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Daniel Yergin on The Colbert Report
Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report (5-minute video)
Author Daniel Yergin discusses hydrofracking, alternative energy sources and America’s decreasing demand for oil.


(21 September 2011)

Yergin in 2005: “It’s Not the End Of the Oil Age”

Daniel Yergin, Washington Post
We’re not running out of oil. Not yet.

“Shortage” is certainly in the air — and in the price. Right now the oil market is tight, even tighter than it was on the eve of the 1973 oil crisis. In this high-risk market, “surprises” ranging from political instability to hurricanes could send oil prices spiking higher. Moreover, the specter of an energy shortage is not limited to oil.

But it is oil that gets most of the attention. Prices around $60 a barrel, driven by high demand growth, are fueling the fear of imminent shortage — that the world is going to begin running out of oil in five or 10 years. This shortage, it is argued, will be amplified by the substantial and growing demand from two giants: China and India.

Yet this fear is not borne out by the fundamentals of supply. Our new, field-by-field analysis of production capacity, led by my colleagues Peter Jackson and Robert Esser, is quite at odds with the current view and leads to a strikingly different conclusion: There will be a large, unprecedented buildup of oil supply in the next few years. Between 2004 and 2010, capacity to produce oil (not actual production) could grow by 16 million barrels a day — from 85 million barrels per day to 101 million barrels a day — a 20 percent increase. Such growth over the next few years would relieve the current pressure on supply and demand.
(31 July, 2005)
Oil geologist Jeffrey Brown (TOD/EB contributor, ASPO board) writes:
To summarize, in 2004/2005, Yergin predicted that oil prices would fall, because of rising production, and that there would be plenty of oil to meet Chindia’s increasing demand.

So far, annual US oil prices have all exceeded the $57 level that we saw in 2005, with four of the past five years showing year over year increases in annual oil prices.

Global crude oil and total petroleum liquids production basically stopped growing in 2005.

And the data show that Chindia, post-2005, is consuming a rapidly increasing share of a declining volume of Global Net Exports (GNE):

So, how did the media so far respond to this catastrophic failure by Daniel Yergin? His prognostication skills are widely praised, and the WSJ gives him a full page for him to explain why near term Peak Oil advocates are wrong.

Yergin and Hubbert on the same side US Govt video 1979

US government film via YouTube
Daniel Yergin tells us we are past peak and are running out of time. Also features M King Hubbert.

Pointed out by EB reader Mkasik2. -BA

A Rich History and a Strange Reticence

Eric Pooley, The American Prospect
Daniel Yergen’s long-awaited follow-up to The Prize tells a ripping tale of the global energy complex, but it waffles when considering alternatives to fossil fuels.

… In fashioning a cautionary tale out of Hubbert, Yergin wants to show that when it comes to energy supply, galloping innovation and insatiable demand have a way of turning the best predictions into yesterday’s porridge. Today, Yergin writes, U.S. oil production is four times higher than Hubbert estimated it would be, and “proved plus probable” global reserves, by the author’s estimate, stand at 1.4 trillion barrels, or 40 percent more than all the oil that has been pumped and burned since the industry’s 19th-century origin. Where Hubbert saw a peak—oil production as a bell-shaped curve that would fall as it had risen—Yergin sees a vast plateau, and he notes with evident satisfaction that “the world is still, it would seem, many years away from ascending to that plateau.”

I’ll leave it to others to dispute Yergin’s oil-reserve estimates, because the heart of his narrative is the dawning realization that burning those 1.4 trillion barrels would be a very, very bad idea. The author has expanded and updated The Prize’s great theme to show not only how the quest for energy has propelled civilization—making great prosperity possible, inspiring technological innovation and inciting war, stoking ambition, and amassing personal fortunes—but how it has also, inconveniently for all concerned, thrown the global climate system into a dangerous imbalance that if left unchecked, could tip the planet into catastrophe.

Much of the book follows the political, economic, and technological struggles between fossil and renewable fuels—the rise of an as-yet-unsuccessful global campaign to cap greenhouse-gas emissions, the still-unfolding search for the low-carbon energy sources needed to achieve that goal, the continuing battle between those who seek to accelerate the shift to renewables and those who prefer to maintain the status quo. Along the way, Yergin displays both the propulsive narrative skills that have made him a best-selling author (he studied 19th-century literature as an undergraduate, and it paid off) and the deep knowledge of energy technology, economics, and geopolitics that has made him the world’s most influential energy pundit.
(21 September 2011)

Book review: ‘The Quest’

Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times
… A sense of how much more he could have said comes from his treatment of climate change, perhaps the most complete and illuminating portion of the book. “The Quest” not only details the origins of climate science but it also explores how the movement to address this crisis has been afflicted by domestic politics, regional rivalries and fundamental economic imperatives.

And what of the future? It’s plain from “The Quest” that Yergin’s view on peak oil, which he cited as a major concern in “Energy Future,” has evolved. Yergin observes that forecasts of the peak of U.S. domestic production have been repeatedly pushed into the future — output is four times higher than a prediction Hubbert made in 1971. Technological progress and price account for the difference, Yergin says. These factors have combined to yield far more oil, from heretofore unexpected sources, than Hubbert or anyone else anticipated a few decades ago. Yergin’s view today is that the world faces not a peak in production but a plateau, “and the world is still, it would seem, many years away from ascending to that plateau.” It’s hard to say whether Yergin’s conclusion is influenced by his role as a consultant to the oil industry, as some of his critics charge, but it certainly lends a different coloration to the urgency of developing alternative energy sources.

Yergin’s views on other issues have not evolved as much. He contends that the potential of conservation is still too widely overlooked, even despite the development of energy-efficient buildings and “smart” electrical grids. His treatment of solar and wind energy is nuanced, showing that they don’t work everywhere or all the time but that taken together they can alleviate demand loads on the traditional electric grid and free up traditional capacity to serve other demands.
(25 September 2011)

The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World

Brian Black, Christian Science Monitor
Pulitzer Prize-winner Daniel Yergin demonstrates how the global quest for energy will reshape our world.

… There is little that is actually ground-breaking in “The Quest”; rather, what rocks the ground under our feet is the weight of Yergin’s authority. As the highly-paid analyst for energy corporations and international leaders, Yergin consistently dampens the alarmist calls of observers who bemoan dwindling oil supplies, the human responsibility for climate change, or the importance of conservation technology. He has often been accused of being a voice of the establishment; however, his impeccable data and analysis appear beyond reproach. In “The Quest,” he places this reputation in the field of energy – like a gambler’s tall stack of chips – on transition.
(21 September 2011)

“The Quest” for Energy Security: The Search for More Oil and Its Alternatives

David Biello, Scientific American (editors’ blog)
Mottanai: it’s a Japanese term that translates as “too precious to waste.” It’s the philosophy that guides the island nation’s approach to natural resources like energy, and it has become particularly important as the meltdowns at Fukushima have resulted in roughly 25 percent of Japanese electricity supply disappearing as other nuclear reactors remain shutdown.

It is also the antithesis in many ways of the American approach to energy, whether that is electricity, fossil fuels or renewables. We want, in the words applied to nuclear power once upon a time, energy to be “ too cheap to meter.” And, regardless of whether it actually is, we treat it as such.

… The book is daunting at 800+ pages but also a masterful survey of the global energy landscape today, albeit with perhaps too little understanding of alternative energy supplies and too dismissive an attitude for concerns about dwindling fossil fuel resources. As economist James Hamilton of the University of California, San Diego observed in his blog, “meeting the growing global demand for crude oil over the last five years has posed significant challenges for the world economy. And those who worry that the next 5-10 years might be like the last [5] should not be dismissed as crackpots.”

But Yergin essentially calls for securing energy by diversifying supply, an echo of Winston Churchill?’s words on switching the Royal Navy from British coal to foreign oil: “safety and certainty in oil lie in variety, and variety alone.” Modern life is founded on easy energy for light, warmth, cooling, mobility and, increasingly, culture itself. We will need every source of energy going forward—and more, if possible.

David Biello is the associate editor for environment and energy at Scientific American.
(21 September 2011)

Peak Oil Debunked

David Rotman, MIT Technology Review
Daniel Yergin’s new book is a valuable guide to how energy drives the world’s economy.

… If you’re a believer in “peak oil”—the idea that the world is on the verge of running out of oil—you will probably want to burn this book. But if you want to truly understand today’s energy problems and opportunities, there are few better places to start than with Daniel Yergin.

His classic The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power, which won a Pulitzer in 1992, is a history of much of the late 19th and the 20th century, beginning with the wildly ambitious men who first drilled for oil in northwestern Pennsylvania and ending with Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. It reads like a historical novel with oil as the main character. The Quest is a very different book. Because it covers energy in general, its scope is far broader and more diffuse. It doesn’t have the narrative drama of The Prize or the same logical narrative and tightly constructed storytelling. But it does draw an outline that allows readers to understand the complex relationships between the pieces of the energy puzzle, from oil to electricity to renewables to climate change.

Make no mistake, Yergin is an oil man. Indeed, he is sometimes accused of being too closely aligned with the petroleum industry (he is chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a consulting group that works with energy companies). His true loyalty, however, seems to be to an enduring belief that technology, politics, and economics drive our opportunities and choices in energy.

It is that belief that leads him to clash so resoundingly with advocates for the idea of peak oil. Writes Yergin: “The peak oil theory embodies an ‘end of technology/end of opportunity’ perspective, that there will be no more significant innovation in oil production, nor significant new resources that can be developed.” Such a perspective is to Yergin almost blasphemous, and he gleefully recounts how the world has worried that it was about to run out of oil at least five times, dating back to the 1880s when geologists fretted that the “amazing exhibition of oil” found in Pennsylvania was only temporary.
(22 September 2011)