middle Eastern reserves, but they are not prohibitively expensive either. True, not all of the unconventional oil can be recovered. Estimates range from 15 percent upwards. And there may be a number of these unconventional oil fields in other nations that have not been publicly characterized. For example,Russia and Madagascar may also have heavy oil fields.

The argument here is that it is a fallacy to entirely omit unconventional oil from strategic thinking.

The premise for US involvement in the Arab Middle East -- its oil wealth -- is not wrong per se. However, the idea that the Middle East is the ONLY area of the world with large oil reserves, or that US involvement is inevitable, is, rather plainly, a fallacy of staggering proportions. And the possibility of reducing the influence of oil as the center of gravity in Middle Eastern politics is, by any measure, something worth considering.

Certain conclusions may be drawn:

Secondly, it's going to be a long time before we run out of oil. There is plenty of it in Venezuela, Canada, Russia and other parts of the world. At current consumption rates, oil reserve life will be measured in centuries. As consumers we may see this as good news. Whatever happens in the Middle East, there will be plenty of oil in the end.

It's also worth noting that new reserves of oil are being discovered at present.

The Brazilian government says huge new oil reserves discovered off its coast could turn the country into one of the biggest oil producers in the world.

I'm not opposed to alternate forms of energy in the least. But A) they've got to be viable; and B) they've got be able to exist without government subsidies. At present, these new technologies are neither of these and that is a problem.

At March 22, 2008 at 6:11 AM , Blogger Beth said...

But Soapie that would still make us dependent on other countries for our oil, I like the idea of becoming energy independent.

Daniel - picked up a copy of Atlas Shrugged yet? After reading this, I know you would appreciate the book!

At March 24, 2008 at 8:12 AM , Blogger Name: Soapboxgod said...

I concur Beth. But, why isn't our pursuit of energy independence inclusive of obtaining our own oil and natural gas reserves?

At March 24, 2008 at 11:27 AM , Blogger WomanHonorThyself said...

not to mention having to allow the Saudis to kill us because we NEED their oil!

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