In an old fable called "The Three Sillies", a man finds his fiancé and her parents cowering in their cellar because they see that an axe has been thrust up into a ceiling beam. They are immobilized by a fear that the axe might fall someday and kill the couple's as-yet-unborn child. Bemused by the scene, the man removes the axe and declares he will search the world for three situations sillier than this before he returns to marry. (Presumably he doubts that this will be possible.)
He sets out and soon finds a woman trying to get her cow to climb a ladder onto the roof of her house where grass is growing. He advises her to cut the grass and throw it down to the cow, but she won't listen. Finally succeeding, she ties a cord around the cow's neck, drops the other end down the chimney, and attaches it to her wrist. (Don't try this at home.) Inevitably, the cow falls off the roof and hangs itself, pulling the woman part way up the chimney where she suffocates in the soot. The young man scores "one" and continues on.
Later, he finds people armed with rakes, shovels and other tools trying to scoop the moon out of a lake, into which it appears to have fallen. The man points out that it is only the reflection of the moon. They ignore his ignorant counsel and continue their work. (Today he would be labeled "in denial".) He marks them down as the second silly situation.
Finally he rooms with another traveler at a crowded inn one night. Awakened by a commotion in the morning, he finds his roommate trying to leap into his trousers, which he has hung from the knobs on the chest of drawers. He crashes to the floor each time he fails. Our hero shows the man how to don his trousers by a less challenging method. (This is my personal favorite. I believe some contemporary politicians are doing this so can deny they are "conventional".) Having found his third situation, the man returns to marry his silly bride.
This fable is actually being replicated in our time. Every week newspapers contain what could be called "Will Rogers reports" - in honor of the famous humorist's claim that his best material came from the papers. Actually, this past week was notable. I found clear evidence that all serious problems formerly handled by government are obviously far behind us - at least in California.
I know this because I read that the California Energy Commission is looking into the possibility of burying carbon dioxide in the state's Central Valley. In an experiment to be conducted as early as the spring, the CEC will bury a sample of CO2 near the town of Thornton to test a theory that rock strata which formerly contained oil and natural gas deposits might be used to store excess CO2 - the "greenhouse gas" which global warming militants claim is going to bake the earth's climate, melt the ice-caps, raise the oceans, and kill us all over the next thousand years.
Californians are actually going to spend precious public monies to try to stop climate-change that may or may not be occurring, has a cause that scientists can't agree on (if it is occurring), might be naturally cyclical (e.g., sunspots), might not even be harmful, and is being predicted by climate models which cannot correctly account for our current climate and weather - not to mention the weather ten centuries out. Politicians, theologians, non-scientific academics, non-climatologic scientists, and media fellow-travelers are running around proclaiming that the global warming "science" is settled and that a debate which hasn't yet taken place is "over". Al Gore might win an Oscar for his film, "An Inconvenient Truth". But it will be an embarrassment ten years from now when we're lost in another deep-freeze and know far more about climate variation.
Verily, nobody could make up stuff as good as the buried gas story. Why is it so good? Two reasons. First, because people who should know better are pretending this crazy scheme is really possible - as if CO2 is simply lying around, like water, waiting to be pumped underground. Like the story about three tons of gold in every cubic mile of ocean - mentioned in "Scaling Environmental Issues" (1) - the burial idea sounds seductively simple but ignores realities that make it impractical. Those realities are how much CO2 there is and where it is.
Reporters often refer to CO2 as "carbon". This makes it sound substantial, but carbon dioxide is a gas that represents only 0.034% of air, by weight. (Even the rare gas Argon is more abundant - 0.9%.) The atmosphere's weight is approximately 5.8 quadrillion tons, but the CO2 weighs only 2 trillion tons. That sounds like a lot, but distributed over 2.015 billion cubic miles of atmosphere (assuming an atmosphere 10 miles thick), this works out to about 1000 tons of CO2 per cubic mile. In "Scaling" we saw that 6 billion tons of CO2 are emitted every year, so to zero out that increase we should have to extract the CO2 from 6 million cubic miles of atmosphere.
Sounds doable? If you read "Scaling", you'll recall that a cubic mile is 1.1 trillion gallons. This means those 6 million cubic miles of atmosphere = 6.6 quintillion gallons, or 25 quintillion litres (i.e., 25,000,000,000,000,000,000). This mind-boggling amount of air would have to be processed every year to extract those 6 billion tons of CO2 for burial. This simply cannot be done. It could never be done. The cost would be staggering. Even if a processing plant could extract CO2 from a trillion litres of air a year, 25 million plants would be needed to extract the 6 billion tons. At a nominal operating cost of $1 million a year, per plant, the processing would cost $25 trillion a year - half of the combined gross domestic product of the entire world. (And this does not account for the cost of transporting the extracted CO2 to the burial sites!) There is no way, Jose. This bizarre idea needs no "study". Its loony advocates should be fired.
The second reason the "California burying" story is absurd is the thermometer. Has anyone checked it, lately? We were hearing "global warming" every five minutes during warm weather, earlier this winter. Now, northern New York towns are getting record snowfalls and most of the country is locked in a deep freeze. Our northern Virginia suburb of Washington, DC, is iced over. Wags are spraying aerosols into the air to pierce the ozone layer. We're freezing our kiesters off here.
But global warming true believers merely smile and nod knowingly about the cold weather. They have it covered. Their story is that global warming produces extreme weather. Thus, warm weather means global warming. But if it's cold, that's global warming, too. The only thing that might suggest cooling, one supposes, would be frozen oceans and a glacier covering North America. When that happens, we can relax our efforts and turn the furnace back on.
Really, folks, we need some grownups in government. Spending half the world's GDP to bury CO2? We're out of control. (Will Rogers was right. Nobody could make up stuff this good.)
(1) "Scaling Environmental Issues" - http://www.ahherald.com/content/view/951/27/