Sunday, August 30, 2009

Oil Industry Saved the Planet from Pollution

An affirmed, and confirmed, AGW believer who runs his own blog wrote a piece recently vilifying the oil industry, and ExxonMobil in particular. I attempted to leave a comment, along with a few others who had left their comments, but my comment was edited heavily (snipped, in the blog jargon). Here is my comment, as best I can reconstruct it as I did not save it before it was snipped:

Such drivel, Mr. Romm. Petroleum has brought the world un-ending prosperity, health, wealth, medicines and materials undreamed of, and saved the planet by cleaning the air we breathe from coal-based and animal dung-based odors and particles.

Petroleum is the only resource that provides heating, electric power, transportation fuels, lubricants, chemical precursors, waxes, and many others. No other resource can do what petroleum does, not coal, not nuclear, not wind, not wave, not solar, not geothermal, and at such a low cost.

Rather than vilifying the petroleum industry, you should be praising it – and by extension, the natural gas industry - for all the good that it has brought mankind.

[ end of my comment]

This is not surprising, actually, and is perfectly within his rights as the blogger to allow whatever comments he likes. Still, it is quite informative when a blogger snips comments. In this case, it is very likely a case that The Truth Hurts. It is quite impossible to deny the facts that I wrote, but allowing such facts on his blog would not support Romm's agenda to drum up animosity against oil companies.

UPDATE September 1, 2009: What Romm allowed, after snipping, was "Such drivel, Mr. Romm. Petroleum has brought the world un-ending prosperity" then wrote that I did not understand the point of his posting. Such is life in the blogosphere, but unlike the mass-media of print, radio, and tv, where only the privileged few can own and operate their own press, the blogosphere is free (almost), and readily available to millions to write and publish their own thoughts.

The fact is that, in London for example, air pollution was extremely bad due to burning coal, at least through the 1950's before oil and gas were widely used. Several articles(here and here) exist on the internet that describe the smog of death in December, 1952, attributed to burning coal.

Natural gas, while for many years was not as widely available as crude oil, has played an increasing role in cleaning the atmosphere as stranded gas is now liquefied in LNG plants and sent by cryogenic tanker ship to various ports around the world. Stranded gas is the term used to describe a known deposit of natural gas, drilled into and capable of production, but so far from any market that it was un-economic to build a pipeline. Some of the stranded gas was burned in a flare in order to produce the oil from the same well. Such flares burned for decades.

Natural gas also is a key precursor to ammonia-based fertilizers, as the molecule CH4 is broken and reacted into CO2 plus H2, hydrogen. The hydrogen is then reacted with nitrogen produced from air separation plants to make ammonia, NH3. The entire plant can be run using natural gas, as both feedstock for the synthesis plant and as fuel to produce steam. It is this synthetic fertilizer that enables farmers to grow consistent and high-yielding crops year after year on the same soil. Before such fertilizer was available, farmers had to rotate their fields to allow a fallow field to replenish its nutrients.

It is of course true that modern coal-burning power plants and industrial users of coal have installed clean-up equipment to prevent many of the coal smoke and pollutants from entering the atmosphere. However, much of the smog in London, and many other cities in that same era, was from homes that burned coal in fireplaces for warmth. It was not economic to install the millions upon millions of clean-up devices in those fireplaces, instead, it was cheaper to install heating oil systems, or natural gas systems. Again, oil and natural gas are to thank for allowing affordable heating in millions of homes around the world, without producing unhealthy and deadly air pollutants from coal.


Anonymous said...

It IS his RIGHT, but it also destroys his credibility.

Somehow, though, I wonder how much the AGW crowd is concerned about credibility.


Anonymous said...

I read a comment the other day that coal saved the worlds forests. It made me think