GEO 103: Week 8 Notes (10/19/15 and 10/21/15)
GEO 103: Week 8 Notes (10/19/15 and 10/21/15) GEO 103
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This 3 page Class Notes was uploaded by Karen Cheung on Friday December 11, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to GEO 103 at Syracuse University taught by Robert Wilson in Summer 2015. Since its upload, it has received 27 views. For similar materials see Environment and Society in Geography at Syracuse University.
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Date Created: 12/11/15
Lifeblood: Oil and the Making of Car Country Oil in America • How did oil become central to the American way of life – the “lifeblood” of the American economy? Oil extraction • Conventional oil o Oil extracting using oil well methods • Unconventional oil o Tar sands/oil sands o Extra heavy oil (very viscous) • *New oil extraction coming from lower-quality reserves, settings with complex economic-political dynamics, technologically difficult settings o Deep-water oil drilling § Can access oil in very deep water and in rock formations deep beneath ocean floor § Drill rig cost: $0.5 – 1 billion § BP deep-water horizon disaster (2010) – largest oil spill in U.S. history (4.9 million barrels of oil) Technologies of mass destruction – tar sands extraction • Takes a lot of oil and energy Creating “car country”: auto and oil dependent landscapes • Post-war suburbs o Low-interest loans for single family homes § Mortgage interest deductions o Large lots, not sidewalks o Result: low density homes on former farms at urban fringe • Zoning for single use o Site of businesses and homes separate o Ample, free, on-site parking o Growth of shopping malls, and later, box stores • Highways and interstate o Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 (aka Interstate Highway Act) § Interest groups promoted: • Auto industry, bus operators, oil companies, asphalt, and construction industry § $25 billion over 5 years to build thousands of miles of highway § Funding: 90% of cost from feds, 10% from states § Highway Trust Fund • Allows government to tax gasoline • Money allotted for more roads (1% of funds to mass transit) o Increased dispersion of people from urban core o Facilities auto-oriented businesses (esp. fast food restaurants) • Together, suburb development, auto-oriented zoning, and highways created “car country”: landscapes where cars – and oil dependency – are essential • Car-centric land use planning and car centered transportation planning go hand in hand • Converting a car/oil-dependent landscape to non car/oil-dependent landscape is difficult Coal, Nuclear, and Renewable Energy Coal • Once used to power manufacturing and transportation, now used mainly for electricity generation • Natural gas beginning to replace coal for electricity generating • Problems: o Extraction: mountaintop removal mining § West Virginia coal blast § Blackwater, Australia coal blasts o Burning coal releases most carbon dioxide/unit of energy than any other fossil fuels § Twice as much as natural gas Fossil fuel substitutes – nuclear energy • Powerful source of energy, but serious drawbacks o Radioactive waste o Expensive (planning, construction, regulation) o Nuclear weapons o Fuel source limited o Nuclear accidents (ex. Three Mile Island, Chernobyl) A nuclear resurgence? • Nuclear, non-fossil fuel, and climate change • Yet, persistent drawbacks • Japanese accident and Fukushima • Future of nuclear power uncertain Hydraulic fracturing of natural gas • Hydrofracking, fracking o Not all natural gas comes from fracking o Uses of natural gas: heating, electricity generation, some transportation • Production method o Allows large-scale extraction from shale, which is less permeable than other rocks (esp. sandstone) o High pressure water and added chemicals o Shatter rock with tiny cracks; sand mineral to hold cracks open, allow gas to be released • Purported benefits o Land-owner royalties o Rural development o Burning releases half the amount of carbon dioxide as coal does o Shale natural gas abundant; enough to satisfy current needs for 100 years o Bridge fuel? § Use more natural gas until we develop more renewable energy • Critiques o Local water pollution (esp. post-frack water) § Fracking excepted from many environmental protection laws, including Safe Water Drinking Act o Possible leaks of fluid or methane into groundwater o Methane leaks into atmosphere § Methane is a potent greenhouse gas § Greater greenhouse gas “footprint” over long term than carbon dioxide from coal burning Renewable energy? • Hydroelectricity o Most common renewable o Problem? Most suitable dam sites already in use § Climate change, drought, less water for electricity generation • Other (<1% of energy) o Wind o Solar Switch to renewables • Scale of shift o Currently 85% of world energy is from fossil fuels • Energy density of fossil fuels vs. renewables • Intermittent fuel source o Wind and solar only produce energy when wind blows and sun shines • Geographical distribution of suitable renewable energy sites