Biofuels won’t power world alone
In Scott Yates’ article of March 3 titled “Mr. Woolsey: ‘We can replace half the country’s gasoline’ ” Mr. Woolsey professes that one way to wean ourselves off of Middle Eastern oil is by growing biofuels and increasing fuel economy standards. He thinks this will “…keep its (America’s) energy future simple.”
I wonder if Mr. Woolsey discussed the current peaking of world oil production during his presentation to the Harvesting Clean Energy Conference, and if he did, how come Mr. Yates didn’t find it important enough to mention in his piece?
In fact, Mr. Woolsey was one of the earliest mainstream voices to sign on to peak oil in a 1999 article in Foreign Affairs entitled “The new petroleum” where he and Sen. Richard Lugar discuss the inevitable peak in global oil production.
The current peaking of world oil production, better known as Hubbert’s Peak or “Peak Oil” is very well documented by the world’s top oil geologists and acknowledged by Mr. Woolsey and other prominent figures inside and outside Washington.
Back in 1956 Shell Oil geophysicist M. King Hubbert predicted that, based upon his research, oil production in the U.S. would peak in 1970 and we would never pump the same amount out of the ground again and in fact it would begin to decline every year after. Even though he was laughed at by his peers in the oil industry, he was pretty much dead on when we looked back and saw oil production peak in the U.S. in 1970, and it has steadily declined ever since. We are now pumping roughly half the amount of oil out of the ground than we did in 1970.
Mr. Hubbert also predicted that world oil production would peak around the year 2000. And it is looking like he was pretty close. It has pretty much been shown that we are now at or near the global peak in oil production. Not to mention, the rate of new oil field discoveries peaked 40 years ago and are declining as well.
Matthew Simmons, investment banker and member of vice president Dick Cheney’s 2001 energy task force has put forth a most compelling case that the world has reached “peak” in his most recent book “Twilight in the Desert.” And, if that weren’t enough the DOE commissioned a report titled “Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation and Risk Management” It was better known as the Hirsch Report and was aboutthe same issue as well and it wasn’t pretty.
The report’s executive summary begins with the following paragraph:
“The peaking of world oil production presents the U.S. and the world with an unprecedented risk management problem. As peaking is approached, liquid fuel prices and price volatility will increase dramatically, and, without timely mitigation, the economic, social, and political costs will be unprecedented. Viable mitigation options exist on both the supply and demand sides, but to have substantial impact, they must be initiated more than a decade in advance of peaking.”
Although I am not a farmer, I subscribe to the Capital Press for use in my business (auctions) and enjoy staying informed about the agriculture business so important to our true national security-domestic food production.
I read articles in the Capital Press, almost every week it seems, on how growing crops for bio fuels will help either wean us off Mideast oil or give farmers a new market for their crop, without even considering how dependent our nation is on fossil fuel-based fertilizers and pesticides to grow our food.
Now we want to use more fossil fuel-based fertilizers and pesticides to “grow fuel” to run our equipment. As the costs of fossil fuels become increasingly expensive, so will the cost of the fertilizers and pesticides derived from them.
So how are you going to grow crops for producing fuel with ever-increasing input costs due to rising energy costs? In the days of cheap oil that may have been feasible but with ever-increasing input costs where are the savings?
While there is most certainly a place for biofuels in a post peak petroleum world, do not think that we can maintain our easy motoring, drive-thru and endless consumptive lifestyle on biofuels and hybrid cars.
Some people think technology will “save us” or we will find “something” to replace fossil fuels. Even Mr. Woolsey admits that technology is not going to be the answer. Technology is not energy, folks. Not to mention you need energy to produce technology.
More importantly, instead of fear and war mongering and trying to prepare us for “Long Wars” because… “we need the energy,” (why are we in Iraq?) Mr. Woolsey should be honest with the HCEC and America’s farmers by educating them about peak oil and how we need to start re-localizing markets and supply chains so that farmers can be better prepared for the coming energy supply reductions and increased energy prices (fuels, fertilizers and pesticides) that we will experience due to the peaking of world oil production.
Agriculture is going to become more local again with or without biofuels. Peak oil will kill globalization and the 3,000-mile Caesar salad will come to an end. I say good riddance to NAFTA, GATT and all the other globalization acronyms, but that is a subject for another time.
Although the subject of peak oil hasn’t reached the level of everyday discussion yet, it is quickly gaining attention as the true picture becomes clearer. I encourage all farmers and citizens to read the Hirsch Report and do your own research on the most important issue facing our nation going into this new century, “Peak Oil.”
We do not need to become entangled in more resource wars that will end in no good for anyone and will certainly not make America more secure. We should be collectively working on ways to help mitigate the inevitable decline of the most precious endowment mankind has ever been given.
Jon Swanson is a resident of West Richland, Wash.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.
Sign up for regular Resilience bulletins direct to your email.