Ecology and the State: A State perspective.
lecture notes for International Studies
instructor. H. D. Maher Jr.
What would you include in an environmental
profile of a country? Such a profile might be used for governmental
strategic planning, ecomic development purposes, and resource
- significant natural hazards (earthquakes,
flooding, volcanic eruptions).
- insurance profiles for above.
- major environmental liabilities (major contamination
- maps of biomes, physical environment, population
- resource-reserve estimates for critical materials
- consumption behavior.
- cultural attitudes to environmental issues.
- growth projections.
- special sites (e.g. national parks)
- environmental law and government agencies.
- environmental groups.
- again GIS a way to harness all this information.
What are major classes of geologic commodities
crucial to modern society?
- water: surface and groundwater.
- sacred or recreational sites.
What are major energy sources?
- traditional fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal).
- nontraditional fossil fuels (tar sands and
- wind, solar, tidal, geothermal .
Distinction between reserve and resource
estimates for a 'commodity.' Reserve is estimate of discovered
deposits, while resource = reserves + yet to be discovered deposits.
How to estimate the latter?
Summary of different categories on energy
sources with % contribution in overall energy consumption and
list of associated environmental traits (DOE 95 #s):
- oil (39.2%)
- blowouts, oil spills, emissions and associated
climate change (?), groundwater contamination.
- decades to a century.
- gas (21.4%)
- blowouts, explosive, emissions and associated
climate change (?).
- 1-2 centuries.
- coal (25%)
- strip mining, mining accidents, acid mine
drainage, acid rain, gas and particulate, emissions and associated
- centuries plus reserves.
- nuclear (6.5%)
- renewable or nonrenewable dependent on type.
- mining wastes, accidents and radioactivity
contamination, weapons proliferation, waste disposal.
- theoretically very long with breeder reactors.
- hydroelectric (7.1%)
- dam safety, ecosystem and hydrologic disruption,
water loss, reservoir induced earthquakes.
- all others (roughly 1%) - mainly renewable,
overall less in way of environmental concerns: e.g.wind
some 86% from fossil fuels!
Energy reserves, resources and the future
- when will we 'run' out?
What are the factors that will determine when
we run out, that will be involved in making projections?
- existing resources.
- population growth.
- per capita use.
- discovery and recovery rate.
- alternate sources and technologies.
Below tables taken from USGS report at http://www.usgs.gov/public/press/public_affairs/press_releases/pr1183m.html.
Table 1. Volumes of undiscovered world petroleum, by
commodity, from this assessment (mean values, exclusive of the
United States) and the previous USGS assessment
||USGS 1993 Assessment
|USGS 2000 Assessment
||539 billion barrels
||649 billion barrels
|Undiscovered natural gas
||915 BBOE *1
|Undiscovered natural gas liquids
*1BBOE = billion barrels of oil equivalent.
Table 2. Volumes of undiscovered oil and undiscovered
natural gas by region, including percentages of world totals (mean
values, exclusive of the United States).
|Percent of world total
||Undiscovered natural gas (trillion cubic feet)
||Percent of world total
|1: Former Soviet Union
|2: Middle East and North Africa
|5: North America*
|6: Central and South America
|7: Sub-Saharan Africa and Antarctica
|8: South Asia
* Exclusive of the United States
Simple facts and simple-minded extrapolation.
Annual consumption rate - 25 billion barrels/year
global consumption. 859 Bb normal reserves. Straight line and
simple minded extrapolation - <40 years of reserves left (still
resources). 2120 Bb oil left in ground. Perhaps < hundred years
of oil resource left.
What factors will likely lengthen this estimate?
What factors will likely shorten this estimate?
U.S. position in the global context (95
- reserves -> 7% of total.
- resources -> about 110 Bb.
- consumption -> 6.4 Bb, about 25% of the
- imports -> oil imports slightly over 50%.
- reserves have been steadily decreasing.
What will likely replace oil?
- coal: plentiful, but signficant associated
- seafloor gas hydrates: huge, but unproven
- nuclear? Japan and France think so.
- efficiency: recoverable energy 40-45%.
- green alternates
- many possibilities.
As we shift to other energy sources, there
will be geopolitical and environmental repercussions.
Influence of geopolitical distribution of
resources on history and policy.
- obsidian and trade routes.
- colonization and gold rushes.
- the history of price of oil and relationship
- tiny islands and submarine resources and
- example mentioned in World Herald 11/2/97
between Turkey and Greece.
- Middle Eastern tensions over groundwater.
- Georesource distribution is very uneven from
a political perspective, and thus this distribution has very
important political and economic repercussions
- Energy sources will change by several decades
from now if not before
- Differing habits of resource use will have
different environmental consequences (e.g. degree of global warming)
- Importance of geology and geologists in all
this? Provides basis for exploration models, safe extraction,
reserve and resources estimation, and environmental remediation
- If you are interested in international studies,
then resource distribution, reserves, and consumption are critical
aspects to consider.
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