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There Will Be Oil, But At What Price?

Chris Nelder and Gregor Macdonald, Harvard Business Review
Daniel Yergin’s typically sunny outlook on oil in his recent Wall Street Journal piece, “There Will Be Oil,” suggested that technology and new energy discoveries would avert any of the economic disasters portended by peak oil. We found Mr. Yergin’s dismissal of these risks premature and repetitive. After all, he has asserted since 2004 that global oil production was nothing to worry about, and that there would be few effects on the economy.

We counter that managers who would see their businesses survive the next few decades of extreme economic volatility will need to develop some literacy about oil and its complex relationships with the economy. They would be wise to consider the long list of peak oil analyses by the world’s militaries, and they would take heed of the sobering outlook offered by veteran analyst Robert Hirsch for the Department of Energy. And we must correct some of Mr. Yergin’s assertions.

Conventional crude ended its 150-year-long growth trajectory in 2004 and flattened out around 74 million barrels per day. Crude supply did not budge when oil prices tripled from 2004 to 2008, but global demand remained firm, shrugging off a recessionary dip in 2009. All the growth in supply since then was not crude but unconventional liquids, including natural gas liquids, biofuels, refinery gains, synthetic oil from tar sands, and other marginal resources. These liquids are by no means equivalent to crude. Yergin’s calming charts include these unconventional liquids and hide the fundamental issue of the depletion of mature fields. They also hide the declining energy density, higher cost, and lower flow rates of these new resources.
(4 October 2011)

Alms for the Rich: How policies meant to promote alternative energies are actually hurting the middle class

Lisa Margonelli, Slate
This article arises from Future Tense, a collaboration among Arizona State University, the New America Foundation, and Slate. Future Tense explores the ways emerging technologies affect society, policy, and culture. On Oct. 19, you’re invited to join us for a Future Tense event in Washington, D.C., about the next era of energy. For more information and to RSVP for “What Will Turn Us On in 2030?,” visit the New America Foundation’s website.

Bashing green energy has recently become a major Republican talking point. Darrell Issa, once a champion of green-job stimulus funds for his district, held a House oversight committee hearing titled “How Obama’s Green Energy Agenda Is Killing Jobs.” Rush Limbaugh says green energy is a “slush fund” that takes money from unwitting taxpayers under the guise of saving the planet and rewards Democratic donors. It’s tempting to believe that the Republicans are bashing “green” as an elitist boondoggle for the same politically-driven reasons they fought greenhouse-gas regulations—because they have an allegiance to old high-carbon industries. There’s more than a grain of truth in that, but it’s not all that’s going on. With every passing month of high unemployment and declining incomes, green energy becomes more vulnerable to a real a backlash—for very good reasons.

… “Everyday Americans” feel left out of the green party. And from a policy perspective, they are. The green policies put in place by the Bush and Obama administrations are not only not aimed at the middle class; they’re benefitting the wealthy at precisely the moment that high gas prices have slammed the lower middle class.

Consider the flashiest green support for consumers at the moment: tax credits for the purchase of electric cars and solar panels. Buy an electric car (more than $40,000) or a solar array (more than $20,000) and get a tax credit. But most American families making the median income (about $50,000) spend more per year on their old used cars and fuel ($7,900) than they do on taxes ($6,000). So a tax credit effectively steers the taxes they do pay toward those in the upper income brackets. You can also see a similar pattern in the $8 billion the government made available in grants for businesses to install solar, wind, and other upgrades through the 1603 program.

… Green products and technology need government support. We’ve given so much to high-carbon fuels and infrastructure that they have a built-in advantage, but we can’t afford to depend upon them in the future. If we want to give green energy real political legs, policymakers need to be sure that the middle class gets some of the green goodies that can save money: more efficient vehicles, household solar panels or water heaters, energy-efficiency upgrades. In fact, making sure that there’s a middle class market for these goods is part of actually building a strong U.S. green industry—in much the way we built markets for cars, for houses after World War II, and even for home appliances. It’s actually a lot easier to build smart policies than it is to build a killer electric car or a scalable biofuel. But for some reason, we’re not doing it.
(17 October 2011)
Lisa Margonelli is a writer on energy topics. She was a speaker at the 2008 ASPO-USA conference in Sacramento.

What Will Turn Us On in 2030?
Competing With Fossil Fuels to Power the Future
New America Foundation
Billions of dollars each year are poured into the development of solar, nuclear, biological, and other energies to substitute for fossil fuels. But so far, issues of cost, efficiency, and scalability call into question the arrival of the next era of energy. Can any alternative sources become viably competitive with fossil fuels? What can we – as individuals, businesses, and governments – do to accelerate the rise of clean energy?

Video of the morning sessions from this Oct. 19 event can be viewed above. The full day’s recordings will be posted here as they become available.

This article arises from Future Tense, a collaboration among Arizona State University, the New America Foundation, and Slate. Future Tense explores the ways emerging technologies affect society, policy, and culture. On Oct. 19, you’re invited to join us for a Future Tense event in Washington, D.C., about the next era of energy.
(19 October 2011)
Videos at original. -BA

Australia beats them all – in oil imports

Matt, Crude Oil Peak
Among OECD countries Australia is #1 in increasing its net oil imports over the last decade, for some a proud, for others a sad achievement.

Federal Resource Minister Martin Ferguson told me in April 2010 at a Cabinet Community meeting

that Australia can always buy oil. He was right. Was. But for how long he is right, is another question. Up to now it was sheer luck as we’ll see. And it came at a high price. Tapis in Asia is among the most expensive oil there is, 30 dollars more than WTI. In any case, importing more oil is not good for an economy which has to reduce its oil dependency. It delays the unavoidable adaptation process and hinders the development of alternative fuels.

Let’s get the evidence and have a look at OECD net oil import statistics, all data are from this website:

(18 October 2011)
Suggested by EB contributor Michael Lardelli who writes: “The “Don’t worry, be happy” fantasy continues in Australia”