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Fuel to Burn: Now What?

Jad Mouawad, New York Times
THE reversal of fortune in America’s energy supplies in recent years holds the promise of abundant and cheaper fuel, and it could have profound effects on what people drive, domestic manufacturing and America’s foreign policy.

Cheaper fuel produced domestically could reduce the cost of shipping and manufacturing, trim heating and cooling bills, improve the auto market and provide tens of thousands of new jobs.

It might also pose new environmental challenges, both predictable and unforeseen, by damping enthusiasm for clean forms of energy and derailing efforts to wean the nation from its wasteful energy habits.

But for Americans battered by rising gasoline prices, frustrated by the dependence on foreign oil, skeptical of the benefits or practicality of renewable fuels and afraid of nuclear power, the appeal of plentiful domestic oil and gas could far outweigh the costs.

Just a few years ago, the dominant theme in discussions about energy was of declining production and the fear of running out of oil. Even today, political tensions in the Middle East, particularly in the Persian Gulf, have fanned fears of supply disruptions that are keeping prices high.

But a new boom in energy production in recent years has upended these expectations in record time.

… The new supplies ensure that the United States will remain well entrenched in oil, but the continuing reliance on fossil fuels also carries significant environmental concerns — whether from the risk of offshore drilling, or the hazards, many still unknown, of hydraulic fracturing. It also means that greenhouse gas emissions will most likely increase, at least until carbon emissions are capped or new technology to store carbon dioxide underground is developed.
(10 April 2012)

Australian ABC TV falls into oil and climate trap of unconventional oil

Matt Mushalik, Crude Oil Peak

First it was Alan Kohler getting his ideas from a Citi bank report on the death of peak oil, now it is Tony Jones accepting advice from peak oil denier Yergin that there is no peak due to unconventional oil. This ignores earlier information given in the ABC TV stories “the incredible journey of oil” in May 2007 and “oil crunch” in April 2011. Not to mention Tony’s own interview with NASA climatologist James Hansen who said we really can’t afford the CO2 from unconventional fossil fuels.

So ABC TV is going backwards. Why?

(1) Oil shock and peak oil in Iran
(2) The price of oil – unpredictable
(3) High oil prices damage the economy
(4) Function of the SPR in OECD countries – but what about Australia?
(5) No shortage of oil?
(6) Run out of cheap oil
(7) The myth of US energy sufficiency
(8) The wrong question on oil reserves and production
(9) The Quest for the dirty oil

(7 April 2012)
Another of Matt Mushalik’s heroic debunkings of sloppy journalism about oil supplies. Previous at Energy Bulletin: No number crunching in Alan Kohler opinion piece on premature peak oil death.

Other recent posts:
Proudly powered by oil shale (April 5, 2012)
Desperate Times: Trucking shale oil in North Dakota (March 27, 2012)

About the author and the Crude Oil Peak site
Believing or not believing in peak oil? It’s not a religious question. It’s a number crunching job.

This site is about monitoring the global crude oil peak. I am using “incremental crude oil production” graphs (relative to Jan 2001) to show growing, peaking and declining oil production in all countries. The data are from EIA, International Petroleum Monthly.

The graphs are updated monthly, around the 10th of each month. If you are in a meeting and you need the latest graphs, use my site …

Matt Mushalik (MEAust, CPEng)

Facing the Future from an Irish Perspective
Colin Campbell, Irish National
… It is time for countries to begin to face the future and try to adopt new policies and practices to meet the unfolding conditions. It is not difficult to identify key policies that an enlightened [Irish] Government might adopt, including those listed on the following page.

• Since public data are very unreliable, the Foreign Service could be used to collect valid information from around the world to determine what the current oil and gas depletion rates truly are;

• An Oil Depletion Protocol could be adopted, requiring countries to cut their consumption of oil and gas to match current world depletion rates, as already proposed by the Portuguese Parliament;

• The power of the media could be used to inform the people that the situation is imposed by Nature and is not a conspiracy by oil companies, Arabs, financiers or others, leading to a more positive co-operative response;

• Energy costs could be progressively removed as a charge against corporate taxable income, which is an oblique subsidy, thereby encouraging management, facing the costs head-on, to give new attention to energy savings and efficiency; …

• Steps could be taken to secure privileged supplies from, say, Norway or Venezuela, to ease the transition.

The last point deserves some amplification. The economic prosperity of the past few decades has implanted a doctrinaire faith in the free market, but it may prove to be not the best mechanism for dealing with a contracting environment imposed by dwindling energy resources.
(April 2012)
Wikipedia: “Colin J. Campbell, PhD Oxford, (born in Berlin, Germany in 1931) is a retired British petroleum geologist who predicted that oil production would peak by 2007.”

Dr. Campbell will appearing at The New Energy Era Forum, May 2012

Peak oil, economic growth and the big lie

Michael Lardelli, Online Opinion
In the commentary on Peak Oil recently published in the leading scientific journal Nature, James Murray (the founding director of the University of Washington’s Program on Climate Change) and David King (the Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford) made the following statement,

Historically, there has been a tight link between oil production and global economic growth. If oil production can’t grow, the implication is that the economy can’t grow either. This is such a frightening prospect that many have simply avoided considering it.

Why do we find the idea of the end of economic growth so frightening? The reason is what I call, ‘The Big Lie’.

The ‘Big Lie’ of our economic system is that anyone can get rich. Most of the world’s population will not see wealth in their lifetimes, either because of the circumstances of their birth, or because they chose the wrong career path, did not work or study hard enough or did not think it so important to pursue personal monetary gain.

However we all take comfort from the idea that it might be possible to improve our lot or even that, if we make the right choices, we could become rich. Most of us believe that anyone can become wealthy if they truly work hard enough for it. But in a world where finite resources are passing their peak extraction rates this is no longer true: if it ever was.

… Energy is the central facilitating resource that makes our economy possible. For an economy to expand it requires an increased rate of energy use. But the world’s net energy production already appears to have plateaued. Conventional crude oil production has been flat since 2005. The current hubris about the small uptick in U.S. oil production from shale will eventually be exposed as economists’ hype and ideas that oil production from Canada’s tar sands can be massively expanded are unrealistic.

Increased oil use in China and India has been at the expense of the USA and Europe. The amount of oil available on the world export market has been in decline since 2006 as production plateaus or falls in exporting nations and those nations use more of their own oil production to service their economies and growing populations.

Nuclear energy is in decline and the fraction of the world’s energy supplied by renewable sources is still small and will not be able to grow fast enough to substitute for declining fossil fuels. The net energy the U.S. derives from coal production peaked in 1990. China has grown its economy primarily on the back of increased coal use but the world’s coal production also appears to be approaching a peak. Since the rate of world energy production appears to be peaking and the energy costs of energy production are constantly rising we are almost certainly beyond peak net energy production.

If world energy production has plateaued then world economic growth must have ended. However, while the U.S. and Europe have staggering debts to pay, we are still hearing stories of economic growth in many Western nations. How can this be?
(11 April 2012)
Michael Lardelli is a regular contributor to Energy Bulletin.