Nate Lewis: Where in the world will our energy come from?

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Peak oil - April 5

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Bloomington Peak Oil Task Force

Dawn Hewitt, Herald-Times (Bloomington, Indiana) via iStockAnalyst
... Some fear that the end of cheap oil will bring harsh consequences. That's why the city of Bloomington has established a Peak Oil Task Force, chaired by City Councilman David Rollo.

The task force is preparing a report on its findings and will present it to the Bloomington City Council sometime this summer.

Down to Earth asked Rollo to explain.

... Q: Why should a local government plan and prepare for economic mechanisms of the marketplace that are beyond its control?

A: Local governments should prepare for a number of reasons. One is that we have a responsibility to our constituents to look ahead and prepare for the future. Two, the federal government has essentially ignored the problem, or is focused on the supply side. Three, local governments can assess their own needs and vulnerabilities, and because of their scale, can act more nimbly to address the problem.

The problem is so severe and immediate that action should occur on all levels. We can do little to address the supply side locally, but we are not helpless when it comes to the demand side -- far from it. Reducing our use of fuels, making sure that we have backups in the event of shortages, and limiting our exposure by relocalizing food production are prudent steps to take.

Q: Why is this task force a worthy use of city resources in terms of city council and staff time, citizen volunteers?

A: The resources used are small, and mostly consist of volunteer effort. The threat, on the other hand, is significant, and is undeniably serious.
(3 April 2009)




Changing of the Guard in the Queensland Government

Rachel Nolan, Australian MP
Stuart McCarthy of ASPO-Australia writes:

The bad news: ASPO-Australia patron Andrew McNamara lost his seat in the Queensland election last weekend. Andrew has been at the forefront of the peak oil debate in Australia since 2005. He led the Queensland Government Oil Vulnerability Taskforce, which reported to Cabinet in 2007 via the 'McNamara Report', and as the Minister for Sustainability, Climate Change and Innovation initiated the development of the Oil Vulnerability Mitigation Strategy.

The good news: Andrew's colleague on the Oil Vulnerability Taskforce, and co-author of the McNamara Report, Rachel Nolan, retained her seat and was appointed Minister for Transport on Thursday. Below is a speech she delivered in Parliament last year on the subject of peak oil.

"Peak Oil", Speech in Queensland Parliament

On Monday night in Ipswich two local engineers, Steve Posselt and Stuart McCarthy, in conjunction with the Ipswich Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Ipswich Green—an organisation of which I am a cofounder—ran an Ipswich leaders forum to outline to the community the serious challenge of sustainability.

Their timing could not have been better. Today the price of a barrel of West Texas crude oil passed through the $US110 mark. This is the highest price oil has ever reached, either in current or inflation adjusted terms.

The price surge is a result of a culmination of rising demand, flat production and falling inventories, but there is a simpler way of describing what is happening. It is called peak oil. Peak oil advocates have always argued that we would only recognise the peak of world oil supply when it was passed—that is, we would only see it for sure in the rear-vision mirror.

Well, the view in the rear-vision mirror is becoming increasingly clear. In November 2006 the world produced 85.5 million barrels or crude per day. No month since has surpassed that total. During 2007 world oil production declined to 84.6 million barrels per day. Around the world, nation by nation, oil production has peaked and declined.

The USA peaked at 9.6 million barrels per day in 1970 and now produces 5.1 million barrels per day. Venezuela peaked in 1970, the UK peaked in 1999, and Norway and Australia both peaked in 2000.

The Energy Watch Group in Germany recently analysed world data and suggest that we are past the world’s peak. They calculate that world supply will now decline by seven per cent per year, falling to 58 million barrels per day by 2020. There is no way known that production of biofuels such as ethanol can plug such an enormous and growing gap. Even putting aside the record grain prices we are already seeing as arable land is transferred from food to fuel production the simple fact is that there is not enough land on the planet to grow the liquid fuel volume which we require today.

Aldous Huxley once said that ‘human beings have an almost limitless capacity to take things for granted’. When it comes to oil and our use of it, that is certainly true. Lester Brown in his Plan B 3.0 set out the challenge thus—

The challenge for our generation is to build a new economy, one that is powered largely by renewable sources of energy, that has a highly diversified transport system and that reuses and recycles everything. And to do it with unprecedented speed.

The Ipswich leaders’ forum set out that challenge for our community. It is a serious challenge and one that we must all seriously pursue.
(13 March 2009)



Interview with with chair of Canada's "junior oil" association - a peak oiler

Peter McKenzie-Brown, Oilweek via Language Matters
In the Centre of the Storm

... Stan Odut is one of a growing contingent of oilmen now subscribing to the concept of peak oil – the notion that the planet’s maximum rate of oil extraction is at hand. After that point arrives, the rate of production will enter terminal decline. “I believe we probably aren’t going to see an increase on the supply side globally,” he says. “With the global economic situation there has been (crude oil) demand destruction, but I would add that there has also been supply destruction because drilling has been declining, producers are shutting in supply” and many large projects, world-wide, have gone on hold.

Prices are low because “right now oil is overbalanced on the supply side,” he says. “When things do recover, I think we are going to be in a really tight situation. The horizon might be shorter than many people predict. I think within the next five years – certainly within the next ten – we will meet a supply crunch probably like we have never seen before.”

“There’s a huge disconnect between developing world and developed world consumption,” he says. “Either we have to tap some alternative resources which we don’t really know about today, or many of us in the developed world are going to have to really cut down on our oil consumption. The developed world has to contract its consumption a lot.” This sounds ominous, and Stan Odut quickly adds that he doesn’t want to be a scare-monger.

“I’m getting a bit long in the tooth and I have an eye for what my grandchildren are going to face as we go down the road. I think they are going to be facing a different world from the one we are in today.”
(3 April 2009)
Interview with the new chairman of the Small Explorer’s and Producers Association of Canada (SEPAC)- "the voice of junior oil." Peter McKenzie-Brown is an EB contributor.



Where in the world will our energy come from?
(video)
Dr. Nate Lewis, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA
Where in the world will our energy come from? What would it take for the world to get away from fossil fuels and switch over to renewable energy? It takes more than willingness to buy a Prius or to install solar panels on your roof. If we want to use wind, solar thermal, solar electric, biomass, hydroelectric and geothermal energy it will take a lot of planning, and willingness on the part of governments and industry. It takes R&D investment, a favorable price per unit of energy to get anyone to produce alternative energy, and plenty of resources to create those energy sources.

Speaker : Dr. Nate Lewis
Introduction: George L. Argyros Professor of Chemistry, Caltech

(28-29 February 2008)
Good background on energy. Dr. Lewis is a good speaker. In the past, he's been something of a peak oil skeptic. Note that this talk is from 2008.

EB contributor Neil writes:
Here is the 2008 JPL von Kármán Lecture Series on future energy. While it avoids the whole "peak" thing, it does provide a very clear overview of the magnitude of the problem. I (briefly) looked through EB but didn't see it referenced anywhere, so thought I would pass it along for your viewing pleasure.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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