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Save the methane! by Ocean Foresters

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The U.S. should amplify the edge that fracking gives the U.S. in inexpensive energy to unilaterally implement a carbon dividend.



Convert all oil and coal to methane (natural gas) and renewables.  Then convert all methane to bio-methane from seaweed forests.

The U.S. has a brief window where Americans benefit more than other countries with a carbon fee.  This is because of inexpensive natural gas (only in the U.S.).  Inexpensive natural gas is the result of American ingenuity applied to fracking.

North Dakota is drilling fracking for oil production in go-go-go mode.  They are not waiting for the natural gas pipelines.  As a consequence, much gas is flared.  (National Geographic, March 2013).  Also, see the cover picture for the "Fossil Fuel Sector" of an offshore oil rig flaring gas.

We should slow down oil drilling at least sufficiently to beneficially use the natural gas.

One way reduce flaring is to enact a carbon credit (fee, dividend, tax, whatever).  That increases the cost of flaring.

A carbon fee should make tar sands oil uneconomic because natual gas will be more valuable as direct fuel.



Category of the action

Fossil fuel sector efficiency

What actions do you propose?

Implement a carbon dividend (tax, fee, credit, whatever).  With relatively inexpensive natural gas from U.S. fracking and Japanese hydrate mining technology, such a carbon fee is relatively (overall) low-pain for national economies.  This is likely to be a temporary (decade or two) situation.

But the electric industry invests in 20-year economic life. 

A carbon fee in excess of about US$20 per ton of CO2 can be used to store the seaweed forest’s bio-CO2 and subsidize the production of bio-CH4.  A carbon dividend of $50/ton of CO2 would allow E7 countries to drop the price of biomethane from US$4 per 1,000 cuft to $2.8 per 1,000 cuft.

When fossil fuel use stops, the carbon dividend drops to zero.  If E7 countries want to fund removal of legacy carbon, they sell the biomethane for $4.7 per 1,000 cuft.


Who will take these actions?

The Ocean Foresters team now assembling for the Paul G. Allen Ocean Challenge.

Forward thinking oil and gas industry executives and U.S. politicians extending the life of their companies (like logging companies did) would support the mechanism to increase income from natural gas while betting oil's value will increase when extracted more slowly.  (Think U.S. version of OPEC.)

Natural gas producers can use the carbon fee to increase the value of methane as they increase the long-term reliability of the methane economy by investing in production of ocean afforestation's bio-methane.  Better return on investment using the prospect of plenteous bio-methane to increase demand for fossil methane than by rapidly increasing the supply of fossil methane.

Where will these actions be taken?

Initially in the U.S.  Eventually globally where there are shale plays (oil and gas in shale) and island-coastal nations deploying ocean afforestation.

Fracking technology is going global quickly.  Witness a conference "Water Management for Shale Plays", Argentina in April 2013.

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

Eventually, moving beyond zero emission to capturing legacy carbon.  See related proposals, particularly Scaling renewables - Fiji, than Indian Ocean Afforestation.

What are other key benefits?

A carbon fee (dividend, credit, tax, whatever) incentivates the free market.  Hard to know where that will take us.

Ocean afforestation offers food, biodiversity, etc.  Refer to related proposals, particularly Shifting Cultures - Rapid planet change.

What are the proposal’s costs?

Costs depend on how you look at it.  There is no free lunch.  We are all paying for our increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations now.  One might say net zero costs, only shifting who is paying.  For example: a U.S. carbon dividend would not cost any more than no dividend.  It would just shift money from those using more fossil fuels to those using less fossil fuels.  It doesn't matter if the collected money is used (instead of taxes) as insurance for Superstorm Sandy like events or given as a tax credit to everyone filing a federal income tax return.

Time line

Depends on how well proponents can work a compromise and incentivate fence sitting politicians.  Go see the movie "Lincoln."  Note compromises of principles and offering jobs to buy votes.

If President Obama holds Keystone XL hostage in exchange for a carbon dividend (credit, tax, fee, whatever), perhaps we have a small but predictably escalating carbon whatever in 2013.

If we business-as-usual for a few more climate disasters, perhaps another decade.

Related proposals

Geoengineering                 “Rapid negative CO2 via seaweed forests” highlights the carbon dioxide removal (CDR) features of ocean afforestation.

Scaling renewables ….       “Fiji, then Indian Ocean Afforestation” highlights the inexpensive renewable energy and food production of ocean afforestation.

Shifting Cultures ….         “Mad Babies Saving Oceans” is a scenario wrapped into a video game employing the ocean afforestation ecosystem.

Shifting Cultures ….         “Rapid Planet Change” needs ocean afforestation, a holistic ecosystem to address global issues.

Electric power sector and Fossil fuel sector        “Save the methane!” suggests a carbon tax (credit, fee, dividend, …) to slow oil drilling, build the methane economy, and then ocean afforestation builds the biomethane economy.

Electric power sector         “Replace coal and oil with renewable natural gas (biomethane)” – Ocean afforestation provides the sustainable biomethane supply.