We are being made victims of a global fraud, one that ignores the scientific and economic reality of the Carbon cycle. The fossil fuel industry, be it, coal, oil or gas would have us believe that all Carbon is equal. The recent arguments of the CEBEU (Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union) suggesting that carbon dioxide emanated by burning coal can be countered by growing trees is totally wrong ! It demonstrates a very narrow understanding of the substances that they promote. Carbon Dioxide that is emanated by Coal or any other fossil fuel cannot be countered by growing trees !
Carbon comes in many forms, consider a Diamond, a lump of coal, and a chunk of wood. One is a mineral form of carbon, the other a fossil and the last a biological or biotic form. They are very different in quality yet they are all made of Carbon. To understand the story of Carbon, we need to understand the story of life.
Life on Earth learnt how to maintain gas and material flows, optimum for the evolution of biodiversity. Carbon Dioxide, although essential to the process of life, was always being introduced into the atmosphere by volcanic processes at disruptive levels, throughout geologic history. But the gas has not concentrated in the atmosphere, because it was sequestered by living things and put away out of circulation from the biosphere of living carbon. This store of carbon is what is fossilized and accumulating over the last few hundred million years. This store is what the fossil fuel industry is digging up to release that ancient, locked up Carbon into the modern cycling atmosphere.
The difference is apparent when consider the example of a slice of bread and a cup of petroleum. One is fossil and is poisonous to ingest the other is biotic and nutritious to ingest. Both are carbon-based, both came from living organisms, but one is a hydrocarbon that has been fossilized for a long time kept away from the living biosphere and the other is a carbohydrate that is an essential part of the active biosphere. There is a real, discernable, difference between fossil carbon and biotic carbon. For instance, biotic (living) carbon is maintained in a solid (sequestrated) rate counted in thousands of years while fossil carbon has sequestration rates counted in millions of years. But we are told that both are equal…… an obvious lie.
What are these two pools of carbon biotic and fossil ?
Biotic carbon is created by the photosynthetic activity of plants which takes carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and fixes (sequesters) it in a solid state as organic matter. While all plants sequester and store carbon, trees and woody plants are the most efficient as they produce resistant compounds such as lignin. Consider the fate of two photosynthetically derived objects of similar biomass – a large pile of seaweed and a log lying on a beach. Both are plant products, but one (the tree) is strengthened with lignin. The same biological, chemical and physical forces will impact both. The seaweed will have disappeared within a few weeks the log may remain more or less the same for years.
Fossil carbon too arose as a product of photosynthesis plants. But, in the geological process of the planet, these products were removed from the biosphere and changed by the action of heat and pressure to become fossilized with sequestration times that are measured in millions of years. It is not interactive with the living or biotic cycle. There is a reasonable conjecture that this was a planetary mechanism for maintaining a homeostatic atmosphere. Until the advent of industrial society this fossil pool had very little input to atmospheric carbon. Allowing this fossil carbon to enter the biotic cycle is the fundamental reason as to why there is the accelerating greenhouse effect.
A tree plated to ‘absorb’ carbon emitted by burning fossil fuels may last for a hundred or so years Thus paying for the growing of trees to compensate for the carbon dioxide generated by the loss of a forest is fine, but paying the same price for growing trees to compensate for carbon dioxide generated by fossil carbon is tantamount to ‘carbon laundering’. There is no way to compare the carbon from oil and coal with the carbon from a forest. One has a space in the biotic cycle the other does not. Fossil carbon.
Coal, Oil and LP gas are all sources of fossil Carbon. While the arguments over the relative price of each type is conducted loudly, there is little interest in developing the non-fossil, sustainable sources of energy for this nation. The most basic consideration is that sources like sunlight are free and therefore provide no way by which the operators of the national grid can make money. No kickbacks from whatever lobby is supplying, coal, oil or gas.
Fossil fuels are considered an ‘environmental toxin’ as they tend to destroy the delicate carbon balance on the planet. They also produce negative health issues in the areas where they are used. So now we are ready to trade our land for ‘oil storage’?
Will we never learn ? It is with sorrow that an article written 1979 In the Sunday Observer is reproduced below:
“Oil is a commodity traded on the world market place. The sellers are few and the customers are many. Anyone even remotely familiar with any aspect of marketing will know that as an item of high demand becomes scarce the price increases correspondently. Such is the nature of market commodities. The old story of supply and demand. So, as oil becomes scarce the price increase will become correspondingly larger. Its development measured by increasing dependency in such a commodity?