Chevron and the Environment

Central Processing Facility, Kutubu, PNG -60f52e67-cc7e-432e-ba39-1bb028ca1a9b-0-388x359

In chapter 15 of Jared Diamond’s book Collapse, I was surprised to see that on an oil site in Papua New Guinea, Chevron was taking active measures to act more like a nature preserve that took care of the environment, than an oil company whose goal was just to remove as much oil as possible. It was refreshing to see a sustainable oil removal operation whose process for removing oil had little to no effect on the organisms near the Kutubu oil field. Diamond even states that “ Instead, I discovered to my astonishment that these species are much more numerous inside the Chevron area than anywhere else that I have visited on the island of New Guinea…” However, Chevron didn’t just subject themselves to environmental policies and regulations out of the goodness of their hearts. They did it for 3 reasons, which include environmental motivation, avoiding expenses from environmental disasters from accidents and staying out of the limelight.

The environmental motivation from policies and regulations helped Chevron become more sustainable because they knew spending money on environmental policies would profit them in the long run. They wouldn’t have done it other wise for risk of losing their shareholders if the policies lost them money.

The second reason is avoiding unnecessary costs from environmental disasters from accidents such as oil spills. Chevron realized that it is more expensive to clean up accidents after they happen then by spending money on preventative measures to minimize the risk of accidents. Diamond states, “That is, cleaning up pollution is usually far more expensive than preventing pollution…”, which is why environmental policies and regulations are so important. These policies and regulations reduce the risk of accidents and are worth it/profitable for the oil company in the long run. They also keep big oil companies, like Chevron out of the spotlight, which is the third reason why Chevron follows environmental policies and regulations. Chevron is under the careful watch of the public eye and any accident, like an oil spill is going to attract negative attention that will cost the company billions to handle. Many people rely on the area near the Kutubu field to make a living to support their families, so any environmental disaster would severely impact their way of life and direct negative attention towards Chevron for their abuse of the environment.

The actions/expenses Chevron has taken/put forth to uphold environmental policies and regulations to have an oilfield that achieves environmental standards is truly impressive. They may follow these policies to reduce the amount of money they would have to pay, but it was successful in making them have a sustainable operation. Now we get down to some fundamental questions. How could we get the Indonesian State Oil Company discussed in chapter 15, to abide by environmental policies and regulations just like Chevron did? How can we make them want to protect the environment? Do you think we should start off with incentives or is it too late for that?

Image source site (contains numerous images from the Papua New Guinea Kutubu oil site:

http://www.oilsearch.com/About-Us/Photo-Gallery/PNG-Kutubu.html

Sources:

Diamond, Jared. Collapse. 2006. Pg. 441-451

The Northern Highlands Lake District, Wisconsin

In class, we did not talk too much about one of our readings for this week, Case Study 4. The NHLD started out as a beautiful area with lakes and forests and it was not very populated. However, from our knowledge about humans, we can already assume what happened over the years to this area. It became crowded and polluted. It still is a beautiful place, but it has more evidence of human impact than it did before.

People wanted to move to the NHLD because of all the things it had to offer. With the more and more people moving into this area, the more we are unsure about the effects it will have on the land. Already, the population has grown from about 12,000 in the 1900s to currently, about 65,000. Who knows what the population will become in the next ten years. Due to the increase in population, highways have expanded and the area has become more developed. With the huge highways, comes traffic and an increase in tourists, which leads to pollution and over crowding.

Even the diverse lakes have suffered from these changes. Fishing has lead to a decline in certain fish species. Speedboats are popular on the lakes and are highly polluting. Invasive species are a big problem in these lakes as well. The invasive species are introduced by bait buckets in these speed boats.

Despite these negative changes, the NHLD is still well off and isn’t suffering too bad…YET. I think we need to take a few precautions so the area does not get too degraded. But, we all know our problems, we tend to wait until the consequences become quite obvious to us and then we decide to act, when it is too late. We can draw a connection from the NHLD to our environment. The population started steadily increasing, more and more pollution became introduced, and we started rapidly degrading our planet. If we take actions now, we could conserve the NHLD so the future generations could enjoy it as much as we had the chance to. NHLD

Privatization as a Good Thing

I was intrigued at the fact that in Chapter 15, the Chevron site acted as a nature preserve, as species were abundant because of the private land that could not be hunted like the public land was by the local population. This made me think of private land here in the US or anywhere in the world really, that is privatized solely for the purpose of hunting and the benefits that this has for humans, animals and the environment as a whole.

Hunters are often the biggest proponents for land conservation because this means more meat in the freezer that does not come from a CAFO but from wild grazing. This meat is leaner and usually free from the antibiotics and other consequential chemicals that come from corn-fed meat operations. Now I am sure this was not the intent of Chevron, but the benefits elsewhere should not be discounted.

As environmentalists, we should support hunters because through their conservation efforts, everyone can benefit. According to a study by the University of Georgia, hunting and its related expenses add $23 billion to the economy annually and $700 million of which is spend on tags, permits and licenses provided by state and federal government programs. The revenues from these tags, permits, and licenses are reinvested into conservation programs, wildlife refuges and parks which also aid in the protection of non-game species. In addition, NGOs such as Ducks Unlimited have funded private conservation projects and to date have conserved almost 14 million acres of wetlands throughout Canada, Mexico and the United States.

However, according to this same study, the number of hunters in the US has been in decline since peaking in the 1980’s. In recent years, only about five percent of the American population hunts which makes me wonder what future effects and consequences this could have for the environment?

 

Backwards Growth

Is it possible to grow backwards? Success in our society is measured by a rapidly growing economy, but growth isn’t always good. Think of a cell. Normal cell growth is good, but when it grows too much and too fast, it becomes cancer. This is what is happening in developed nations, where our current society requires inputs of energy and resources. But as we all know, the earth does not have an infinite source of resources, and if our economies and societies continue to grow, we will eventually run out of new resources. The only way to prevent that disaster is to change our ways now, before the resources run out.

To prevent the overuse of resources, we need to stop using economic growth as a measure of success. For one thing, not all of the growth is good growth. Every time someone goes to the hospital or gets a divorce, they spend money. This money goes towards the GDP and is counted as economic growth, even though no one would consider it positive. Shouldn’t we be measuring success only with positive growth? And why do we even need growth in the first place? Our population is no longer growing rapidly, so it makes sense that we no longer need a rapidly growing economy. We don’t need a bigger economy to be happy.

Income and Happiness

Even though the economy is growing, people aren’t getting any happier. So why not grow backwards? We can change our mindsets, and focus on growing our happiness instead of growing our economy. Our society would still be growing and success would be measured by happiness. Then, it wouldn’t matter if the economy shrank, because that wouldn’t mean we were unsuccessful or unhappy, it would just mean that we were using fewer resources, and not spending money on unnecessary products that we don’t need.en

Backwards Growth

Is it possible to grow backwards? Success in our society is measured by a rapidly growing economy, but growth isn’t always good. Think of a cell. Normal cell growth is good, but when it grows too much and too fast, it becomes cancer. This is what is happening in developed nations, where our current society requires inputs of energy and resources. But as we all know, the earth does not have an infinite source of resources, and if our economies and societies continue to grow, we will eventually run out of new resources. The only way to prevent that disaster is to change our ways now, before the resources run out.

To prevent the overuse of resources, we need to stop using economic growth as a measure of success. For one thing, not all of the growth is good growth. Every time someone goes to the hospital or gets a divorce, they spend money. This money goes towards the GDP and is counted as economic growth, even though no one would consider it positive. Shouldn’t we be measuring success only with positive growth? And why do we even need growth in the first place? Our population is no longer growing rapidly, so it makes sense that we no longer need a rapidly growing economy. We don’t need a bigger economy to be happy.

Income and Happiness

Even though the economy is growing, people aren’t getting any happier. So why not grow backwards? We can change our mindsets, and focus on growing our happiness instead of growing our economy. Our society would still be growing and success would be measured by happiness. Then, it wouldn’t matter if the economy shrank, because that wouldn’t mean we were unsuccessful or unhappy, it would just mean that we were using fewer resources, and not spending money on unnecessary products that we don’t need.en

Renewable Energy Subsides State by State

We have been discussing in class recently the topic of subsides and how they could be both beneficial and harmful to our environment. If we give the subsides to the Oil and Gas industries they can continue to destroy the ecosystem through the industries practices. However, on the flip side of that, we could move the subsides towards the renewable energy industry and continue to innovate and expand the industry.

Recently I found a database with a breakdown of state by state how many incentives each state has and it further illustrates  which regions in US have more incentives and which have fewer.

According the the map the state with the lowest number of incentives was West Virginia which had 11. This could be due to large amount of coal mines in the region and large amount of coal burning factories. The state with the highest number was California with 185. The Western United States had far more incentives then the rest of the country and the Deep South had the lowest by far barely averaging over 20. This could be due to this regions concern over the environment being far less the rest of the nation especially the West.

It would interesting to see if the Deep South could adopt the same values about the environment as the West does and what that affect would be on the renewable energy industries

 

Source : www.dsireusa.org

 

Subsidies that Make Sense

In class this week we discussed the use of subsidies to keep certain industries profitable. A subsidy is direct or indirect assistance (usually from the government) that makes and industry more profitable.  One of the industries that receives subsidies from the government is the fossil fuel industry. Despite the environmental problems that result from extracting and burning  fossil fuels, we continue to pump tax payer dollars in to this dirty industry. We fear that ending the subsidies would cause the industry to collapse and people would loose their jobs and we would have no energy source for the country. If only there were another industry that could come in and fill the niche that would be left behind by the fossil fuel industry. Oh wait there is one! The green energy industry could potentially fill the spot left behind by the oil companies.

The green energy industry is becoming larger and larger as people see the imminent threat of climate change become more and more real. However, the green energy industry is having trouble competing with the fossil fuel industry for several reasons. The main reason is that green energy has a lot of upfront costs because wind turbines and solar panels are expensive to produce and install while coal fire power plants are already installed and ready to go. Once the green energy is installed however, there are no more additional costs besides maintenance.

In order to get around this problem of upfront costs, the subsidies that go to the fossil fuel industry should be taken away and re distributed to the green energy industry. Although green energy is already subsidized, it only receives a fraction of the aid that the fossil fuel industry does. Green energy receives $12.2 billion while fossil fuels receive an enormous $70.2 billion. Imagine the progress that could be made in this industry if they received as much aid as fossil fuels did. And the green energy would not need subsidies to stay as high as they would be in the beginning. Once the upfront costs of installation are paid for the industry won’t need much help to stay productive. If the government would only invest in green energy we would see savings in environmental quality as well as tax spending.

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Subsidies that Make Sense

In class this week we discussed the use of subsidies to keep certain industries profitable. A subsidy is direct or indirect assistance (usually from the government) that makes and industry more profitable.  One of the industries that receives subsidies from the government is the fossil fuel industry. Despite the environmental problems that result from extracting and burning  fossil fuels, we continue to pump tax payer dollars in to this dirty industry. We fear that ending the subsidies would cause the industry to collapse and people would loose their jobs and we would have no energy source for the country. If only there were another industry that could come in and fill the niche that would be left behind by the fossil fuel industry. Oh wait there is one! The green energy industry could potentially fill the spot left behind by the oil companies.

The green energy industry is becoming larger and larger as people see the imminent threat of climate change become more and more real. However, the green energy industry is having trouble competing with the fossil fuel industry for several reasons. The main reason is that green energy has a lot of upfront costs because wind turbines and solar panels are expensive to produce and install while coal fire power plants are already installed and ready to go. Once the green energy is installed however, there are no more additional costs besides maintenance.

In order to get around this problem of upfront costs, the subsidies that go to the fossil fuel industry should be taken away and re distributed to the green energy industry. Although green energy is already subsidized, it only receives a fraction of the aid that the fossil fuel industry does. Green energy receives $12.2 billion while fossil fuels receive an enormous $70.2 billion. Imagine the progress that could be made in this industry if they received as much aid as fossil fuels did. And the green energy would not need subsidies to stay as high as they would be in the beginning. Once the upfront costs of installation are paid for the industry won’t need much help to stay productive. If the government would only invest in green energy we would see savings in environmental quality as well as tax spending.

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Fish are Friends….And Food

For most people that view the ocean they see it as a vast endless body of water and a limitless supply of resources.  Although for the more educated public it’s known that the world is rapidly running out of ocean resources.  The fishing industry is being farmed over it’s maximum yield and has been for awhile. And because of this some fish species have become commercially extinct in certain areas.  Fish populations are being fished by too many vessels from an excessive amount of subsides by the government.

The government has put in an excessive amount of subsides into fisheries that 1. we no longer see the true cost of the fish in stores and 2. the subsides has exceeded the amount of revenue brought in. We are essentially supporting  a hopeless cause, the more fishing vessels that are put onto the water just worsen that cause of threatening fish species to extinction.  Instead of the subsides being used to try to pull in a bigger harvest, the subsides should be used for restoring fish population or aquaculture farms; or at least have the the two agencies that work together to keep fish populations from dropping too low.

If the subsidies are pulled from fishing, many people will lose their jobs, and income.  Worst case scenario these people will be put out of work and have to find a new job.  Although I believe it is possible to have the majority of the workers transfer from  fishing to restoring the fish populations, much like that has happened with African Lions.  Ecotourism can be a huge help for keeping fishing within sustainable yields.

Small Consumption in a Tiny House

In class recently, we have been talking about the idea of getting to Denmark, and how in developed countries like ours, having more things does not improve your standard of living. It makes me think about this awesome movement in real estate: the Tiny House Movement. And yes, they are as cute as they sound.

On average, American families live in houses with about 2,600 square feet. Alternatively, a typical tiny house is between 100 and 400 square feet. This may sound like a drastic downsize, but loosing space does not necessarily mean losing comfort or functionality. Many of these homes have full kitchens, full bathrooms, king sized beds and leisure space. And there is good reason for wanting to live in these homes as well. Not only does it have a low building cost (around $20,000) and low maintenance costs, but it also gives people the freedom to fully take advantage of their free time. We spend so much money and time taking care of our large homes. On average, Americans spend around 76% of their take home income on their homes (in terms of maintenance and utilities). This number diminishes significantly for residents of tiny houses. A smaller house needs much less furniture, takes less time to maintain and requires less work to fund, and money can be spent elsewhere, or, with the need for money diminished, people can work less.

But the economic and personal advantages are not the only reason to support this “Tiny House Movement.” One of the creeds of living in a tiny house is the idea of being environmentally conscious. Although some tiny house owners really take this to heart and use things like toilet composters and all recycled materials or efficient lighting, just the process of living in a tiny house is environmentally conscious. Brown says that in order to live sustainably we have to lower our consumption, not just change the things we are consuming. Tiny houses are right in line with this kind of thinking. Even without a conscious effort, you reduce consumption levels. The US has one of the largest housing-space per capita in the world, and we are constantly filling this space with things!

I think that, at least in my experience, I have been living my life disconnected from my food, my house, everything, because I do not think about it. But living in a tiny house requires thoughtful consideration at every turn. You are so connected to your surroundings, and you are more thoughtful to take care of it. I currently live in a really small one bedroom apartment, and you notice everything – when the light is on, if there are things on the floor, and so on – and you stop to consider what you put into it.

Bottom line is that tiny houses are a step in the direction toward lowering personal consumption. Obviously, not everyone is going to want to live in a tiny house, but I like that this “movement” is gaining traction. Having less space and less stuff creates room in your life for the more important things.

This is a walk through of my favorite tiny house:

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSzgh3D7-Q0[/youtube]