The Politics of Energy and the Environment
Edward Schreyer, Ecclectica
Ever-increasing energy consumption and its consequential production increases has been the reality of our lifetime. In fact, it has been the reality since the inception of the Industrial Revolution these past 200 years or so. …
The rational politics of all this suggests that there is a prudent and practical course of action. It is to adopt the precautionary principle that in the face of growing evidence, but lacking absolute certainty, the most justifiable course is to conserve and attenuate the use of nonrenewables while working hard to develop the renewables. It becomes essential to slow the rate of depletion of fossil fuels and hasten the rate of harnessing the renewables, i.e., wind and hydro.
Only those who have the most unlimited greed for profit by fast track depletion should have cause to object. No one realistically wishes for a disruption in the stability of the oil and gas industry, but their product would serve better if it were extracted at half the present pace rate and therefore remain available for twice as long into the future. On that basis, Earth’s natural CO2 sinks would then have a somewhat better chance in the odds of absorbing the tonnages of CO2 that would still be emitted, but at greatly reduced levels each year. …
However, I like many others, choose in spite of the foregoing, to be optimistic. The ethical teachings of Greco-Roman civilization and the Judeo-Christian tradition lead us to the guiding principle of moderation in all things: moderation as being the basis of right action. This may motivate us, even if late in the day, to finally do the right thing. The consequence of doing otherwise does not bear thinking about. The very scale of human consumption and impact has, in the 21st Century, caught up with the vastness of the scale of Planet Earth and her “vast resources”. Now what?
Edward Schreyer is a Canadian politician, past Governor General, etc.
Long historical overview that makes some good points about familiar themes. Interesting to see at the end ‘moderation’ [a.k.a. sustainability?] being framed as a moral issue – how to save your skin and feel superior at the same time? -LJ
The peak oil crisis: sliding down the flagpole
Tom Whipple, Falls Church News-Press
Last week the US Department of Energy released the preliminary version of its Annual Energy Outlook 2006. This document, which projects supply, consumption, and prices for all forms of energy; is the official US government position on what energy resources will be available and at what cost, five, 10, 20, and even 25 years in the future.
For many years, making these annual projections was a rather straightforward exercise. There was plenty of coal, oil, and gas available, so all the forecasters had to do was project a sensible rate for GDP growth, mix in some energy efficiency gains, add a bit of inflation and out came a reasonable set of projections of what the future US energy consumption and prices might look like.
In recent years however, the traditional approach has started to come apart. Can anybody who follows the issue really imagine a product as valuable and as much in demand as oil dropping from its current $60 per barrel to $33 per barrel 20 years from now? Can anyone remotely familiar with the current oil situation really expect world production to increase smoothly from the current 84 million barrels a day (b/d) to 121 million b/d in 2025?
…So there you have it, the US Government officially is not yet ready to say that “Peak Oil” will have an impact in the next 25-30 years, but they now willing to admit in public that they are watching it closely. A new threshold has been crossed on the way to reality.
(22-28 December 2005)
Peak oil piques energy concern
Denis Devine, North County Times (San Diego/Riverside)
The high natural gas prices on most Americans’ minds this winter may be the least of our worries when it comes to energy. What if oil itself, the lubricant and fuel that keeps our entire industrialized world running, is running out?
I spent a few days recently among some of the sharper editorial writers in the country listening to people with high-voltage expertise in energy. This gathering hosted by the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism at the University of Maryland convinced me that not only do I need to know much more about our nation’s energy outlook —- you do, too. Because when it comes to paying for energy, the choices awaiting us promise only to get tougher.
(17 December 2005)
Interviews from ASPO-USA confence: Bezdek, Skrebowski, Simmons, Hickenlooper, Groppe, A. Bartlett, Udall
Global Public Media
Many interviews and speeches are available at the Global Public Media website. Among the more recently posted interviews from the conference:
“anything in the range approaching 8 percent [decline] would be catastrophic- there’s no way we could hope to cope with that level of decline…”
“In the North Sea, where every bit of clever technology is being applied, we’re seeing annual decline rates now of about 10 percent, which is really quite frightening. And individual months they sometimes go even higher than that.”
(Natural gas is) “the single best energy source we’ve ever had. It’s too bad we didn’t understand it. We’ve used up probably two thirds of the finest natural gas in the world through one of two reasons- we either flared it because we didn’t have any idea what to do with it, or we sold it for 1/10th the amount we sold oil for and we gave oil away. It’s not the emissions aspect of natural gas that makes it so unbelievably precious. It’s the only source we have of instant heat.”
Global Public Media interviews Denver mayor John Hickenlooper during the ASPO USA conference in Denver, CO.
(the US went from) “being the world’s most highly developed economy with the lowest energy costs in the world, and in a reltively rapid transition… we’re moving permanently to a position in the world of having the highest energy cost”
Prof. Albert Bartlett
“Sustainable growth is an oxymoron, because if you just look at the arithmetic of steady growth, the numbers become astronomically large in modest periods of time, so you can’t have steady growth.”
“There’s a lot of momentum in the Congress right now when it comes to moving beyond peak oil. I would hope that we would see an administration response equal to that in the Congress. The administration has more to do to embrace this approach, which after all is about increasing our national security, creating jobs and protecting the environment. There are no more three important things that we could be doing.”
(November and December 2005)
The Global Public Media site also contains highlights of the November conference: Day 1 and Day 2.
A rousing cheer from this quarter for the flow of independant journalism being produced by GPM. Next time you curse the banalities of the WSJ or NYT, compare the content and cover price of GPM’s product and consider supporting them instead. -LJ
The Outlook on Oil
Some Experts Worry That Production Will Soon Peak. Others Warn That It Already Has
Jim Motavalli, emagazine.com
…But one conclusion is irrefutable: The age of cheap oil is definitely over, and even as our appetite for it seems insatiable (with world demand likely to grow 50 percent by 2025), petroleum itself will end up downsizing. And it’s unlikely that the high oil prices of 2005 will be a bubble, as was the 1970s fallout from the Arab oil embargo. Today, not only is oil getting harder to find in economically exploitable form, but the use of what remains is contra-indicated by the hard reality of global warming. Even if we had ample oil, in the long run we’d need to switch to renewables, anyway.
There’s no lack of firm conviction when it comes to oil. Robert Hirsch’s resumé includes stints at both Exxon and ARCO, and he’s now senior energy program advisor at the Science Applications International Corporation. “The ‘depletion’ folks by and large are not exaggerating the problem, particularly when you add in the risk dimension,” he said in an interview. “The oil reserves are very uncertain. Middle East politics and egos are in play, and the rest of the world is at great risk because there will be no quick fixes when depletion starts.” …
There’s no lack of firm conviction when it comes to oil. Robert Hirsch’s resumé includes stints at both Exxon and ARCO, and he’s now senior energy program advisor at the Science Applications International Corporation. “The ‘depletion’ folks by and large are not exaggerating the problem, particularly when you add in the risk dimension,” he said in an interview. “The oil reserves are very uncertain. Middle East politics and egos are in play, and the rest of the world is at great risk because there will be no quick fixes when depletion starts.”
Long, comprehensive and fair introduction to peak oil issues.-LJ