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posted by janrinok on Thursday May 12, @11:15AM   Printer-friendly
from the don't-let-the-changes-get-you-down dept.

Why our continued use of fossil fuels is creating a financial time bomb:

We know roughly how much more carbon dioxide we can put into the atmosphere before we exceed our climate goals—limiting warming to 1.5° to 2° C above pre-industrial temperatures. From that, we can figure out how much more fossil fuel we can burn before we emit that much carbon dioxide. But when you compare those numbers with our known fossil fuel reserves, things get jaw-dropping.

To reach our climate goals, we'll need to leave a third of the oil, half of the natural gas, and nearly all the coal we're aware of sitting in the ground, unused.

Yet we have—and are still building—infrastructure that is predicated on burning far more than that: mines, oil and gas wells, refineries, and the distribution networks that get all those products to market; power plants, cars, trains, boats, and airplanes that use the fuels. If we're to reach our climate goals, some of those things will have to be intentionally shut down and left to sit idle before they can deliver a return on the money they cost to produce.

But it's not just physical capital that will cause problems if we decide to get serious about addressing climate change. We have workers who are trained to use all of the idled hardware, companies that treat the fuel reserves and hardware as an asset on their balance sheets, and various contracts that dictate that the reserves can be exploited.

Collectively, you can think of all of these things as assets—assets that, if we were to get serious about climate change, would see their value drop to zero. At that point, they'd be termed "stranded assets," and their stranding has the potential to unleash economic chaos on the world.

Do you agree with this arguably pessimistic assessment of the situation, and have we already run out of time to take the action necessary to avoid exceeding climate goals? Criticism is easy, but what solutions do you have to the problem?


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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Phoenix666 on Thursday May 12, @01:35PM (28 children)

    by Phoenix666 (552) on Thursday May 12, @01:35PM (#1244381) Journal

    The market mechanism already takes care of this question. If it's profitable to build such machinery and train such workers, then companies will do it. If it stops being profitable, they will stop.

    Will there be abandoned oil derricks and oil refineries in the landscape? Yes, just like there are abandoned steam-powered tractors and other machinery. Eventually, somebody comes along and turns them into planters or parks [seattle.gov].

    Across the West there are towns that were abandoned after their purpose was gone. They're called "ghost towns." Some of them are melting back into the landscape, and others are being re-tooled as tourist attractions or given new life as private homes.

    As the internal combustion engine falls out of favor, we should recycle them and produce new machines and tools. That's what we should do and where our focus should be--a responsible transition. As far as the humans trained to work with them, well, they can and do learn to do other things.

    --
    Washington DC delenda est.
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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @03:16PM (11 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @03:16PM (#1244424)

    Is the last sentence like when journalists told oil workers to learn to code, or when everyone else told journalists to learn to code when they subsequently got laid off.l?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @03:34PM (10 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @03:34PM (#1244435)

      Yes, exactly. Society does not owe you a job as a coal miner. If you work in an industry that is about to disappear, you are going to get hurt. Maybe you should get out before that actually happens. These things don't happen overnight. But for some reason, everyone wants the glory of going down with the ship.

      • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @03:53PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @03:53PM (#1244438)

        Right, which is why we have all these unemployed COBOL experts sniffling to their governments about how everybody should be forced to use mainframes.

        ... oh, wait.

        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Saturday May 14, @12:53AM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday May 14, @12:53AM (#1244853) Journal
          But it remains that society doesn't owe you a lifestyle. If you aren't willing to do rudimentary things to adapt to reality, then I'm not willing to care about the resulting consequences of those poor choices.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @03:55PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @03:55PM (#1244439)

        Yes, which is why there should be at least an much push to create alternatives that don't destroy the world as a means of employment.

      • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @03:58PM (4 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @03:58PM (#1244441)

        Oil is going nowhere. Oil workers need only wait for Biden's regime to end and it will be back to keeping everyone warm, on the road, in the sky, and in fertilizer.

        • (Score: 3, Funny) by DeathMonkey on Thursday May 12, @04:58PM (1 child)

          by DeathMonkey (1380) on Thursday May 12, @04:58PM (#1244465) Journal

          So this week is Biden the Radical Socialist Week? See, I thought this was Biden the Do-Nothing Centrist week but I guess my calendar was wrong!

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 16, @06:48PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 16, @06:48PM (#1245395)

            Biden: a hand puppet with a beating heart and an appetite for ice cream

            Biden's regime: the hand up the puppet's rear portal.

            See the difference?

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by Sourcery42 on Thursday May 12, @05:41PM (1 child)

          by Sourcery42 (6400) on Thursday May 12, @05:41PM (#1244471)

          BWAAAHAAAHAAA!

          Thanks. I needed a good laugh. Yes, Biden's disastrous policies are absolutely gutting the energy industry right now. They're literally hemorrhaging money /s https://www.energystockchannel.com/quotes/?a=chart&ticker=$CRACK321&period=5y&title=5+Years [energystockchannel.com]

          The world is hungry for energy. Add a dash of no one invested in maintaining production or growing alternative energy sources much during the Covid downturn, splash in permanently shuttering some uncompetitive refineries, then sprinkle in a bit of WWIII and you get record profits for the energy industry, but yes, the current market and geopolitical situation is clearly all part of Biden's grand scheme. You're the dumbass who sticks the "I did that!" stickers on gas pumps lately, aren't you AC.

          I get the point you're trying to make. The way you made it is downright laughable, though.

          • (Score: 0, Redundant) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @07:06PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @07:06PM (#1244502)

            No, nothing is the Biden administration's fault. He is impotent, a reed blowing in the wind, at the mercy of events he can't control. Does that make Biden sound BETTER to you?

      • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Thursday May 12, @07:15PM (1 child)

        by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 12, @07:15PM (#1244507) Homepage Journal

        If you work in an industry that is about to disappear, you are going to get hurt.

        That's the best excuse I've heard yet. I'm just going to quit working!

        --
        Our first six presidents were educated men. Then, along came a Democrat.
        • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @08:51PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @08:51PM (#1244572)

          That's the best excuse I've heard yet. I'm just going to quit working!

          As if anyone would notice. More time to shitpost on the internets? But what will you do without your employer's WiFi connention?

  • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Thursday May 12, @04:40PM (4 children)

    by DeathMonkey (1380) on Thursday May 12, @04:40PM (#1244452) Journal

    Eventually, somebody comes along and turns them into planters or parks [seattle.gov].

    Gasworks is awesome! But it's not quite the panacea you would have us believe...

    What’s in the dirt at Seattle’s Gas Works Park? [king5.com]

    Overall, Graves says the water quality in Lake Union is “pretty good, but we don’t want people out there stirring up the sediment.” That is part of the reason why swimming, fishing, wading, or launching boats from the park into Lake Union is not allowed.

    As for health risks, Graves said it’s “like a long-term chronic exposure risk.” You won’t get blisters or burned if you come in contact with the sediment, “it’s not that kind of contamination, but you would want to wash it off.”

    I would recommend immediately washing your clothes once by themselves and taking a shower when you get home if you do much more than just walk your dog there...

    • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Thursday May 12, @04:43PM

      by DeathMonkey (1380) on Thursday May 12, @04:43PM (#1244453) Journal

      On a personal note I'm moving back to the Seattle area in about six months and I'm stoked to go home!

    • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Thursday May 12, @07:31PM (2 children)

      by Phoenix666 (552) on Thursday May 12, @07:31PM (#1244513) Journal

      Gasworks is awesome! But it's not quite the panacea you would have us believe...

      It is if you go there to fly kites from the top of the hill, which is what we used to do.

      Anyway, it was a salient example of obsolete industry being repurposed as something else. Another example is the High Line in NYC, which was a rail spur that brought animals down to the meat packing district for slaughter, then sat abandoned for 60 years, and was repurposed as a public park that pegs the meter for awesomeness.

      --
      Washington DC delenda est.
  • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Thursday May 12, @07:36PM (10 children)

    by Azuma Hazuki (5086) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 12, @07:36PM (#1244517) Journal

    You're missing the point here as usual, though.

    A lot of this stuff involves leverage, basically promises that the profit they are assumed over the long term to generate will materialize, no matter what. It's more or less borrowing from an assumed or projected future. If that future fails to materialize, not only do you have a tremendous load of stranded assets, you ALSO have a sky-high pile of unserviceable debt. And then there's the energy cost and environmental externalities to consider, something your new God (the Free Market, known in ancient times as Mammon...) deliberately refuses even to countenance.

    The Free Market (TM) doesn't exist in vacuum. You are making precisely the same false assumptions -- infinite growth, freely-available resources and raw materials, geopolitical stability -- that everyone has been pointing out for the last 50+ years aren't guaranteed...and, over the last 20, are worse than delusional.

    Your attitude of "let the little people repurpose the ruins" is even worse, since it combines the above with a hearty dose of "fuck you, poors." Why should we have to do it this way? Why should people have to suffer and waste their time and energy and money just to get stuck with the scraps of failed monuments to greed and shortsightedness?

    --
    I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday May 15, @12:27AM (9 children)

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday May 15, @12:27AM (#1245034) Journal
      First, it's expectation not leverage. They're close concepts, but not the same. Leverage is when you borrow heavily against that expectation. One can expect all kinds of things without a lot of drama. If you expect the world to end tomorrow, and the only thing that happens is that you're sorely disappointed, then you're not leveraged into your belief since your life didn't change;'. But if you put your life's savings on 00 on the roulette wheel because tomorrow won't come, then you're extremely leveraged.

      The Free Market (TM) doesn't exist in vacuum. You are making precisely the same false assumptions -- infinite growth, freely-available resources and raw materials, geopolitical stability -- that everyone has been pointing out for the last 50+ years aren't guaranteed...and, over the last 20, are worse than delusional.

      I disagree. The assumptions aren't that extreme. An assumption of infinite growth is little different from an assumption of finite growth for a few decades (and really humanity has been growing for many centuries making that assumption much less of a assumption).

      And freely available resources? The real assumption is that all resources are scarce and have cost. We even have posters here criticizing the assumption because they think it's an obstruction to a genuine, post-scarcity economy.

      And geopolitical stability remains pretty stable even with covid and Russian misbehavior. It's not much of an assumption.

      Your attitude of "let the little people repurpose the ruins" is even worse, since it combines the above with a hearty dose of "fuck you, poors."

      The "fuck you, poors" are getting considerable cheap shit out of this, so I'm just not seeing the problem.

      • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Sunday May 15, @05:12PM (8 children)

        by Azuma Hazuki (5086) Subscriber Badge on Sunday May 15, @05:12PM (#1245152) Journal

        Why do you use so many words and say so little? You haven't rebutted anything I've said, obviously or otherwise. You've stuck your fingertips in your ears and started shouting the Gospel According To Mammon According to Mr. Hallow. Economics isn't some kind of magic spell, Hallow. Chanting and repetition won't save you in the face of shifting reality. Everyone and everything bows before physics.

        --
        I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday May 15, @10:52PM (7 children)

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday May 15, @10:52PM (#1245199) Journal

          You haven't rebutted anything I've said, obviously or otherwise.

          Should I be rebutting what you say?

          My take is that you might actually have an interesting point here, should you choose to think about what you're talking about rather than waste time spinning silly yarns about the mean people on the internets.

          • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Monday May 16, @04:58AM (6 children)

            by Azuma Hazuki (5086) Subscriber Badge on Monday May 16, @04:58AM (#1245247) Journal

            Your "take" is hot dogshit, and almost completely void of any actual substance.

            Wake the fuck up. Humans are not rational actors, resources are not infinite, growth cannot be infinite or even "close enough" as you're putting it, and deliberately producing massive amounts of stranded assets with what capacity we have left is outright evil at this point.

            --
            I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
            • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday May 16, @11:33AM (4 children)

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday May 16, @11:33AM (#1245277) Journal

              Wake the fuck up. Humans are not rational actors, resources are not infinite, growth cannot be infinite or even "close enough" as you're putting it, and deliberately producing massive amounts of stranded assets with what capacity we have left is outright evil at this point.

              Except of course, humans are often rational enough for those "rational actor" approximations, growth can indeed be close enough (and has been for centuries, not just every now and then!), and those assets need not be stranded - but as Phoenix666 noted, if they are, it's not downright evil, but an opportunity to repurpose those assets so that they are no longer stranded (and help the poorest in the process).

              This is a classic straw man argument. You don't even say why these assumptions/evils are even supposed to be something we should talk about.

              • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Tuesday May 17, @02:54AM (3 children)

                by Azuma Hazuki (5086) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday May 17, @02:54AM (#1245539) Journal

                Trickle-down economics doesn't work, Hallow. At this point there's more evidence for creationism than trickle-down, which is to say, we have real-time and constant disproofs of Reaganomics unfolding in front of our very eyes day to day. And, again, your "repurpose those stranded assets to help the poor" idea is another manifestation of this; it's like saying "the way to solve food insecurity is to feed rich people until they throw up, and then let the poor eat the vomit."

                --
                I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
                • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday May 18, @02:37AM (2 children)

                  by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 18, @02:37AM (#1245852) Journal

                  Trickle-down economics doesn't work, Hallow.

                  Aside from you, who in this thread has talked about trickle-down? Sorry, neither Phoenix666 nor I did that. You did.

                  Reagonics is about a particular tax policy from the 1980s - favoring the wealthy (that is, we tax rich people less so that poor people can benefit indirectly). We're not talking tax policy, but the development of productive assets that has as a side effect that it can be repurposed afterward.

                  This also gets to my point about leverage. Such reuse lessens moderately the amount of leverage since there's some recovery possible even if the fossil fuel assset/infrastructure builders got this completely wrong.

                  • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Wednesday May 18, @04:44PM (1 child)

                    by Azuma Hazuki (5086) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 18, @04:44PM (#1245978) Journal

                    And all of that is trickle-down. All of it amounts to "make the rich richer so they invest in the country on a private level." That is the textbook definition of trickle-down economics. This is a really bad look for you, Hallow. Your economic religious views are being exposed for the hollow, self-destructive puffery they are.

                    --
                    I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
                    • (Score: 0, Troll) by khallow on Wednesday May 18, @11:41PM

                      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 18, @11:41PM (#1246104) Journal

                      And all of that is trickle-down. All of it amounts to "make the rich richer so they invest in the country on a private level." That is the textbook definition of trickle-down economics.

                      No, it's not. Phoenix666's original post simply pointed out that there's not a lot of drama to a transition away from fossil fuels - due to such ready tools as that market that Phoenix666 mentioned. In other words, your breathless concerns like the load of "stranded assets" just aren't that significant. We already have it figured out.

                      This is a really bad look for you, Hallow.

                      Then change your optics. You haven't given any reason (not just in this thread - for many years, let us note) that I should care about how things look to you.

            • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday May 20, @03:38AM

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 20, @03:38AM (#1246485) Journal

              and deliberately producing massive amounts of stranded assets with what capacity we have left is outright evil at this point

              Thinking about this post some more, this is just plain dumb. Why would rich people deliberately produce massive amounts of stranded assets? They're not in this to lose money. Sure, I can see something like an idiotic government policy to create said stranded assets, but that can happen with any sort of asset.

              Instead we have considerable evidence that we actually have overly strong incentives against producing those assets (at least in the Western World where the concerns of this "financial bomb" are discussed) - like very few refineries built since the 1970s (I see repeatedly the claim that no refinery with "significant downstream unit capacity" has been constructed since 1977) and the obstructing of oil transportation infrastructure (like the successful blocking of Keystone XL). Not much point to worrying about stranded assets when the real problem is a dearth of said assets.