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Peak oil & supplies - June 4

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


Member of German Parliament Sounds Death Knell for Carbon Energy

Tom Schueneman, EcoWorldly

“The conventional energy industry is the biggest corrupter in the world”

“If there is no change by 2030 there will be a bigger economic crash than the recent banking collapse”

“The system must change”

“Renewables are the only solution”

- Hans-Josef Fell, member of German Parliament, Spokesperson for Energy and Technology, Faction Alliance90/The Greens

While perhaps more strident in tone than some in Germany may be comfortable with, these words from Green party member Hans-Josef Fell express the nation’s determination to lead the world to a new energy economy.

Fell was speaking at a breakfast meeting in Berlin last month for an international group of 13 environmental journalists and writers, invited as guests of the German Foreign Ministry to spend a week examining German climate and energy policies, and the nation’s commitment to global cooperation on climate protection.

Throughout the discussion, Fell made clear his belief that the path to a sustainable future for Germany, and by implication the rest of the world, will require a major shift in society - a “brave new world” in which fossil fuels play little or no part. That a transition is upon us is beyond our control, but the challenges it presents create unprecedented opportunity if we act boldly and decisively. For Mr. Fell, an aggressive and rapid shift to a low carbon society is the fundamental solution for rebuilding a failed economy, protecting the climate, providing energy security, and creating a sustainable global society.

Peak oil

Ask five different experts to spot exactly the point of peak oil and you’ll likely get five different answers. What each answer will have in common, however, is that peak oil is near - either the near future or recent past, but close nonetheless.

Fell places peak oil at 2006, saying supplies will decrease 3% annually, with world oil supplies dwindled by half what they are now by 2030.
(3 June 2009)



A Call to Action on Peak Oil

Walter Kohn and Tam Hunt, Noozhawk (Santa Barbara)
Global recession is just the calm before the storm of ever-increasing demand for energy
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We are being lulled to sleep by temporarily low oil prices caused by the global financial crisis. In fact, low prices may lead to an increased level of consumption and accelerated exhaustion of oil reserves.

“Peak oil,” the point at which global oil production peaks and then rapidly declines, is still not sufficiently on the minds of the American public and policymakers. We don’t know exactly when peak oil will arrive, but it is very likely to occur within 10 to 20 years. Some say that it may even be here now — the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, for example, wrote in a 2005 report: “We are at or near a peak in global oil production.” Peak oil should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind — here’s why:

As soon as the global economy recovers, we can expect oil and other fossil fuel prices to shoot right back to where they were last summer, and probably far higher.

... The time is now to invest heavily in alternatives to oil and gas, such as energy efficiency, conservation, renewable energy and more efficient transportation. Our own dream is a sustainable energy future powered predominately by solar and wind energy, backed up with energy storage and baseload geothermal, biomass and hydro power. Much is happening in these areas already — and this is hopeful: the Obama administration has budgeted billions of dollars for these efforts and has made energy reform one of its three top priorities. Individuals and communities around the world are also springing into action through various initiatives.

But much more needs to be done. As the IEA concludes: “What is needed is nothing short of an energy revolution.”

Walter Kohn is research professor of Physics and Chemistry at UCSB and a Nobel laureate in Chemistry in 1998. Tam Hunt is a private energy consultant and a lecturer in renewable energy law and policy at UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management.
(1 June 2009)



The Trouble With Energy

aeldric and phoenix, The Oil Drum: ANZ
This series of posts will be co-authored by phoenix, who is an Engineer heavily involved in the energy sector. It will be based on a submission we made recently to the Australian Government.

INTRODUCTION

Energy is a gateway resource.

Given abundant energy, minerals can be refined from seawater if necessary. But in the absence of energy even the richest mineral deposits are inaccessible.

Similarly, given sufficient energy, a valuable energy resource such as oil can be made synthetically from virtually any organic input. In theory (given the right infrastructure and energy production) the production rate of synthetic oil would be limited only by the availability of sufficient energy.

In this series of posts we will attempt to do 7 things:

  1. Discuss Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI). Show that a net-zero EROEI for a resource does not necessarily mean that the energy resource has no utility - it simply means that the energy resource has become an energy carrier, not an energy source. The burden of energy production must be moved to a different energy source. If reduced energy returns exist in our future (as they clearly do – this is happening already) then an infrastructure for this alternate energy source (or sources) must logically be built before the energy available from fossil fuels approaches zero.
  2. Discuss the lifespan of Australia’s endowment of fossil fuel (FF).
  3. Present an order-of magnitude estimate for the amount of time necessary to build an alternate energy infrastructure.
  4. Show that the lifespan of Australia’s current FF energy endowment is likely to be less than the time required to design and build an alternate energy infrastructure.
  5. Show that the energy required to build the infrastructure is likely to be a substantial fraction of all the energy that we have available, leading to an inevitable impact on GDP and living standards.
  6. Examine the same issues from a US/International perspective.
  7. Discuss solutions.

We do not intend to discuss the Hubbert Peak, declining supplies, or declining exports, since all of these matters are very familiar to TOD readers. However we will discuss Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI) because this is a prerequisite for the discussion that follows
(2 June 2009)



Hamilton on speculation, inflation and oil

Kate Mackenzie, Financial Times
On Monday we wrote that the rise in oil prices, so far, was not in the range thought to risk threatening an economic recovery. James Hamilton, who wrote the most complete and influential study on evidence that high oil prices helped put the US into recession in late 2007, also noticed the price rise. And he doesn’t seem concerned with $65+ oil either.

Hamilton is more concerned with the reverse question, which is just as interesting (and a little more immediate): whether the rising oil prices signal an economic recovery:

He points out that much of the ‘recovery’ that is being talked about now is in the developing world; while oil consumption and GDP in developed countries is still in the doldrums.

He also sees a big role of inventories. Dave Cohen over at the US Peak Oil Association, who in a perhaps contrarian way points out that the vast amounts of stored oil - including floating at sea in tankers - will at some point be dumped back on the market by physical traders.
(3 June 2009)
EB contributor Dave Cohen is quoted.



Oil Demand Falling Fast In Japan

Reuters via Business Insider
Japan may be forced to shut more than a fifth of its refining capacity, at least 1 million barrels per day, in the next five years as oil demand falls faster than expected, the head of the country's top refiner said on Tuesday.

Nippon Oil Corp President Shinji Nishio also told the Reuters Energy Summit that the company, after its planned merger with Nippon Mining, might shut in 200,000 bpd more capacity than originally planned by 2015, underscoring the rapid demand erosion in the world's No. 3 consumer.

"I think we are likely to see an even faster decline than the government's projection," he said in Tokyo.
(2 June 2009)

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