Murray Walsh: How to save the planet without going nuts



Part One:  Environmental Movements

I am a student of all of the 20th Century environmental movements and a participant in many of them. This is the first in a series of four columns to first clarify the global climate change movement – why it is different from the others – and to propose an approach to satisfy both those who are ardent in reducing carbon emissions and those who just want to live their lives in peace and breathe clean air.

Climate change, previously called global warming, is different because there is such a gulf between those who want to prevent further warming by reducing carbon emissions and those who resist such an effort.  The “Resisters” are either:

  1. Those who don’t believe climate change is a valid, world-wide, public issue deserving of attention by society; or
  2. Those who might be open to concern over the climate but who are skeptical about the solutions being proposed and actions taken so far.

This gulf is huge and it prevents communication among the parties and it has generated vilification on both sides, and no small amount of contempt to go around.

Previous environmental movements were not like this.  The meat-packing contamination at the dawn of the 20th Century began with a journalistic exposure of industry practices that caused revulsion across America and led to pretty swift (for the times) government action to address the matter.  There was no pro-contamination counter-movement (although this might have been the beginning of the vegan movement) and no general outcry at this new intervention in commerce by the government. 

The national parks movement was also blossoming in the early part of the last century and there was no anti-park resistance worthy of note at the time, probably because there weren’t many people affected by the designations.  The parks movement happened across the country and was stable until Alaska statehood when a new round of park designations was set in motion.  This did engender resistance and does so to this day, but that is a subject to address in another column.

And so, we go to the latter half of the century in the 1960s and 1970s when air quality, water quality, endangered species, habitat protection, wetlands protection and management of coasts and riverbanks and flooding all took center stage.  

There was little resistance to creating these programs and an amazing amount of cooperation for the granddaddy of them all: conversion to unleaded gasoline.  That is a story worth looking into all by itself.   There was lots of squabbling over how to achieve the goals of these programs but there was no serious objection to any of the goals themselves.

This is what makes climate change so different from the other issues. There is no broad social agreement that climate change is real and urgent, whether human caused or not. 

 In addition, those who are adamant about such change, and its urgency, are demanding that all of society adhere to their views and do what they want done, even if it requires sacrifice of personal rights, desires and comforts. 

Some anti-climate change objectors add a bit of political seasoning to it, claiming that the movement is actually a socialist or Marxist energized endeavor.  That is, to save the planet, we have to go to an authoritarian top-down model to get people to do what needs to be done. I am not asserting this but many are and it is a very important reason you will hear for resisting the climate change advocates: They want too much change in society in order to save the world.

However, the most divisive aspect of the climate change advocates is the call to eliminate the fossil fuel industry.  This was the basis of President Biden’s killing of the XL Keystone Pipeline Project.  He believed that allowing it was to foster an industry that must be replaced.  

The public’s general support of fossil fuel is largely due to the fact that the public depends upon it, generally understands it, and does not see a reasonable way to replace it.  

It is not like the fossil fuel industry hasn’t been trying to reduce carbon and other emissions.  The US emits far less of these gases and particulates now than ever before and this is largely due to the creation or conversion of power plants that burn natural gas as opposed to fuel oil or coal.  

This does not satisfy the climate advocates.  While gas burns cleaner than other fuels, it still emits some carbon and thus cannot be tolerated.  There is also concern over methane releases during the extraction and management of natural gas apart from the burning of it.  I am not sure of the extent of this issue but it sure seems like it could be dealt with.  The whole industry has gotta go, the climate folks say.

Well, I am not a believer in the specific belief that bad climate changes are occurring and getting worse because of human activity.  However, I am a clean air advocate and so is just about every other American, or anyone on the planet for that matter.  So, there can be common cause between society in general and climate advocates if we can agree that air that is free of contaminants is what we all want.

Is carbon dioxide, CO2, a “contaminant?”   Well, plants breathe it and we need plants, correct?  So, it must be a matter of how much CO2 is in the air that we need to sort out.  That could be hard to do.  The climate activists argue that the natural world, animals and people, exhale all the C02 that world needs and that artificial means of CO2 production is what is tipping the balance into a climate-destroying process.  By “artificial” we mean from combustion rather than from breathing.  Combustion is burning whether in a car engine or a brushfire. 

We could quibble over this approach but let’s run with it for now and adopt a societal goal of reducing the amount of carbon production from burning as much as possible.

Automotive combustion does produce carbon dioxide and other carbon-containing emissions.  The use of unleaded gas and catalytic converters has reduced auto exhaust a great deal, especially the harmful particles, but not entirely.   Auto engines, whether gas or diesel, are also not especially efficient users of fossil fuel.  About two thirds of the energy potential of either fuel goes out the exhaust or into the cooling system as waste heat.  Electric cars are far more efficient energy users.

The question is how to generate, and store, the electricity we want to put into the electric cars.  Hydro is one way.  The storage part is holding the water in place until you need it.  Until recently, it was widely believed that the only other way you could do that – with no emissions – was with nuclear fission.  

Another way to say this is that there was no hope of using easily produced and stored fossil fuels to generate electricity without emissions.  That is no longer true.  There are at least two ways of using fossil fuel to generate emission-free energy and the whole point of this column, and it soon-to-come sisters, is to demonstrate that this is in fact possible and that the climate activists can get what they want by cooperating with the fossil fuel industry.  

In the second part of this series, we will set the stage further by reviewing the use of fossil fuel around the world and the issues associated with it.  In the third, we will explore the two technologies that are the basis for this fossil fuel is good assertion and in the fourth, we will look at implementation of this strategy (yep, I finally used the word strategy.  Didn’t want to put you off by throwing it in too soon.)    

Want to get ahead of me?  Put NET power in a browser and prepare to feel some hope.

Murray Walsh is part of the extended MRAK writing staff in Juneau. Check back for Part 2.


  1. Like it or not, Alaska is in BIG TROUBLE the moment they invent some kind of cheaper or better form of energy. Nuclear fusion, hydro, or what have you. We need to diversify our economy fast or our entire state will come crashing down

    • How will you replace the many thousands of essential products made from fossil fuels? Oil and gas will be needed for many, many decades to come and Alaska oil and gas production will be robust and necessary.

  2. The hard-core promoters of the theory that human created Co2 is causing “climate change” advocate destroying our economy and clean manufacturing by outsourcing to China.
    CCP controlled China commissioned new coal plants whose output is almost 40GW in 2020, equivalent to building more than one large plant every week.
    As climate change dogma suggests it is a global problem, how does transferring our energy production and manufacturing to a very crude and inefficient communist occupied country reduce the so called “problem”?
    Are the Chinese exempt from global climate induced problems? Of course not. The advocates of social engineering and economic destruction in our country are simply pimping for Chinese bribes.
    Just as anti fracking groups were fronts for the interests of the Russian Federation.

  3. You suggest two groups of “Resisters,” Murray. I submit there is a third group, based on findings of science, that earth’s climate is controlled by the sun. To suggest that human life on planet earth could cause demise of the planet seems sophomoric, but even so the pollution generated by the US pales in comparison to China and India. Climate is always changing an much of that change correlates to solar activity.

    • I don’t disagree. I just want to try a path to channel the energy of both sides to a mutually beneficial goal. Some folks, especially on the climate activist side, are only in it for the fight and I don’t expect much progress there. But for those who genuinely believe that carbon emission reduction is the only hope, there is indeed a way. Stay tuned and thanks for commenting.

  4. Since a warmer climate is actually beneficial to life on Earth, why would we even want to stop or reverse it, even if that were possible?

    • Ugh, really?

      Well, how about:

      Polar ice caps will melt
      Coastal cities will flood
      Inhabitable areas will become uninhabitable – too hot and dry
      Climate refugees
      Crop failures and forest fires
      Permafrost melting causing unstable ground and increased CO2 release
      And many more.

      You really don’t want this, Dan.

      • Nice pads all y’alls liberals/environmentalist sensei’s have out in the Hamptons, at sea level, mmmmm.
        Nice trucks y’all cruise up and down the Glenn in.
        Nice homes y’all live in, but y’all could use a little more space for the kiddos you say.
        The hypocrisy that surrounds liberal environmentalism. #yallhaveanmsinbs

        • Sorry, Mr. Orwell. Sure I benefited from hydrocarbons along with everyone else on the planet. But I’m a pragmatic engineer, and so when I see new science indicating that old practices are causing problems, I’m all for going with something better. DDT, asbestos, Thalidomide, Freon, anyone? The Stone Age did not end for lack of stone. Please pull your head out of the sand.

          • Funny thing, and this is something you can actually fact-check. One who actually walked your walk, rather than talking the talk, like you was actually TV oil man, Larry Hagman. You guys crack me up, flying from climate conference to climate conference. It’s as if you cannot navigate a computer screen.

      • Whidbey, smoke some more pot dude, obviously critical thinking and or actually doing some research are beyond your grasp. Keep listening to that same old tired worn out media propaganda dude.

        • Pay attention DUDE…I have an IQ greater than Einstein and 20 years of private schools. I had to take courses in “Critical Thinking” and “Statistical Analysis” as well as “Earth Sciences”. So I find your comment truly hilarious. That you would accuse ‘Whidbey’ of being a low IQ, uneducated, brain-washed, fool…when really you’re describing yourself…well it IS truly funny!

      • The real danger from melting permafrost is the methane being released. Permafrost is associated with rotting organics, both above it and below it, which produces lots of methane. Just like landfills produce copious amounts of methane. Problem is that one methane atom is as good an insulator as 75 CO2 atoms are! I’ve seen videos of UAF grad students poking holes through ‘tundra pond’ ice and explosively igniting the methane…if people need a visual of just how serious melting permafrost is.

        • “Molecules”, not “atoms”. Realized my mistake as soon as I hit post, but curiously my post wasn’t there. ‘Curiouser’, no one caught my mistake in the day since it reappeared. Anyone commenting regarding “climate change” should have a basic understanding of chemistry and physics, which clearly is not the case here!

    • I had a candidate for Alaska Lt. Governor on my radio show (that I no longer have) in 2010 and I asked his opinion about global warming. He said, “I am from Fairbanks and we’re FOR it!” Not sure that would play well today because the climate activists have become so much more adamant but there is data to suggest warming kills less people than cooling year over year. Thanks for your comment.

  5. To Murray we say, not unkindly… nuts is 1320 words, cut to the chase already!
    100 words or less, and that’s generous… what you want, what’ll it cost, what’ll happen if you don’t get what you want…
    Toda rabah…

    • Bevakasha! Not only is he excessively wordy, but the words themselves mean nothing. In addition, the sentences are contradictory. It was actually painful to read! As for you Morrigan…”Did they get you trade…hot ashes for trees? Hot air for a cool breeze?”

  6. Murray, your essay starts with a false premises that “Resisters are either: 1) Those who don’t believe climate change is a valid, world-wide, public issue deserving of attention by society; or 2) Those who might be open to concern over the climate but who are skeptical about the solutions being proposed and actions taken so far.” Oversimplified is a word that comes to mind.
    Firstly, skeptics absolutely see “climate change” as a valid issue deserving of attention. However, the real issue is not climate change but rather “climate sensitivity” to anthropogenic influence. Precisely what effect does man have on climate versus that of the vast multitude of natural factors such as sun phenomena, albedo feedback, etc, etc? We know that striking a match contributes to atmospheric warming albeit ever so infinitesimally. However, the problem of quantifying the full impact of mankind is that science has been politicized for profit. Corporations and individuals (including in Alaska) are selling carbon credits to international corporations. The controversy is an obvious mechanism to transfer wealth from consumers to a few in in favorable positions. My, my, my; what a familiar agenda?

  7. Murray, you’re neglecting an important issue – for each change in the form of energy, some is lost to the environment. We call this entropy. If you don’t reduce the amount of energy consumed, you will not reduce the net heat loss – and may make things worse. Where do all those wonderful chemicals come from to be used in “clean” energy technology? Um… China – and they have to be mined and smelted. While you’re grasping and trying to sell us “hope”, you need to look at the bigger picture. I suggest you look up (Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow) and articles written by Paul Driessen. Yeah, I’m one of those “let’s clean up the air” guys who thinks anthropogenic “climate change” – on the global level – is a crock of horse hockey.

  8. Electric just moves the CO2 elsewhere so long as most of our electricity comes from HC. Nuclear is CO2 free! Nothing else can compete (solar, wind and unicorn farts just don’t cut it-they rely totally on massive government funding). When the market decides that new means is ready, it will happen, just as internal combustion replaced horses and diesel replaced steam. Any other tyrannical central planning will rob liberty and fail.

    • How about them tasty Whales? Stick them with a harpoon. Drill them with the old AR-15. Until they stop kicking. Then tow them back to shore with that smoke belching 2-stroke. Chop em up with the oil dripping chain saw.
      Mention this to your devout/blind/hypocritical environmentalist and its “crickets.” Absolute silence. Not a dicky bird.
      Again, environmentalism is a cult of religious proportions.

  9. I’m with Brian on this one. Biden shut down the XL pipeline to force us to clean energy. Yet, he advocated for a pipeline from Russia to Western Europe. I’ve never understood how American petroleum causes climate change yet petroleum from Europe or the Middle East doesn’t. A topic I would like to see Mr. Walsh address are the extreme environmental impacts of precious metal mining for battery production (mainly Lithium and the millions of gallons of water needed). Another issue that relates to this is our extremely weak and vulnerable electric power grids. I don’t believe there is one city, county, municipality, or state that can go 100% electric. Grids cannot handle it.

  10. I have worked in the automotive industry for most of my life and I am now 60. The amount of changes that has occurred in my adult life with the emissions is phenomenal most vehicles emit zero harmful emissions. I do not see CO2 as a harmful emission. Engineers and scientist responsible for these improvements.

    We are only one mega volcanic eruption away from a global cooling. Major forest fires and other natural events produce the majority of the missions nature. For one termites feeding on the dead trees in the rainforest he emit much more CO2 than humans.

  11. Internal Combustion engines account for 75% of US carbon monoxoide emissions. Switching to Battery Electric Vehicles is not rocket science. BEV’s will rapidly come into demand once reliable charging networks are built. Fossil fuels will be required for many years for value added products and remote areas, as a non-renewable resource it is a waste to burn in ICE’s.

  12. Oil and natural gas are of course used for many things aside from thermal power generation. Consequently, there will always be a need for them, and their exploitation will undoubtedly continue. However, it seems pretty clear that fossil fuels used for combustion need to be scaled back quite dramatically unless methane release and CO2 disposal are addressed.

    The author maintains that the technologies to accomplish this exist, and that they are the silver bullet that will allow the industry to continue at its current level. At the moment, technologies for CO2 mitigation exist, but many have significant issues with regards to reliability, scalability, and economics. As an example, there are instances of oilfield CO2 sequestration projects that have been shutdown due to evidence of leakage from the storage reservoirs.

    Before jumping to any conclusions with regards to how to save the oil industry (and therefore the undiversified Alaskan economy), a full body of scientific evidence must prove that the adopted mitigation technologies are fit for service, and are fully reliable for the long term (meaning forever). Failing that, the industry will need to shrink along with the need for carbon-based combustion fuels, and the knock-on impacts on the global economy will depend on the degree to which non-damaging replacements can be found.

  13. Lots of details here, but one key point is that all (almost all) life on earth is carbon based. That is, CO2 and H2O (water) are the building blocks of life. To declare CO2 a pollutant is to declare war on life. Many details to discuss, but that is the kernel of climate change hypocrisy. Why would we declare war on life in order to supposedly save it?

    • Now this argument pretty much defines “dumb.” He doesn’t seem to know the difference chemically between apples and pomegranates.

  14. Global climate change is real and constant over the entire life of the planet…the geologic record proves that.
    Global climate is affected by solar cycles, the movement of tectonic plates, volcanism, mountain building and erosion, oceanic current changes and probably other natural processes over which humans have zero control.
    For example, tectonic plate movements that caused the Himalayan mountains and plateau to rise affected global wind and weather patterns…
    “By probing ancient dust deposits in China and deep ocean sediments from the North Pacific and Indian Oceans, scientists have constructed the most detailed portrait to date of the effects on climate of the Himalaya Mountains and the great Tibetan Plateau. The picture that is emerging, drawn with the help of newly analyzed geologic records and a sophisticated computer-driven climate model, portrays the rise of the towering Himalayas and the adjacent Tibetan Plateau, the world’s largest, as the primary driver of the onset of Asian monsoons about 8 million years ago, and hints that the rise of the world’s tallest mountains and plateau may also have helped set the stage for the Ice Ages that began about 2.5 million years ago.”
    Volcanism has had an even greater and much faster impact…
    “Around 252 million years ago, life on Earth collapsed in spectacular and unprecedented fashion, as more than 96 percent of marine species and 70 percent of land species disappeared in a geological instant. The so-called end-Permian mass extinction ­— or more commonly, the “Great Dying” — remains the most severe extinction event in Earth’s history. Scientists suspect that massive volcanic activity, in a large igneous province called the Siberian Traps, may have had a role in the global die-off, raising air and sea temperatures and releasing toxic amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere over a very short period of time. However, it’s unclear whether magmatism was the main culprit, or simply an accessory to the mass extinction.”
    The small minds who now call for all of us to destroy our way of life in the misguided belief that human activity is driving global climate change are either ignorant of the science or intentionally lying to us to achieve some other purpose that has nothing to do with global climate change.
    And, FYI, the planet will survive whatever humans do to it…it’s humans who will eventually go the way of the dinosaurs either from our own stupidity or some external, natural event or process.
    Maybe global climate change will make the planet uninhabitable for us…who knows?
    One thing is certain, humans can’t stop the sun from having solar cycles or the Earth’s tectonic plates from moving or volcanoes from erupting.
    Read up on it and stop worrying about things you cannot control.

    • So we should just forget about the things we can control and that are destroying our planet as we know it. Fr’sure the planet will survive. Not so sure about us humanoids.
      Could be Homo Sapiens should have been named Homo Arrogances. Time will tell.
      (And holding your breath won’t help.)

      • Reading comprehension isn’t one of your skills, I see.
        You got my point exactly wrong…maybe have a high school kid explain it to you.

        • I think I do get your point. They’re are things we can’t change. But in the short term there are things we can change that will slow global warming (that IS what we’re talking about, right?), and it seems pretty certain if we don’t, solar cycles will be the least of our problems.
          So, if I still don’t get your point, try cavemanese. Or is it my point you don’t get?

  15. I am on board with Donn’s third group. There is no larger a contributor to climate change than the Sun and all others pale in comparison.
    Man made climate change is the biggest hoax to ever be released on the plant, second now with COVID taking the lead. The government and the grifters pulling their string are running a never ending fear mongering and guilt campaign targeting the uneducated, bleeding heart, over compassionate people in this country. These people refuse to question authority and believe any second rate scientist, with zero remarkable accomplishments, and the garbage they speak as the gospel, as long as it is what they want to hear. They have happily relinquished effort of individual thought to the government’s moral and intellectual superiority in exchange for their freedom.
    There’s no need for physical bondage when you mind has been subjugated.

  16. One of my distinguished engineering professors told the class that man’s greatest invention was the internal combustion chamber. It formed the basis for reliable world-wide transportation, heating, cooling, farming, construction, military, and communications networks. The technology has evolved over the past 150 years, but the principles underlying the conversion of combustion into usable, affordable energy are the same. The most available and steady resources used to power these systems are oil, gas and coal. Nuclear and water are the secondary sources. Climate activists have been educating young minds at all levels of schooling to form a basis of belief that the aforementioned resources are the devil incarnate to the planet’s survival and the root causes for capitalistic greed. Those are the standard precepts, even introduced at the grade school level.
    Solar and wind are not reliable or dependable resources for energy production and they consume large volume areas for infrastructure. Battery power for electrical drives poses a two-pronged problem: long-term energy storage; and energy sources to produce the electricity that is to be stored. The first involves mining products from the ground and the second problem involves building larger capacity fossil fuel power plants to produce the needed electricity to replace the fuels currently needed for internal combustion.
    The concept for a society to replace energy fuels, which come from the ground, with battery power is ill-conceived and not well thought-out for the long-haul. Such a rapid change-over would wreak havok on the entire world.
    For those of you who understand the implications of the tactics being played-out by the climate activists and their political allies, there is one suggestion: hang on to at least one of your gasoline powered cars and stock-up and bury a sizeable amount of gasoline somewhere nearby. You may need it to escape the climate police.

  17. One more critical point… Climate is weather over an extended period of time; say, 20 years. Waiting 20 years to identify any change simply won’t do. With the help of the willing, it would be so informative to form and promote the ‘Weather Change” initiative. After all, weather changes every day and we can’t reliably predict it more than 3 days in advance (some would argue 3 hours, but they could be weather change deniers). Very scary. One more point: we are not in a post glacial epoch. We are in an inter-glacial epoch. Maybe receding glaciers are a good thing!

  18. Let’s work on something we can actually fix.


    Upon the ocean I happened to be
    Sailing along on a pleasant blue sea
    It started out fair, a sweet and calm ride
    Sailing smoothly away from the tide
    When out of nowhere the fish came to me

    They told me to follow, I went along
    Not knowing where, I followed the throng
    You’re killing us sir, you don’t understand 
    By throwing you waste in our waters and sand
    Let us show you as to where you went wrong

    Bottles and cans and garbage galore
    Nuclear waste from the Japanese shore. Masks, acid, chemicals, such stuff
    You shit where we live and make our life rough
    This is the start, we can show you much more

    There once was a time when the sea kingdom ruled
    Now we’re dying away because of you fools
    If you keep it up we’ll take you to task
    We’re the ones needing an oxygen mask
    The fish has warned “you have been schooled”

    Now I think twice when I’m taking my trips
    Being aboard the big ocean ships
    Was that a nightmare or some mariner’s dream
    Not knowing which I wanted to scream
    As I sat down to finish my fish and my chips

  19. This sure feels like one of those ideas that sounds good but never pencils out, but they apparently have an operational power plant. How long has the power plant run for, how reliable is it, how much does it generate, and at what cost?

  20. Climate Clowns are still propogating the biggest hoax of the 20th and 21st centuries. Their big media push for climate change always appears during late summer when you have Santa Anna winds fanning forest fires, hurricane season, and a long dry, hot summer. Always! Dead silent in the winter and spring. These Marxist clowns have spent their entire lives and careers spinning a fable that is truly unsupported by REAL science.
    Their view of science is to spin their theory as fact, then wait for bad weather or for events that are predictable actualities, and then call it evidence based. Science fraud in the factum.

  21. A couple of comments on carbon and its effect on global warming. I don’t believe it has any measurable impact.

    First, America does not now or ever has contributed to the increase in CO2. Thanks to the North American Carbon Sink, the jet stream enters our West Coast with a relatively high CO2 content, and leaves our East Coast with a much lower CO2 content. Back in the 1970s when CO2 was accused of being a problem, the USA was (correctly) identified as the largest CO2 generator per capita. The media immediately recast this (incorrectly) as the USA being the world’s worst overall generator of CO2. Following the jet stream, CO2 is added in Eastern Europe, through Russia and Asia. That’s the actual source of worldwide CO2 increase.

    Historically, CO2 concentrations have risen to the 3000ppm with mostly beneficial impacts. During the 1970s, when rising CO2 was claimed to be a problem, CO2 concentrations were in the 250ppm range; awfully close in my mind to the 150ppm-180ppm that would end life on earth. Much was made then of the ‘hockey stick’ algorithm which forecast a global warming tipping point at 350ppm. The algorithm was subsequently shown to be defective, but media and policy carries on as if the ‘tipping point’ will happen. Currently, global CO2 is reported to measure about 450ppm. I believe a global CO2 concentration of about 700ppm would be ideal – that’s where greenhouses put their CO2 levels to enhance plant growth.

    For researching natural factors that could affect Earth’s temperature changes, I suggest “The Case of the Missing Neutrinos and Other Curious Phenomena of the Universe ” by Dr. John Gribbin. Written between the 1970s and the 1990s when global cooling was still being discussed, cosmologist Dr. Griffin gives a half-dozen or so astrophysical causes that should be, or at least could be, examined.

  22. It is likely that this discussion needs more light and less heat (pun intended).

    I suggest that anyone who is actually serious about learning get Steven Koonin’s book “Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters”.

    I know Dr. Koonin, who was the DOE Undersecretary for Science under Obama. We both worked for BP in the mid-2000’s. It is a brilliant book by an excellent thinker who has been deeply involved in this issue for decades. If you are looking for simplistic 20-second sound bites, look elsewhere. If you desire to understand this issue in more depth and improve your grasp of the actual science, this is the best place I know of to look.

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