Friday, April 05, 2019

Were they worried about an ice age in the 1970s? Was the energy crisis a hoax?

Videos, like "In Search Of The Coming Ice Age" from 1977 are being passed around among global warming deniers. This video is from 1978 what could happen if we entered another ice age. A memory from 40 years ago.

I watched it and got a different take. I don't see it as discrediting today's worry about global warming. It was an interesting documentary; pretty sensationalized tho. Typical of television. the main point I got from watching it is how we take our fairly stable climate for granted. Things could change. For instance some forms of volcanism could put so much dust in the atmosphere that it would reflect out enough sunlight to cause severe cooling.

Even in this documentary, the prospect was not seen as imminent in the next few years. It was seen as something that could happen after, say 200 years of this kind of major volcanic activity. People are walking around saying they survived the ice age that was predicted for in the 1970s, like the ice age of the 1980s that didn't happen. Even this video wasn't predicting that. It had a disclaimer saying it wasn't predicting anything, necessarily. Just exploring what could happen given circumstances, such as the volcanism. Yes, we do take our climate stability for granted.

One of the environmental science classes I took, back in the 1970s, had a lecture about the stability of our climate over the past 10,000 years or so. A period of relative stability that allowed our civilization to develop. The lecturer's point was that more extreme weather could be the geological norm and we have just been lucky over the past 10,000 years. We've become complaisant. I also remember that there was less worry about global warming, back then. Scientists knew about the effects of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but it wasn't being discussed in the media till the 1980s. Or at least that's my own recollection.

Was the energy crisis of the 1970s a hoax? I bought it and I still buy it today. Seemed like we would run out of fossil fuels, but today, we have an oil glut. What happened?

The idea of a hoax wasn't so much from conservatives, back then. Some liberals, in the 1970s, did think the energy crisis was a hoax. A hoax created by big oil corporations to raise the price.

I didn't buy the hoax idea as I am not a conspiracy theorist. The OPEC oil embargo was part of the problem. Yes that was a conspiracy, but the United States was also running out of "easy to pump" liquid petroleum. Yes the energy crisis was real.

Back then scientists knew we had lots of oil shale, however. Back in the days of Jimmy Carter, they thought the shale would have to be brought to the surface via strip mining and then crushed to extract the oil. It was the famous "Carter Synfuels Plan."

Well, since then, some new technology has been developed in the oil industry. They don't need to mine the shale. They just have to drill sideways, frack the shale formation and then let gravity do the work. Just let the oil drip down to sideways pipes that they laid under the shale formation; like a drain field. Bingo, the oil comes out more easily. It's why people are still able to easily afford driving cars and flying in jet planes today.

One can ask, will there be a similar fix to the global warming problems of today? A fix from future technology? How about geoengineering? Putting up some kind of reflection to partially shade the earth from the sun.

All of these fixes, so to speak, are problematic. Fracking of the shale brings worry about water contamination. Geoengineering the earth's reflectivity is truly a Pandora's box. It's also true that, at some point in the future, even our abundant supply of oil shale will be used up. We do need alternative energy.

Waiting for the Greyhound Bus, one time back in my college days, this conversation took place between me and a somewhat derelict looking fellow. We were discussing the energy crisis and I started to say that America was running out of oil. Before I could finish the sentence, he interrupted right after the words, "running out." In a very proud voice he said, "AMERICA Ain't A Runnun Out A Nothun."