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Black Bonanza

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Neil Reynolds in the Globe and Mail reports on a new book Black Bonanza: Canada's Oil Sands and the Race to Secure North America's Energy Future by Alastair Sweeny. Sweeny tells us that Canadians have no inkling that what they are sitting on is really the country’s greatest asset and he encourages us all to have a closer look at it. He also celebrates the invention of Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD), the technology that is key to unlocking the black bonanza of the Great White North:

“If energy is the master resource of the human race, then Canada is truly blessed,” he [Sweeny] writes. “Beneath the boreal forests of Alberta and Saskatchewan, halfway between Edmonton and the border of the Northwest Territories, lies a black bonanza of oil-soaked sand.”

What particularly interests us here is his penetrating insight into the intellectual poverty of AGW alarmism, as quoted in the Globe and Mail article, he says:

“I agree totally that we must. .. clean up the planet. But I believe [we can do it] without obsessing about a trace gas that helps plants grow.” Goats have done more damage to the environment, he suggests, than carbon dioxide.

“When the historian in me looks at the history of climate change,” he says, “he notes that we have significant periods of naturally occurring heating and cooling.” A thousand years ago, Britain was covered in vineyards – and Viking farmers tended cows in Greenland. Four hundred years ago, the sea froze between England and France. Mr. Sweeny, for all his scholarly analysis, expresses his doubts bluntly in the vernacular: “I smell a rat.” *

He exposes the big secret of climate science, the reluctance of these so-called scholars to face up to the reality of past climate change, hiding their research in obscure footnotes such as Chapter 6 of the IPCC AR4 WG1 report.

Sweeny’s other astonishing implication is that climate scientists are unaware of the role of carbon dioxide in plant respiration. In fact, as he tells us, the great forests of the world are dependent on abundant supplies of this life-giving gas. Yet, although sufficiently copious to sustain profuse plant life on earth, this atmospheric trace gas is so diluted that it couldn’t possibly have any effect on infra-red absorption. On the other hand, many skeptics have said that the concentrations of it are so high that the IR absorption bands are saturated and that adding more won’t make any difference. Some small-minded alarmists make the claim that such skeptical claims lack consistency. We remind our readers that F. Scott Fitzgerald famously remarked that:

the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.

We are relieved to report that there is still plenty of this kind of first-rate intelligence among functioning AGW skeptics.

In an exclusive FoGT interview, climate scientist Gavin Schmidt, says:

“Well, Sweeny’s critique really threw us off balance, so it’s back to the drawing board for NASA’s climate research. As we speak, we’re frantically combing through our computer code to find the flaw. However, in rebuttal, I would say that from a climatologist’s perspective SAGD technology is crap. I mean, all that bitumen got into those sandstones by natural processes long ago without the help of horizontal wells or steam injection and it will eventually be liberated by natural processes of erosion and biodegradation. All this anthropogenic bitumen extraction activity is just a scam designed to line the pockets of oil service companies.”

Well, OK, we made up that quote but there’s an established tradition of Canadian skeptics putting words into the mouths of climate scientists.

*[Editor’s note: Mr Sweeny may have been misquoted by the Globe and Mail concerning his remarks on the respective environmental destructiveness of rats and goats. In fact, there are no rats in Alberta whereas goats are a key element of Alberta’s biodiversity. Perhaps Sweeny was mistaken when he reported smelling a rat—goats are proverbially malodorous.]