Energy resources and our future
ENERGY -- (House of Representatives - January 24, 2007)
--- The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Johnson of Georgia). Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 18, 2007, the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Bartlett) is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the minority leader.
Mr. BARTLETT of Maryland. Mr. Speaker, I thought that there was only one speech given in the last century that would become very famous in the few years just ahead of us, and that was the speech given on the 8th day of March in San Antonio, Texas, by M. King Hubbert in 1956, but I just discovered a few days ago a speech which I think may become just about as famous.
This was a speech that was given by the father of the nuclear submarine, Hyman Rickover, and he gave this speech in May 1957. So soon we will reach the 50th anniversary of this very famous speech by the father of the nuclear submarine.
I just wanted to start by reading a couple of things from this speech that he gave. He gave the speech, by the way, to a group of physicians at a banquet of the Annual Scientific Assembly of the Minnesota State Medical Association in St. Paul, Minnesota, May 14, 1957.
The title of the speech had nothing to do with medicine. The title of the speech is ``Energy Resources and Our Future.'' He says early on in the speech that, ``With high energy consumption goes a high standard of living. Thus the enormous fossil fuel energy which we in this country control feeds machines which make each of us master of an army of mechanical slaves.'' Now, this was 50 years ago and can you imagine what has happened since then?
``Man's muscle power is rated at 35 watts continuously,'' that is, 24/7. Of course, you need to sleep and eat and so forth, and so when you are working, you are working at more than 35 watts, but 35 watts continuously, which is one-twentieth of horsepower.
``Machines therefore furnish every American industrial worker with energy equivalent to that of 244 men.'' So all of those things that we enjoy in our life, the automobile, the refrigerator, the microwave, all of these represent the equivalent of 244 men in place of just the one that can turn these things out with the aid of this fossil fuel energy.
Then he goes on to say, ``While at least 2,000 men push his automobile along the road,'' probably more than that for an SUV, ``and his family is supplied with 33 faithful household helpers. Each locomotive engineer controls energy equivalent to that of 100,000 men; each jet pilot of 700,000 men. Truly,'' he says, ``the humblest American enjoys the services of more slaves than were once owned by the richest nobles, and lives better than most ancient kings. In retrospect, and despite wars, revolutions, and disasters, the hundred years just gone by,'' that was the 100 years up to 1957, it is now 150 years, ``just gone by may well seem like a Golden Age.''
Others have commented on this incredible energy density in these fossil fuels by noting that just one barrel of oil contains the energy equivalent of 12 men working all year. If you look at the cost of that at the pump, that is roughly $10 a year. For $10 a year, you can have a servant work for you all year long. You may have some trouble getting your mind around that, but imagine how far that gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel, still cheaper, by the way, than water in the grocery store, how far that takes your SUV or your car or your truck and how long it would take you to pull your SUV or truck or car the distance that that gallon of diesel fuel or gasoline takes it. I drive a Prius. We get about 50 miles per gallon. How long would it take me to pull my Prius 50 miles?
Let me give another little example to help you understand the incredible energy density in these fossil fuels and how much they have improved our life and how totally dependent we are on them.
If a big man goes outside and is working really hard all day long doing physical work, I can get more work out of an electric motor for less than 25 cents' worth of electricity. That may be humbling to recognize that in terms of fossil fuel energy, our muscle power is worth less than 25 cents a day, but understanding that helps us to understand how totally dependent we have come to be on these fossil fuels.
A little later in his speech, Hyman Rickover said, ``I think no further elaboration is needed to demonstrate the significance of energy resources for our own future. Our civilization rests upon a technological base which requires enormous quantities of fossil fuels. What assurance do we then have that our energy needs will continue to be supplied by fossil fuels?'' And then this answer, 50 years ago, when we were king of oil, biggest producers, biggest consumers in the world, I think biggest exporters in the world, ``The answer is,'' he says, ``in the long run, none.''
There is no assurance that we can have these fossil fuels for the long term. ``The earth is finite,'' he says. ``Fossil fuels are not renewable. In this respect our energy base differs from that of all earlier civilizations. They could have maintained their energy supply by careful cultivation,'' when we got our energy from the soil. ``We cannot. Fuel that has been burned is gone forever. Fuel is even more evanescent than metals. Metals, too, are nonrenewable resources threatened with ultimate extinction, but something can be salvaged from scrap. Fuel leaves no scrap and there is nothing man can do to rebuild exhausted fossil fuel reserves. They were created by solar energy,'' he says, ``500 million years ago and took eons to grow to their present volume.''
Another quote from his talk. ``In the 8,000 years from the beginning of history to the year 2000 A.D., world population will have grown from 10 million to 4 billion.'' Actually, he missed it a little. It is now 7 billion, as you will see in a moment, ``with 90 percent of that growth taking place during the last 5 percent of that period, in 400 years. It took the first 3,000 years of recorded history to accomplish the first doubling of population, 100 years for the last doubling, but the next doubling will require only 50 years.'' As a matter of fact, it required less than that, because today we have about nearly 7 billion people in the world rather than just 4 billion.
Another quote from his talk. ``High-energy consumption has always been a prerequisite of political power ..... Ultimately,'' he says, ``the Nation which controls the largest energy resources will become dominant. If we give thought to the problem of energy resources, if we act wisely and in time to conserve what we have and prepare well for necessary future changes, we shall insure this dominant position for our own country.''
Have we done that? In no way have we done that.
Another quote from his talk. ``I suggest that this is a good time to think soberly about our responsibilities to our descendants, those who will ring out the Fossil Fuel Age ..... We might even, if we wanted, give a break to these youngsters by cutting fuel and metal consumption,'' this was 50 years ago, ``by cutting fuel and metal consumption a little here and there so as to provide a safer margin for the necessary adjustments which eventually must be made in a world without fossil fuels.''
I just came back about 3 weeks ago from a trip to China. Nine Members of Congress went. We met with a number of the top officials in China, and I was pleased and surprised. We went to talk about energy primarily, and they began every discussion of energy by talking about post-oil. Hyman Rickover 50 years ago understood that one day we would be talking about post-oil. The Chinese now are talking about post-oil. By the way, they do not mean that there is not going to be anymore oil in the world. Nobody is telling you that.
What they mean by post-oil is that it will be post the peak production of oil, where we can no longer produce additional oil so we are going to have to make do with what we have. As a matter of fact, each year after that there would be less and less oil available for us to use.
The next chart. There is nothing man can do to rebuild exhausted fossil fuel reserves, and this is part of the quote I just made. They were created by solar energy a very long time ago and took eons to grow into their present volume. In the face of the basic factor, fossil fuel reserves are finite. The exact length of time these reserves will last is important in only one respect. The longer they last, the more time do we have to invent ways of living off renewable substitute energy sources and to adjust our economy to the vast changes which we can expect from such a shift. This is 50 years ago.
He is saying the same thing that our President said last night in the State of the Union message, that we should get busy with preparing for a transition from fossil fuels to renewables.
Then I really love this quote. I am a father of 10, a grandfather of 15 and a great-grandfather of two. ``Fossil fuels resemble capital in the bank. A prudent and responsible parent will use his capital sparingly in order to pass on to his children as much as possible of his inheritance.''
Do you think, Mr. Speaker, that we have been using fossil fuel energy sparingly? I doubt that you would find very much concurrence for this anywhere in this country, and certainly worldwide. When you look from other places to this country and see this one person out of 22 using 25 percent of all of the world's energy, you will have nobody over there saying we have used our energy sparingly. ``A selfish and irresponsible parent will squander it in riotous living and care not one whit how his offspring will fair.''
I have characterized our relationship with energy as the equivalent of the pig who found the feed room door open and just went in and pigged out. That is what we have been doing. When our children and our grandchildren and great grandchildren look back in a world with diminishing fossil fuel availability, and, by the way, saddled with a huge debt that we are passing on to them, they may well ask themselves the question, how could they have done it?
When we found this incredible wealth under the ground, that provides the equivalent of 33 servants, 100,000 people pushing your train, 244 people pushing your automobile down the road, when we found this incredible fuel fossil fuel energy under the ground, why didn't somebody stop and ask the question, what should we do with this to provide the most good for the most people for the longest time? That clearly is not what we did.
What we did was to extract this oil from the ground as quickly as possible; to use it as prolifically as possible; to develop a lifestyle ever more and more dependent on fossil fuel; to develop an agriculture where one person out of 50 feeds the rest and much of the world; where the man sits on top of a 150 horsepower tractor and uses fertilizers produced from natural gas to grow his crops.
The next chart here is a really interesting one. Suppose the size of the countries in the world was determined by how much oil they have. This is the world according to oil. If you look at our military might, if you look at our economic might, we are really big. But when you look at the oil we have, here we are, itty-bitty United States. Notice Alaska is pretty big here, a fair amount of oil up there.
But look at Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait. Little Kuwait. Look at a map and see how little Kuwait is. But look at the oil they have. This is what the world would like look like if the countries were sized relative to the amount of oil they have.
Look at Russia there. People talk about the huge reserves in Russia. It is dwarfed by Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and even little Kuwait has more oil than Russia. Look at Venezuela down here. It is probably twice the size of the United States in terms of what they have in oil. Look at some of the African countries here. Nigeria, what, way bigger than the United States. Libya, bigger than the United States in terms of the amount of oil that they have.
The next chart, this was predicted by that second famous speech that I mentioned that was given in the last century, and that is the talk given by M. King Hubbert on the 8th day of March, 1956, to a group of petroleum engineers in San Antonio, Texas, and a lot of other oilmen there. This was the time, you remember, when the United States was the biggest oil producer in the world, the biggest consumer of oil in the world, and I think maybe the biggest exporter of oil in the world.
What M. King Hubbert told hose assembled people was that in just about 14 years, the United States would reach its maximum oil production and then, no matter what we did, the oil production would drop off after that.
How did he know that that was going to happen? He had watched the exploitation and exhaustion of individual oil fields, and each one of them followed what we call a bell curve. That is a curve that goes ever up and up and reaches a peak and comes down the other side. You get a bell curve if you weigh people and see how much they weigh. There will be a few very light people, a few very heavy people. Most of them are in the middle. How tall people are, how many mice are in a litter of mice and so forth, most of the things in a natural world follow a bell curve. He predicted that we would follow a bell curve.
When he noticed each one of these little fields, he saw when they reached a peak, they had pumped about half of all the oil they would ever pump. So he theorized if he knew how many little fields we had, little bell curves, and how many more we were likely to find, and if you added all those up, you could predict when we would reach the peak. So he did that, and he said that was going to be about 1970.
And the Shell Oil Company, for whom he worked, said, please don't do that and embarrass us. You make a fool of yourself and embarrass yourself. He gave the talk and for a while he was kind of a humorous person. But then he became an icon in his own time, because right on schedule in 1970, we peaked in oil production.
Now, this curve that I have here is one that is taken from the Cambridge Energy Research Associates, and I use this especially because you may hear from these people, they are called CERA, and they are predicting that there is lots more oil out there, we are going to find a whole lot more oil, not to worry. They use this to make the point that M. King Hubbert really didn't know what he was talking about and he really was wrong.
They are saying that because the total U.S. production, and this, by the way, is with Prudo Bay and the Gulf of Mexico in, if you put only the lower 48 in, which is what M. King Hubbert was predicting, this was the actual on the green, and his prediction was the yellow here, and they said, gee, he was off. That doesn't look like it is very far off to me.
Let's look at another chart which shows the same data. This shows two peaks here. The smooth green symbols here are the prediction of M. King Hubbert. The more ragged ones are the actual data points.
You see right on schedule we peaked in 1970. We have been going down ever since. The red one is the former Soviet Union, FSU, and they kind of fell apart and didn't reach their potential. They are having a second little peak now and are going down.
Do you remember from that chart of the world according to oil, they were maybe twice the United States? They aren't using anywhere near as much oil as we are, so now they are a major exporter. But they don't have all that much oil. As you can see here, the area under this curve represents how much oil they have, the area under this curve represents how much oil we have, and you can see the general relationships there.
The next chart shows where our oil has come from. M. King Hubbert predicted only Texas and the rest of the United States, and that was his prediction and that was the actual data points. Then we found oil in Alaska and we learned to make oil from gas, non-gas liquids, natural gas liquids.
This is the oil that we found in the Gulf of Mexico. You remember those fabled discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico? I remember them. We were home free. They were going to solve our oil problem for the foreseeable future. You can hardly see their contributions as we slid down the other side of Hubbert's peak.
The next chart shows another depiction of peak oil, and this is one again from Energy Information Area, the EIA, quoted in the Hirsch Report. Let me spend a moment on what the Hirsch Report is.
Our government has paid for two big studies of the fossil fuel energy situation. One of those was financed by the Department of Energy, done by SAIC, a very prestigious, large scientific organization, and Dr. Hirsch was the principal investigator there, so it is frequently referred to as the Hirsch Report. He here is reporting this information that came from our Energy Information Agency, which is a part of our Department of Energy.
Here they are using some very interesting statistical terms, but they aren't true statistical term. I have had the EIA people come in and talk with them at the office about this, because I had some trouble understanding it.
A couple of Congresses ago, I was the Chair of the Energy Subcommittee on Science and I wanted to determine the dimensions of the problem. So we had experts come in from around the world to tell us how much oil they thought remained in the world and how much more oil they thought we would find.
I was quite surprised at the relative unanimity. They all were pretty close to 1,000 gigabarrels, maybe 970 to 1,040. Now, I use gigabarrels instead of million barrels and that is because the British billion is not our billion. The British billion is a million million. Our billion is a thousand million. But everybody understands a giga. So when you hear ``giga'' used, you know that is an international term. A thousand gigabarrels, which is 1 trillion barrels of oil, that is what remains.
You remember at the peak of that curve, M. King Hubbert said about half of the oil would be used, so that means we have used about 1,000 gigabarrels, and here they have the total of 2,248 gigabarrels. So about half of that has been used and about half of that remains.
Now, they are using some very interesting techniques here, and they did some simulations, and I have no idea what the inputs were into the simulations, but they have convinced themselves that there is a high probability that we will find twice as much more oil as all the oil that now exists out there unpumped. So they said gee, halfway between what they say is the low probability and the high probability is the mean, which is the expected yield. So they believe we are going to get, this is a total of 3,000, so we are going to get another 2,000 gigabarrels of oil. That is this red curve here.
What they show is that even if that is true, Mr. Speaker, even if that is true, and I think the odds that that is true are very small, but even if that is true, that pushes the peak out only to 2016.
What the dotted curve here shows is what you might be able to do with enhanced oil recovery, pump live steam down there and a bunch of solvents and push water in there, and maybe you can get it quicker. But if you get it quicker look what happens to the other side. Just a demonstration that you can't pump what is not there, and the total volume you will pump is the area under this curve. If you get it sooner, you won't have it later. Notice how quickly that curve drops down.
If they don't find the additional enormous quantities of oil that they believe they will find, then we are about here and the peak will occur at about 2005 or so, which is where M. King Hubbert said that the peak would occur. By the way, he predicted it in 1969, a year before the United States peak. He was confident enough of his analytical techniques that he predicted the world would be peaking about now.
The next chart is another chart from CERA, and it depicts some of the same information on that chart a little differently.
This is the curve, the peaking curve, if there is a roughly 2 trillion, 2000 gigabarrels. You will notice slightly different figures between these, because there is not unanimity on how much is there, but it is roughly 1.9 to 2.2. This is in the same ballpark. If that is the case, then peaking according to them is going to occur fairly soon according to them.
But if you find another 1 trillion barrels of oil, that pushes peaking out only to what, 2035, something like that. That is not all that far off. And the probability we are going to find that oil is very, very small, as we will see in a few moments.
Now he has piled on top of that, CERA has piled on top of that, an enormous amount of oil that they think we are going to get from unconventional oil sources. This is like the Canadian tar sands and like our oil shales out in the West.
We may or may not get enormous quantities of oil from that. There are potentially huge quantities there. There is more potential oil in the tar sands of Canada than all of the known reserves in the world. That big map we saw, there is more potential oil there.
But there is also an incredible amount of potential energy in the tides, but we have not been very successful in harnessing that energy from the tides. Canada is now getting about 1 million barrels of oil with a shovel that lifts 100 tons and dumps it into a truck that hauls 400 tons. They then haul it and cook it with enormous amounts of energy from natural gas, which is stranded. By ``stranded'' we mean there are not very many people there to use it.
Since it is expensive to ship, why, it is cheaper there, and so they are producing that oil at about 18 to 25 dollars a barrel. I understand they are getting 55, today, dollars a barrel for it. That is a pretty good dollar profit ratio. But they know this is not sustainable for several reasons. One is they are using water faster than they can supply it. The energy from the gas will run out. They are thinking of building a nuclear power plant, and they have a huge, relatively huge, lake there of tailing water they call it. It is really very toxic water, so there are huge environmental impacts of it. And furthermore, this vein of the tar sands will shortly duck under an overlay so that they will no longer be able to deadlift it or surface mine it, whatever you want to call it. They will now have to develop it in situ, and they have not even experimented with how they are going to do that.
The next chart has a little simple schematic. And by the way, you can make this peak look very hard and sharp or spread it out by the scale you use on the abscissa and the ordinate. Here we have spread it out because we have an expanded scale on the abscissa and a restricted one on the ordinate here. But that yellow area represents the additional oil we would like to have, because growth is exponential at about 2 percent. And if we reach the peak, I think we are about here. We are now having some problems with meeting the demand, which is why oil is going from 50 to 60 to 78 at the highest a few months ago.
And by the way, they showed undulating plateau in that last big chart I showed, and I agree with them. May I put that chart up for just another moment? That is a very interesting one. I want to focus on this. They are saying that there is no such thing as peak oil. And this is what they show. Tell me that is not a peak. This is from their publication. And it is an article where they are kind of pooh-poohing the idea of peak oil, and they are showing peak oil. For every potential level of oil that they think will be there, they are showing a peak. They are just showing it, and I agree with them that it is going to be undulating plateau. It is not going to be a smooth thing. The curve just under it shows it very smooth because we have simplified it. And what it shows is, and, by the way, the 2 percent growth, it doubles in 35 years. This point is doubled this point, so that is a 35-year period there. So you see it takes a while to get through that peak.
The next chart is one that if you had only one chart to look at and talk about relative to oil, this would be the chart. And you could spend a very long time looking at this chart and talking about it. The big bars here show the discoveries. And you notice that there was a rash of discoveries way back in the 1940s, 16 years before M. King Hubbert made his prediction. By the way, he made that prediction here in 1956, about here. Wow. Look how much more we discovered after that. And he was able to predict how much more we would discover and correctly predict when we would reach peak oil production.
The solid line here shows the consumption. And obviously up until about 1980 we were always finding more than we were consuming. Now, remember, underneath this curve represents all that we have used. So we have used this much of what we found. But this much of what we found was left over that we could use in the future. So ever since 1980, now, we have been finding less and less oil and using more and more oil. Notice a little stuttering here in the 1970s. The Arab oil embargo. The oil price spike hikes, the big push for efficiency in our country. Your air conditioner now uses about half the energy that it used in 1970.
Well, what will the future look like? The folks who put this chart together believe that peaking will occur at about 2010. Who knows? We really won't know until after it has peaked and you look back and see the data. It could be peaking now. It could be 5 years from now, it could be 10 years from now. But both of these are very, very short term in terms of what we need to do to address this.
What will the future look like? They have predicted that future oil discoveries will follow, and of course they won't be smooth like that, but on the average they will follow the curve like that. And you can't pump what you haven't found. And if you were to put a smooth curve over this discovery curve, and you have an area under that which will equal the amount which will be the total amount of oil you have found, that is adding up all these little bars here, and the area under that discovery curve cannot be different than the area ultimately under the consumption curve. So you can make this curve go, within limits, any way you want, within reason. You can use vigorous enhanced oil recovery techniques and get it out quicker, and you can maybe delay the peak a little bit. But you can't pump what is not there. And so it ultimately is going to fall off much, much faster. This is a very interesting chart. We could spend a lot of time looking at this. But what you cannot do is pump oil that you have not found.
Now, what CERA is predicting is that you are going to find as much more oil as all of the reserves that now exist. The reserves that exist, and I calculated this, I think that this area pretty much fills in this. So the reserve that exists is this. They think we are going to find that much more oil? What do you think when you look at this chart? Do you think it is reasonable that they are going to find that much more oil?
Mr. Speaker, this is a chart which kind of smooths out those big different bar graphs that we saw before. Now, as early finds in the 19, here, they have a little spike here and a big spike here. You can smooth that whole thing out, of course. But this is roughly a graph drawn through the bar graphs on that previous chart. And now we are down here at this point in time. And the Energy Information Agency, using those three numbers that we used before, the 95 percent, which they say is low, the 50 percent, which they say is the mean, and the 5 percent, which they say is high, and they think that because the 50 percentile is halfway between the 95 and the 5, that that is the most likely thing. Well, anybody in statistics knows that if it is 95 percent more probable, it is more probable than 50 percent probable. That is pretty simple to understand, I think.
Well, the red dots here indicate what the actual data have been. Now, their projection was that this discovery line would follow the green. Clearly it has been following what you would expect it to follow, the 95 percent probability.
The next chart is an interesting one, and Hyman Rickover referred to this. He referred to 8,000 years of recorded history. And he, at that time, noted that they were about 100 years into the age of oil. Today we are about 150 years into the age of oil. And ultimately, out of 8,000 years of recorded history, the age of oil will be but a blip in the history of man. It will occupy maybe 300 years from when we first found it and started to really exploit it until it becomes so difficult to get and so expensive that we won't be getting much of it again.
This is a little chart that shows the development of the industrial revolution. It started with wood. Brown, here. The hills of New England were denuded carrying charcoal to England to make steel there. Come up to Frederick County where I live, and we have a little historic site up there, Catoctin Furnace. We denuded the hills up there where Camp David is now to make charcoal to make steel at Catoctin Furnace.
Then we discovered coal. And on the ordinate here, it is a quadrillion Btus, how much energy we were producing. Look how much more energy we were able to produce with coal. The coal locomotive. Lots more energy in coal than there is in wood, so we could do a lot more things with.
The industrial revolution was kind of stuttering when we discovered gas and oil, and then look what happened. And if you could superimpose on this a chart of the population growth in the world, it would look just about like this. Remember Hyman Rickover said that it was going to grow from that half billion back here to 4 billion? It really grew to almost 7 billion, which is where we are today. So that population curve with appropriate dimensions would just about follow exactly the energy use curve. This is an incredible amount of energy we are using that obviously could not continue.
A really interesting statistic. Up until the Carter years, every decade, the world used as much oil as it had used in all of previous history. That is this curve. Now, in the 1970s you see what happened. We really had a shock, and we stopped and took some sense of where we were. And we drove smaller cars, and we developed more efficient refrigerators and air conditioners, and we reduced energy. We had a big recession, a big worldwide recession as a result of that. So energy use went down.
But now look. It is climbing back up again. Three hundred years, the age of oil, it will be but a blip in the history of man.
Again, I ask, what will future people think when they look back at this and say, why didn't we stop when we found this incredible wealth under the ground to ask what could we do with this to get the most good for the most people for the longer time? That is obviously the question that almost nobody asked. What we asked was, how can we use more and more of this to improve more and more our quality of life, as if it were forever. Obviously, as Hyman Rickover said 50 years ago, it can't be forever.
The next chart is a really interesting one. As I mentioned, we are 1 person out of 22, and we use a fourth of the world's energy. Energy use is on the abscissa here, and how good you feel about life is on the ordinate. And notice that we are way out there. We feel pretty good about life, but not as good as many others.
We are just here. There are all of those who feel better about life. And we clearly are using the most energy. Only little Switzerland comes close to us in using energy.
Interesting chart here. If you could draw a line through this, you would see that with little energy it is really tough to feel good about life. But when you come up here to what, a fifth of the amount of energy we use, a lot of people, Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, China, they feel about as good about life as we do. If you look at the countries in Europe here, you will find that many of those use about half the energy we use, and they feel just as good about life as we feel.
What this points out is that it is possible to live a quality life using much less energy than we use, and all you have to do is to look at these countries that use very much less energy than we do and feel just about as good, and some of them better. All of these above my arm here feel better about life than we feel about life. And they are using less energy than we are using.
Well, what now? Well, obviously, we must transition. Geology will assure it, as anticipated by Hyman Rickover in that very fascinating speech to the physicians 50 years ago. We will transition ultimately as we go through the age of oil from the fossil fuels to renewables. We have available to us some finite sources, and I mentioned the tar sands, and we have about as large a potential supply of energy in our West called the oil shales, a little bit different. They aren't really oil. You put a solvent in, they won't flow out. But if you cook them, they will turn to oil, and you can then refine it. And there is potentially a huge amount of energy there. But can we get it?
The Shell Oil Company has gone there doing some experimentation. And a year or so ago I was a speaker out in Denver, Colorado, at the American chapter of the Peak Oil Association. And the investigator for the Shell Oil Company that conducted this little experiment was there and reported on it. And what he said in his report there was very different than the stories you read in the papers. The stories in the papers said, you know, don't worry about energy. We have this huge potential amount there, and we have found a way to get it. That is not what he said.
Let me tell you what they did. What they did was, and I am not sure of the reasoning because I hear two reasons for it. One was that there was an aquifer there they didn't want to contaminate. And the other had something to do with the mechanics of sequestering the oil. But they drilled a series of holes around the periphery, and then they froze the ground, and they froze it for a year so that now they had, in effect, a frozen vessel.
The second argument was that they did that to contain the heat. That is a little hard for me to understand how a frozen vessel contains heat, but that is the argument that I was given. Then at the end of the year they went in and drilled a second set of holes, and then they pumped heat down there, and they cooked it for a year. And then they drilled a third set of holes, and then when they got to the bottom of those holes, they turned it sideways, which they can do now, and drilled it horizontally. So the oil that was loosened by cooking it in the second set of wells they drilled now flowed down through the shale and was picked up by those horizontal channels from the third set of wells they drilled. And they pumped for several years a really meaningful amount of oil from that. So there is potentially a lot of oil there.
But what the investigator told us was that it would be, I think he said, something like 2013 before they could even decide whether it was economically feasible to develop those fields.
So there is huge potential there. There are also huge challenges there. But it is energy. We will develop some of it. But it is finite. It will not last forever either. And there is going to be enormous cost in developing it, both economic cost and environmental costs.
Now, you can trade the environmental cost for economic cost. If you do not mind polluting the environment you can develop it for less money. At the moment, most of us believe we should not be polluting our environment so we spend the money necessary that we do not, although they are not really doing that in Alberta, Canada. They are using up precious water, and they have a relatively huge lake of tailing water as they call it, which is really pretty toxic stuff.
Coal. We and China have a lot of coal. China was suffocating themselves with coal smoke. They closed down some of their coal-fired power plants. People will tell you that we have 500 years of coal. That is just not true. It is true that we have 250 years of coal at current use rates. We will put the next chart up in front of this one.
Be very careful when people tell you we have so much of something at current use rates. When Albert Einstein was asked what the next big force in the universe was going to be after nuclear energy, which had such a dramatic increase over any kind of energy we had before that, his answer was, compound interest, he said was the most powerful force in the universe.
And there is a really interesting talk given, he is not my relative, I wish he were so I had some of his genes, but Dr. Albert Bartlett, Professor Emeritus at the University of Colorado has given a talk on energy I think some 1,600 times. Just do Albert Bartlett and energy and you will pull it up. It was the most fascinating 1-hour talk I ever listened to, and I am sure you will agree.
But he says that the biggest failure of our industrialized society is our inability to understand the exponential function. You see this coal that will last us 250 years at current use rates if we increase its use only 2 percent, and we will have to do better than that. By the way, coal has been in the past a big source of gas and oil.
Hitler ran his whole country and his whole military on it. And when we were limiting the opportunities for trade in South Africa, they were making gas and oil from coal. When I was a little boy, it was coal oil. And I thought it was all one word, coal oil that replaced whale oil in the lamps. I kept calling it coal oil a long time after they were getting it from kerosene rather than coal.
But if you increase it just 2 percent, that shrinks its usable duration to about 85 years. But obviously for many of our uses you cannot use coal, you have got to use it as a gas or liquid. If you use some of the energy from the coal to make it into a gas or liquid you have now shrunk it to 50 years.
But the reality is that it does not matter who owns the resource today, it is all traded in a global marketplace. And the guy who has the dollars buys the oil or the gas. And so whether we like it or not, there is no alternative that we are going to share our oil with the world. Because, you see if we use oil from our coal, that just frees up some oil from pumping it out of the ground that somebody else can use.
So the effect is as if we were sharing our oil with the world so that 50 years from now, we use a fourth, you remember the rest of the world uses the other three-fourths, that means that now shrinks to 12 1/2 years. So that marvelous 200 years of coal at no growth for us now shrinks to 50 years when we increase its growth to only 2 percent, and use some of it, the energy, to convert it to gas and oil. And then we realize that we are going to have to share this, no alternative, unless we have a big enough Navy to say, it is ours and we can keep you from coming and getting it. We are going to have to share it with the world so now it lasts 12 1/2 years.
Let's go back to this chart. Going just for a few moments about nuclear. If you were in France, you would get about 80, 85 percent of all of your electricity from nuclear. We get in our country 20 percent of our electricity from nuclear, that is a lot. When you go home tonight look out your window, and every fifth business and every fifth house would be dark if it were not for nuclear energy.
We have never had an accident. We have never had a fatality. Three Mile Island, it behaved just as it was supposed to behave. I lived within the radiation zone of that. And we contained that. That was not a disaster. It was just a demonstration that we were building them right, because when we had the meltdown at Three Mile Island we contained that. There was little effect from it.
There are three different ways you can get nuclear energy. One is the way we get it from lightwater reactors. That uses fissionable uranium. There is a finite supply of fissionable uranium in the world.
And I get wildly divergent estimates of how long it will last, 15 years, 100 years. Again, this is at that current use rate. So you have to ask the person, what rate of use are you assuming when you make this projection? This reminds me, by the way, that we need an honest broker to help us agree on the facts.
It is hard to have a rational discussion when you cannot agree on the facts. And I think the right candidate to do this is the National Academy of Sciences. Enormously respected, very competent. And I have talked with them, and they would be interested in doing this. We just need to fund them so they can do it.
We need to have a rational discussion of this. And we cannot have that when there is big differences of opinion as to what the facts are.
Well, ultimately one day sooner or later, there will not be enough fissionable uranium to go to lightwater reactors. So then we are going to have to go to the second type of fission reactors, that is the breeder reactor. France already uses those. The only ones we had we used for making weapons. We now do not do that anymore. They have problems.
The big advantage, of course, is they are what the name implies, they are breeder reactors, they make more fuel that they use. The problems are that they have a byproduct that we must store away for a quarter of a million years. I cannot even imagine that. A quarter of a million years.
I think there is a challenge here. Anything that is so hot that has no much energy in it that I cannot get near it for a quarter of a million years, don't you think ought to have enough energy there that we can do something meaningful with it?
Now we have been profligate in our use of energy, all energy including nuclear energy. And we use only a tiny fraction of the nuclear energy in the isotope when we say it is no longer good for our reactors, so we put some more in. But I think there is a big challenge there. I think there is a potential source of energy from these byproducts. If it is so hot, such high radiation that I cannot get near it for a quarter of a million years, it ought to have some usable energy in it. We have very creative, innovative people. I think that we can find that if we realize that we need to.
The third type of nuclear energy is the type that is represented in the sun and every other star out there in the Milky Way. The sun is a nuclear reactor. And it is fusion reaction, it is like our hydrogen bomb. By the way, it will one day run down too. But that will be in millions of years in the future, so in our context we do not need to think about that.
We have been spending money on fusion, about $250 million a year. We are always about 30 years away from a solution. I gladly would vote for the money that we spend there. I think that we have got to do that. If we can conquer the enormous engineering challenges then we are home free. That is the only energy source out there that can take the place of fossil fuels. But I think the odds of doing that are about the same as the odds of winning the lottery. And if you are satisfied that you are going to meet your financial obligations by playing the lottery, then you are probably satisfied that we are going to meet our energy needs with nuclear fusion. Please do not bet the ranch on it.
Well, once we have gone through these finite sources and we have done what we can with nuclear, I have friends that have been devoutly antinuclear, but they are very bright people. And when they are looking at a very probable alternative, that is, shivering in the dark, not enough energy to keep warm, not enough energy to run the lights, nuclear does not look all that bad to many people who before were not enthusiastic about it when the alternative might be shivering in the dark.
Well, then we have renewable resources. And as Dr. Rickover said, by and by, we will have transitioned to these renewable resources. There will come a day when the fossil fuels are so scarce, so hard to get, so expensive, that we are getting little or none of them. And we will have, by that time, have transitioned, like it or not, we will have transitioned to these renewables. What are they? There is the sun. As I look at what the sun does, I am not surprised that the ancients worshiped the sun.
Almost all of the energy that we have been talking about here came from the sun. It was the sun that permitted the organic materials to grow in those subtropical seas that existed. The Earth, a long time ago, was much warmer than the Earth today. They were up there in the North Shore of Alaska, and in the North Sea off England producing these organic materials that settled to the bottom, infiltrated by runoff from the adjacent hills, probably. This is all theory. As good an explanation as I have heard as to how it got there. Tectonic moved. It opened up. It sank down. Near enough, proper pressure, proper heat, enough time, and by and by it becomes gas and oil, with a dome over so the gas cannot escape.
Then you have a good field. You get gas from it. You get oil from it. And if you drill into the oil and seal off the gas, the gas pressure above is putting pressure on the oil, so you have a gusher, it just pushes it up the pipe. So you see that this is the way it was formed. We have an explanation for what we find when we drill out there.
So all of the gas and oil came from the sun. When I was a little boy, we had a coal furnace. And we had run a mined coal from dust to big lumps, and some lumps so big that you could not put them in the furnace. And there was a sledgehammer by the wall, and we would break the lumps so we could get them in the furnace.
I remember as a little kid the feelings that I had, and I still get a chill when I think of this. I would break open the lump of that coal and there would be a fern leaf. You did not have to tell me where the coal came from. I knew where the coal came from. It came from ancient vegetation that grew and fell over and was covered up and ultimately became coal. We can see this process in the making in England, of the bogs there, it is not coal yet but you can take it out and burn it.
Wind. The wind blows because the sun shines. It is differential heating of the Earth that makes the wind blow.
Here is one that is not due to the sun. This is geothermal. True geothermal, not tying your heat pump to groundwater or earth, which makes a whole lot more sense than trying to coal the winter air and heat the summer air, which is what your radiational air conditioner and heat system, heat pump does.
But this is tapping into the heat from the molten core of the Earth. You go to Iceland, there is not a single chimney because they have a lot of geothermal, that is where they get their energy.
Ocean energy. Except for the tides, all of ocean energy is really a second-hand sun energy. It is the sun which differentially heats the waters. It is the sun which produces ultimately the Gulf Stream and the Japanese current, which carries so much warmth to northern Europe. Look at England on a globe. You will see that England is about mid-Canada, that is certainly not their climate, that is because of what the sun does in heating that water and setting up this conveyor belt.
The tides, of course, are produced by the Moon. There a lot of potential energy there. And then a very popular potential source of energy today, the President talked about it last night in his State of the Union, energy sources from agriculture.
Hyman Rickover in his speech here talked about that. And he said that ultimately, if you are getting energy from agriculture, you are going to be competing with one of two things, either you compete with food, and today corn is over $4 a barrel, it is ordinarily about $2 a barrel so that our dairy farmers and chicken farmers and hog farmers are now having a hard time making ends meet, because corn has about doubled in price, and that is because using corn for ethanol is competing with corn for food.
If we all became vegetarians, by the way, we would all have a whole lot more corn to use for energy. Soy diesel, biodiesel, these are all attractive sources. The second potential source of energy from agriculture was biomass. And the President talked a lot about that last night.
But Hyman Rickover very astutely noted that today's crops grow because last year's crops died and are fertilizing them. He noted that you will need to return the biomass to the soils if you are going to keep productivity going.
Now, we can get some energy from ethanol, and we can get some energy from biomass by burning it or fermenting it, but there are limits as to how much we can get there. And the incredible amount of energy that we use from fossil fuels presents a huge challenge to try to find enough disparate sources of energy to add up to equal the energy that we get there.
Waste energy, that is an interesting one, and we ought to be doing more of that. It is a very good idea. But remember, that big pile of waste that you see at the city dump is the result of profligate use of energy. In an energy-deficient world, we are not going to have those huge piles of waste. That is really secondhand use of fossil fuels because that is how the waste got there.
Hydrogen. Hydrogen is not an energy source. We must make hydrogen. The second law of thermal dynamics says you will always get less energy out of hydrogen than it took to make it. So why are we talking about hydrogen? For two reasons. One, when you burn it, it is really clean. You get water.
Secondly, if we ever get an economically feasible fuel cell, hydrogen is a great candidate for the fuel cell. But minus a good fuel cell, there will not be a viable hydrogen economy because you will always get less energy out of hydrogen than it took to make it. If you are simply burning the hydrogen, you could have gotten more energy by burning the gas from which you got the electricity which you used to split the water to get hydrogen.
So that is why there is such a focus on fuel cells, because it opens up the promise of a really clean fuel with at least twice the efficiency of the reciprocating engine.
The next chart, and I would like to talk about this one in terms of a young couple whose grandparents have died and left them a big inheritance, and they have now established a life-style. Hyman Rickover described that life-style with 33 servants, or the equivalent. They have established a life-style where 85 percent of the money they spend comes from their grandparents' inheritance, and only 15 percent comes from their income. It is not going to last long enough for them to retire. They have to do something. They have to spend less money or make more money.
That is exactly where we are energywise. Eighty-five percent of our energy comes from fossil fuels: coal, petroleum, natural gas. Only 15 percent comes from other sources, and a bit more than half of that comes from nuclear. That could grow, and probably should grow. And that leaves 7 percent, and this is in 2000. We are a little better today than we were in 2000, but the challenges are huge. Even with 30 percent growth, when you are going from 0.07 percent, in 2000 that is the contribution that solar made to our energy supply. It is minuscule. And the noise level.
We are doing much better today, and it is growing rapidly, but it is still a tiny fraction of the energy we use.
Notice wood here, more than a third of all of the renewables. That is the timber industry and the paper industry wisely using a by-product.
Waste to energy we talked about.
Wind is just another way to use sun energy.
Conventional hydro, we have maxed out on that. We can maybe get some microhydro. We have about maxed out on that.
The next chart, briefly, what do we need to do. We need a program, if we are going to have a relatively smooth ride, and we have waited too long to address this problem, but we need a program that has the total commitment of World War II, that has the technology focus of putting a man on the moon, and has the urgency of the Manhattan Project.
We need a vigorous conservation time to buy time, free up some energy, buy some time, use it wisely, invest it in those things that will do the most good for the most people. We could become a major exporter. We have a very innovative society. We have a farm bill that is challenging our farmers. And if a farm can't be energy independent, we have big problems because that is where a lot of energy could be produced.
This is challenging our farm people to develop a farm where they produce twice as much energy as they use so there is some for the city person.
Mr. Speaker, www.bartlett.house.gov will get you access to all of this material.
Mr. Speaker, I submit into the Congressional Record the entire speech ``Energy Resources and Our Future,'' by Admiral Hyman Rickover, Chief, Naval Reactors Branch, Division of Reactor Development, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Ships for Nuclear Propulsion, Navy Department, prepared for delivery at a Banquet of the Annual Scientific Assembly of the Minnesota State Medical Association, St. Paul, Minnesota on May 14, 1957.
The text of Admiral Rickover's speech is available on Energy Bulletin: "Energy resources and our future".
Help build resilience. DONATE NOW