NRDC feigns outrage over 1.2 billion tons of carbon from oil sands in Canada; supports 40 times as much from gas-fired generation in America

The Natural Resources Defense Council, one of America’s leading “environmental” groups, issued a much-retailed press release yesterday that claims operations in Canada’s oil sands will emit 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) over the next 50 years. Do the arithmetic, and this estimate, if accurate, works out to 24 million tons per year.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is outraged that Canada’s oil sands will emit 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air in the next fifty years. Meanwhile the group supports natural gas-fired generation in the U.S., and replacing America’s zero-CO2 nuclear plants with more gas-fired ones. If this happened, the expanded gas-fired fleet in America would dump nearly forty times as much CO2 as the oil sands.

Sounds like a lot, but everything is relative. Especially considering the following.

The NRDC opposes nuclear power in the U.S., and supports replacing nuclear, which emits zero grams of CO2 for each kilowatt-hour generated, with natural gas-fired generation, which emits just over half a kilogram (550 grams, to be precise). Further, the group supports replacing America’s coal-fired generators, which emit nearly a kilogram of CO2 per kWh, with yet more natural gas.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), all electric power generators in the U.S. generated 4 trillion kWh in 2011. Of those 4 trillion kWh, 42 percent (1.68 trillion kWh) came from coal-fired generators. One quarter, or 1 trillion kWh, came from gas-fired plants, and one-fifth—or 800 billion kWh—came from nuclear plants. More than half of the remaining 13 percent came from hydroelectric facilities.

Let’s look at the 1 trillion kWh that came from gas-fired plants in 2011. The NRDC supports gas-fired generation, remember. Well, those trillion kWh came with 550 million metric tons of CO2. (Multiply 1 trillion by 550 grams, then divide the product by 1 million, the number of grams in a metric ton, to convert to metric tons.)

Remember also that the 550 million metric tons of CO2 that gas-fired plants dumped into America’s air in 2011 represent a one year total. This means that in the two years 2011 and 2012, gas-fired plants in America dumped 1.1 billion tons of CO2 into the air. So two years, 1.1 billion tons of CO2. And the NRDC is complaining about Canada’s oil sands dumping 1.2 billion tons over fifty years.

Over fifty years, American gas-fired generating plants—if they maintain their 25 percent contribution to America’s total kWhs generated and if American generators continue to output 4 trillion kWh annually—will have dumped 27.5 billion tons of CO2. That is nearly 23 times as much as NRDC’s estimate of Caanda’s oil sands over the same period.

It gets worse.

As I mentioned above, NRDC, typically for mainstream environmental groups, opposes nuclear power and wishes America’s nuclear plants were replaced with gas-fired ones.

Well, nuclear plants in America generated 800 billion kWh in 2011. If gas plants provided that output, we would witness the dumping of a further 440 million tons of CO2 per year. Over 50 years, add another 22 billion tons of CO2 to the 27.5 billion tons from the already existing gas plants. The total comes to 49.5 billion tons of CO2 over fifty years.

The NRDC objects to 1.2 billion tons of CO2 over fifty years from Canada’s oil sands, but supports the dumping of 49.5 billion tons of CO2 from its favourite fossil fuel.

This is why, at the beginning of this article, I described the NRDC as one of America’s leading “environmental” groups. I feel the quotes are justified. The mainstream environmental movement is the environment’s falsest friend. Which is another way of saying, worst enemy.

4 comments for “NRDC feigns outrage over 1.2 billion tons of carbon from oil sands in Canada; supports 40 times as much from gas-fired generation in America

  1. Steve
    July 24, 2013 at 22:04

    Judge them not by what they say, but by what they do and the consequences of their actions. If the logical result of their entreaties is to burn billions of tons more gas at a higher net cost to us, then they are gas-selling wolves in green sheep’s clothing, pure and simple. Their professed concern for the environment is simply a marketing tool. A tool used to garner support of useful idiots in the environmental movement for their racket.

    I’ve seen very credible discussions on the economics of drilling in low-porosity rock formations (i.e. fracking for shale gas). These wells are very expensive and the decline rates are terrible. Once this gas bubble from initial over-drilling dries up, we’re in for a world of hurt. Gas prices will spike again, but long after they have done their job of killing new nuclear builds so we’ll be stuck having to pay exorbitant rent to these corporations for years thereafter. Try and complain then about the earlier promises of cheap abundant natural gas. You’ll be laughed at as a crank – a commie who doubts the wonders of the Free Market. They’ll see us for what we are on track to become: SUCKERS!

    If I didn’t know better, I might suspect the biggest players in the market have the power to bend things toward their long-term agendas. Exxon **alone** has annual revenues multiple times the combined value of the entire US gas market. Just looking at how heavily gas is being marketed, right across the board, tells me they are doing their damn best to get as much mileage out of this glut as possible by slamming the competition with below-cost product (which is the current condition under which shale-gas is currently being sold). Once the competition is killed and we’re boxed in, we’ll be ripe for the fleecing. Mark your calendars. In 5 years, we’ll rue the day we listened to their PR. By the time we change course, we’ll be 10 years further down the road and BILLIONS deeper in hock to these profiteers.

    Energy, especially electricity, is so fundamental to the well-being of the commons that control CANNOT be left in the hands a few hugely powerful rent-seeking corporations, which is what we in essence are doing when we leave it up to the “market”. News Flash: free market principles mean squat to corporations worth hundreds of billions having more power than many nation states. They DO NOT HAVE YOUR BEST INTERESTS in mind.

    DONT. FALL. FOR. IT.

    The only viable way forward is to leave fossil fuels in the ground and run our economy on low-cost, zero emissions nuclear power in perpetuity.

  2. JM
    July 25, 2013 at 09:28

    You are wrong from the get-go, basically focusing this post on a nearly decade-old white paper. This is incorrect:

    The NRDC opposes nuclear power in the U.S., and supports replacing nuclear, which emits zero grams of CO2 for each kilowatt-hour generated, with natural gas-fired generation, which emits just over half a kilogram (550 grams, to be precise). Further, the group supports replacing America’s coal-fired generators, which emit nearly a kilogram of CO2 per kWh, with yet more natural gas.

    • July 25, 2013 at 11:07

      You must be joking. NRDC’s position on nuclear is exactly the same as it is in every other enviro group. It is opposed, pure and simple. The only question is, which gas industry group pays NRDC to sell their product.

      Instead of dropping your statement then fleeing, how about giving a link to a page in which NRDC abandons its anti-nuclear dogma? I’ll answer my own question: because such a page does not exist.

  3. Jaro Franta
    July 28, 2013 at 09:43

    RE : ” NRDC’s position on nuclear is exactly the same as it is in every other enviro group. It is opposed, pure and simple.”

    Indeed !

    Try a little graphic illustration:

    http://tinyurl.com/mev5tt6

    Or maybe this one:

    http://tinyurl.com/kumbx6f

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